Tuesday, January 9, 2007

1998 - Best Books of the Year

The Tabernacle Bar, Susan Palmer
Great novel of a black sheep daughter who opens a bar in a little northern Utah town, right across from the tabernacle. The authorial voice is clear-eyed but compassionate, the heroine anything but—thank goodness — her angry courage and stubborn prickliness are what make this book priceless. 177 pages.

The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe, Arthur Koestler
An extremely readable, philosophical history of astronomy. The section on Kepler is most interesting. 624 pages.

Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East, ed. Donna Lee Bowen and Evelyn A. Early
Essays, short stories, poetry and photographs. Most memorable for me: “Sad Songs of the Western Desert” by Lila Abu-Lughod: traditional poetry in the place of individual expression, “The Sound of the Divine in Daily Life” by Kristina Nelson: the aural power of the Koran, and “Rites of Hospitality and Aesthetics” by Anita Kanafani. Editor Bowen is at BYU in Near Eastern Studies. 352 pages.

Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey
A strange, strong, beautiful novel. Beautifully written. Intricate, realistic characters. Dark but encouraging. I am always reluctant to suggest this book because it does have one truly nightmarish scene and great sadness is in store—but it is part of the power of the book—the ability for humans to continue and to live with grace and courage despite evil. 433 pages.

Less than Angels, Jane Pym
The best of all the Pym books – ordinary life in post-war England, wittily written. This is the deepest and most human, in which the most is at stake. Though Excellent Women is also excellent. 256 pages.

The Dazzle of Day, Molly Gloss
A polluted world, the Society of Friends gathers onto a spaceship and makes the 100 year trip to a new world. Beautifully written and hopeful in the face of hard things. 254 pages.

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
Novel about mothers and daughters in Louisiana. Cheeky, luxuriant, and cathartic. 383 pages.

The Ascent of Science, Brian L. Silver
Despite a thick-headed bias against religious belief, a very accessible history of scientific thought. Extremely readable and thoroughly grounded. Very clear explanations of complex ideas. 534 pages.

The Ginger Tree, Oswald Wynd
A young gutsy Scotswoman who faces down personal disaster in Japan in the first half of the 20th century. Richly detailed and deeply felt. 294 pages.

Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize, ed. John Hollander
The ongoing search for poems to memorize with the girls—a very nice collection. 196 pages.

The Bellwether, Connie Willis
A laugh-and-cry science novel. Fresh, inventive. A romance and an exploration of chaos. 247 pages.

Toot and Puddle, Holly Hobbie
An innocent, beautifully illustrated picture book, with charming characters and a sweet, simple story. (unpaged)

Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, Richard Brookhiser
A “moral biography” that retells the life of Washington with reverence for his integrity, his courage, and for the idea of fatherhood itself. 230 pages.

Coot Club, Arthur Ransome
Novels. Ransome (1884-1967) writes of sturdy, warm-hearted and capable children who boat in the fen country of his childhood. Deliciously detailed—the pictures, too. Also Swallows and Amazons, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, Secret Water, Winter Holiday, and others. 350 pages.

No comments:

Related Posts