Favorite Books of 2007

10:44 Fri 11 Sep 2009
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My total number of books read for 2007 dropped significantly from 2006, to 50. This was mainly due to not reading much in the first six months of the year. I read significantly more non-fiction, and that difference felt more marked because almost 50% of my favorite books from that year are non-fiction.

I liked The God Delusion, and my review of it holds the record for the most comments of any post on this blog. I might be more critical of it now, but I still think it’s worth reading, and expresses important ideas.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma was fantastic, influenced me strongly at the time, and continues to influence me now.

Sadly, my behavior has not been influenced as strongly by The Four Pillars of Investing—a book I recommend to everyone. No-nonsense and clear, it’s an excellent approach to money management.

Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed was nowhere near as gripping as Guns, Germs, and Steel, and I think that Diamond unfortunately started it with the weakest case study, but it was still worth reading, and hadp plenty of compelling and depressing facts about where the human race is currently headed—essentially along the lines of “current trends cannot continue”.

Empire of Capital, by Ellen Meiksins Wood, was an interesting brief outline of Wood’s ideas on how modern imperialism differs from its older counterparts. I think I’d like to re-read it in about ten years to see how well it holds up by then.

Richard Morgan’s Market Forces (a gift from my friend Brett) was an interesting take on a future where the movers and shakers of finance and capital reify their struggles as a form of car-based combat. Not as good as his takeshi Kovacs works, but I still enjoyed it.

Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan, both by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, are fascinating examinations of empiricism, pyschology, philosophy, finance, and the always-present question of whether we really have any idea what the hell is going on. I recommend both very highly.

H. G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, upon which the television series was based, was surprisingly good. It held my attention throughout, and offered many insights, some disturbing, about both sports and education.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles was really good. Good enough that I think I should re-read it relatively. Like The Artist’s Way, it has some religion-related aspects that I’m not fond of, but its overall message and the tools it provides are more than enough to make up for that.

I quite enjoyed The Pale Blue Eye, by Louis Bayard; I wrote a review of it shortly after I read it.

Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint was rather good, and had quite a different tone to most fantasy I read. I’d like to get some people I know who don’t usually read fantasy to try it.

Spin, the first in a trilogy by Robert Charles Wilson, was quite enjoyable. Wilson seems to be quite good at mixing stories at the individual level with events that occur on a much larger scale. Spin’s larger scale includes the Earth being sequestered from the rest of the universe, and the passage of billions of years, and as such deals with some fairly major questions. I haven’t read the later books in the series yet.

Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson, was probably the best of his work I’ve read since his Sprawl books—although it’s not quite up there with those.

King’s Blood Four, Necromancer Nine, and Wizard’s Eleven, by Sheri S. Tepper, were all interesting, more fantasy that has a quite “different” feel. They’re actually the first three in a series of nine, but the other six are hard to acquire, and I haven’t found them yet. I started out liking them more, and was less certain later. There’s a certain dreamlike, “anything goes”, feel to parts of them, something that isn’t that uncommon in fantasy and science fiction, and which I don’t seem to like much; I’ll have to write about this further. The other series that comes to mind with a similar feel is Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series.

Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine was excellent. I highly recommend it. In it Klein examines the ways in which capitalist elites have exploited disasters and disorienting circumstances to push their agendas onto unwilling populations, and also examines the effects of unrestrained “Chicago school” economics. It may place too much personal responsibility on Milton Friedman and his disciples, but apart from that is a very strong work, probably Klein’s best.

Blindsight, by Peter Watts, was the best fiction work I read in 2007. Extremely compelling science fiction with big ideas, plenty of neuroscience speculation, and one of the best takes on vampires I can remember.

Jon Krakauer’s exploration of Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, was fascinating and rather depressing. The history of Mormonism is rather interesting, but the authoritarianism and hideous misogyny are just unbearably awful to read about.

I read No Country for Old Men after I’d seen the film, which is fairly unusual for me. The Coen Brothers adapted it very faithfully, so there weren’t too many surprises. I like McCarthy, and this was worth reading.

Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon, on the other hand, might not be worth reading. Light fantasy around the idea of Napoleonic-era military dragon pilot corps, it strikes me as being close to a series based around non-sexual fan service. I know that the term “fan service” refers to sexual content, but it seems like it could reasonably apply to any content that was inserted into a work because fans would think it was cool (as opposed to titillating). I read a few of the series, all along wondering why I was doing so. I don’t really recommend it, although I admire it as an exemplar of coming up with a cool idea and running with it.

