What’s the best new book you read in 2007?

The editors at MinnPost have been too busy to shop for books, so we’re seeking tips on what to give to relatives and friends and even to read ourselves. Please refrain from the temptation to suggest we reread William Strunk’s “The Elements of Style,” first published in 1918. Please click on the comment link below the ad and tell us the full title of your favorite book of the year, the author and why it struck your fancy. Was it fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s lit? Maybe you’re looking for gift ideas, too? Just read the comments below and see what your fellow MinnPost readers recommend.

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Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Pixie on 12/07/2007 - 06:35 am.

    A second for Patricia Hempl’s The Florist’s Daughter. Hempl makes the ordinary extraordinary and offered this recently-returned expatriate Minnesotan a welcome home.

    Hayden Herrera’s Frida: a terrific backdrop for the Freida Kahlo exhibit at the Walker.

    Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice. Read annually and be ever refreshed.

  2. Submitted by Laurie Kramer on 12/07/2007 - 09:27 am.

    She’s No Lady – Politics, Family, and International Feminism, by Arvonne Fraser, intro by Garrison Keillor, edited by Lori Sturdevant, published by Nodin Press, non-fiction/memoir

    Arvonne’s stories and photos are a gift to all of us…thank you!

  3. Submitted by Bruce Miller on 12/03/2007 - 11:29 am.

    Raising Hell for Justice
    The Washington Battles of a Heartland Progressive
    David R. Obey
    Publication date September 2007
    496 pp. 6 x 9 19 b/w photos
    ISBN-13: 978-0-299-22540-7 Cloth $35.00 t
    (ISBN-10: 0-299-22540-2)

    This is not only one of the best political books I have read all year, it is one of the best books I have read all year. Dave Obey (D-Wausau) is the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress in Wisconsin history and is the current chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

    This is a powerful, enlightening, and immensely entertaining memoir, from someone who not only has been there, but is still there.

    A great read for anyone remotely interested in Midwest politics.

    If anyone is interested in a drive into the deep, darkwoods of Wisconins, Congressman Obey will be in Stone Lake, Wisconsin on Saturday, December 8 from 10:30 until 12:00 Noon at Sleeping Bear Coffee, on Highway 70, about 20 minutes East of Spooner, Wisconsoin. in the Stone Lake mall next to the Stone Lake Laundromat. He will read from “Raising Hell for Justice.” Copies of the book will be available for sale, and Congressman Obey will autograph copies sold that day.

    This is an appearance sponsored by Sleeping Bear Coffee in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin Press , publishers of the book. The event is open to one and all.

  4. Submitted by Lisa Hannum on 12/03/2007 - 11:34 am.

    Best new fiction … Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”

    Best nonfiction … Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel”

    Best business … Robert Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t”

    Best to read to your school-aged children … J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”

    Best series for your school-aged children to read on their own … Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” series and Erin Hunter’s “Warrior” series

    All available at a favorite bookstore or Website near you.

  5. Submitted by Corey Anderson on 12/03/2007 - 01:16 pm.

    My favorite new book is the graphic novel “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier,” which was released in October. Written by Alan Moore (“Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta”) and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, this is the third LOEG novel. It follows the adventures of Mina Murray (“Dracula”) and Allan Quatermain into the mid-20th Century as they swipe the Black Dossier, an MI-6 intelligence file that contains the history of the League. As with the two previous novels, The Black Dossier is peppered with characters and references from literature, including Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and a certain young British agent with a penchant for shaken martinis. The book contains terrific illustrations by O’Neill (including a 3-D ending – glasses included) and, as always, an engaging story by Moore.

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/03/2007 - 03:53 pm.

    Two non-fiction submissions:

    Merle’s Door
    Sounds sappy, as a book about a guy & his dog, but its a compelling read. The author uses his relationship with his dog to investigate the relationship between canines & humans, among other things. A great read.

    The Glass Castle
    One woman’s story growing up poor, but finding a way out. Another compelling read, this one about a socio-economic part of America that most of us probably think is long gone.

