2012 Books to look forward to: A Selection

A wealth of riches is anticipated in 2012, so much so it makes me feel positively ill there’s no way on earth I’ll get to all of them, much less be able to afford them. There is the library, yes, yes but sometimes I love having the books in-house, being able to pick them up when I feel like it and not rushing to finish before they’re due to be returned.

I am a horrid librarian.

Following are some of the tasty delights slated for publication this year, mostly the fiction as that interests me most. Some of these are UK publishing dates, I feel the need to warn you. So check Amazon US for pub dates here in the colonies:

Read further on Much of a Muchness


Benefits of planning one’s reading

Never mind a few years ago I thought making any plans beyond the end of the week was silly and misguided. That was before I hit 40 and was slapped in the face with the spectre of my own mortality. An unpleasant experience that was, in more ways than one. First off, ever been slapped by Death? Not high on anyone's list of Fun Things. Second, there went any hope I'd live long enough to get around to reading those ancient classics, at least not willy-nilly at my own leisurely pace.

I no longer think it's silly planning out not just a year's reading but five year and ten year plans as well. And not to say I'm elderly or suffering from a fatal disease but it's simple math/probability the longer you live the more likely you are to die. I never was good at math but I think I may have that one right.

First, those authors whose works I'd like to read to completion (insert joke about "happy finish" here):





Dickens Woolf Faulkner






Henry James

Edith Wharton

Thomas Hardy

Truman Capote



Wharton Thomashardy Capote







Then, works I want to say I've read, in order to throw that fact around at dinner parties (which I never attend but never mind that):

Remembrance of Things Past



Anna Karenina


Remembrancepast Ulysses Moby-dick Annk









Infinite Jest

Gravity's Rainbow










Authors whose works I've read almost completely and want to finish because they're either handsome and I want be thoroughly conversant with them when next I meet them, god willing, or I just plain respect the living hell out of them:


Sebastian Barry

Julian Barnes

Sebastian Barry

Margaret Atwood

Whomever I'm reading at the time and feel thoroughly impressed by.



Julianbarnes Sebastianbarry Margaretatwood






Joyce Carol Oates, though I'm not sure my mind can remain stable if I do so








Writers whom I haven't read yet and should have, which encompasses so many I cannot even recall them all.




Writers whose series fiction is completely addicting:

Susan Hill

Ian Rankin









Books which seduce me, often new books sent to me for review or those I stumble upon serendipitously.




100 best novels – Modern Library (except those of no interest to me).

100 best nonfiction – Modern Library (see above).


All the books I personally own, number in the thousands, save those I start and find uninteresting and either donate or exchange for credit at used book stores.

[Mental Note: Should consider photographing major book storage areas in my house, to post at a later date, assuming blog hosting site can handle that much photo storage space.]




Alright. Well, that's not so bad, now, is it? Totally doable. Assuming I can read 100 books per year (not out of the realm of possibility), the Modern Library will keep me busy a mere two years (and I've read many on the list of novels already), though I won't read them all in one year because I distract far too easily.

Big, chunker books like Ulysses should take, what, six months to a year to read slowly and digest? So that's four years for what I've been able to remember, countless years for those I've forgotten.

Completing authors: five years each, perhaps? Fifteen years, again plus those I've forgotten or have put on the "maybe" list. Assume a good twenty more of these for a total of (gets out calculator) 100 years.

Authors I respect and want to impress: I've listed four, plus let's assume 50 more for whomever else should be on the list. Total shot in the dark Best estimate: Fifteen years.

Series fiction? Depends how long each author lives. Forty years?

Serendipitous books, paired with the thousands I own: Roughly 100 years.

Grand total:   271 years at 100 books per year


Piffle! Scientists say they'll eventually cure death, so that's one point for me. The sun will eventually consume the Earth, if the Andromeda Galaxy hasn't gotten us first, but that's a good few billion years out. Oh, but that's if Yellowstone or another Super Volcano doesn't erupt (could be any day now), or idiotic people with nuclear and other world-destructive capability don't accidentally hit the Red Button (ditto), or a mutant disease doesn't escape from some laboratory somewhere (ditto). Like that super-strain of bird flu recently developed. Something of that nature, which was a BRILLIANT IDEA, by the way. BRILLIANT!

To my mind, my goals are totally doable. I can rest much easier knowing that. What a relief! Ah, I feel better.


