Top 10 Books in 2007: 9 and 10

Caving in to the general media mania for “lists” as the year draws to a close, I’ve looked over my shelves and recalled the ten best books I’ve read in 2007. A couple of provisos should be made: (1) These are books I read in 2007, not necessarily books that were published in 2007 (in fact, I think only one of them appeared in the past year); (2) by “best” I simply mean books that were significant for me in some way. Usually this just means that they were books I kept thinking about, books that kept re-inserting themselves into my consciousness and imagination, perhaps books that changed my mind in some way.

So over the next week or so I’ll be posting some brief reflections, in reverse order (though the ranking shouldn’t be taken too seriously).

9. Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered. Since reading this book, I’ve continued to dive into Burke’s corpus (in fact, he will be an important part of the Studies in British Culture course I’m teaching in York, England next semester). As David Brooks has noted, Burke’s conservatism is precisely what has been forgotten by the neoconservatives that currently pass for the Right.

10. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (in the old Random House Faulkner Reader, which also includes his Nobel Prize address). This is one of those reads by which I keep trying to make up for my lack of a liberal arts education. Faulkner is often cited as an important influence, or at least background, of the “Southern Catholic” writers I appreciate (Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor), so I felt an obligation to dive into this rather intimidating book. You sort of have to let it wash over you. It requires the reader to be willing to be out of control, to feel lost, to trust the author that it’s going somewhere. At times I have to say it felt maddeningly obfuscating. But Faulkner also paints multiple words in a minimalism that brought to mind the sparse dialogue of Cormac McCarthy. In fact, I need to check about influences of Faulkner on McCarthy, since Faulkner also has an uncanny ability to let the third person narrator’s voice accommodate itself to shifting characters and locales, as well as an art for dialogue (including difficult dialects) that are true to the characters. Nothing short of a literary experience.