Feb 06 2007

Taking Stock of 2006: Books

Best books I read in 2006?

In fiction, it would have to be most of the second half of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. I read six in 2006 and the last two in early January 2007, and it’s a terrific body of work. Its acclaim and success need little boost from this blog, but I enjoyed and learned from the whole run. The only competition I’ve read in historical fiction is Dorothy Dunnett, with the Lymond and Niccolo series, plus her take on Macbeth.
Beyond the captain and his doctor, best from last year’s reading: Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, the best of his novels and a look at many sides of Islam, modernity and Europe; The Death of Achilles, by Boris Akunin, a witty and subversive detective series set in late Tsarist Russia, far fewer of which have been translated into English than into German, annoyingly enough; An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth, with its insight into the minds of musicians and a virtuoso book by an absurdly talented writer; and Accelerando, by Charles Stross, head-stretching science fiction for the early 21st century.

Over in non-fiction, I would start the list with: At Canaan’s Edge, by Taylor Branch, concludes his epic and riveting account of America in the era of Martin Luther King. Gripping writing, definitive research, passionate commitment, simply a great book. The other favorites from non-fiction also tend toward the long and the historical: The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes, a mold-breaking history of Australia’s colonial period; The Prize, by Daniel Yergin, the history of the 20th century with oil as its central theme; A Writer at War, by Vasily Grossman, annotated stories from a Soviet journalist at the front lines of the Great Patriotic War; The Mission, by Dana Priest, on the militarization of American foreign policy; and The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart, a British ex-diplomat’s walk through central Afghanistan in the winter after the Taliban fell.

Complete list (in order read) is below the fold. Links are to previous writing about the book or author on AFOE.

Fiction

The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde
Snow – Orhan Pamuk
Die Dame mit dem Hündchen – Anton Chekhov
Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde
The Thirteen-Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian
The Nutmeg of Consolation – Patrick O’Brian
Clarissa Oakes – Patrick O’Brian
Dorf Punks – Rocko Schamoni
An Equal Music – Vikram Seth
Brand New Friend – Mike Gayle
The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket
The Penultimate Peril – Lemony Snicket
A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
The Heart of a Dog – Mikhail Bulgakov
The Death of Achilles – Boris Akunin
Looking for Jake – China Mieville
A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin
Let’s Put the Future Behind Us – Jack Womack
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
Ringworld – Larry Niven
Singularity Sky – Charles Stross
The Family Trade – Charles Stross
Iron Sunrise – Charles Stross
Pu-239 – Ken Kalfus
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
Galatea 2.2 – Richard Powers
His N Hers – Mike Gayle
The Canine Kalevala – Mauri Kunnas
Air Babylon – Imogen Edwards-Jones
The Wine-Dark Sea – Patrick O’Brian
The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian
Penguin Lost – Andrey Kurkov
Accelerando – Charles Stross
The End – Lemony Snicket
The Yellow Admiral – Patrick O’Brian

Non-Fiction
On the Brink – Jonathan Fenby
Grace and Power – Sally Bedell Smith
The Pythons: An Autobiography – M. Python
Miles from Nowhere – Dayton Duncan
Two Lives – Vikram Seth
The File – Timothy Garton Ash
The Hungarians – Paul Lendvai
The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
A Pretext for War – James Bamford
The Mission – Dana Priest
The Prize – Daniel Yergin
A Writer at War – Vasily Grossman
Reindeer People – Piers Vitebsky
At Canaan’s Edge – Taylor Branch
Foreign Babes in Beijing – Rachel Dewoskin
Northern Shores – Alan Palmer
The Places in Between – Rory Stewart
1776 – David McCullough
Khrushchev – William Taubman
Legends of Modernity – Czeslaw Milosz

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2007/02/06/taking-stock-of-2006-books/

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