It’s that time: Best Books of 2011 Lists

I pity the author with a book coming out this month because you are, quite honestly, out of luck. All the majors are getting their Best Books of 2011  lists out. No one's paying attention to the new kid. My advice (worth every penny you're paying)? Consider holding off 'til next year. Better yet, wait for the spring thaw. That's when "Best Summer Reads" lists will start popping up like prairie dogs in South Dakota. Get on one of those and you're golden; publish now and you're destined to live in obscurity, tossed aside by New Year's Eve.

Personally, I've had a fantastic reading year. I haven't drawn up my list because I've been dreading the necessity of choosing. The year's been just that good. When in doubt, though, I always go with an author's looks. If two books are equally brilliant, and one author's a British or Irish man, chances are the scale tips in his favor. Does the same rule apply to women? Generally not. I am utterly sexist. And awkwardly honest.

Little doubt which two books ruled the literary roost this year. Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad pretty handily steamrolled over the 2011 lot of fiction. And close behind came Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife.


Tigerswife Goonsquad

I read Obréht – and was awed – but for whatever reason avoided Egan. There was a little touch of the "this book is getting way too popular" about it, the sort of phenomenon that builds expectations so high you're afraid you can't  help but be disappointed. Subconsciously, that may be why I haven't yet read it. Maybe I'll get to it over the holidays, when I'll have a good, solid two weeks off work. Now that the shine isn't quite so bright, and I've forgotten what was considered so great about it, I may be better able to appreciate its charms.

I picked Obréht for the Orange Prize, assuming the panel would go with a newcomer. Otherwise my money was on Emma Donoghue's Room. I was not surprised Obréht beat her out, no offense to her remarkable ability to speak in the voice of a young boy. Impressive, that, if more than a little depressing. I went to Donoghue's author reading when she was touring the States. Normally that would could sway me, but Obreht hit a home run and I knew it.

Next comes a subject I'm still feeling a bit prickly about: THE BOOKERS. Still rubs me raw. I may have let slip my penchant for Sebastian Barry, the ever so slight preference I had for his On Canaan's Side over the other truly jaw-droppingly wonderful contenders. Then came the moment the shortlist was announced. And where oh where was Mr. Barry? Dunno, but he wasn't on the list. Reader, I was stunned. Stunned and more than a bit outraged, especially after I met him and heard him read. I melted out of my chair onto the floor. Never, outside the theatre, had I experienced such passionate delivery. It sent shivers, it really did. And prickles of tears behind my eyes. Language that beautiful is the stuff of angels.

[And right about now his wife is probably thinking, "Yes, but he leaves such a mess around the house, never picks up and talks with his mouth full of food."]

But I was forced to admit to myself then the prize was Julian Barnes's for the taking. I read some of the others, but come on! Did you read The Sense of an Ending? Well, did you? No one with a pulse could fail to be moved by prose like that. Sebastian Barry's the lyrical, poetic Irishman (swoon), but Barnes came through with a tight, concise, soul-touching masterpiece – no single word wasted. I had to come to terms with it: Barnes was flawless. And congratulations to him.

(But I had better live to see Sebastian Barry with a blasted Booker!)




Bestill my Dutch-Irish heart.

So, the Best of 2011 lists. They've been pouring out over the last week or two. In some cases books I'd have staked my life would have made the lists six months earlier have been bumped out the door by other, somewhat surprising choices. In a few instances the titles are completely new to me. In others it's the same old stuff I've been hearing about – and reading – all year.

Here are a couple lists I particularly liked. Books I've read are highlighted in red. Books I own but haven't read are in green, like the shamrocks in the fields:




(Gratuitous, I know.)


Salon.com – Fiction

1.    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

2.    Pym by Mat Johnson

3.    State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

4.    The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips

5.    The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (posthumous, unfinished novel)

Honorable Mentions:

1.    The Magician King by Lev Grossman

2.    Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta

3.    Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet

4.    The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst (didn't finish this one)

5.    There But for The by Ali Smith (received FIVE review copies of this – a new record)

6.    Zone One by Colson Whitehead (reviewed @ BookBrowse.com)

7.    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

8.    We the Animals by Justin Torres

9.    Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemei

10.    The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

11.    Reamde by Neal Stephenson

12.    Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Ellisa Chappell


 Publishers Weekly

1.    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

2.    The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

3.    State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

4.    After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh

5.    Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

6.    Catherine the Great by Robert Massie

7.    There But for The by Ali Smith

8.    Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson

9.    One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

10.    Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (bought the audio CD of this, a rare occurence)


The Guardian

Writers' lists of favorites from 2011. Too many to list them all, so I've selected just a few:


John Banville

Ordinary Dogs by Ellen Battersby

Writing Beckett's Letters by George Craig

The Anatomy of Influence by Harold Bloom


Julian Barnes (!)

