This edition is dedicated to Deborah Grabien

Novelist and rock chick extraordinare!

Every year, around Imbolc, Green Man invites folks to gather in the Robert Graves Reading Room to say what they think were the best literature they experienced this year. Their choices need not be new to this year, but can be anything which they first encountered this year. More or less. Some of our guests were quite loquacious with their opinions, some were content with but a choice or two as they were busy chatting, drinking, and making merry!

It's still too wet and cold out for gardening, and I've been through all of the gardening catalogues at least five hundred times each. So it's back to my books.

Zina Lee here, with some of the GMR staff's thoughts on the best place to read in the deep of winter, which is one of my favorite times to read. The important things are, of course, enough light to read by, and enough comfort to read for a long time without limbs going to sleep or having the joints lock up. The rest seems to be personal preference, although a short poll at the GMR water cooler seems to highlight access to a view of nature as well.

Cat Eldridge, our Publisher, prefers the third floor fiction room of the Green Man library, in the windows overlooking the gardens. There it's warm, sunny when afternoon sunlight comes in the lovely many-paned south-facing windows, and it's quiet -- no phones, no computers, no loud talking -- bliss!

Robert Tilendis says that of course his favorite is his secret library cum music room in the GMR building. The location has never been shared, which isn't surprising, given that Robert says it's complete with fireplace, any book and just about any music he wants, a comfy chair and a window seat over a secret garden (which always seems to have sun), and his choice -- or rather, their choice -- of furry lap warmer. On top of that, it's just around the corner from the Pub, if you know which way to turn.

None of the rest of us have ever seen this secret room, mind you, although I suppose Robert can't be blamed for not wanting to share anywhere answering to that description..

The favoured reading spot for David Kidney is the same no matter the weather or time of day -- his front room has a corner with a big chair, ottoman and a floor lamp. 'The chair has a window on one side,' he explains, 'and a fireplace on the other. So it's well-equipped for any time or weather. If it's dark, I turn on the light. If it's the middle of the afternoon, the sunshine provides all the light I need. Too cold, light the fire..too hot, the room is air conditioned.'

The effervescent Kathleen Bartholomew, who makes her home by the sea, favours lying sideways on the couch of her living room. 'I have a pillow and a lamp behind me. Straight ahead, I can see the winter waves breaking on the beach, and the occasional wave spouting off shore. If I look to the left, the fireplace is glowing. If I look right - usually a parrot is staring into my eyes. All cozy.'

My current favorite place, right this very moment, is by the fireside here where I'm staying in County Clare, Ireland, which has been made up with peat briquettes, with that lovely, warm, distinctive smell that only peat has. One of the nameless farm cats, a friendly, slim marmalade cat (whose coat is more mackerel than tabby), has wandered in and is having the rare chance for a warm up, with the luxury of not having to stay alert during a thorough bath, while I pore over my hostess's many books on the folklore and legends of County Clare and the archaeology of the Burren, a cup of tea steaming on the table by my chair.

If I crane my neck around during clear days, I can usually see Liscannor Bay and the Lahinch Promenade out the window, if the colt in the field isn't standing at the gate waiting for someone to bring it a carrot. In the windows on the other side of the room, I can see the green and bare high hills that stand between the bay and Ennistymon. Sometimes one of the farmers will pause during his work and stand on top of the hills, blackly silhouetted against the Irish sky, looking out to the bay.

Although, really, my favorite reading place might be the second floor landing of the Green Man building -- Maeve, the Queen of the GMR cats, keeps vigil on the other end of the window seat, which is full of lovely squashy velvet pillows (albeit with a few tufts of Maeve's fur decorating them here and there), and, if the reading material is good enough, the sporadic stream of people coming up and down the staircase fades out of consciousness soon enough. Hot chocolate can be had from the kitchen staff, too, with only the smallest of bribes.

Hmmmm. Well, now that I think on it further, perhaps my favorite place to read is in a hot bath, with plenty of bubbles, a scented candle or two, and preferably no one hammering on the door to be let in. That's the one place I tend to think the addition of a cat is probably not a grace note, though.

Well, wait, maybe..

Oh, the hell with it. Really, the best place to read in the dead of winter or any other time hasn't much to do with where you're reading, but what you're reading. If it's good, not much else matters. (I mean, you're talking to a woman whose partners have all quickly learned to make her put the book down, closed, before making any important decisions or discussing things involving dates. Otherwise entire conversations can take place and arrangements can be made with absolutely no brain engagement happening at all.)

Now, if you need help with that, have we got a list of books for you.

First up this edition is some choices for the single best read of the year that our staff had.

Gary Whitehouse says the choice is clearly Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map -- 'As I said in my review -- 'This is one of the best books of popular science and history I've read, ever. I love history, and popular science, and this puts the two together in a great way. It combines conscientious research with a clear and concise writing style and a compelling narrative arc to arouse and keep the reader's interest. Johnson uses all the tricks in the arsenal of the journalist, historian and social scientist, without ever seeming to preach or try to persuade one to believe anything not supported by facts.'

