Books of the year
I read Zadie Smith’s On Beauty last week (yes, the boys were good enough that I was able to read on the airplane), and enjoyed it, but don’t have a whole lot to say about it. As with her debut novel, White Teeth, I think Smith is better at creating characters than building a plot, but the characters are interesting enough that I’m willing to go along for the ride. I’ve never read Howard’s End, which it riffs off of, so I probably missed some of her cleverness. (I’m sure I saw the movie, but can’t remember any of the plot.) In general, I think it’s hard to write a really good novel about academics. Wonder Boys was disappointing and Moo was clever but nothing more.
The NY Times published its list of 100 Notable Books of the Year, so I thought I’d report on the ones I’ve read:
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, JK Rowling A great improvement over the last one in the series. I’m glad I just read it though, rather than making the huge time investment in reading it out loud with T.
- The March, EL Doctorow. I’m in the middle of this, and liking it very much. Not to be confused with March, by Geraldine Brooks, which is also set in the Civil War.
- Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really didn’t get why this one got such good reviews. I just didn’t care about any of the characters, or what happened to them. I actually didn’t finish the book, just skimmed the last chapter to see what the big surprise was. If any of you read it and liked it, I’d love to hear why.
- On Beauty, Zadie Smith. See above.
- Saturday, by Ian McEwan. This one pulled me in neither by force of plot nor by likable characters, but by sheer brilliance of language. McEwan captures individual moments absolutely perfectly, and also tips his hat to Mrs. Dalloway.
- Shalimar the Clown, by Salmon Rushdie. I don’t know if this one should make my list, since I only read about 10 pages of it before realizing that there was absolutely zero chance of my finishing it before it was due back to the library, so I stopped. Midnight’s Children is the only Rushdie book that I’ve really liked, but I liked it so much that I keep giving him more chances.
- COLLAPSE, by Jared Diamond. Another one that I started but didn’t get very far into.
- Freakonomics, by Leavitt and Dubner. Some interesting ideas, but if you’ve read an article about it, you’ve heard most of them.