New Selected Stories by Alice Munro

The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky

At Last by Edward St. Aubin

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst


Sebastian Barry (!)

There But for The by Ali Smith

The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg

Solace by Belinda McKeon

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (any relation…?)


A.S. Byatt

There but for the by Ali Smith

King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher


Margaret Drabble

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (who?)

Pulse by Julian Barnes


Jonathan Franzen

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

[sic] by Joshua Cody


Alan Hollinghurst

Nikolaus Pevsner by Susie Harries

How to Disappear by Duncan Fallowell


Hilary Mantel

Winter King by Thomas Penn

She-Wolves by Helen Castor


A few quick statistics from these author lists:

#    Two most popular titles overall:    There But for the and The Stranger's Child with four votes each   (no one listed both).

#    One listed   On Canaan's Side , Two listed The Sense of an Ending (again, no one listed both).

#    Jonathan Franzen's Freedom got only one vote (snicker), but that was published in 2010. I remember because I wasted many hours reading it the last time we went to Maine.

#    Four listed Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, but only one Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife.

#    I've never heard of more than half these books! Must do research…


For the full list go here. Fun stuff.


Kirkus Reviews

Ah, they've chosen SO MANY! I can't type all these. See them here.

I'll only note The Sense of an Ending made the list, but Egan, Obreht and Barry were slighted completely. Give me a break.


The New York Times

They've chosen five each: fiction and nonfiction as their overall Top 10, but have listed 100 Notable Books.


Top Ten – Fiction

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht


Top Ten – Nonfiction

And So it Goes. Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown

Malcolm X by Manning Marable

Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahenman

A World on Fire by Amanda Foreman


A little slanted toward Americans, eh?

As for the 100 Notables, there's no Jennifer Egan, though Téa Obreht is  there. Also, no On Canaan's Side but they gave Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending a nod, as well as Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child.

And, as for the nonfiction, I read much less of that but the list's still interesting.


Ah, then. There are approximately a gazillion other lists of Bests but I couldn't cover them all. All I'm planning from here is my own Top Ten of 2011 list, which is forthcoming.

So many books listed are of interest to me. Others I'll look up, as they sound wonderful. Overall, what's most baffling is how often Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child is mentioned. I put it down about 1/3 of the way through, finding it a chore (and a bore). Apparently I missed something. Maybe I'll give it another go. Sigh.


Still may compile more stats about the yearly wind-up. If I get around to it you'll be the first to know.

Now it's time to wait out the posting of favorites listed by bloggers. Anyone else have a list – blogger or no? Would love to hear from you.




Booker Prize Longlist – 2011


The Booker Prize longlist was announced while I was away on vacation:

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape – Random House)
Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie(Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers(Granta)
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)
Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador – Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days(Seren Books)
A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor Derby Day(Chatto & Windus – Random House


Not unusually, I haven't read one of them. In fact, I haven't even heard of a single damn one except Jamrach's Menagerie. The rest could be made up for all I know.

Still, the urge to read some of the longlisters is upon me, because I am (puffing out chest) a pretty good hand at picking winners. I love to be right. It makes me feel superior, you see, due to the sorry state of my self esteem.

So far I'm thinking:

Definitely YES on the Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry and Alan Hollinghurst, on general literary principle. The Sebastian Barry's partly because I think he's incredibly attractive, plus he once sent me a nice note after I talked up one of his previous books, which is highly gracious of him.

He writes beautifully, too.

Sebastian Barry, attractive

Problem, though, the Julian Barnes won't be published here 'til 2012. I could buy it from the UK, but with the value of the dollar against the pound it would cost roughly $ 200 M.


Ditto Sebastian Barry! Oh, it's a knife to the heart!


Sebastian Barry, attractive

And same with Alan Hollinghurst. (Note: he's already won once. Would the Booker committee award the same writer twice?)

Bloody hell.


Carol Birch, yes, because I've heard of your book. Oh, and it sounds good, too.

Patrick DeWitt, yes! How irresistible it sounds! Plus, read the reviews. Jesus!

