Raronauer Reviews in 2006

2006 was a great year for reading. All total, I read 44 books, not counting all the periodicals I peruse. For all the books I’ve read, I have unemployment and the MTA to thank.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Someone I worked with at the Chronicle of Higher Education said that he couldn’t believe someone was capable of this kind of writing. Apparently Michael Chabon is capable of writing a book filled with unrealistic characters and unrealistic events. I give this book a big blah.

After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
I’ve always believed that Haruki Murakami is a better short story writer than novelist, and this collection proves me right. It’s an excellent glimpse into the lives of Japanese people after the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Floater by Calvin Trillin
I read this book because of a Gawker post that referenced it. Save yourself five bucks on amazon and 174 pages, because that write up tells you all you need to know.

Black and Blue by Anna Quinlan

My friend Elana recommended me this book saying, “it’s really good.” Basically, it was like reading a Lifetime movie of the week about a woman who runs away from her husband Bobby who beats her with her too-wise-for-his-age son Robert. Do think there’s any symbolism with the names?

The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams
The most interesting way to learn about American history is to take AP US History at a public school in Westchester. When that’s not possible, I like to read collections of journalism from a period. This collection of Marjorie Williams work from Vanity Fair and the Washington Post offers an exciting look at political events that happened way back when I was still attending Camp Taconic. William’s is even more eloquent when she is diagnosed with cancer, and writes about her own eminent death. Shout out to my mom for recommending it.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
Liked Fortress of Solitude? Who wouldn’t? This book isn’t as good.

Gig edited by John Bowe
One day in February, Brian Montopoli wouldn’t let me leave Astor Place Books without buying this book. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people have interior monologues; 100 or so people explaining how they got into their line of work reminds you. This was one of my favorite books of the year.

The Crime of Sheila McGough by Janet Malcolm
After reading the Journalist and the Murderer and Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, I was ready for another Janet Malcolm case study to wow me. I was disappointed.

The Platform by Michel Houellebecq
In high school, I went through an existentialist phase. After reading a review on Michel Houellebecq in the LRB, I decided to read Platform. I liked it a lot, but I would only recommend it to people into male existentialist fantasies.

722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York by William Graebner
I take the subway a lot, so I thought a book about the creation of the subway would be interesting. I was wrong.

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
This Haruki Murakami novel was disappointing. How shocking.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Brian also recommended that I read this. For an entire month, I toted this gigantic novel around the city with me for a month, and I didn’t even like it. DFW’s commencement address at Kenyon is much better.

Running After Antelope by Scott Carrier
Scott Carrier is one of my favorite contributors to This American Life. Unfortunately, his writing sounds better in his voice than in mine.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami really has a monopoly on disenfranchised Japanese men who have a thing for pasta and jazz.

Dead Souls by Nikolay Gogol
You know what? Novels that are secretly about 19th century Russian society aren’t that interesting to me.

Little Money Street by Fernanda Eberstadt
This John Updike review, along with my friend Elana’s interest in gypsies, got me to read this book. If you don’t know Elana, you probably won’t find this book that interesting.

Mistress: A Novel by Anita Nair
This book was totally boring.

Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey

More like Wrong About Buying This Book About Japan. Random House sponsored Peter Carey and his son’s trip to Japan, and I read about it.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
2004 kinda sucked for Joan Didion.

Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston

This book was delightfully terrible. If things don’t work out in my life, I could totally see myself being 35, eating frozen yogurt and crying my eyes out about this woman whose marriage is falling apart, can’t get knocked up and wants to date the tree outside of her house.

Underground by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami interviews survivors of the Tokyo Gas Attacks. Totally fascinating.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
You know there’s not enough of misogyny dressed up as high art these days. Thank God for John Updike and the Rabbit Series

$40 Million Slaves by William C. Rhoden
I reviewed this book for Salon, but they didn’t publish it. Long story short, being a black athlete isn’t that great. Hoop Dreams dealt with a lot of the same problems more artfully.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith is hot and so is this book.

Epileptic by David B.
I’ve read a few graphic novels, and this is my favorite. Totally fun to read, but also poignant beautifully drawn.

Everyman by Philip Roth
Did you know that we’re mortal and life, even when it’s easy, is kind of hard? This book is a nice reminder.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
There’s a reason teachers and Oprah assign this book: It rules.

