Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 11 of '11 - Books

Saving the books category for last just feels right considering the place of honor they occupy in my life. Though, this is the first year that I'm including any non-fiction. I'm pretty proud of myself for expanding into non-fiction-- not that I don't read a lot of it-- I do. It's just that non-fiction never seems as good to me as fiction. For fairly obvious reasons. I'm not going to give myself too much credit though, because the only two that I read and loved that actually came out this year are humor books by some heroines of mine. (Okay and a shout out to someone we lost this year.) (Other amazing non-fiction I read this year, but didn't come out this year include AL Kennedy's On Bullfighting & Mary Karr's Lit.) But, without further ado, here are my top 11 books of the year. 

11. Arguably. Essays
RIP, Hitch. You will be missed. 

10. Swamplandia!
I tried to avoid Karen Russell's book and found that I could not. I'm the only one allowed to put exclamation marks in titles, right? Wrong. Honestly, the book is full of eccentricities and I'm not even sure how to describe it. Only that I think  you should read it. 

9. Bossypants
One of my favorite things about Tina Fey's book is that she reads it herself in the audio book version, so naturally, that's the version I got. Thanks, too, Tina for having this come out on my birthday. That was sweet of you.  I keep going back to how bad I feel for Brits who didn't get to grow up with Saturday Night Live. This just warmed my heart. Though Brits still won't be able to watch. Sigh. 

8. The Stranger's Child
Alan Hollinghurst taught me a thing or three about how to pace a historical telling that spans 60 years or so, all through interludes at English country houses. I don't know that I'll ever slow my pace to his speed, but it was nice reminder to slow the eff down. A great story, and a lovely portrait of the way time acts on us. Click here for more. 

7. The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach's first novel is on just about everybody's top list and for good reason. Despite an over-arching sports metaphor, which normally I'd sort of loathe, I loved the book for its pith and precision. And I suppose if one must use a sports metaphor, at least he used baseball. 

6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling is the best. I'm putting her ahead of Tina Fey just because people are always comparing the two...sort of for no reason...isn't it possible for more than one woman to be extremely funny? In completely different ways? Her best friend rights and responsibilities is amazing. And I dedicate them to Emily Vi. 

5. 1Q84
Haruki Murakami, you outdo yourself again. How can you make the decline of humanity so appealing and humorous? I have such a soft-spot for Japanese writers. I love your play on the title, which as a Japanese speaker, I smiled immediately about. Ichi Kyuu Hachi Yon. Nine in Japanese is kyuu. The characters, the sense of place, it was perfect. (Long, but perfect.)

4. The Marriage Plot
This isn't Jeffrey Eugenides' best. And I still think he's kind of eye-roll inducingly pretentious (I  mean, people are always going on about my Franzy being a dick! Just listen to Eugenides!) but nevertheless, I was SO excited to read this. And I enjoyed every minute of it. I don't care how many times he says Leonard isn't DFW... the dude clearly is. For more, read this & this

3. There But For The
It was an honor to be given this book by the amazing Ali Smith herself the day after graduation. I loved the idea of a stranger locking himself in someone's spare room. The idea of strangers in general. How known any of us are to each other and to ourselves. And the characters are so expertly drawn, I jammed through this book like lightning. For more

2. The Pale King
I think it says something about a writer, namely, this one: David Foster Wallace, that his unfinished novel is better than most I've read. And obviously ambitious. A novel about the tedium of life (set in the IRS) that itself was not tedious? I wish he'd finished it. He hadn't quite succeeded or completed the task. But bless him for trying. For more

1. The Submission
Some called it a "rare and dangerous feat" and I agree. Quite simply, I was blown away by both the simplicities and honest complexities in Amy Waldman's book. I empathized with every character. I felt myself as a New Yorker in the central dilemma. And I don't think America or New York is anywhere near done dealing with 9/11, it memorial place in our city or our relationship with Islam. For more

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