Top Picks of 2012

This year’s winners are a mixed bunch. A few re-reads from previous years (Naipaul, Kesey), a multi-read within the year (Seneca), a conversion to believer in the cult of DFW (Wallace), deep historical research (Caro), philosophy (Schopenhauer and Belloc), and great story telling (Mistry).

1. Letters from a Stoic by Seneca, translated by Robin Campbell
This one takes top prize because I read it twice in 2012 and have recommended it to nearly everyone.
2. The Path to Rome by Hillaire Belloc
3. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace
4. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro
5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
6. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
7. Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer
8. A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

Top Picks of 2011

Well into Spring of 2012, I’ve neglected my annual wrap-up. Here ’tis, in all its corroded memory glory. Lots of re-reads made the list, and I went deep into the classics this year.

Winners:
1. Ulysses by James Joyce
2. Moby Dick, or The Whale by Herman Melville
3. Remembrance of Things Past: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
4. The Notebook by Agota Kristoff
5. Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Honorable Mentions:
1. You Can’t Win by Jack Black
2. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
3. Cathedral by Raymond Carver
4. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
5. Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

Worthy Contenders:
1. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
2. My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
4. The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
5.1984 by George Orwell
6. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Top Picks of 2010

Over the last year, I read sixty-two books, and want to mention twenty-four of them here. That means more than one out of every three books I read was worth telling you about. 2010 was a good year!

Winners:
1. Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
3. The Best of Roald Dahl
4. The Big Short by Michael Lewis
5. Yarborough by B.H. Friedman
6. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
7. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Honorable Mentions:
1. Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison
2. Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson
3. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
4. Stoner by John Williams
5. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
6. Spooner by Pete Dexter
7. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
8. A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
10. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
11. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
12. Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem

Worthy Contenders:
1. I am not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett
2. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
3. The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein
4. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
5. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Top Picks of 2009

I forgot to do the annual wrap-up of favorites from the previous year. Halfway through 2010 already, and 2009 is a dimly-lit corridor with titles I barely remember. That said, here’s what I can conjure from the haze for books I enjoyed reading the most in 2009:

Definitely:
1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
2. Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
3. The Tanners by Robert Walser
4. Nothing Right by Antonya Nelson
5. Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
6. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
7. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes
8. The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

Runners-Up:
1. What to Eat by Marion Nestle
2. Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
3. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
4. Awesome by Jack Pendarvis
5. The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
6. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Top Picks of 2008

It’s that time of year again, when space heaters are on full blast, and I’m looking through the archive to remind myself of all the juicy reading I did in 2008. For your convenience (aw hell, and mine too), here’s my list of the best stuff I read this year.
The Winners
1. The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald
2. What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer
3. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
4. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
5. Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
6. Bad Money by Kevin Phillips
7. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
8. The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
9. Slumberland by Paul Beatty
10. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
11. Resource Wars by Michael Klare
12. The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

Top Picks of 2007

By request, for those extremely lazy folks out there who let me do their reading for them. Here are my top picks for last year (not that the books were published in 2007, but that I consumed them then). It’s all about me, you see.
The Winners
1. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
2. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
3. Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett
4. Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
5. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
The Honorable Mentions
1. Falling Man by Don DeLillo
2. Flash Fiction Forward by James Thomas
3. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
4.
Down & Out in Paris & London by George Orwell
5. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
6. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Top Picks of 2006

Here are my top picks for 2006.
The Winners
1. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
2. The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and other stories by Julia Slavin
3. River of Doubt by Candice Millard
4. To Feel Stuff by Andrea Seigel
5. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Honorable Mentions
1. On Seeing and Noticing by Alain de Botton
2. Women by Charles Bukowski
3. Andes to the Amazon by Bruce Junek
4. Ask the Dust by John Fante
5. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
6. Legends by Robert Littell
7. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
8. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead
9. Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Top Picks of 2005

Here are my top picks for 2005.
The Winners
1. The Pacific by Mark Helprin
2. The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey
3. Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox
4. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
5. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
6. Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Honorable Mentions
1. Poet of the Appetities by Joan Reardon
2. The Middle Mind by Curtis White
3. Obsessive Genius by Barbara Goldsmith
4. The Light of Day by Graham Swift

Top Picks of 2004

Here are my top picks for 2004.
The Winners
1. The Gay Place by Billy Lee Brammer
2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Honorable Mentions
1. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
2. All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
3. The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn
4. Black Money by Ross Macdonald

LZ enjoys…

This is a list of my recent favorites; also check out the list of annual Best-ofs.
(Updated Aug 2014, just covering the best books I’ve read over last 8 months)
Dwight MacDonal’s collection of essays are stunning
Masha Tupisyn’s Beauty Talk & Monsters
Barbara Tuchman’s history of the 14th century
Renata Alder’s Speedboat
Really anything by Virginia Woolf, but Death of the Moth is a good place to start.
Thoreau’s Journals
Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook
Megan Marshall’s bio of Margaret Fuller

As of June 2011:
Yarborough by B.H. Friedman
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
Consider the Oyster by MFK Fisher
You Can’t Win by Jack Black
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
The Gay Place by Billy Lee Brammer
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Pacific by Mark Helprin
Women by Charles Bukowski
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
The Tanners by Robert Walser
The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald
What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

Top Picks of 2003

Here are my top picks for 2003.
The Winners
1. Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
2. The Widow’s Children by Paula Fox
3. Consider the Oyster by M.F.K Fisher
4. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
5. Birds of America by Mary McCarthy
The Honorable Mentions
1. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
2. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
3. Why Girls are Weird by Pamela Ribon
4. One up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch
5. Jarhead
6. Salt
7. Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi

Top Picks of 2002

1. The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher
2. Being Dead by Jim Crace
3. A House for Mr. Biswas by VS Naipaul
4. Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
5. You Can’t Win by Jack Black
6. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
7. Into a Desert Place by Graham MacKintosh
8. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
9. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
10. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
11. The Prime of Miss Jean Brody by Muriel Spark