I didn’t read nearly as much as I would have liked in 2007, but of course I never seem to read enough – I’m only happy when the book pile at the side of my bed is chest-high. However, it was still a good year for reading. These are some of my highlights:
The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo – A new Richard Russo novel is always an event for me. My favourite remains Empire Falls, but this new one has all the hallmarks of classic Russo: rich characters, brilliant dialogue, and a masterful portrayal of the longing, hopes, regrets and occasional brutality of working class life in small town America. He sets all of his stories in New England mill towns like the one I grew up in, so reading him makes me a little homesick.
The Dark Stuff by Nick Kent – This reissue by Faber was my introduction to the great man of rock criticism, and it was a revelation. Read it for his profile of Neil Young alone. Actually, scratch that: read the whole thing. Twice.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon – A hard-boiled murder mystery set in an alternative Alaska, where the Jewish diaspora have settled after World War II. A private dick named Meyer Landsman, his partner an enormous half-Tlingit named Berko. The Jewish mafia is involved, as well as rumours of an impending apocalypse. Seriously, what’s not to love?
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta – A friend of mine turned me onto Tom Perrotta a couple of years ago, perhaps to return the favour of me introducing him to Richard Russo. He knew his market: small-town New England is not that far away from suburban New Jersey, in geography and in mindset, so I felt right at home reading Little Children. This new one - about a free-thinking sex ed teacher who is forced to teach abstinence to her students and her relationship with the evangelical coach of her daughter’s soccer team - is weird, slightly scary, funny and wonderful. Much like suburban America.
Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield – A bit of a cheat, perhaps, as I published this book in my former job. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was pretty much my book of the year. Sheffield, a rock journo for Rolling Stone, tells about his musical coming of age, meeting the love of his life, losing her tragically and eventually moving on – all through the prism of the mix tapes he and his wife obsessively compiled for each other. This memoir totally broke my heart.
What were your faves? What’s next on your chest-high reading list?
Albert - Senior Commissioning Editor