2007 in review: Books

33 books in 2007 – the same as in 2006. And although I haven’t managed to crack more than 50 books in any year since 2002 (when I started keeping notes), I keep being disappointed by this fact. Surely a book a week isn’t too hard a target? Clearly, for me, it is.

My book of the year was World War Z by Max Brooks. If you have never come across it before, it’s a…zombie novel. But don’t dismiss it out of hand because of the subject matter. The book is not framed as a traditional zombie horror story, with a band of survivors pitted against hordes of the living dead. Instead, it takes the perspective of a collection of interviews with people who survived a zombie pandemic. Their tales are often harsh and emotional, but never recounted for simple thrills. At a deeper level, it is all about some of our worst fears in the real world: political and economical collapse, global disease pandemics, terrorism, and war.

There is also an audio book version narrated by an interesting cast including Mark Hamill, John Turturro, Rob Reiner, Jürgen Prochnow, and Alan Alda. I don’t generally listen to audio books, but this one has me seriously tempted.

Other top picks from 2007:

  • Simon Singh – The Big Bang. Simon Singh is a great science writer, who excels at explaining science by telling the story of the people who made the discoveries. Here he tackles not just the Big Bang theory, but the whole history of cosmology, all in his characteristically accessible style. Simply brilliant.
  • William Gibson – Spook Country. It’s not science fiction, and not a spy novel, but it has elements of both.
  • Scott McCloud – Understanding Comics. McCloud explains the hidden language and structure of comics — all the stuff that you probably understand at some fundamental level but have never thought about consciously. It also offers fascinating insights into craftsmanship and mastery in general.
  • Peter Watts – Blindsight. SF first contact story with a disquieting horror backbone.
  • Richard Morgan – Black Man. (Published in the US as Thirteen.) Big chunky SF thriller; noirish, bleak, and brutal.

I haven’t read much in 2008 so far (4 books to date), but there’s a lot of good stuff stacked on the shelves. I doubt if I’ll hit 50 this year, either, but you never know…