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Year In Review 2008 | Food | Cinema | Theater | Dance | Art | Books | Classical | Live | Recordings

Best of 2007

Critic: Margaret Black

1. A Long Way Gone

By Ishmael Beah

A harrowing but highly nuanced story of a boy child soldier in Sierra Leone who, by sheer luck and the affection of a commander, managed to survive, be rehabilitated and ultimately come to the United States.

2. Measuring the World

By Daniel Kehlmann

This deft, ironic, often funny, and always insightful tale plays against each other the life stories of two famous Germans: the genius mathematician-astronomer-physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss and the great naturalist-explorer Alexander von Humboldt.

3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma

By Michael Pollan

Pollan poses the big question here: Since people will eat just about anything, what exactly are we eating and is it safe and wholesome? To answer this question he explores four meals, one made from items in the “industrial food chain” (what most of us eat most of the time), one from the organically grown industrial food chain, one from local organic food grown on a farm in Virginia, and one that he literally hunts and gathers himself.

4. Out Stealing Horses

By Per Petterson

Petterson offers up a tale in which Trond, an old Norwegian, reflects, with great attention to the natural world, on the year he was 17—shortly after World War II—and the summer he spent with his father in the woods, after which his father abruptly disappeared out of his world altogether.

5. Flower Children

By Maxine Swann

A family of now-grown children, especially daughter Maeve, examine their elusive hippie past, trying to grasp just what their unusual father meant to their lives. Like Trond in Out Stealing Horses, Maeve maintains emotional distance and a profound objectivity about her father, while at the same time carefully rendering the backdrop of the world around them.

6.The Indian Clerk: A Novel

By David Leavitt

The Indian Clerk does far more than fictionalize the story of real-life Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan—poor, ill-educated, unconnected—who was brought to England in 1914 and published, with the help of one of the country’s preeminent mathematicians, G. H. Hardy, extraordinary advances in number theory and mathematical analysis. The novel also provides a penetrating account of England just prior to and during the Great War. At the same time, it maps great gulfs of cultural and emotional ignorance, while dramatizing the disasters such ignorance generates.

7. Mister Pip

By Lloyd Jones

This novel tells the story of the last white man remaining on a small Pacific island during a vicious little civil war and how his approach to teaching—principally reading Great Expectations aloud and drawing on the folk wisdom of the native adults—ignites the imagination of the novel’s 13-year-old narrator, Matilda.

8. The Woman Who Waited

By Andrei Makine

Once again Makine delineates a time—the 1970s—and a place—a nearly abandoned village in northern Russia near the White Sea—with lyric precision in a story of a jaded young man from Leningrad who, despite his corrosive cynicism, falls in love with an unusual woman old enough to be his mother.

9. The Maytrees

By Annie Dillard

Two young people on the tip of Cape Cod fall in love, marry, have a baby, split over infidelity, etc. The novel bears a greater resemblance to the author’s poetry, her essays on nature, and her speculations on meaning than it does to your typical novel. In this story, we may barely count as objects in the universe, but we count nonetheless—especially to each other.

10. Twinkie, Deconstructed

By Steve Ettlinger

Ettlinger dissects that quintessential manufactured snack cake, the Twinkie, ingredient by ingredient—right down to the polysorbate 60. We get to know everything about its parts, where they come from, and how they are processed.

 


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