Esi Edugyan, sorry, no. Unavailable in the States, plus it sounds a bore.

Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats? Apparently available here, but it just screams I AM NOT GOING TO WIN. Kirkus declared it "pellucid," and what the hell does that mean? If you can't find a real word to describe a book it's obviously crap.

Stephen Kelman Pigeon English? Yes! Emma Donoghue liked it, and I like Emma Donoghue. She's brilliant, gracious, and gives one hell of a good book reading. Also, Kelman's author promo photo looks very intense. He looks like a good sort to pop 'round to the pub with, someone who'd be a good conversationalist and pay my taxi fare should I imbibe too much and start singing Monty Python songs, because he's British and I think he should enjoy them.

Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days? Not available here, but that's okay because I know I wouldn't like it.

A.D. Miller Snowdrops? Think I'll pass. Even the reviews bored me.

Alison Pick Far to Go? Sounds completely depressing. Though, there is this review:

'Clean, crisp and unencumbered. Pick … creates small moments that are both lovely and frightening … It's very deftly structures and the storytelling is seamless' — Globe and Mail

Oh, Christ.

Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb? Not to be found on our shores.  Sucks, though. It sounds good enough.

D.J. Taylor Derby Day? Apparently can't get it here, plus I'm not sure it will make the cut.



Barnes, Barry (!) and Hollinghurst - Amazon.uk, here I come.

Birch, DeWitt, Kelman – YOU WILL BE MINE.

Anyone else joining the Booker frenzy? You may use my scientific method of calculation if you'd like to cut the list down a bit. I don't mind, as I have other factors I use, anyway, and those are more accurate for fine-tuning, thus completely proprietary.

Oh, do it! Don't be a bore.

I'll report as I read, and once the shortlist comes out on September 6 will re-adjust as necessary. At that point I'll probably be able to give my prediction, unless I haven't finished reading my six.



P.S.:    I know! Exciting!


Sebastian Barry, attractive



3 Irish Authors short listed for the
2011 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award.

The short list will be confirmed by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Gerry Breen at 11.00am on 12th April 2011 in the Mansion House, Dublin

10 novels have been shortlisted for the International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award, from a total of 162 novels nominated by 166 public library systems in 126 cities worldwide. For the first time, the shortlist includes novels by three Irish authors; Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Brooklyn by Colm Toibín and Love and Summer by William Trevor. The International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award is worth €100,000 and is the world’s most prestigious literary prize nominated by public libraries world-wide. 
The Lord Mayor of Dublin Gerry Breen, Patron of the Award, officially confirmed the titles on this year’s shortlist, nominated by public libraries in Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, and the USA.

The short listed titles are:

  1. Galore by Michael Crummey (Canadian). Doubleday Canada
  2. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (American). Faber & Faber, HarperCollins, USA
  3. The Vagrants by Yiyn Li  (Chinese / American) Random House, USA
  4. Ransom by David Malouf  (Australian) Random House Australia
  5. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Irish) Bloomsbury, UK, Random House, USA
  6. Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates  (American) Ecco Press, USA
  7. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey  (Australian) Allen & Unwin
  8. Brooklyn by Colm Toibín (Irish) Viking UK, Scribner, USA
  9. Love and Summer by William Trevor (Irish) Viking, UK
  10. After the Fire, a Still, Small Voice by Evie Wyld (Australian) Pantheon Books, USA

More about the shortlist

From this list, all I’ve read is Evie Wyld’s After the Fire, a Still, Small Voice. I’d be ecstatic if it won, but then again I have no others to compare it with, which makes that a trifle biased. Not that that’s ever stopped me.

I have a copy of Galore for review, haven’t heard of  The Vagrants, Jasper Jones or Love and Summer, though of course I know of William Trevor. The others I know of but have never read.

So, once again, I’m faced with having no idea  on earth who will win, only that I’ll hope it’s Evie Wyld since her book was positively brilliant.

What’s that you say? Did I hear, “Lisa, why don’t you read the shortlist, then make an informed guess?!”

Are  you trying to kill me, people?!  Yes, it’s a prize generated via the opinions of public librarians, and yes, I’m a public librarian. And, if you offer to fly me to Ireland for the awards ceremony I wouldn’t hesitate to read these novels while standing on my head. (Okay, maybe not standing on my head.)

