One of the resolutions I made last night was to read more books and watch less TV. I only managed to read a paltry 47 books last year. Pathetic. So this year I’m giving myself what I call the Largehearted Boy Reading Challenge, 52 books in 52 weeks. Go me! Before I start my challenge though, I thought I’d give a rundown of the best books I read in 2007.
Give it up for the most literate city
If you haven’t heard that Minneapolis was named the most literate city, you probably aren’t reading this because you’ve never been on the Internet. When I was taking a look at the books I’d read this year I noticed a preponderance of Twin Cities-related books, one of which was my all-time favorite book of 2007.
The Sabotage Cafe, Joshua Furst
Not only has Joshua Furst ruined me for further author readings, he also wrote the book that challenged me the most this year. The Sabotage Cafe is about mothers, daughter, mental illness, memories, and rock and roll. What the hell else do you want in an novel? Oh yeah, how about a plot that still has you thinking about it six months later? This book will challenge you with it’s unique point of view, but it’s totally worth the effort. Plus, the band mentioned in the novel is based on the Replacements, and who doesn’t love an author with good musical taste?
Schulz and Peanuts, David Michaelis
The thing that surprised me the most about Schulz and Peanuts is how much I enjoyed it. I’m not a non-fiction person. Usually it bores the hell out of me. But Michaelis’ biography of the beloved, Minnesota born and bred cartoonist was so thorough and so full of surprising new details that I didn’t want to stop reading it. I loved learning how much his life in Minnesota influenced Peanuts, and how the comic strip became a cultural phenomenon. And by absolute favorite part? That tuition at the University of Minnesota in the 1940s was $100 a year. Awesome.
The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting, Jim Walsh
This should come as no surprise, but All Over But the Shouting was my all-time favorite book of 2007. Duh. My favorite band, one of my favorite writers, and me? COME ON PEOPLE, I am only human. Reading this book gave me the more pleasure than any other book. Not only was I amazed by the construction of an actual narrative, but it made me revisit music I hadn’t listen to in ages, the music that changed my life.
Short Stories, my one true love
I’m a bit disappointed that I only managed to polish off thirteen short story collections this year. I think it’s because all that non-fiction got in the way. Damn. Here’s the best of what I read.
Throw Like a Girl, Jean Thompson
It was a tough competition for my favorite short story collection of 2007 but the prize has to go to Jean Thompson’s phenomenal Throw Like a Girl. I think what I liked so much about this collection is that all the main characters were women — smart, flawed women. They were just so real. But the thing that made this collection so stellar was not just the great characters and the great stories, but Thompson’s absolutely beautiful language. It’s not many authors who can take your breath away with the beauty of a sentence, but Thompson is one of them.
Dead Boys, Richard Lange
The thing that’s so great about the short story collection, Dead Boys is that it’s filled with these kind of dirtbag-y guys who you root for despite their inherent dirtbagginess. What impressed me the most about Lange’s book is that one story had me so wrapped up that my heart was racing and I was short of breath because I was so excited to get to the end. After reading “Bank of America” I closed the book, smiled and said out loud to myself, “now that was awesome.” The fact that he got me that excited and engaged in his character in story in less than 30 pages, is fucking amazing. Seriously. If you like your literature with a bit of grit and some questionable morals, get this book. You will not be disappointed.
Best of Tin House, edited by Dorothy Allison
I got the Best of Tin House anthology because it was a required text for my Advanced Fiction class at The Loft. Boy oh boy, this might be my favorite short story anthology ever. Aside from a few clinkers, the Best of Tin House is filled with fresh, moving, entertaining short stories by people like Ryan Harty, Aimee Bender, Steve Almond, and Deborah Eisenberg. It’s the bomb digs. If you’ve ever been unsure about short stories or have no idea where to start, start here.