Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown, No. 16

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is the best representative of the lost or secret book genre that I read during the decade. This book goes beyond flattering habitual readers; it tells a terrific story that begins in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Anyone who's ventured into the basement of a library has had that experience -- being surrounded by books no one reads anymore and remain hidden and forgotten (at least until Brinn and Page put them in their machine). The convoluted plot takes us around Barcelona (an exotic location never hurts) and into the far reaches of 20th century Spanish history. The haunting idea of an author destroying his own books is kind of a salute to Borges. But ultimately, who doesn't want to find a lost manuscript? Who doesn't want some dead writer's mother to send him a manuscript that becomes a best-seller? Who doesn't want to find the lost manuscript by a contemporary author or Herman Melville or William Shakespeare? The wonder in reading lies mainly in anticipation; only rarely does a novel live up to what you hope it will be. A lost novel lives forever in the imagination. 

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