A number of my friends really liked The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, but I wasn’t too impressed by it. Structuring a novel such that some terrible event is known to occur, so that the reader is waiting for the revelatory details to hit, is tricky to pull off successfully. It didn’t work for me in The Sparrow primarily because I found the actions of the protagonists at key points to be incomprehensibly idiotic, and thus instead of feeling the author’s intended reader response of “those poor people, how terrible”, I was instead thinking, “how could they be so insanely stupid?”

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a short story collection by Haruki Murakami, and as such is something you should read.

My full reading list from 2007:

  1. Cuba: A new history; Richard Gott 09/01/2007
  2. The Borgia Bride; Jeanne Kalogridis 11/01/2007
  3. The Bonehunters; Steven Erikson 21/01/2007
  4. Gardens of the Moon; Steven Erikson 18/02/2007
  5. The Immortal Game; Mark Coggins 22/02/2007
  6. The God Delusion; Richard Dawkins 04/03/2007
  7. King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero; David Remnick 01/04/2007
  8. The Omnivore’s Dilemma; Michael Pollan 28/04/2007
  9. The Four Pillars of Investing; William Bernstein 09/05/2007
  10. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed; Jared Diamond 31/05/2007
  11. The Pope’s Children: Ireland’s New Elite; David McWilliams 09/06/2007
  12. Empire of Capital; Ellen Meiksins Wood 10/06/2007
  13. Market Forces; Richard Morgan 13/06/2007
  14. Fooled By Randomness; Nassim Nicholas Taleb 16/06/2007
  15. The Black Swan; Nassim Nicholas Taleb 27/06/2007
  16. Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream; H. G. Bissinger 30/06/2007
  17. The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams; Darcy Frey 30/06/2007
  18. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles; Steven Pressfield 30/06/2007
  19. Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury 04/07/2007
  20. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator Edwin Lefévre 13/07/2007
  21. War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning Chris Hedges; 15/07/2007
  22. Changing Planes; Ursula K. Le Guin 04/08/2007
  23. Spin State; Chris Moriarty 04/08/2007
  24. Spin Control; Chris Moriarty 05/08/2007
  25. Failed States; Noam Chomsky 18/08/2007
  26. The Pale Blue Eye; Louis Bayard 19/08/2007
  27. The Dante Club; Matthew Pearl 21/08/2007
  28. Swordspoint; Ellen Kushner 21/08/2007
  29. A Shadow in Summer; Daniel Abraham 22/08/2007
  30. Elantris; Brandon Sanderson 29/08/2007
  31. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture; Ariel Levy 31/08/2007
  32. Spin; Robert Charles Wilson 31/08/2007
  33. Out on the Cutting Edge; Lawrence Block 31/08/2007
  34. The Privilege of the Sword; Ellen Kushner 03/09/2007
  35. Pattern Recognition; William Gibson 10/09/2007
  36. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game Michael Lewis; 02/10/2007
  37. The Blade Itself; Marcus Sakey 20/10/2007
  38. The Art of Losing; Keith Dixon 20/10/2007
  39. King’s Blood Four; Sheri S. Tepper 20/10/2007
  40. Necromancer Nine; Sheri S. Tepper 21/10/2007
  41. Wizard’s Eleven; Sheri S. Tepper 25/10/2007
  42. Brasyl; Ian McDonald 28/10/2007
  43. The Shock Doctrine; Naomi Klein 18/11/2007
  44. Blindsight; Peter Watts 18/11/2007
  45. The End of America: A letter of warning to a young patriot; Naomi Wolf 02/12/2007
  46. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith; Jon Krakauer 17/12/2007
  47. No Country for Old Men; Cormac McCarthy 18/12/2007
  48. His Majesty’s Dragon; Naomi Novik 19/12/2007
  49. The Wild Palms; William Faulkner 20/12/2007
  50. The Sea Came In At Midnight; Steve Erickson 23/12/2007
  51. The Sparrow; Mary Doria Russell 28/12/2007
  52. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman; Haruki Murakami 31/12/2007

2 Responses to “Favorite Books of 2007”

  1. Ann Says:

    Have you read Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’? That book gave me serious heart palpitations and nightmares. So stark and well-written. I’m looking forward to seeing the film this winter.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    I have read The Road, and wasn’t all that impressed—I discuss it in my post on the 2007 Booker/Pulitzer/IMPAC Winners.

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