  7. Submitted by Rick Jauert on 12/04/2007 - 08:40 am.

    Raising Hell for Justice
    The Washington Battles of a Heartland Progressive by Congressman David Obey. Non-fiction/memoir. Must reading for political junkies.

  8. Submitted by larsen larsen on 12/04/2007 - 12:40 pm.

    Spectacular Adventure With Web Hunter and Donna Matrix! is a lighthearted but thrilling mini-novel charting the adventures of the superheroes. “The Trail of the Technology Tyrant!” follows the heroes as they battle the sinister Doctor Luddite, a megalomaniac bent on world domination through high technology. With courage, relentless determination, humor and a certain degree of goofy charm, the heroes prove that the machinations of evil are antisocial, nasty, and considerably less entertaining than doing good.

  9. Submitted by Cynthia Boyd on 12/04/2007 - 02:46 pm.

    I second the nomination of “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls, a memoir of resilence and the story of a nomadic childhood with non-conformist parents. It has a fairy tale feel to it.

    I also recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s autobiographical “Eat, Pray, Love,” about a woman’s search for herself through Italy, India and Indonesia.

  10. Submitted by Julie Dinger on 12/05/2007 - 08:40 am.

    Best fiction: “Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon

    Best classic: “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

    Best non-fiction: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan

    Best biography: “Ballad of the Whiskey Robber” by Julian Rubenstein

    Best children’s book: “George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends” by James Marshall

  11. Submitted by Amanda Fretheim Gates on 12/05/2007 - 09:48 am.

    I loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. JK Rowling ended the series wonderfully – it surpassed all my expectations.

    Also, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner moved me and broke my heart, but Hosseini’s second novel was even better.

  12. Submitted by Barbara Flanagan Sanford on 12/05/2007 - 07:43 pm.

    Books I recommend:

    “Blink” By Malcolm Gladwell

    “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell

    “Freakonomics” by Levitt & Dubner

    Let me know if you need more.

    Earl S Sanford

  13. Submitted by Sara Westberg on 12/06/2007 - 12:17 pm.

    Frank Delaney
    2007, Random House
    445 pages

    Fascinating fiction that also gives excellent historical information about Ireland’s “Troubles.” The format in which the story is told is fun and filled with multiple perspectives of the same events.

    You can’t help but think of Frank McCourt’s memoirs and also “Scarlett” (by Alexandra Ripley), the follow-up to “Gone With the Wind.” I read and re-read this book within nine days, which is rare for me.

  14. Submitted by Claire Anne Thoen on 12/06/2007 - 12:36 pm.

    Einstein; His Life and Universe
    Walter Isaacson

    Isaacson, clearly admires his subject and I positively fell in love with Einstein by the time I finished this account of his multifaceted life.

    Mark Kurlansky

    I expected to find it easy to agree with everything in this book but Kurlansky covers this subject in a way that really challenged and changed my thinking.

  15. Submitted by Barry Madore on 12/06/2007 - 01:05 pm.

    The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon.

    Utterly entertaining and supremely literate. Chabon bit off a lot to chew by choosing to write a novel that fuses the elements of speculative fiction (creating an alternate historical reality) with those of the hardboiled detective genre and wrapping up the whole package with a ribbon of Jewish mysticism, theology and Yiddish culture. He doesn’t choke, managing to traverse such diverse ground with grace and humor. Even this snobbish devotee of Dashiell Hammett’s writing was thoroughly delighted.

  16. Submitted by David Born on 12/06/2007 - 01:28 pm.

    Old favorites: Anything by Cormac McCarthy or Jim Harrison

    Best discoveries of 2007: Stef Penney, The Tenderness of Wolves – A real sleeper by a Scottish author. This novel deserves much more exposure than it’s received. Highly recommended.

    Nicole Mones, The Last Chinese Chef – a novel introduction to Chinese cuisine….wonderful reading and leaves you hungering for more.

    Duh! I finally opened up The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher and can’t understand why I put off reading her for so long – What a delight.

