Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Best Book I Read This Year

If I'm asked to pick the best book I read this year, new or old, fiction or non-fiction, I have to give that title to Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.

Part Cormac McCarthy, part W.S. Merwin, Woodrell's prose does everything I require from the lyrical, poetic descriptions to the detail-oriented background information without ever getting tripped up. The book does not even stumble. Even though the reader knows the likely outcome, or becomes convinced of it along side the protagonist, the story remains compelling.

One of the main reasons for the book's success is the power of its protagonist Ree Dolly. It is hard not to get behind this sort of bold character and encourage her along even as she makes horrible mistakes. While Ree is such a compelling character, a teenage girl forced to care for her mother and two younger brothers, this is no Catcher in the Rye or any other book carried on the back of an outrageous character. This book is propelled more by the quality of the storytelling than a unique character.
Winter's Bone accomplishes so much for a short novel, which is why it surpasses some of the larger books I read this year. It manages to be traditional without being stodgy. It's nearly a mystery (the section in which I found the book stocked at my local independent bookstore) without being simply plot based. And it has no gimmick.
If I'd have been thinking earlier this season I would have given a copy of the book to everyone on my list. Instead, you'll have to pick it up yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing Damon - I love to get other people's reccommendations for books. I think the best book I read in '06 was "Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier - I found it compelling and it made for some good conversations with other friends that I forced to read it. Others that I found interesting, well-written or just gosh-darn good page-turners were: Small Island by Andrea Levy, Freakanomics, The Tipping Point, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, & Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes (but mostly for the shock value).
    Happy Reading!