Monday, December 31, 2007

The Top 5 Books And Most Memorable Literary Events For 2007

The year is coming to a close and what a remarkable year it has been for the literary scene.

With the released of the much-anticipated last book of the Harry Potter saga, 2007 saw the magic of author J.K. Rowling. A record-breaking 11 million copies were sold on the first day in the United States and Britain and on that day, millions of children and adults read or flipped through the 607-page tome to find out the hero's fate. It was also the year that saw the world's most expensive fairy tales - The Tales of Beedle The Bard. A book of fairy tales created, handwritten and illustrated by author J.K. Rowling, The Tales of Beedle The Bard was bought by online bookstore Amazon for a record $1.95 million pounds at a Sotheby's auction.

Besides the frenzy generated by Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, 2007 was also a year of controversies with both J.K. Rowling, with her outing of Dumbledore as gay, and Philip Pullman, the author of the award-winning His Dark Materials trilogy, whose first book has been adapted into a movie - The Golden Compass, coming under attack by Christian evangelicals in United States for being unsuitable for children and promoting atheism.

2007 also saw the sad passing of Norman Mailer of renal failure at age 84. The literary icon and two-times winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, with The Armies of the Night in 1968 and The Executioner's Song in 1979, was noted for his acerbic wit, biting prose and as an antagonist of the feminist movement.

It was also a year of achievement for Irish author Anne Enright who won the Man Booker Prize award. Her 272-page tome, the Gathering which chronicles the disintegration of an Irish family, pipped five other contenders and hot favorites like British writer Ian McEwan and New Zealander Lloyd Jones for the award, netting her $52,500 pounds.

And in closing what had also been a wonderful and remarkable year of blogging adventure for me, here, with the last post of 2007, are the top five books that i have enjoyed reading :

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
After his stunning bestseller, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most talented literary writers today. Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, born a generation apart and brought together by war, by loss and by fate.

It is a deeply moving story of faith, family, friendship and the salvation to be found in love. As Mariam and Laila endure the ever escalating dangers around them, they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other which will alter the course of not just their own lives but of the next generation. A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship and an indestructible love.

2. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
From the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, comes a compelling novel of alternate history, a gripping whodunit and a love story with 1940s vibes. A what-if, the story is set in a present-day alternate reality in Sitka, Alaska, a safe haven for Jewish refugees after World War II and the collapse of Israel, and after nearly 60 years, the Federal District of Sitka is about to revert to American rule.

Into this setting comes Chabon's hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop, who wakes up one day to find a dead body next to him. Poignant, lyrical, hard-boiled and funny all at once, The Yiddish Policemen's Union's central murder mystery has its roots in the Biblical tale of the Messiah, who would one day lead God's chosen people to the promised land. With elements of an international terrorist thriller complicated by religious conspiracies, it is a haunting account of alternate history and demonstrates the power of a good story.

3. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
Voted as one of the best young writers in UK, Scarlett Thomas's narrative is a breathless one, a combination of postmodern philosophy, physics and spine-tingling science fiction, that propels you relentlessly like a bullet train. About a smart young woman, Ariel Manto, who stumbles upon a rare book by an obscure 19th century Victorian scientist at a secondhand bookshop and through the book, discovers the secret to accessing the "Troposphere", a universe of the collective unconscious and the ability to leap into the minds and bodies of other living beings.

This book is the literary equivalent of the science fiction movie, The Matrix, and is a rollicking adventure story with ideas about sub-atomic particles, existence and reality. A delirious valentine to the pleasures of reading.

4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Composed of 108 short chapters, based on the beads in a traditional Indian prayer necklace, this beautifully written and heartfelt memoir comes across as scenes in a movie. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author made the difficult choice of leaving behind all the trappings of modern America and embarked on a soul-searching journey on the aspects of her nature amid three different cultures.

Exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence, Gilbert first savored Italy's buffet of delights - the world's best pizza and free-flowing wine, then spiritual rigor and seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India and followed finally by the seeking of balance between the two in Bali, where she studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Eat, Pray, Love is down-to-earth, honest, conveys infectious rapture and delight and recalls anguish with touching candor. It is a sprawling travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery.

5. The City Of Joy by Dominique LaPierre
The last spot in my list is for a book that is at least twenty years old and into my seventh reading. Dominique LaPierre's heart-wrenching account of the lives of the poorest of the poor in one of Calcutta's most devastating slums, Anand Nagar - "The City of Joy"- touches at a visceral level.

From the dedication of Polish priest, Steven Kovalski, to Hasari Pal, an inhabitant of the slum, to American physician Max Loeb, the book is a searing vision of the struggle for survival of the poor. It is a story of hope and love amid all the devastating realities of poverty, desperation and death and is a testament to the majesty of the human spirit, unbowed by the most wretched of circumstances. City of Joy epitomized the philosophy of the Christopher Award it won in 1986 - "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."

*Related posts :
- J.K.Rowling Under Attack
- The World's Most Expensive Fairy Tales
- Turmoil In The Kingdom of The Golden Compass
- Winner Of The Man Booker Prize 2007


Mark Dykeman said...

I'm sorely tempted to check out each of those books.

Happy New Year!

My Den said...

Hi mark,
Great to hear from you!

After condensing all the books i have read for the year to a list of 5, any one of these will be a great read.

Thks for popping by and a wonderful New Year to you!

Keli said...

Good recap! I agree with your picks and look forward to reading #3 as I've yet to hear of that one. Your review of it is very enticing!
Happy New Year!

My Den said...

Hi Keli,
The End Of Mr.Y is one of those rare books that remains in your mind long after you have read it. It is a roller-coaster of a story and reminds me of The Talisman by Stephen King. It is a book i highly recommend.

Great to have you at my blog and a Happy New Year to you too!

cardiogirl said...

How funny that Eat Pray Love is on your list. Just two days ago, another woman on the elliptical machine next to mine had that book on the machine. The cover art caught my attention and then seeing the title intrigued me.

I am at a crossroads myself right now regarding religion and I thought maybe it was about diet and religion somehow.

So I thought it amusing that I ran across the same book on your site and I appreciated the synopsis.

My Den said...

While the road taken by the author is..unorthodox, the story is a remarkable journey of self-discovery. It is a book I highly recommend, esp for those at a crossroad.

Great to hear from you again. Take care.