Saturday, March 03, 2007

My Top 10 Books of 2006

What's a year in review if you can't have lists?

This past year was a banner one for books. From series endings to noteworthy
nonfiction to brilliant literary debuts, 2006 offered it all and then some.

Here’s Charlotte Weekly/Union County Weekly’s list of this year’s

10. “A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler” by Frances Mayes. Broadway Books, $26.

Mayes, also the author of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” uses her venerable talent on other exotic locales and captures the nuances and subtleties that make travel books such enchanting reads.

9. “The End: Book the Thirteenth (A Series of Unfortunate Events)” by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist. HarperCollins Children’s Books, $12.99.

Fans of the famed Lemony Snicket series found that all good things do come to an end. And in this last book, aptly named “The End,” the book found its just desserts. Too delicious to put down, even for adults!

8. “The Audrey Hepburn Treasures: Pictures and Mementos from a Life of Style and Purpose” by Ellen Erwin and Jessica Diamond. Atria Books, $49.95.

Before Angelina Jolie made caring for the world’s forgotten children a cause célèbre, Hepburn raised awareness of humanitarian causes. The proceeds from this incredibly inventive and well-designed book go directly to her UNICEF fund.

7. “State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III” by Bob Woodward. Simon & Schuster, $30.

The journalist who wrote so eloquently for the Washington Post and broke the story of Watergate continues his series on another president. This book looks at the first days George W. Bush thought seriously about running for president through the recruitment of his national security team, the war in Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the struggle for political survival in the second term.

6. “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Viking, $24.95.

Gilbert tries to mend a broken heart, induced by divorce and love gone awry, by traveling to three centers that offer rejuvenation for her spirit, mind and body. Ultimately on her search for both pleasure and passion, she finds romance, but that’s the bonus of this earthy read.

5. “Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany” by Bill Buford. Knopf, $25.95.

Love The Food Network? Wonder what it takes to become a world-famous chef? Journalist Buford takes readers into the kitchen of chef extraordinaire Mario Batali and acclaimed New York restaurant “Babbo.” The drama and great characters in this book alone are worth it for
even nonfoodies.

4. “Brothers” by Da Chen. Crown, $25.

At the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, a powerful general fathered
two sons. Tan was born to the general’s wife and into a life of comfort and luxury.
His half brother, Shento, was born to the general’s mistress, who threw herself off a
cliff in the mountains only moments after delivering her child. The brothers end up
falling in love with the same woman and move toward the explosive moment when
their paths converge.

3. “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl. Viking,

North Carolina native Pessl’s first literary work – one of the most inventive books of
the year – made her a best-selling author. In this murder mystery set at a boarding
school, each chapter is named for a literary classic. Read this mostly for Pessl’s stylistic
writing and quick wit.

2. “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama. Crown, $25.
This sobering and visionary view on how the nation might tackle some of its most serious challenges comes from potential presidential candidate and current U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

1. “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,

This beautiful love story takes place during the Depression. Gruen said she
felt compelled to write “Water for Elephants” after seeing a photograph of circus performers during that era. “This is an era that’s disappearing from memory and it’s an important part of American history,” she said. The book is a delightful read with characters that remain on the mind long after the last page is read.

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