Now that it’s the end of the year (how did that happen?), I looked back at the 2007 books I’ve read and reviewed, chose the most memorable, then wrote a little about each for yesterday’s Honolulu Advertiser.

After Dark
By Haruki Murakami
Translated by Jay Rubin
KNOPF; $22
Chance meetings and bizarre encounters typical of Murakami are no less enigmatic or profound in his latest novel, where each character’s nighttime worlds inextricably intertwine as reader and character both probe the merits of real connection versus observing from a distance.

The Bad Girl
By Mario Vargas Llosa
Translated by Edith Grossman
FSG; $25
Ricardo’s sole recipe for happiness is living in Paris and being with the bad girl, trading pride and ambition for blind obsession. But the brilliance of this stunning story is just when the depiction of bad girl as villain and Ricardo as caring, dedicated hero seems fixed, Llosa reverses it to create a beleaguered, bittersweet love story that evokes the wonder: Is there any other kind?

The Bestiary
By Nicholas Christopher
Dial Press; $25

Christopher’s fifth novel may have a healthy dose of whimsy but it’s no standard adventure story. It is instead a well-imagined, meticulously researched, lyrical tale not only of the mythical foundations of society but of one man’s inner journey to find his place in the world.

The Blood of Flowers
By Anita Amirrezvani
Little, Brown; $23.99

This stunning debut isn’t just any novel, but an entrancing tale of a young Iranian girl’s quest for independence and self-reliance in the 1600s, her daring and honest exploration of love and desire for love, and above all the profound discovery of her own worth.

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility
By Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
Houghton Mifflin, $25
This methodically researched, audacious book provides a structured atlas of the cultural and philosophical underpinnings of environmental issues, breaks down why sacrifice-based solutions such as simply reducing emissions won’t succeed, and presents specific, thoroughly investigated plans centered on caring for people and investing in technological innovation. The aim here is to inspire.

Classics for Pleasure
By Michael Dirda
HARCOURT; 325 pages; $25
Brief plot summaries of delight-inducing classics whet appetites for undiscovered tomes and act as primer for literati cocktail parties, while the book’s more critical explorations offer new points of entry for beloved works. But it’s Dirda’s crystalline prose and his patent love affair with literature and writers that elevates this collection of essays above a mere reference guide.

Grotesque
By Natsuo Kirino
Translated by Rebecca Copeland
KNOPF; $24.95
We all have demons within us, but in Kirino’s world where appearance controls all and men define traditional Japanese society, the consequences of oppression are particularly damaging. In this book men alone are the source of each female character’s decay.

Tales from the Torrid Zone: Travels in the Deep Tropics
By Alexander Frater
KNOPF; $25.95
This beautifully written travelogue, punctuated with dashes of memoir framed by studied musings on changing cultures, is an intimate and affectionate exploration of the region that bears the weight of both hemispheres.

Tree of Smoke
By Denis Johnson
FSG $27
War, religion, and myth curl the same branch inside this fiercely wrought Viet Nam War-era opus, nay masterpiece, Denis Johnson’s first full-length novel in nine years. Tuned to the distant soundtrack of the ‘60s and spanning 20 years in the lives of two young enlisted men and two CIA operatives, it’s a tense, seductive hall of mirrors that transports a reader to the edge of morality and reality.

Zig Zag
By Jose Carlos Somoza
Translated by Lisa Dillman
RAYO; $24.95
In this scrupulously researched and truly terrifying scientific thriller derived from the potential horrors of our own imaginations, one-time psychiatrist Somoza rouses reservations about the consequences of discovery and provokes consideration of global responsibility in this period of enduring fear and conflict.

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