It's nearly impossible to keep up with all the books published every year. Heck, we're supposed to be up on all the latest, and, at year's end, we're still surprised at how many good ones we managed to miss. But in an effort to help you catch up a bit, here are five 2006 books that deserved more attention than they received.
Cross-X (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26): Friday Night Lights, schmiday night lights. You can keep your football. Right now, thanks to author Joe Miller, we're wrapped up in the ups and downs of the real-life debate team from Kansas City's Central High School. Miller pulled us into their world and taught us what we need to know to follow along, and now we're obsessed. If we could, we'd show up to every match, air horns a-blazing. On second thought, maybe we'll just stay home and read the book again. The air horns would get us tossed out.
Half of a Yellow Sun (Knopf, $25): There's something magical about an author who can help readers settle into a world completely different than the one they live in, allowing them to concentrate on the story instead of trying to figure out which way is north. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has that magic. Her novel about 1960s Nigeria is intense. It can be harsh. But it never feels like it's taking place ever-so-far away.
There Is No Me without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Africa’s Children (Bloomsbury, $26): It’s quite possible that of all the narrative nonfiction writers working today, no one is better than Melissa Fay Greene — of Praying for Sheetrock fame — at turning big, sprawling topics into accessible, great reads that put a human face on the otherwise too-big-to-grasp issues. In her latest, Greene carefully immerses readers in the story of Haregewoin Teferra, an Ethiopian woman who, one by one, is saving the lives of children orphaned by AIDS.
The Girls: A Novel (Little, Brown and Company, $24): From the first sentence of her elegantly written novel, author Lori Lansens makes it easy for readers to fall for the girls, 29-year-old conjoined twins, in The Girls. And, luckily for readers, Lansens didn’t just spend time developing her two main (and wonderful) characters, Ruby and Rose; she also gave her full attention to drawing a clear picture of the world around them, which is definitely a fine by-product of the author’s work as a screenwriter.
The Last Season (HarperCollins, $25): If outdoors mags are your regular reads, there’s a good chance you’ve already come across this title. But it deserves a much broader audience. Author Eric Blehm collected a mountain’s worth of information during his quest to find out what happened to Randy Morgenson, a backcountry ranger in the Sierra Nevada Mountains who seemingly just disappeared. The writing pulls you along, and along the way, Blehm gives readers an intriguing introduction to the world of backcountry rangers.