I’ve looked at the New York Times‘ 100 Notable Books of 2007 with special attention to the fiction and can’t help but wonder if this is the best we’ve got. I discussed The Abstinence Teacher here and here, but Perrotta was better live than in print. The Bad Girl never lived at all; Harry Potter might have improved with age but I’m not about to find out. House of Meetings was better as history and essay than novel and The Savage Detectives overrated. I read five pages of Tree of Smoke in a bookstore and suspect B.R. Myers‘ slam is probably deserved. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union was likable but not lovable.
Of the books listed, On Chesil Beach deserved its place, as did The Indian Clerk (more on that in the next few days). Of the ones I discussed in the paragraph above, a few were outright bad, but most were as The Indian Clerk says of the novels of Henry James: “[…] I admire them yet I cannot love them” (italics in original). So I feel about most picks from The New York Times, which, even if I admire them, I can’t really see how they would inspire love.
That brings us to the New York Times‘ 10 best books, with two fiction books of limited interest to me, two already discussed, and one that I actually plan to read: Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End. The nonfiction was better, with Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine and Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noise, a book en route after I read a chapter online.
These year end lists—there are too many to bother linking to most—remind me how important the Everyman’s Library and Library of America are, as both feature excellent quality in thought and production; I suspect that I, like many others, will return to the books in their catalogs long after most copies of Harry Potter have been pulped and resurrected as grocery bags.
EDIT: Added a link to The Indian Clerk.