2006 will stand in my memory as the year I finally stopped worrying and learned to love the genre fiction. This turned out to be a happy discovery, considering that so much of this year's literary fiction let me down (The Thin Place*, The End of Mr. Y), bored me silly (Wickett's Remedy), and/or annoyed me to the very core (Special Topics in Calamity Physics).
It was a year of Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald and Megan Abbott, whose remarkable L.A. noir Die a Little would surely have made this list had it not been published in 2005. So, in keeping with that spirit, this list includes two murder mysteries, a fantasy, and a boxing novel. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
And in the spirit of one of my favorite book blogs of 2006, I'm keeping it short.
The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: I've found it impossible to describe this book to anyone without including the phrases "crackerjack tale" or "ripping good yarn" in the voice of a 1930s radio announcer.
Pound for Pound: F.X. Toole spent years working as a boxing cut man, secretly writing stories and sending them off. After 40 years of rejection letters, he publishes Rope Burns. Then, just as his writing career is taking off, he drops dead, which is exactly the kind of thing that would have happened to one of his characters. But check this one out - gripping fight scenes and a surprisingly big-hearted story.
Sharp Objects: Creepy, twisty, bleak, and impossible to put down.
The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Salon tore this book a new one, but well, they were wrong. A balanced and astonishingly detailed account of how it all went so wrong, who was to blame, and who stepped up.
Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!: I'm serious - it belongs here. Why? Because it's not every day that a book about a television game show gets you choked up on an airplane.
The Lies of Locke Lamora: A fantasy novel involving several nifty long cons. Intricate, dazzling plotting.
The Night Gardener: Like watching an episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets. Like, one of the ones from season 3.
Happy reading in 2007, my dears. And if you find anything good, tell me about it. Ta.
* Which I realize was loved by everyone but me.