The Best Books of 2006

2006

This article was supposed to have been posted a couple of weeks ago and I take full responsibility.

As has been said before one of the great things about Bookspotcentral is the diversity of the group. We read a broad range of books and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So we thought that we would gather the Boomtron think-tank and choose the best book of 2006. We gathered at an undisclosed location to anoint a book but then we got thirsty so we took the meeting to a local bar. Things started out fine, then veered into an exercise in futility, quickly devolved into farce and basically turned into a bar-brawl.

Accounts on how it started are varied and unclear but according to the bartender someone said that Matt’s mom drove an El Camino, he got mad and threw a hardboiled egg which splattered all over kcf’s shirt. Then kcf morphed into Neth who then tried to grab Maria’s umbrella to retaliate (which was a big mistake since anyone can tell you NEVER grab Maria’s umbrella) and caught a whack in the head instead. I broke a heel, there was popcorn involved not to mention a wetsuit (thrown by Trin) and a set of fondue forks.

Pandemonium and Chaos argued over which one was going to describe the event and the whole thing ended with 1000 page fantasy bricks being thrown at each other and tgjason doing a manga-style table dance (you had to be there). I still have a Tad Williams lump on the side of my head. Patrick was last seen wandering the streets muttering “stupid thousand, I hate you” under his breath.

Needless to say it’s a long story that no one wants to hear.

The end result is that we all decided to make our own lists of the best books of 2006.

Trinalor

– Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick

Swanwick’s book was my introduction to that titular age-old protagonist. This novel evoked such a sense of time and place through its language and its characters’ actions. Despite the medieval setting, the themes and issues had a modern appeal. Jack Faust’s frustrations and doubts and motives were tangible emotions that I could sympathize with even as I saw his character devolve into the very thing he sought to eliminate. If we knew everything, wouldn’t we be able to solve all of our problems?

The Impossible Bird by Patrick O’Leary

The word that came to mind when I finished this book: beautiful. The relationship between two brothers, warts and all, really heart-wrenching. The alien hummingbirds that only wanted to protect us, quite awesome. The irony that life is precious because it is finite, somehow a positive affirmation.

Amberdrake

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart – A wonderful fairy tale/legend/farcical romp.

Voyage of the Shadowmoon by Sean McMullen – Steampunkilicious.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – Cool crooks with heart.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers – Intelligent time travel mystery/historical/fantasy.

A Sundial in a Grave by Mary Gentle – Historical fantasy conspiracy theory comes to life.

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson – Gods, ascendants and the lowly foot soldier trying to save the world in between card games.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore – Urban fantasy with a demonic humor.

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher – Bad-a$$ wizard saves the world (or at least the part located in fantasy Chicago) one more time.

Maria

The Hounds of Ardagh by Laura Underwood – Because it was such an unexpected jewel to find–well-written, tight plot, satisfying resolution. Her unusual characters gave this book extra intrigue.

Goblin Quest by Jim Hines – Because I need my fix of light, wonderful humor that races through new worlds and books that provide me with sympathetic characters that make me want to reach through the pages and help. Fun, heartwarming, uplifting fiction.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs – Briggs weaves plots, romantic tension, and characters into a magical, thrilling ride.

Neth

Forever by Pete Hamill – The quality of the writing and story lift the book to a must read for fans of any genre.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman – To say it clearly, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, both as a classic sci-fi novel, and as a piece of literature relative to world events today, as they were 30 years ago.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson – The book captures the essence of the true hostility and isolation of this environment in incredible ways and truly expresses the affects on the first humans on Mars.

City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer – A mosaic of stories that are darkly uncomfortable, powerful, and stylistic – If forced to pick one above the rest, this is it.

Infoquake by David Louis Edelman –  Science fiction meets the corporate board room in a distant future – a wonderful debut.

MattD

I suspect most of my top reads of 2006 are the same as many other people’s. The Lies of Locke Lamora; Vellum; The Road; Shriek; they’ve appeared on numerous “best of” lists already, and for good reason.

