Hey guys, I"m still in recovery mode, but I thought that I'd throw you a little something!
Even though Bec demolished my files for the book list of 2006, my friend Lacy resent her list and I thought that I'd pass it along before it disappears too! I'll hopefully get mine out soon as well. If you have anything to add, I'd love to see it.
"Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki MurukamiA new classic, fine fiction with Japanese magical realism influence. The fantastic elements combine nicely with a grounded story. If you enjoy this, read his "The Wind Up Bird Chronicle," which is also strange and interesting, but just not quite on the level of "Kafka."
"On Beauty" and "White Teeth" by Zadie SmithA well-crafted fictional story examining complicated marriage issues, bi-racial marriage, race relations, and all within the world of academia. Characters range from age 15 to early 60s, and we see all of their differing points of view. Well written and interesting. Her novel "White Teeth" is equally good, if not better. Similar themes, but charged with gender, race and class issues and quirkier characters. "On Beauty" set in the East Coast, "White Teeth" in London.
"Brick Lane" by Monica AliStory of an arranged Bangladeshi marriage where a native girl is promised to an older suitor in London. Demonstrates the tension in preserving cultural traditions, while living in an environment unsuited to them. A woman's struggle to define herself, support her husband and raise a new generation of women in the confusion. Again, well written and interesting.
"The Photograph" and "Moon Tiger" by Penelope LivelyA beautiful writer, both stories like poetry. Great imagery, narrator full of self-discovery. Characters going through internal analysis. "The Photograph" is a sort of mystery where the husband of a dead woman learns she has an affair due to a photograph he has found. He recontacts people from the past to uncover what happened and learns about her and himself in the process. "Moon Tiger" is a wonderful and sad story about an eccentric woman who was independent for her time, acting as a war correspondent for England's reaction to India's revolution. More about relationships than the war, but the historical background is a great backdrop.
Generally, I recommend Robin Hobb to anyone who likes to read science fiction/fantasy books. She began a new trilogy "The Soldier Son Trilogy" last year. The Assassin books and Liveship Traders books are fantastic if you like fantasy writing. Not many people are geeks like me though, so there may not be a lot of interest. Yes, when I say fantasy, I do mean imaginary worlds with dragons.
One more, if you like short stories! Runaway, by Alice Munro is a great collection of short stories that I intend to read again in the near future. This collection was awarded the Giller Prize in 2004 when it was released. The stories involve complicated relationships, some recurring characters, and a lot of "wow" for each short tale.