The award date isn’t until June 15, but I’m already reviewing for two sites, plus for NetGalley at my own pace, and I have half a mind to apply to Kirkus, too. Oh, and the Orange Prize Longlist. I’ve been too eager to wait for the short, plus for whatever completely insane reason thought I should also guess the short…

Oh, hell. Maybe. But keep in mind a ticket to Ireland would positively seal the deal. Ireland in June? Yes, please!

NBCC finalists

I'm a bad egg for not having promoted the NBCC's short-list for this year's awards before now, but it could be worse. I could have waited 'til the absolute last minute instead of a virtual twenty minutes before.

The awards will be announced in March, though I'm not sure of the date. I didn't vote this time around, so didn't pay much attention to the shortlist or awards dates.

Here are the finalists:


Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad, Knopf

Jonathan Franzen. Freedom. Farrar, Straus And Giroux.

David Grossman, To The End Of The Land. Translated by Jessica Cohen. Knopf.

Hans Keilson.Comedy In A Minor Key. Translated by Damion Searls. Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Paul Murray. Skippy Dies. Faber & Faber.

* I've read only Franzen's Freedom, and hope to God it doesn't win because it doesn't deserve to. In my mind it didn't live up to all the hype.

Not having read the others, I'll go ahead and take a stab at the winner – David Grossman. Why? Because it's an anti-war novel.



Sarah Bakewell. How To Live, Or A Life Of Montaigne. Other Press

Selina Hastings. The Secret Lives Of Somerset Maugham: A Biography. Random House.

Yunte Huang. Charlie Chan: The Untold Story Of The Honorable Detective And His Rendezvous With American History. Norton.

Thomas Powers. The Killing Of Crazy Horse. Knopf.

Tom Segev. Simon Wiesenthal: The Lives And Legends. Translated by Ronnie Hope. Doubleday

* I've read none at all of these. Not sure whom to vote for, but I'll take a while guess anyway: Sarah Bakewell, because this book sounds so dratted good, and I want it in the worst way!



Kai Bird, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978, Scribner

David Dow, The Autobiography of an Execution, Twelve

Christopher Hitchens Hitch-22: A Memoir, Twelve    

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Hiroshima in the Morning, Feminst Press

Patti Smith, Just Kids, Ecco

Darin Strauss, Half a Life, McSweeney’s

*I read Hitchen's Hitch-22, and it was a little bit of a snore. I've hear Patti Smith's book is excellent, but is it serious enough to pass the judges? Failing her, I'm betting on Rahna Reiko Rizzuto.



Elif Batuman. The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings. Harper

Clare Cavanagh. Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West. Yale University Press.

Susie Linfield. The Cruel Radiance. University of Chicago Press.

Ander Monson. Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir. Graywolf

* Feeling very inadequate in this category, as well. I've read a big, fat ZERO of these. My guess: Susie Linfield.



Barbara Demick. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Spiegel & Grau

S.C. Gwynne. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American, Scribner

Jennifer Homans. Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. Random

Siddhartha Mukherjee. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Scribner

Isabel Wilkerson. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. Random Poetry

Anne Carson. Nox. New Directions

Kathleen Graber. The Eternal City. Princeton University Press 

Terrance Hayes. Lighthead. Penguin Poets

Kay Ryan. The Best of It. Grove

C.D. Wright. One with Others: [a little book of her days]. Copper Canyon

* Same here, haven't read a one, so another shot in the dark: Siddhartha Mukherjee.



Anne Carson. Nox. New Directions

Kathleen Graber. The Eternal City. Princeton University Press 

Terrance Hayes. Lighthead. Penguin Poets

Kay Ryan. The Best of It. Grove

C.D. Wright. One with Others: [a little book of her days]. Copper Canyon

I'm so poetry challenged. I can't even guess on this one. I'm wimping out.                             

We'll see if I still have my uncanny sense for prize winning books, despite being so unconnected from pretty much all the nominees. This is why I bet no money on my choices, which is probably a pretty good idea.

See you on March 11, when we can find out the actual winners!

Top 100 books sold in the UK since 1998

Don't know whether to laugh or cry. Disappointing to see a few of these made the list, while much more literary fiction didn't.

Data from Guardian.co.uk:

"The Top-selling 100 books of all time (well, since Nielsen records begain in 1998) are published today.
The top 100 books – of all time and of the last year – is out. It shows Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is the big seller of the last decade, followed closely by JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels."


I've read:

All the Harry Potters

Angels & Demons (I was curious! And underwhelmed.)

Tried first Stephenie Meyer but threw it aside.

