year in review 2006
The Reindeer People: Living With Animals and Spirits in
amazing account of life in the Arctic, of reindeer (a most
intriguing animal), the people who herd them, and what happened
when the heavy hand of the Soviet Union landed on them, and
then, 70 years later, was lifted.
2. The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton: The First
Beeton wrote the Victorian compendium of cookery and
household management, a tome still published today. But her
life so little resembled our clichéd notions of the period
that for her story alone this book makes compelling reading.
3. Oracle Bones: Journey Between China’s Past and Present
again Peter Hessler shines a clear light on highly individual
lives in present-day China, but this time he enriches these
stories with commentary on an archeological dig in Anyang
that allows him to explore the country’s ancient history,
its system of writing, and how that relates to the present.
4. The Woman Who Waited
short novel by Andrei Makine in which a jaded young dissident
from Leningrad goes deep into the Soviet Union’s Arctic regions
and falls in love with a much older woman, who has remained
faithful to her lover, lost during World War II.
Behold the Many
over-the-top Hawaiian gothic novel, written with great energy,
largely in pidgin, chronicles the horrendous but fascinating
life of a poor Portuguese-Japanese girl exiled to a tuberculosis
sanitarium with her two sisters.
The Secret River
novel joins many tales about the early settlement of Australia
by convicts, but hers are a particularly intriguing lot, and
she also writes with real insight about the Aborigines they
7. Playing in the Light
successful, white South African businesswoman investigates
what happened to her old black nanny, and uncovers a complicated
story of racial passing during the apartheid era.
8. A Spot of Bother
compulsively entertaining, but darkly ironic and perceptive
story of a contemporary British family that buckles under
stress when the father discovers what he believes is a cancerous
9. A Family Daughter
at first appears to be a sequel to the author’s family chronicle
Liars and Saints turns out to be both an independent
account and a postmodern examination of how no family member
tells the same family story.
10. Kristin Lavransdatter
Undset (Tiina Nunnally trans.)
superb translation of Undset’s tale of medieval Norway retrieves
this great modern-day saga from the oblivion to which its
previous English translations so rightly consigned it. Undset
purposely modeled her work on the great Icelandic sagas, and
now, once again, her success is apparent.
Best of 2006
State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
Because of his great stature as a journalist and insider,
Woodward’s indictment of the crowd in the White House probably
did more than any other book to turn voter tide against the
2. War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business,
and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American
Dream and How to Fight Back
anchor Dobbs has charted his own idiosyncratic course in this
book and has succeeded in telling it like it is to the masses,
which a lot of professional economists have tried and failed
3. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
former president’s astonishingly controversial book on the
anguished Israeli-Palestinian conflict invites U.S. citizens
to get informed, and to discuss or even criticize Israel’s
policies, much as one would debate our own policies or those
of any other nation.
4. The Iraq Study Group Report
A. Baker III, and Lee H. Hamilton, Co-Chairs
slender little paperback has inaugurated a broad ranging discussion
of our situation in Iraq, an issue that until recently had
been debated only by Washington policy wonks, politicians
and hostile writers.
5. An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global
Warming and What We Can Do About It
book (yes, helped by the movie and the DVD) has reached more
people and convinced more doubters about the reality of global
warming than any another weightier volume on the subject.