One-Minute Book Reviews

December 14, 2007

One-Minute Book Reviews 10 Best Books of 2007 – The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

10 Best Books of 2007
The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

Yes, this was the year of The Secret and The Manny in the U.S., and the year On Chesil Beach was longlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award in Britain. So which books won’t leave you feeling like a patient in a literary burn unit? Here are the 10 best books reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews:

The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival (Putnam, $24.95), by Stanley Alpert. A former federal prosecutor who was kidnapped on a Manhattan street, then held at gunpoint for 25 hours, writes about his abduction in one of the best true crime books of the decade.

*The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage, $13.95, paperback), by Joan Didion. One of the country’s finest prose stylists recalls the sudden death of her husband and its aftermath in a memoir that won a National Book Award.

*Every Eye (David R. Godine/Black Sparrow, $23, by Isobel English. The first American publication of a novel that is an elegant minor classic, which involves a piano teacher born with “lazy eye” that affects her view of the world long after surgery has corrected the problem.

Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, $18.95, paperback), selected and edited by Joseph Epstein. Wood engravings by Barry Moser. Scholars and critics of high distinction write about vanished titans in stylish literary essays.

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (Holt/Metropolitan, $24.95), by Atul Gawande. A surgeon and medical writer for The New Yorker reflects on his art in a book that has a particularly enlightening section on childbirth.

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Little, Brown, $24.99), by Peter Godwin. A former correspondent for the BBC refracts the terrors of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe through the prism of tragedies that struck his family and friends.

Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball (Norton, $19.95), edited and with translations by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. More than 200 poems that transcend baseball, many by some of the finest living haiku artists.

Four Days to Glory Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland (HarperCollins, $24.95), by Mark Kreidler. Two high school wrestlers prepare to compete in the Iowa state championship in a book of masterly reporting that offers a fascinating portrait of a little-known social and athletic subculture. and

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (Random House, $22.95), by Katha Pollitt. Personal essays by the poet and columnist for the Nation, who writes with bite, depth and often wit about topics that include her discovery that her former boyfriend had been cheating on her almost the whole time they lived together. and

*Living Things: Collected Poems (Steerforth/Zoland, $15, paperback), by Anne Porter. Foreword by David Shapiro. All of the poems from Porter’s An Altogether Different Language, a National Book Award finalist, and 39 new ones, which together attest to what Shapiro calls “her Franciscan joy in created things.”

* Books with an asterisk came out in 2006. One-Minute Book Reviews was launched late last year and could not review some 2006 books until 2007. The “10 Best List” includes the 2006 books when they were better than 2007 books in their category. You can find reviews of all books except The Year of Magical Thinking by entering the title in the search box. You can find reading guides to The Birthday Party, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and Learning to Drive in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category at right.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It is also for people who dislike long-winded weasel reviews that are full of facts and plot summary but don’t tell you what the critic thought of the book. Posts on the site generally appear daily. When no review appears, the site often has a quote of the day from a book, which may include commentary. One-Minute Book Reviews is the sixth-ranked book-review site in the world on the Google Directory of “Top Arts and Literature” blogs:

Jan Harayda is editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews. Jan has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle She does not accept free books, galleys, catalogs, print or electronic press releases or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, agents or authors. For this reason, she does not see all the worthy books in a year. This list has the best new books she read in 2007. It does not include books written by her friends, published by her current publisher or represented by her literary agent.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for its annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Feb. 29 and the winners on March 15, 2008. Thank you for visiting this site.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. good, unbiased review.

    Rental and Real Estate Social Network and Classifieds

    Comment by yourmitra — December 14, 2007 @ 5:08 am | Reply

  2. Thanks so much for the comment. These lists are harder to compile than it might seem, because you have to leave off a lot of good books that were close calls …

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 14, 2007 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

  3. It’s so nice seeing a list that wasn’t arranged based on the amount of buzz each of the books attained by its prior appearance on somebody else’s list.

    Good stuff here, including several that are going to end up in my To Be Read stack after the first of the year.


    Comment by knightofswords — December 14, 2007 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

  4. Much appreciated, Malcolm. That’s almost the whole point of my site — to try to screen out the buzz and focus on what is actually in the books.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 14, 2007 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you for the list. I’ve been wanting to read a book on literary criticism for some time. Having read your review earlier, I think I will give “Literary Genius” a try.
    BTW, I have come to appreciate your precise, to the point style of reviewing. Very effective!

    Comment by mystic wanderer — December 14, 2007 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

  6. You’re very welcome. Even after so many years of reviewing, I still learn from reading other critics’ work. And often I learn the most from criticism of the classic authors whose work I think I know best.

    I’ll think, say, “Oh, I’ve read so much about Jane Austen, I should read about an author I don’t know as well.” But great scholars and critics, like those in “Literary Genius,” can make you see new things even in the authors who are the literary equivalent of your best friends.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 14, 2007 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

  7. I love this list, even though I’ve only read two of the authors on it (Atul Gawande; and Peter Godwin: I loved WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN, which I only got around to reading last year).

    Yes, I agree with the earlier comment that it’s so nice to see a book list that isn’t about “buzz” (Malcolm?)

    Comment by anthropologist — March 24, 2011 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  8. Thanks, anthropologist! Very glad that Peter Godwin is said to have a new book coming out this spring …

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 24, 2011 @ 10:08 pm | Reply

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