Elizabeth Vail says 'For me that would be Elizabeth Hand's Saffron and Brimstone -- because it was a near-perfect mixture of otherworldly language, out-of-this-world plots, and very worldly and realistic themes.'

Robert Tilendis was really sure of his choice -- 'Don't even have to think about it -- Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. Quite aside from the fact that it's a mature work by one of America's great writers (and I use that word in full awareness of how hard it is to recognize greatness in contemporaries), which in itself should be a heads up, it's a mesmerizing piece of writing. Pynchon creates his own reality (which any artist does, with more or less success) so seamlessly and so faultlessly that you come away wondering why you never heard about the adventures of the 'Inconvenience' or time travel in 19th century America. I admire a number of artists; I stand in awe of very few. Pynchon is high on that list, and this one only confirms my opinion.'

Iain Nicholas Mackenzie always loves a good bit of dark fantasy so he picked Christopher Golden's The Myth Hunters trilogy as his best read last year of which he thinks The Lost Ones brings it to a more than satisfactory conclusion -- 'A delicious blend of fantasy and horror with truly memorable characters such as the resurrected Sandman provided me with many evenings of fine reading.'

David Kidney had a much longer answer -- 'Cat keeps asking these tough questions. What is the best book you reviewed all year. I went back through my diary to see what I had read..and the truth is, the most moving book I read in 2007 was not one I reviewed. Dave Eggers' story of the trials and triumph of Valentino Achak Deng What is the What made the most impact on me of any book last year. Beautifully written, absolutely compelling. But I didn't review it.'

Annie Leibovitz's large collection A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005.. gorgeous, also moving but not reviewed. Chris Salewitz's fine biography of Joe Strummer Redemption Song.. a great read, captures the era wonderfully! Didn't review it. But.. I laughed out loud at both of Will Hodgkinson's memoirs, Guitar Man and Song Man and recommended them to all my friends. In fact they just came back home looking a bit the worse for wear, but happy to be on the shelf! And me, happy to have 'em! But the all 'round best book of the year? Has to be.. Uncommon Sound the history of left-handed guitar players. Lots of money, but worth every penny. Just don't try reading it in bed!'

April Gutierrez says that 'The best all 'round book I reviewed last year would be Fuyumi Ono's The Twelve Kingdoms -- sea of Shadow. Volume one of this lengthy YA series perfectly balanced exciting action with introspective character development, and gives readers a fully realized heroine in Yoko. The Eastern mythos Ono employs was a refreshing change from one elf too many and the volume left me hungering for the next.'

For our Editor, Cat Eldridge, Deborah Grabien's New-Slain Knight was by far the clear choice -- 'I picked it as the best traditional mystery with ghosts, and it was also the finest bit of reading it did this past year. If her new rock and roll mystery series, The Kinkaid Chronicles, is half as good as this series is (and I know it is!), readers are in for a grand time for many years to come.'

Donna Bird exclaims, 'I read so many books every year that the only way I could think about this was to scan the list of books I reviewed for Green Man! Only one book?! That's really hard to do! There were a number of great ones in that group! For sheer magic, though, I would have to give the nod to Barbara Hodgson's The Lives of Shadows (Chronicle Books, 2004). It was the third or fourth book about Damascus I read last year, and it was the one that I found totally enthralling, intriguing, maddening, thought-provoking. What's amazing to me is that it's a blankety-blank ghost story, and I don't usually get involved in books with any element of the fantastic! Hodgson just handled the story so well, and made such excellent use of graphical elements, which was also part of the book's charm for me.'

Kathleen Bartholomew needed a clarification on what was eligible -- 'Something I reviewed, not just read? That would be Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of The Wind. It was engrossing from the first page, and fascinatingly original. These are very hard tricks to pull off in the age of enormous horse-choking and choked-with-elves post-Tolkien fantasies, and it's done here with great skill. It is the first volume of a proposed trilogy, too. I am waiting with neither patience nor good grace for the rest of it.'

There may be few things more painful to a book enthusiast than to be asked to choose a favorite. 'A single favorite?' they cry. 'A single one?'

Fine, fine, then, we say. Pick a few. Pick the best. Tell us which of the books (yes, yes, dear enthusiasts, plural 'books') you read and enjoyed in 2007 were the best of the best; tell us what you enjoyed the most.

Camille Alexa has a warning for 2008 -- 'I'm setting the bar high, 2008! You have been warned.' So far this year, she says she 'fell in love all over again with Jessica Reisman's lyrical literary sci-fi novel The Z Radiant, and fell in love anew with Steven Ultey's collection of short stories, The Beasts of Love.' With such enthusiasm already garnered for 2008, what could have been her favourites in 2007?

