It’s December! And that means it’s time for the traditional End of Year ABC Top Fives! Of the many things we have read over the last year, what did we enjoy the most? And what was the most popular book? The lists are still being compiled, but we’ll be posting the title of the most popular ABC book before the end of the year. Do you think you can guess what it is? Make your prediction in the comments. And tell us about your top five reads of 2007!
Up till now, we were confined to a couple of sides of A4 on a flyer or in our newsletter. Now, by the magic of the internet, we can bring you all the submitted lists, in full! *
We’ll start with some of the boys’ lists.
Rick V (ABC Amsterdam, pool person)
Finally: a fantasy book that delivers some good old entertainment. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s got language that would make a dockworker blush. Moreover, no one is trying to save the world by finding a magic sword/ring/wand/crown or any other typical nonsense. Highly recommended for a couple of hundred pages of escape from dreary, daily life.
Basically, if you’re a fan of Lost in Translation, this is the book for you. Also, if you’re not a fan of LIT this book is even more so for you. Why? Because it has some marvellous pacing to it. No meandering nonsense, just one hellish and hedonistic ride guaranteed to inspire everyone to take a little more risk and make life a little more interesting.
Here’s a guy trying to reinvent the whole genre of Science Fiction. Now, don’t get scared, this is not a book about robots, space stations and intergalactic wars; it’s a story about the history of Europe, with a multitude of strange characters, from scientists to pirates. It all takes place in Holland’s Golden Age and it’s a riveting tale of adventure and discovery.
This book needs a re-read at least once a year. It’s set in the future and it revolves around a young boy called Andrew, who, along with a contingent of other smart kids is to be trained to be a commander of the galactic fleet one day. (There is a war with an insect-like species going on and it’s fight or flight for the humans). Never have I read about a more likeable, rational character. This book raises all the right questions and Ender manages to answer them all in a strong and human fashion.
And, on number 1, still the book of books, after all these years:
The first time I read this, I read it in one go. slowly digesting Christmas dinner while I absorbed it all: the phonies, the bullshitting, little Phoebe, walking aimlessly around New York City.This story breaks hearts and builds them up again. Read it when you’re ready and take it everywhere you go.
San Yin (ABC Amsterdam, pool person)
5. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Rickie V Thinks I am a complete FAIRY for putting this book in my top 5, see if I care! This is an ideal holiday read; it’s not too pretentious. The setting and atmosphere are a bit mysterious and dream like. A love story and a thriller at the same time. And above all it’s an ode to books and the love for books.
4. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
I have not even finished the book and it’s already in my top five. Fast paced fun read about a young scam artist/ thief in a Venetian like fantasy setting. Easy read to relax
3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
When I first started at the ABC, everyone on the first floor was surprised I did not know this Scott Card guy, so I decided to read Ender’s Game. And I must say it was not disappointing: it’s a smart book!
2. Eagle against the Sun: The American War with Japan by Ronald H. Spector
In The Netherlands, the emphasis in history lessons on the second World War, lies on the war in Europe. Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are mentioned, but generally, that side of the war is pushed into obscurity. I wanted to know more, and this book gave me a very sound overview of the war in the Pacific. Next to that Spector is a vivid storyteller, and I finished the book in two days.
1. The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History by Philip Bobbitt
This book changed my way of thinking about war and peace and state systems. It was a tough read, but Bobbitt’s thesis that state systems are altered by wars; when they are fought the new implications and institutions of the state system are codified by law. The state system stays that way until the system is attacked by a state which has been through some revolution in warfare. And that this is a repeating process, still dazzles me.
Maarten (ABC Amsterdam, Social Science buyer)
1. Fortean Times Magazine
As I have said for the last two years – and each year I quote myself – ‘probably the best magazine in the world, and the only important one’. Read it to understand what that means!
2. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The original canon, and also all kinds of spoofs, parodies, ‘inspired by’s, (like Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution featuring a retired (and mentally struggling) 89-year-old Holmes, keeping bees in the country. Very touching). Or an Unauthorized Biography by Nick Rennison about the Great Detective, almost proving the theory that SH was not a fictional character.
3. Dagboek van Een Poes by Remco Campert, or better, edited and published by him, because the author supposedly is his cat. Very sweet, beautiful, and giving a good insight in the life and complex psychology of a domesticated – is that really possible? – cat.
4. Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut
A nice collection of early short stories, showing his subtle wit, and pessimistic yet tolerant (or is it just accepting?) views on humanity.
5. Serpentina’s Petticoat by Jan Wolkers
Man, can he write! Great stuff, raw, a lot of death, but shown in a ‘death is part of nature and nature is better than man’uncorrupted naiveté. (Only available in Dutch)
As a final note, some ‘almosts’, books actually good enough to reach the top 5, but, well, one has to choose. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman (intelligent graphic novels of high quality in both narrative and art); The Guardian Book of April Fool’s Day by Martin Wainwright (entertaining overview of classic April Fool’s Hoaxes, their preparation and consequences. Funny material); Roald Dahl, anything by him, but this year it was ‘Taste and Other Tales – sadly only avilable as a simplified ESL edition right now, but you could try any of his story collections for adults instead. Taste is a collection of stories with Dahl’s well-known suspense and twists, in which you know something terrible or nasty (or something terribly nasty) will happen, but where the ending is almost always surprising and worse than you feared. Classic stuff.
* Not sure how sensible that is actually, but we already promised to post the unexpurgated versions.