Tourist Season by Enid Shomer
There are a few gems in this collection, but it doesn’t get the raronauer seal of approval.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’ve read and enjoyed Philip Roth, J.D. Salinger, and all those male authors writing from the perspective of men. But there’s something remarkable about reading a book by a woman that’s told from an unabashedly feminine viewpoint. This was the best book I read all year.

Hiroshima by John Hersey
Um, yeah, everything you heard about Hiroshima is true: It’s a great book.

Corrections to My Memoirs by Michael Kun
This book sucked. One note: even though a lot of upper middle class men relate to Philip Roth’s characters and think they too can write a book as compelling as American Pastoral, they can’t. Making masturbating on chicken liver endearing is not an accident. It’s too bad you feel unfilled by your marriage, but you’re no Philip Roth Michael Kun.

The Great Bridge by David McCullough
I thought a book about the Brooklyn Bridge would be interesting. Unfortunately, I’m not a 45 year old man at a beach, so I was wrong.

Oh The Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
I read this book on the recommendation of Curtis Sittenfeld on NPR. The beginning was compelling and great, and then it kind of dissolved into a trite memoir. Plus Sean Wilsey has a weird Freudian thing going with his dad. But I’d recommend this book to anyone from the Bay Area.

Stray by Sheri Joseph
Bisexual love triangle alert!

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
There’s a very graphic fight sequence in this book that caused me to faint on the Q train. The whole train had to stop, and the experience was very embarrassing. Bad associations withstanding, I still didn’t like the book.

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
When I have nothing to read, I turn to facebook and read what other people have listed as their favorite books. One Jason’s books is Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II. Not to be sexist, but this is kind of a boy book, or a book for girls who are into macho men who go deep sea diving.

How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
Youngna recommended this book, which is a collection of short stories. Some of the descriptions are totally memorable and great, but I can’t imagine this book being published 20 years from now.

Cold New World by William Finnegan
Growing up in Westchester with two parents who weren’t crack addicts, it’s easy to forget how poor and disenfranchised a lot of Americans are. If you forgot too, I’d recommend this book.

Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
Curtis Sittenfeld’s second book, contrary to popular opinion, is not terrible. In fact, it’s quite good. It may even be more haunting than Prep because all the insecurities that plague the protagonist follow her out of high school and into adulthood.

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
I got into Michael Lewis listening to old episodes of This American Life, where he reported on the 1996 election with honesty and wit. His first book about life as a bonds trader at Solomon Brothers is totally fascinating and accurate. My cousin Judy, a managing director at unnamed trading house, says she has made hundreds of dollars playing Liar’s Poker, which is a bluffing game I completely don’t understand.

Set Me Free by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Native Americans, the Tempest and separated twins? I know what you’re thinking: It sucked.

Rats by Robert Sullivan
If you’re in a subway station, you’re probably only a few yards away from rats having sex. This book is filled with great facts like that. I enjoyed this book despite not being a precocious 15 year-old boy.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
So I don’t know if you heard, but apparently Beloved is, like, really good. Like the best book of the past 25 years according to the New York Times. Frankly, I liked every other nominated book better.

The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn
Interested in the Holocaust, long-lost relatives and interpretations of the Bible? You’ll probably like this book. Interested in none of those things? You’ll still probably like this book.

8 Responses to “Raronauer Reviews in 2006”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Reading this makes me want to cry. It’s so hard to get books over here!

  2. Jason Says:

    If Michiko Kakutani had a del.icio.us page, she’d tag this entry.

  3. nicola Says:

    Rebecca, this list proves me 100%right. You are wonderfully phabulous with a ph.

  4. Raronauer Says:

    Yes, I am your Mom, but this is great. Now I have my reading list for 2007.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    You are a pathetic human being who probably has never published anything of any value and never will. Your entire list smacks of jealousy.

  6. Emily Says:

    I found your list on Gawker – I’m totally intrigued by half the things you reviewed on here (even the ones you didn’t like!). Might I give you a few suggestions for 2007 if you haven’t read already?

    The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist (very, very long, but interesting and exciting)

    Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler (at first I thought was way too grown up for me, and then I was delighted to realize I LOVED it a week later).

    I love finding a new blog to read! thank you for your insight!

  7. yp Says:

    Commendable. I’ve pretty much lost the ability to read.

    How’s it going?

  8. samantha Says:

    Wow, that’s the first positive review of Prep I’ve seen yet.

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