  17. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/06/2007 - 01:41 pm.

    “Zigzag: The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman,” by Nicholas Booth, was published this autumn and it’s utterly fascinating. Eddie was in a league all his own — equal parts charmer and crook –when the law finally caught up with him after years of safe-cracking in 1930s England. He was imprisoned in Jersey Island, which was occupied by the Nazis at the time of his release. That’s when he began life as one of the most important double agents of WWII.

    His story has been out there for years, increasingly forgotten. Eddie died about 10 years ago. Within the last couple years, MI5 declassified huge volumes about him, enabling Booth to delve into his suspenseful adventures (and non-stop womanizing) in France, Portugal, Norway, and Germany. The tie-ins to Ultra operations at Bletchley Park are particularly interesting, as is the story of how Eddie and British intelligence pulled off the mission to which the Nazis had assigned him. Booth also extensively interviewed Eddie’s wife, who appears to have set the world record for “looking the other way” during their long marriage.

    Much can be said, and has been said, about Eddie’s character. And there were certainly moments throughout the book that Eddie’s story had me chuckling. Ultimately, he was an extraordinarily brave and patriotic man, though neither quality ever received any official recognition. It would be great to see a solid moviemaker bring his story to the big screen. Are you reading this, George Clooney?

  18. Submitted by Susan Herridge on 12/06/2007 - 01:53 pm.

    Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes
    Knopf, a division of Random House
    Only out in hardcover right now

    This could be a seriously depressing book to give as a Christmas gift, since the guilt associating with stuffing one’s face with cookies, eggnog and pie would be astronomically increased.

    But this is a very important book. Meticulously researched, it delves into the fascinating combination of mediocre science, jumping the gun, medical and nutrional fads, poor nutritional journalism and just plain arrogance that got us to the point of receiving so much apparently questionable dietary advice for the last 30 years. Which coincidentally, also got us substantial increases in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

    Its not a diet book; there are no recipes or diet plans. But it won’t take a careful reader to discern the dietary changes that one needs to make – or at least to try – to see how we feel. And the changes that we need to make in the diets of our children are even more clear.

    And its not just the obese that are at risk. If you have been, like me, puzzled by the fact that thin and seemingly fit friends are coming down with Type II diabetes, this book provides a convincing hypothesis of why it is so. And while nothing is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, I’m hitching my wagon to this hypothesis which indeed, seems to explain so much more.

  19. Submitted by Pat Sirek on 12/06/2007 - 04:29 pm.

    My vote goes to “The Florist’s Daughter,” a graceful, beautifully written 2007 memoir by Minnesota author Patricia Hampl.

  20. Submitted by Sheree Savage on 12/10/2007 - 09:41 am.

    Saint Paul Public Library staff share with you books that are good for reading and gift giving.

    For a complete ‘best of’ book list, please visit: http://www.sppl.org. The top five favorite adult and children books:

    Top Five Adult books:

    1. AIA Guide to the Twin Cities; the Essential Source on the Architecture of Minneapolis and St. Paul by Larry Millett. Features 2,000 architectural structures of wide-ranging styles throughout the neighborhoods of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

    2. Bundt Cake Bliss; Delicious Desserts from Midwest Kitchens by Susanna Short. Bundt recipes old and new as well as stories of the cakes and their creators.

    3 The Florist’s Daughter by Patricia Hampl. Thoughtful and elegant memoir by one of Minnesota’s finest writers.

    4. Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. Internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips follows Satrapi’s childhood and coming-of-age in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. The sequel covers her adolescence in Vienna and return to Iran. Movie of Persepolis opens in late December.

    5. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. Short yet spacious Norwegian novel in which an Oslo professional hopes to cure his loneliness with a plunge into solitude.

    Top Five Children’s books:

    1. Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: a worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman. The author draws from a variety of folk traditions to create this version of Cinderella.

    2. Here’s A Little Poem: a very first book of poetry. Collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters. A superb collection of more than 60 poems by a wide range of talented writers, from Margaret Wise Brown to Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes to A. A. Milne.

