Reviews from NYT’s 100 Notable Books of 2011
I’m an avid reader and love everything fiction! I relish days by the pool or hours in a quiet place with a good book. I decide what to read by reading reviews and suggestions either online or in my magazine subscriptions. The New York Times Books page is one I read often and ironically I have read quite a few on their 100 Notable Books list, finishing 11/22/63 early this year. I have recruited another avid reader, fellow blogger and high school classmate, Stacey, to help with a couple books from the list that are still sitting on my bookshelf. I also want to wish her a happy birthday!
HOUSE OF HOLES: A Book of Raunch. By Nicholson Baker.
I bought this book because the NYT’s recommended it. I knew it said ‘book of raunch’ but had no idea what I was getting myself into. This book intersects sci-fi with dirty, strange sex and hilarity! It is a collection of short stories intertwined with recurring characters. One of the stories is about a woman and a man’s arm that has been removed from his body but is active. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
THE TIGER’S WIFE. By Téa Obreht.
The is the author’s first novel, who has been published in the New Yorker and Harper’s. I’m jealous. This novel is so creative using fables to describe the history of the Balkans and the death of her grandfather. Her grandfather would tell her stories when she was a child and she used the stories, one specifically about a Tiger in a war torn country, to understand his death. Lots of richness in this book.
SAY HER NAME. By Francisco Goldman.
I read this book while I was in Europe last year, but I couldn’t stop thinking about while we were in the Bahamas this year. This book is Fiction but based on a true story. The author, Francisco Goldman, married another young author Aura Estrada. They live in New York and she has been wanting to go home to Mexico for a long awaited vacation. They no sooner get there and go swimming where Francisco attempts to teach her how to body surf. Aura ends up breaking her neck and later dying. This book is a chronicle of their love and relationship where the author blames himself and then her family for her death. It’s heart wrenching but so good.
11/22/63. By Stephen King.
I had this book on my list and then saw it on my brother’s bookshelf and told him I was taking it for a read and what a read it is at 800+ pages. It explores the butterfly effect when the main character uses a time portal of sorts to go back to the 1960s to stop the assassination of JFK. He experiences various encounters with ‘time’ preventing him from changing history, falls in love, and even loses his memory. It’s a page turner - as it needs to be - to get you to the unpredictable end.
1Q84. By Haruki Murakami. Review by Stacey.
This book carefully blurs the lines of possible and impossible. My mouth literally dropped open more than once. Seriously? I was hooked and open to buy into the most unlikely of stories. And I felt goaded on by the occasional shocking paragraph. The tale is intriguing, and the prose is incredibly rich. Seeming minutia is painstakingly described in exquisite detail, it’s palpable. I enjoyed re-reading passages, looking up interesting words, and noting quotes, to truly understand (in my own way) and appreciate the complex story - compared to my usual speedy reading methods, this was like wallowing in words. I am not sure I could recommend this to everyone - but if you are looking for something different, curious and don’t mind a slower pace, truly, it was a treat. I realize this tells nothing of the story - I don’t think I can do any justice to the complexity of it. I feel like you just have to jump in to this one.
Art of Fielding. By Chad Harbach. Review by Stacey.
What a great story. I avoided this book for a year because I was sure I had to be an avid baseball fan to “get it”, I’m only sorry I didn’t read it sooner. The story is ultimately about a regular kid named Henry Skrimshander, from the midwest who has great talent and is “discovered” by an upper classman from a Wisconsin college. He gets wooed to the university and subsequently becomes a humble, and endearing star. But then things unravel a little, as they do in every good story. Some of the side stories did not grab me - I wanted to keep up with Henry. I felt like the end got a little weird but ultimately it is satisfying somehow. I cheered for Henry Skrimshander and was glad I met him.
I have been begging my brother to share some music with me to no avail. Here are some of my unfulfilled requests.
The new HBO show - Girls. There is a new generation out there and Lena Dunham is up for the task of telling us who they are. Check it out.
Nothing comes to mind. Life is good.
- T.H. Thompson and John Watson