The best book I read in 2006 that hasn’t received the widespread attention it deserves is Catherynne Valente’s In the Night Garden, the first volume her Orphan’s Tales duology. While her earlier works were tightly focused, inward-searching tales, In the Night Garden combines the scope of epic fantasy in its range of time, geography, character and culture with the defiantly irreal sensibility of fairy tale. But although familiar tropes from fairy tales appear — witches and wizards, princes and grandmothers, boys and girls — this is a thoroughly (post-) modern take, where everyone, literally, has a story, and monsters of all sorts are given equal opportunity to to share their tales. Valente’s prose is dense and poetic; she writes for those who love language, who value the journey as much as the destination. The whole is a marvelous ode to language and to story itself, to storytelling and storytellers, and to the capability of everyone to find and realize their own story. And did I mention, In the Night Garden recently won the Tiptree Award?

Brian

For the most part my reading process is very transparent. I’m not shy about putting my thoughts out there on books that I’ve read. At first my list of titles was just a regurgitation of books that I have already reviewed and have sung high praises for and will continue to do so. But then I decided that was ultimately a redundant exercise so I scrapped it and instead decided to highlight some of the other books that I both read and re-read in 2006.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane –  I re-read Mystic River for the third time last year. Mystic River is hands down the most influential and important book written in the mystery genre of the last 10 years. Seven years after its release it is still exerting a strong sphere of influence. It challenged the way that mystery/crime fiction books are read, written and published.

But putting aside intellectual and historical notions of importance, influence and impact this is an amazing story that is written amazingly. Lehane built this book from the characters up and it shows. Lehane is the rare writer that write books that hurt you, literally hurt you.

Mystic River is, at its heart, a classic tragedy and the level of success that this book reaches on every single level is not only awe inspiring but inspiring as well.

After Silence by Jonathan Carroll – This was a re-read also. I actually re-read Carroll’s entire catalogue last year and the unmitigated emotional power of this book really stood out. This is a powerful book. I would even go so far as to say that it should be re-considered as a lost noir classic. Here is the opening of After Silence:

“How much does a life weigh? Is it the product of our positive or worthwhile acts, divided by the bad? Or is it only the human body itself, put on a scale – a two-hundred-pound life?

I hold a gun to my son’s head. He weighs about one hundred and thirty pounds, the gun no more than two. Another way of thinking about it: My son Lincoln’s life weighs only so much as this pistol in my hand. Or the bullet that will kill him? And after the shot will there be no weight?

He is smiling. I am terrified. I’ll pull the trigger and he will die, yet he’s smiling as if this fatal metal against his head is the finger of a loved one.

Who am I? How can I do this to my own son? Listen- “

And from that opening a dark drama is told.

In a personal correspondence I recently find out that a well known writer, whose work I love, is a fan of Carroll’s. I was very surprised to hear this from him and told him so. It did make me wonder how many other people would read a Carroll book if this particular writer came out of the Carroll closet.

Or to look at it another way would be to say that those of us who read Carroll’s work need to maintain a vocal vigilance, keeping his name out there, winning him an audience one reader at a time if need be.

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia -I actually read this book twice last year. I often re-read books but not often in such quick succession. This may very well be the best fantasy book of the last couple of years. Its a crime that this book isn’t more widely read and talked about. Don’t let the topography of the book dissuade you, not only is this a readable book but a humane meditation on love lost and the writing process.

Placencia with this one book displays more imagination then most others are able to accomplish in their entire careers.

The Dramatist by Ken Bruen – The first Ken Bruen book that readers encounter is almost invariably The Guards but The Dramatist is a flash point book that changes everything for you. Nothing is the same after reading it. It should be subtitled “A Scorched Earth novel” because it evokes that much change after reading it. But The Dramatist is where Bruen throws down the gauntlet. By the end of this book your either in for life or you walk. Is it that polarizing of an ending? Yes it is. The Dramatist is where he jumps you into the gang. Those of you who are members know what I’m talking about and wear your scars like badges of honor.