    3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures by Brian Selznick. When twelve-year-old Hugo, an orphan living and repairing clocks within the walls of a Paris train station in 1931, meets a mysterious shopkeeper and his goddaughter, his undercover life and his biggest secret are jeopardized.

    4. A Good Day by Kevin Henkes. A bird, a fox, a dog, and a squirrel overcome minor setbacks to have a very good day.

    5. Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo and Diane Dillon. Famous jazz musicians appear on stage for an appreciative audience. CD included.

  21. Submitted by Matthew Schaut on 12/10/2007 - 02:48 pm.

    I will take the “new books” qualifier to mean new to me. Given this, lots to recommend from this year’s reading.

    The Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian (all 20 and 1/2 of them) are just fantastic. I’ve read five so far this year. The first chapter of the second volume, Post Commander, is one of the best (definitely hysterical) first chapters in all of literature. I’ve never read better literary passages of insults than are found in the third volume, H.M.S. Surprise.

    A truly astounding fictionalized treatment of an historical subject (that gets at the truth better than any straight history of the subject I have ever read) is Evan Connell’s Deus lo volt, on the crusades. The writing is in the thinking processes of the time, which is a magnificent feat.

    Want fun? Two books by Bob Tarte — Enslaved by Ducks, and Fowl Weather. Funny, frank, and wise. Baboon Methaphysics, by Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth, is heavier joy. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (the Ivory-billed Woodpecker), by Phillip Hoose, is much sadder.

    Visceral thrills. An book that is actually brand, brand spanking new. The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. Climb into the redwoods with scientists who study their crowns. Great fun, especially if you are afraid of heights as I am.

    Music. Walter Aron Clark’s Albeniz: A life in music is exemplary. So is Albeniz’ music, by the way. The best movie I saw last year was a Spanish movie directed by Carlos Saura, Iberia, based on Albeniz’ music. (If “reading” encompasses sheet music, then an encounter with the Iberia music could be the highlight of any pianist’s year.)

    Good histories include Caesar by Adrean Goldsworthy, and, in the realm of ideas, Rousseau’s Dog (Rousseau and Hume), by Edmonds and Eidenow.

    Who were the early Israelites, by William Dever, is exemplary scholarship, as is Peoples of an Almighty God (on the Israelites and the Babylonians as dual-cultures who defined themselves by their belief that they were under the protection of an Almighty) by Jonathon Goldstein. Both choose honest examination of the evidence over predetermined ideology/theology, and thus convey a great deal of actual knowledge (as opposed to dogmatic assertions, or historical fantasies).

    Some psychology, since that is my profession. Books you can never go wrong with, read this year, include Augustus Napier’s The fragile bond (1-cent on Amazon.com marketplace!), or Monica McGoldrick’s You can go home again.William Gaylin’s Talk is not enough is an excellent explication of psychotherapy.Everyone should be familiar with John Bowlby; his Secure Base is a great start.

    Less accessible but profound are Lachmann’s Transforming aggression, or Merle and Marilyn Fossum’s Facing Shame.

    On shame, anything by Ronald and/or Patricia Potter-Efron, is salutary. Shame, Guilt, and Alcoholism by Ronald, and The secret message of shame, by both Efron’s are very helpful. Shame is quite the destroyer of dreams and we all need knowledge and strategies to counter it.

    Finally, I have been spending alot of time reading and using in the field my bird identification guides and bird song tapes. Don’t delegitimize this most constructive sort of reading!

    In conjunction with such activities, Donald Kroodsma’s The Singing Lives of Birds, is a truly joyful shout-out to a life well-spent by getting up at 3 a.m. to listen to and get to know birds. Nothing is more important than a constant mindfulness of the environment we move in. Birdwatching is one way to develop that mindfulness. Plus, its utterly therapeutic.:-)

  22. Submitted by Earl S Sanford on 12/24/2007 - 08:35 am.

    Another good read from Earl Sanford:

    The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan.

    Adventures in a New World

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