Books

I am completely copying a trend I have seen on other blogs, which are much more technically savvy than I and link their lists etc, but here is my lo-tech list of books I read in 2007 (as far as I can remember), books I am reading (in a pile by my bedside), and book that I really really like:

Richard Russo: ‘That old cape magic” . Not his best by far, but not bad either. I read it, enjoyed it, moved on.

Fracine Prose :”Touch” -it’s young adult lit, but very good. A quick, well written read, and one I would recommend to any 14-year old.

stieg larsson: “the girl with the dragon tattoo” – gripping, perfect beach or plane read.  it was oddly translated, by what i assume was not a native english speaker or a very fluent bilingual swede. but it did not detract – i tore through it.

jonathan lyttell: “les bienveillantes” translated as “the kindly ones” in english.  shoudl come out in english in the US in march.  it is teh foctional autobiography of a nazi gestapo/SS officer.  it is disturbing, excedingly well written, and has teh ability to take you into this particular pervert’s mind and let you linger there.  it has echos of nabokov (non-native speaker writing in a language he masters better than a native speaker) and humbert humbert (in the mind of a pervert) and it is challenging. read it cautiously and slowly, and take breaks form it as needed, say with the latest shopaholic installment or people magazine. that’s what i had to do to stomach some of the scenes.

kazuo ishiguro: “never let me go” – this whole week was wrapped up in the weird and amazing mood that envelops the book i just finished: if you were disappointed by the unconsoled and when we were orphans and had given up on ishiguro, don’t. give him another chance and just let yourself be transported by this work – it is stunningly written, so well that i had a hard time picking up the devices that made the book so fantastic.

the last time i felt like this was reading atonement, one of this decade’s truly great books – but in that book you can sense the narrative changes, the devices and the tricks, even if you can’t see how the story is about to hit you in head. in ishiguro’s last, there are few surprises like in atonement, the story moves forward and back, unveiling details just as you are about to figure them out yourself. but at the end of the book, you’ve been turned inside out – just like i was after finishing atonement.  there is great pleasure in reading something so beautiful and feeling so bloody sad for having been taken on such a sad and tragic ride at the same time.read it.
Debra Ginsberg “Blind Submission” : I bought this one because of the cool cover, which reminded me of aother book I liked (but cannot remember now).  It was brilliant.  A slow but steadily increasing tension for teh thriller part, and completely believable insider’s meta novel.  It worked for me, and I can’t wait to read her latest “The Grift”.

Laurie Viera Rigler “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict” – it was ok. Not nearly great.  An ok plane book.  The premise isn’t bad, but it is underanalyzed, although that isn’t half as disappointing as the writing, which is rather dull, mediocre and uninspired. I can see why it got published though – it quite obviously well entrenched in the Austen-mania, but give me the real thing any day.

Lloyd Jones “Mr Pip” : completely enthralling narrative style, a novel set in a real context, reinvented through the eyes of a young girl and the magic of dickens. it’s immediately gripping, which considering the very short attention span i am suffering of lately, is tremendously welcome.

Junot Diaz “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”: so far so good. definitely deserving of the hype

Myla Goldberg “Bee Season”: this one’s been sitting in the bathroom – and I read it when I am in there, ’nuff said. it (the book) is fine. someone left it here which is how it ended up in said bathroom…

Abigail Thomas “A three dog life” – as grief memoirs go, this one has left my stumped. it is nowhere nearly as engaging and violent in the emotions it conveys as Joan Didion’s “Year”, but for that same reason it is also much less self-centered and much better able at conveying the profound sadness of loss, and the depression that goes with acceptance – which is very different from the depression that follows the shock of realization. Anyway, I liked it, and like her writing, although it is probably a bit too subtle for me.

Quentin Crisp “The Naked Civil Servant” – a classic; and “Manners from Heaven” – a book your eccentric grandmother would quote, and write if she were gay and male – it is hilarious, and often spot on.

Alan Benett “the Uncommon Reader” – best guilty workday morning read!

Philip Pullman, “The Golden Compass” – brilliant, “The Subtle Knife” – v good, but less impressive.

Carlos Fuentes “Travesías de la niña mala” – will read on beach over year’s end. Can’t wait.[update: read the Subtle Knife (part 2 of His Dark Material trilogy) instead]

JM Coetze “Slow Man”

Anne Lamott “Plan B – further thoughts on faith” : the only openly and vocally religious writer i can bear (graham greene was much more subtle, and i love him). some of her short stories are hilarious, other heart-achingly sad, all expertly written and genuine. Also read “Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life”. Definitely useful on both counts.

Allegra Goodman “Intuition” : just started it, but like it. Maybe it is bc it nicely depicts the petty academic world I’d love to flee/avoid/change? [update: it got as boring as academics usually get, and it has been sitting there, uread as of page 84, for months}

Gillian Flynn “Sharp Objects” – best murder thriller of the year – her first book and it totally works.

Jesse Ball “Samedi de deafness”

Ian McEwan “On Chesil Beach”

Nicola Barker “Clear” – funky, weird, brilliant.

Joanne Harris “Gentlemen and Players” – a fun read, but I have already forgotten what it’s about. That says something doesn’t it??

Amélie Nothomb “Ni d’Eve ni d’Adam” (this is the real Lost In Translation – Belgian girl goes to Japan, don’t miss “Stupeur et Tremblement – the first one in the Japan series)

Barbara Kingsolver “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (you’ll never think about tomatoes, or turkey, the same way)

Joan Didion “The Year of Magical Thinking” (cannot be missed – I always thought JD was such a good writer, but such a detached one – in this book her detached tone only emphasizes the connection to her topic and to the reader – masterful)

Sheryl J. Anderson “Killer Heels” – one of the many chick lit murder mysteries you’ll see on my lists

Meg Cabot ” Size 12 is not Fat”, “Size 14 is not Fat Either” – see above.

P.J. O’Rourke “On The Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the World)” – bc it is way better than reading the Adam Smith’s 700+ pages.

Marisha Pessl “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” this one’s been on my bedside since December 06. [update: it’s still there]

Joanne Dobson “Quieter than Sleep” – if you like (or think you’d like academic chic lit thrillers, Dobson is for you. When she’s not writing books for me, she teaches English Lit at Fordham.

TBC

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2 responses to “Books

  1. wasnt crazy for On Chesil Beach, had its moments but it didnt grip me ………..

    I think I told you to get The Naked Civil Servant .some great lines I think you will agree………
    some friends used to draw him when he was a model for life drawing classes at colleges in the 70s…..
    Plus he lived across the road from a friend in Chelsea……

    • galainoregon

      actually it is “manners from heaven” i find most quotable, esp when one is around teen-agers (or their parents). hilarious! i love quentin crisp. agreed on chesil beach. a bit dull for my tast (and expectations).

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