Is it a tough book? Yes. But that’s OK because bruises heal and chicks dig scars

PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives by Frank Warren – Far and away this was the best book that I read last year. The idea at the heart of this book is so deceptively brilliant that it borders on genius: people anonymously reveal a secret on a post card and send it in. The only rules being that the secret must be truthful and never revealed before. That’s it.

The results are displayed on a blog and there have been books that collect some of the best of the cards.

Never before have we been given such raw, sober, unflinching glimpses into humanity and all of its facets. Each card contains infinite realms of possibility. Some of the whispered utterances contained are :

The results are displayed on a blog and there have been books that collect some of the best of the cards.

Never before have we been given such raw, sober, unflinching glimpses into humanity and all of its facets. Each card contains infinite realms of possibility. Some of the whispered utterances contained are :

“I only love one of my children”


“I left a man who called me darling while he made love to me for a man who calls me slut while he fucks me.”

“My dad called me and when I saw his name on the caller ID I didn’t answer. We haven’t spoken in 10 years. The next day he died.”

“After I picked up my daughters ashes from the funeral home, I ate some of them.”

“I’m hoping to find secret love notes from you buried in my locker once I clean it out.”

“When I’m old I will look back on this part of my life with huge regrets.”

“I was molested as a child and never told anyone. As an adult I tracked him down and killed him, and never told anyone.”

“In case of disaster I keep a mental list of the children I would save first”

These are just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book with my jaw literally hanging open but that’s how I read this one. I read it in one sitting and days, weeks, months later I can still hear some of these quotes in my mind like a haunting refrain.

Roxy

Blind Your Ponies by Stanley G. West – An absolutely incredible read about a small town high school basketball team in Montana. One of the few books that caused me to both laugh out loud and cry at some point in the story.

Species Imperative Series by Julie Czernada – Ok, this is a trilogy but they all go together. I like the snappy dialogue and the impassioned main character that insists on doing the right thing. I’m also a sucker for stories where the ones wearing the white hats beat up on the ones wearing the black hats.

John Markley

A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin- I read all four Song of Ice and Fire books in close succession- this is my favorite. Great characters, very interesting setting, and lots of intrigue.

The Golden Age by John C Wright- A masterpiece of far-future science fiction. Contains one of the most fascinating future societies ever portrayed, with enough ideas for dozens of stories. The whole trilogy that this book begins is brilliant, so I’ll let this book stand for the three.

Soldiers Live by Glen Cook- The climax to my favorite fantasy series. Intense, exciting, and in places emotionally devastating.

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds- A thrilling science fiction detective story, set in the ruins of a former utopia. Has one of the most interesting protagonists in science fiction.

Gridlinked by Neal Asher- The first Neal Asher book I read. Great stuff- interesting premise, fast action, and my favorite portrayal of an A.I.-run society in science fiction.

tqJason

The most prevalent theme of the year 2006 to me was beginnings. First and foremost it was the first year of my life I actually read speculative fiction that was not assigned to me by an instructor. Apart from that there were a myriad of fine debuts by young new authors. However, there were two classic science fiction stories in two different types of printed media that stuck out to me more than others.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – A few years ago I read that Ender’s Game was ranked as the number one book read by California college students that year; I can see why. While being a somewhat simplistic book that can be quickly read it blends together several different themes and messages seamlessly. It also happens to be a terrific intro sci-fi book for anyone who has never ventured into the genre before. I absolutely loved Ender’s story and was taken on an emotional roller coaster by it; as far as science fiction goes I’ve yet to read a novel I liked more.

Eden: It’s An Endless World! by Hiroki Endo – Eden is a beautiful manga written and drawn by Hiroki Endo in which humanity faces its likely demise at the hands of a petrifying disease. The amazing thing about Eden is that it can transcend several genres while actually making all of them work, cyberpunk, philosophical, graphic survivalist. The characters of Eden are toughened by the hardships they encounter in their quest to help get humanity back on it’s feet; yet with all their ruggedness their compassion never wavers and they never give up hope. These are the types of stories that are amazingly mesmerizing to me, hopefully you will feel the same way.