Friends of The Reader write about their books of 2007.
By Chris Routledge
My reading tends to be dominated by the projects I’m working on so this year’s books reflect twelve months of beer, philosophy, and crime fiction, with a little bit of children’s literature thrown in for good measure. The best of the beer books was H.A. Monkton’s A History of English Ale and Beer, which was published in 1966, just as British brewing was moving towards ‘chemical beer’. The history of beer is also the history of politics, agriculture, taxation, and manufacturing and Monkton’s book draws the disparate elements together in a serious, though stylish and entertaining way.
In philosophy my favourite book was Heidegger’s Hut, written by architectural historian Adam Sharr and recommended to me by Alex Johnson of the Shedworking blog. It is a detailed analysis of the construction and layout of Heidegger’s retreat, complete with architectural drawings and plans. The precision and clarity of the architectural elements is strangely compelling, but it also helps explain Heidegger’s ideas of ‘dwelling’ and ‘place’.
In crime fiction my favourite this year was Megan Abbott, whose 2005 first novel Die A Little I recommended here back in October. I read all three of Abbott’s novels (the other two are The Song is You and Queenpin) this year and they were all terrific. I’ve also enjoyed Ian Rankin’s possibly final Rebus novel, Exit Music, in which Rebus operates from the shadows from the start, yet exerts a powerful influence on its atmosphere. I also revisited John Grisham’s 1991 legal thriller The Firm this year and while it’s not the kind of thing I usually fall for I was reminded of what a well-written and intense novel it is.
As for children’s books, the main question is how well they stand up to repetition. My daughter goes at books as if they were IKEA kitchen cabinets opening and closing on the testing machine. For me the most robust in this regard has been the utterly charming Bringing Down the Moon by Jonathan Emmett, with beautiful illustrations by Vanessa Cabban. Hot- Diggerty!
Chris Routledge is a freelance writer and editor of The Reader Online. His book Cain’s: The Story of Liverpool in a Pint will be published by Liverpool University Press in 2008. He is currently co-editing a reference book, Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language for Edinburgh University Press, also scheduled for 2008 and working on 100 American Crime Writers for Palgrave Macmillan.