Sunday, 05 February 2012 00:00
Here's another best-of-2011 list from a BookBalloon member who claims to have had a slow reading year. If you enjoy biography or historical fiction, you'll find gold here:Nonfiction:
The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography Selina Hastings
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut Charles Shields
Revenge of the Saguaro Tom Miller
Pearl Buck in China Hilary Spurling
A Place of Greater Safety Hillary Mantel
Heir to the Glimmering World Cynthia Ozick
Lionheart Sharon Kay Penman
Monday, 30 January 2012 00:00
Sarah admits it's been a slow reading year for her -- she barely got through 120 books in 2011! Here are her favorites:Incendiary - Chris Cleave
The Hand That First Held Mine - Maggie O'Farrell
Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine
The Illumination - Kevin Brockmeier
Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson
Inzanesville - Jo Ann Beard
Among Others - Jo Walton
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
Wednesday, 25 January 2012 21:45
BookBalloon member Kat is notorious for enabling our book addiction. She offers her list of 2011 Best Books with no commentary, but take note: These are good 'uns.
Best Fiction Read in 2011
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Love Child by Sheila Kohler
Ghost Lights by Lydia Millett
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
In the Season of the Daisies by Thomas Phelan
The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
When the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle
Walking Naked by Nina Bawden
The Call by Yannick Murphy
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
Written by Nicki Leone Sunday, 22 January 2012 17:02
I've been dragging my feet about giving my "best of" reading list because I had such an odd reading year. Mostly, the things I read were for reviews and I read under the pressure of deadlines. But since my reviewing life and my reading life are impossible to disentangle, I'd have a hard time listing the books I just read "for pleasure." And part of the problem with not ever turning off the analytic and critical part of my brain, is that I tend to dissect everything I read, making it hard to ever give an unqualified "I loved this" to any book, even when I really did. Love it, I mean.
But, here is what happened to me instead. I ended up with a list of books that engaged me, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. I'd find myself thinking about them all the time, arguing in my head with their authors, working out my issues with them. I've never had a year where so many books just wouldn't let me go. So those are the ones I'm offering as my "best of 2011" list. They all nearly bested me:
African in Greenland by Tete-Michel Kpomassie
A young man from Togo decides to run away from home to live with Eskimos. This is not your usual arctic adventure story. In fact, this book--with its lovely language and contemplative, engaging approach, pretty much spoiled me for any other kind of adventure reading. He-man tales of white people conquering exotic lands and enduring ridiculously extreme hardships now all sound brash, testosterone-fueled and arrogant to me, placed next to the tale by this gentle and ever-curious African.
Ghosts of Cannae by Robert L. O'Connell
I wasn't expecting to become enamored of a military history book about a two thousand year old battle, but what can I say? O'Connell does a wonderful job of balancing technical discussions of military strategy with vivid historical recreation. Classical history is a subject especially vulnerable to the imaginative excesses of its practitioners (I'm looking at you, Stacy Schiff), O'Connell manages to keep on the right side of academic accountability while still wrapping you up in the wonder and drama he finds in the subject.
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 00:00
Edith Newbold Jones Wharton was born in 1862 and died in 1937. She was a member of the aristocratic Jones family, the very Jonese with whom people tried to keep up. She is, of course, best known for her majestic novels, from The House of Mirth to Age of Innocence (though my personal favorite is the bitter and ironic Custom of the Country), but legions of high schoolers are annually deadened to her charms by being forced to read her grim novella, Ethan Frome. Taught so much and to the exclusion of her other work, because of its useful length (this is my theory and I'm sticking to it) rather than any other literary quality, Ethan Frome is a terrible introduction to the novels and short stories of one of the great American writers.
"Roman Fever" is a late work, published first in Liberty Magazine in 1934 and then in Wharton's last story collection, The World Over. While the trappings of the story could seem to be all brocade and bromide, it is a subversive and sly work of fiction that deserves close reading.
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