Best fiction 2005
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This posthumous collection of Matthews's best work is occasionally coarse, with some poems intended to shock, but it is also filled with subtlety and depth. (4/26/05)Skip to next paragraph
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THE ORCHARD, by Brigit Pegeen Kelly (BOA Editions Ltd., $14.95)
Brigit Pegeen Kelly uses her keen eye for detail to weave verse that resembles elaborate tapestries. It's a work that offers many pleasures but is also dense and demanding. (4/26/05)
A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS, by Yiyun Li (Random House, $21.95)
This collection of 10 short, fictional stories offers insights into both traditional and modern Chinese culture and the ways in which they both interact with the West today. (10/11/05)
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, Inc., $29.95)
No list of the top books of the year would be complete without mentioning Book 6 in the Harry Potter series. This story is perhaps the darkest of the tales about the child wizard, but the series maintains all of its original enchantment even as Harry continues to inch his way toward manhood. (7/18/05)
GIRLS IN PANTS: THE THIRD SUMMER OF THE SISTERHOOD, by Ann Brashares (Delacorte Press, $16.95)
The third book of this series finds the four young heroines getting ready to leave home for college. The magic here comes not from the special jeans these girls share but from the characters and the author. (6/14/05)
THE PENDERWICKS: A SUMMER TALE OF FOUR SISTERS, TWO RABBITS, AND A VERY INTERESTING BOY, by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf, $15.95)
This National Book Award Winner tells the madcap yet tender story of a professor and his family as they vacation in a cottage in New England. (11/15/05)
Since I became the Monitor's book editor last June, I've heard the same question over and over:
Is it the best job ever?
My answer: Just about. Contrary to what some imagine, I don't spend all day reading, but I do read at least two or three books a week, and I enjoy most of them. Of course, among these I do have my favorites so to answer the other most frequently asked question ("What have you read that you really liked?"), of all the books listed here, the following were my top 10 favorite on-the-job reading experiences this year:
1. Two Lives, by Vikram Seth The characters were so incredibly ordinary and yet so extraordinary at the same time.
2. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard . What's not to like when history, adventure, and good writing all come together?
3. Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley . I couldn't get enough of that reading list.
4. The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich . Erdrich is a truly skilful novelist.
5. The Accidental Masterpiece, by Michael Kimmelman . It's easy to love a book that finds art everywhere.
6. Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday . A chilling but very compelling read.
7.The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion . Once again, a writer who really knows her craft.
8. Mark Twain: A Life, by Mark Powers . It was as if Twain were in the room with me.
9. Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev, by Robert Dessaix . I had no chance to amble through Europe this summer - except when I read this book.
10.Marley & Me, by John Grogan . What can I say? I have a dog.
- Marjorie Kehe