Top 10 books of 2005
We reviewed more than 150 books this year, and sifting through all of those choices, we didn't have a hard time finding any number that would make a satisfactory end-of-the-year list. In the end, however, these ten rose above thanks to their originality and the way they've stuck in our minds after reading book after book each week. It's time to redeem those chain-bookstore gift cards your uncle gave you. Here's a good place to start.
I Live with You by Carol Emshwiller. (Tachyon, $14.95) This collection of science-fiction short stories—in the title story, it takes a prodding and insistent doppelgänger to get a pair of lonely hermits into each other's lives—has more literary heft than any "nongenre" work we can think of this year. Emshwiller is an underappreciated master.
Wounded by Percival Everett. (Graywolf, $23) Dichotomies abound in Everett's rich novel: A black rancher in white Wyoming takes in a gay teenager after a gay man is killed in a hate crime. Humanity is here portrayed as weak, but capable; worthy of hope, but not of expectations.
God Jr. by Dennis Cooper. (Black Cat, $12) A car accident puts the narrator in a wheelchair and kills his son, sending him into a spiral of grief that blazes a thick trail of weed smoke. We'll stick by our sentiment that this is Cooper's best book yet—funny, thoughtful and surreal.
Nellcott Is My Darling by Golda Fried. (Coach House, $14.95) Like a first love, this one snuck up on us while we weren't looking. A beautiful, elegiac novel about a college girl's first romance, it almost hurts how deadly accurate Fried is in rendering the emotions of her characters.
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet. (Soft Skull, $25) The three scientists who created the atom bomb find themselves in 2003 Santa Fe, faced with a new world where the bomb is old news. This is one of those fabled "novels of ideas" that also manages to be a fun read.
Drugs Are Nice by Lisa Carver. (Soft Skull, $14) Carver, the prime mover behind the post-punk freak-out performance act Suckdog and pen pal to G.G. Allin, has written a memoir filled with exactly what's missing from so many autobios: interesting life experiences.
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. (Little, Brown, $25.95) At this point, we're torn between what brings us more joy: DFW fiction or nonfiction. After the release of this fascinating essay collection, we'll stick with non until his next novel appears.
Lessons in Taxidermy by Bee Lavender. (Punk Planet Books, $12.95) A memoir of the author's medical history, Lessons is a terrifying tale of a woman trying to live a complete life with a body that consistently fails her in the most horrific ways imaginable.
Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. (Dalkey Archive, $22.95) Set in the sunshine of several hundred picturesque Belarussian towns bordering enormous ancient forests bursting with flowers and wildlife, this collection of narratives about the world's worst industrial accident reads like an apocalyptic fairy tale.
The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler. (Atlantic Monthly, $23) The urban theorist offers both a hypothetical depiction of how fossil fuels will run out and a warning that unless we begin preparing, the titular crisis will generate profound hardships.