Saturday, May 14, 2005

Some of the Books I thought were great in 2004...

There were lots of good titles in 2004. I know that by mentioning these titles I'm leaving out some others, but that's always going to be the case. For some reason or another each of these spoke to me and I'd like to give them a nod, for whatever it's worth.

The King of America: A Novel, by Samantha Gillison - I thought this was very good. Great atmosphere, wonderfully conveys both the wilds of New Guinea and the inner turmoil of the protagonist's Stateside existence. The end didn't work quite as well for me, but overall I think this is strong and indicates good things for the author. It follows her debut The Undiscovered Country, which also features New Guinea.

You Remind Me of Me, by Dan Chaon - Wonderfully written, poignant novel, with a complicated structure that I was happy to follow. Many novelists try to fragment their stories by shifting time and local and layering. Often I think lesser writers do this to disguise the fact that they're lesser writers. That's not the case here. Dan Chaon uses these techniques to tell his story with incredible skill and effectiveness. Very satisfying.

Angel of Harlem, by Kuwana Haulsey - I'm partial to this book because I think it's a fine example of an important type of novel, the inspirational biopic. The author has brought to life an important character and a crucial struggle in African American history. I believe the author will accomplished great things in the future and is well on the way toward a worthy career. This follows her debut, The Red Moon.

Eventide, by Kent Haruf - Strong, emotionally involving book. I was always wondering just how/why I was as involved with these characters as I was, but I couldn't deny that I respect the author's compassionate rendering of simple, flawed and often struggling people. I don't doubt that some literary types look askance at Kent Haruf now that he's sold millions of books, but that's silly. This is strong, effective writing that we could all learn from.

Prince Edward, by Dennis McFarland - I don't know why this book didn't get this prominent author more attention. Wait, that's not true. I do know why. It's because it not only dealt with our troubled racial history but it dealt with our recent troubled racial history. This is based on real events that are hard to believe; that and the fact that Dennis McFarland is a talented writer make it an important book.

GraceLand, by Chris Abani - Another tremendous first novel. I'm glad he got the attention he did for this one and wish him the best for the future.

Heaven Lake, by John Dalton - Enjoyed this first novel. Liked the ill-ease of a white American abroad and enjoyed following his journey from missionary arrogance to a humbler state. Great and surprising details of travel in China made it compelling and authentic.