Lou Anders, Editorial Director of Pyr Books, didn't tease us so. He kept his shortlist brief and to the point.


Kage Baker
did manage to concentrate on just one favorite book, and to give us a lovely and compelling description why it rose to the top of her list. 'There is always a shock when a writer manages to put into words something universal that hasn't yet been said, a shout of recognition from the heart.' Find out which book captivated her in 2007.

The wonderful and talented Peter S. Beagle divulges a couple of his favourites. Of the first he says, 'Maybe it's because I read too many mysteries, wishing I could write one,' and of the second, a book or poetry, he says 'The poems have entirely to do with human hungers, human journeys and memories, human love, and a wit aged like 1948 Armagnac.' Mystery and poetry! We expected nothing less intriguing from one of our favorite writers.

Tobias Buckell, author of the engaging adventure SF series begun with Crystal Rain and continued in Ragamuffin (watch for Sly Mongoose in 2008), says 'Since about 2005/2006 there have been a lot of novels by new writers hitting the market that are just a pleasure to read.' Tobias is possibly too modest to mention his own novels fall solidly in that category, so we'll do it for him.

Ellen Datlow, reigning queen editor of horror and the well-told short tale, honored us with an in-depth and wonderfully detailed account of her gleanings for 2007. She says she's 'still reading and rereading for Year's Best Fantasy & Horror.' (Here, we rub our collective hands together in unseemly anticipation...)

As Green Man Head Editor Cat Eldridge says of his 2007 faves, 'Best Anthology -- Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, No. 20. Still the gold standard for annual anthologies. 'Nuff said.' So true, Cat! What else caught your fancy last year? Do tell!

Christopher Fowler gives yet another nod to a Datlow anthology. 'Ellen Datlow's Inferno was a great non-themed anthology (I loved Pat Cadigan's 'Stilled Life')'. What else in 2007 caught the fancy of this particular author?

Jim Frenkel, über-packager for all twenty years (and still going!) of Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series, confesses, 'I'm biased, of course, having edited or otherwise worked on all the books listed below, but I was mightily impressed by them. Unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time to read books other than the ones I edited last year, but these gave me great pleasure..' Find out what they were.

Author Deborah Grabien has another -- well, perhaps more a caveat than a confession. 'I did almost no reading in 2007 -- I was buried in writing. Most of my reading was rereads of old favourites.' Old favourites? Well, we sympathize with that sentiment around here. Find out what Ms. Grabien did read when she was able to 'come up for air.'

Green Man Book Editor April Gutierrez' eclectic tastes run the gamut of Tokyopop's YA Popfiction line to a graphic novel by Bill Willingham to a Harlan Ellison re-release, while Elizabeth Hand's picks run from books by Tolkien to J.K Rowling, to something she intriguingly calls a 'first time classic.' See her picks here.

Christopher Golden keeps things simple, but Gwyneth Jones really gets into the meat of matters. Find out what author makes her pose the question 'Where did he get that reputation for unreadable gloom?'

Another book of poetry made it onto the succinct favourites list of Larry Kirwan (of Black 47), and author Ellen Kushner has her recommendations for 'readers interested in smart, literate mythic fantasy.'

O. R. Melling ends her picks with her biggest disappointment of the year! Read from the beginning to discover what book-to-film transition she describes as a sow's ear from a silk purse!'

And to discover what Richard Morgan calls 'a colossally absorbing whale of a book for those who can spare the three months to read it', peruse his detailed analysis. of life, 'literarily speaking', in 2007.

See which book Sharyn November 'rereads every year and still loves' and what she calls the 'best vampire novel I read (in several years, actually).'

Mr. Pratt clues us in to 'amazing near-future weirdness', the 'best pirate con artist book' and the 'best unreliable narrator' he read in 2007. Thank you, Tim Pratt!

Author Jennifer Stevenson prepared an incredibly insightful look at her recent favorite reads. In it, she tells us what she picked up in 2007 'is heavily larded with the post-Victorian equivalent of a piece of black tape over the naughty bits' and what prompts her to urge us to 'get ready for a firestorm.'

Says James Stoddard, 'I've recently discovered this website, which uses volunteers to read public domain audio books. Some of the readers are good, others aren't, but the downloads are free.' 2007 favourites? Find out what and why.

And we wrap up with Green Man Robert Tilendis' best reads of 2007. 'This past year's books. Quite a selection. It's really hard to spot the ones that stand above the crowed, because the crowd's so tall.' Echoing reviewer Camille with a truly Green Man sentiment, Robert says 'Well, I'm already getting next year's books, and some of them look very choice indeed.'

Analysing the Breeders may be as useful as deconstructing a good fuck, or for those less carnally inclined, a strawberry shortcake. When it works, you really don't have to discuss it. If it doesn't, you just signal for mas cafe por favor and slosh away. -- Deborah Frost, Village Voice

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Archived 4_5/2008 LLS