The Memory Project
Off the top of my head, natural (Johnny Ketchum)

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The paradox in putting together a favorite list of 2006 is that I have to remember what I read this past year. Not my strong suit. Let's see -- I actually read it late in 2005, but THE WOMAN AT THE WASHINGTON ZOO changed my life.

I loved: THE NIGHT GARDENER, A FIELD OF BLOOD, the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir, MISS AMERICAN PIE, HEAT, THE THUNDERBOLT KID (probably my #2 pick of the year, or a tie with NIGHT GARDENER) THE GOOD PEOPLE OF NEW YORK, SMONK, HOMELAND, SWEET DREAM BABY, INTUITION, DIGGING TO AMERICA, ONE GOOD TURN. (I think it's as good, and possibly even better, than the first Jackson Brodie, although I have one profound disagreement with Kate Atkinson: I've never known a writer who sees himself/herself as mediocre and slight. I think all writers secretly believe themselves great.) THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS.

I blurbed a lot of books, some by writers here, so take it for granted that I liked them very much, although two titles, actually read in 2005, jump out at me: THE BLONDE and THE GRAVE TATTOO. Likewise, A FIELD OF DARKNESS got a lot of justifiable attention as a debut.

Digging around the pile of books that I arranged into an artful bedside table, I find books that I'm shocked not to have read: EVERYMAN, for example, which made me a little sad, as I can't remember the last time I didn't tear into the new Roth was great excitement; THE DYING ANIMAL undercut my long-time Roth mania, I"m sorry to say. Spotting Stewart O'Nan's THE GOOD WIFE, I feel like smacking myself in the forehead; how could I forget to read a new book by one of my favorite writers?

Here's some books I've yet to read, much to my shock: Jan Burke's KIDNAPPED and Sujata Massey's THE GIRL IN THE BOX. I always jump on new titles by both these writers, who also happen to be good friends, but the fall was very, very, very distracting. For the record, if I didn't know either woman, I would still be of the firm opinion that they write two of the best series going.

And yes, I reread MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR. Those of you who attended Bouchercon may know that Mark Billingham claims to be working on a musical adaptation, to debut in Baltimore in 2008. I guess I would be Marjorie, or perhaps her mother. Mark, clearly, will be Noel Airman. In a recent e-mail, he told me he has devised a couplet that rhymes "cripple" with . . . well, maybe I wasn't supposed to share that with the world. Oh, and Mark's another writer I'm behind on, with BURIED being postponed partly because I bought it in hardcover, which didn't make it a good bet for travel. Mark's another friend who happens to write one of the best series going.

More titles as they come back to me. I'm doing this from memory. Duh.

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