Everyone's doing the 2006 round-down but I'm at a loss. The question: "What's the BEST book you've read this year?" has me stumped. (Not an unusual feeling, I might add.)
Firstly, what do we mean by BEST?
BEST as in most profound? A lot of profound things bores me. I am not as smart as I pretend to be. But oddly, I seem to have considerable success deceiving my colleagues in this aspect. Now I just need my boss to buy this illusion. But among my reading this year, the more spiritually inclined book that I have responded to personally will have to be The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. All great journey is a trip inwards. I will re-read The Snow Leopard in the near future. This perhaps, speaks of how much I bring the writing to heart.
BEST as in most enjoyable? In spite of my intense, chill-as-ice exterior (oh god, I can't type this with a straight face!), I am also a fan of Riot Grrl punk rock, comic books, Care Bears (are we going to have words about my Care Bears?) and loud, childish, farcical humour. A children's book title like The Cork In the Ocean makes me laugh out loud. (Which I did. In the office. Loudly.) Perhaps, The Wee Free Men? You can never go wrong with Terry Pratchett. Funny, riotous and philosophical -- like a swift kick in naughty places.
So instead of BEST BOOK I'VE READ IN 2006, (because I really haven't read that much) -- let's do a WORST BOOK I'VE READ IN 2006:
WORST BOOK I'VE READ IN 2006: Wild Girls by Diana Souhami
Souhami's biography of Parisian salonist Natalie Barney is waffle-thin on the research, dry, mere repetition on already well-known stories of the American expatriate who founded one of the most prestiguous and exciting salon in Paris. Barney was libertine, lover of women, including Colette, friends to the arts and artists -- Marcel Proust in fact wanted to converse with her when he was writing Sodom and Gomorrah. She knew everybody and her patronage spanned the Belle Epoque across two World Wars. She let life in in all its splendour and light -- and Diana Souhami failed miserably to capture this rich, full life.
If anyone is interested, I would recommend instead Suzanne Rodriguez's Wild Heart, an infinitely more readable, enjoyable and MUCH, MUCH better researched biography of Natalie Clifford Barney and the decadence of Literary Paris. Wild Heart is stuffed full of interesting ancedotes and gossips on the literary figures across more than fifty years.