The Lovely Bones (Underwhelmed)

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Enjoyed very much)

The Kite Runner (")

Time-Traveler's Wife (Okay. Liked it medium-ish)

Atonement (Liked very much)

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Enjoyed very much)

Birdsong (Underwhelmed)

Labyrinth (Enjoyed)

Captain Corelli (Took forever to get into, then loved it)

Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Underwhelmed)

Very Hungry Caterpillar (Kids loved it!)

Chocolat (Enjoyed)

Angela's Ashes (Enjoyed, but so depressing!)

To Kill a Mockingbird (A classic, read several times, but a bit over-rated)

Catcher in the Rye (see above TKAM – even more over-rated)

Brick Lane (Enjoyed)

A Spot of Bother (Greatly enjoyed)

And that's it for me. But several of these – including many cookbooks and bios of people I'm not at all curious about – would never make my reading list, anyway. I'm getting more discriminating the older I get!

Sharon Osbourne? Really?



Let the “Best Books of 2010” lists begin!

From Publishers Weekly:

Ultimate "Best of" from all categories:

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
Egan's a daunting stylist, and she's in blistering form for these interlocking narratives about the milieu surrounding an aging and waning music producer. Essentially, it's a story about getting mugged by the passage of time, and along the way she interrogates how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate. You also might know this as the novel that has a chapter written in PowerPoint. Egan: unpredictable and, here, brilliant.

[Sounds petty, but the cover of this book turned me off. Guess I shouldn't judge it by that.]

Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Did you know Jonathan Franzen has a new novel? He does. It's called Freedom, and it follows a Minnesota family whose problems, squabbles, and poor decisions encapsulate the very essence of what it means to have lived through the first decade of the 21st century. It's… a masterpiece.

[Totally disagree. To me it droned on and on. I don't understand the attention it got.]

Laura Hillenbrand (Random)
Readers of this soul-stirring narrative will never forget Louis Zamperini, who after a career as a runner served in WWII only to be captured and held prisoner by the Japanese; a more horrific internment would be difficult to imagine. Zamperini's physical and spiritual sufferings both during and after WWII and his coming out the other side become the story of a true American hero from that greatest generation.

The Surrendered
Chang-rae Lee (Riverhead)
Grim, but so is Dostoyevski. Lee, who can craft a sentence, follows several decades in the lives of an American soldier and a Korean orphan whose paths cross during the Korean War, the reverberations of which, Lee shows, are now deeply woven into the fabric of what it means to be American.

The Big Short
Michael Lewis (Norton)
Lewis has written the briskest and brightest analysis of the crash of 2008. Other books might provide a more exhaustive account of what went wrong, but Lewis's character-driven narrative reveals the how and why with peerless clarity and panache. When will they ever learn?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot (Crown)
Medical history is grippingly told through the life of one African-American woman and her family, which begins at the "colored" ward at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s. Skloot, who hit the road in her beatup old car to relentlessly follow this story, explores issues of race, poverty, the ethics of medical research and its sometimes tragic, unintended consequences.

[Read some of this before I had to return it to the library. What I read was superb.]

Just Kids
Patti Smith (Ecco)
Smith's beautifully crafted love letter to her friend Robert Mapplethorpe functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Her elegant eulogy lays bare the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work.

[No interest at all in the subject matter.]

Man in the Woods
Scott Spencer (Ecco)
A man and a dog in Spencer's adroit hands adds up to one stunning story. Spencer says he likes to put his characters in situations and "turn up the heat." Here his well-meaning, easygoing protagonist lands in the third circle of hell, with his whole life in jeopardy, after a chance encounter at a highway rest stop. Exciting, thoughtful, compelling: you won't want to put it down and you won't want it to end.

The Lonely Polygamist
Brady Udall (Norton)
Golden Richards, a fundamentalist Mormon with four wives and 28 children, flirts with infidelity in this tragicomic family saga with a cast of flawed, perfectly realized characters. Don't mistake this for the Great American Mormon Novel-it could just be the Great American Novel of the year.

The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson (Random)
Wilkerson's sprawling study of the flight of six million blacks from the humiliation of Jim Crow to uncertain destinies in the American North and West is expansive in scope, pointillist in focus, and a triumph of scholarship and empathy. Anchoring her narrative in the suspenseful stories of three who made the journey, Wilkerson humanizes the migration that reshaped American demographics, art, and politics.


The Pregnant Widow
Martin Amis (Knopf)
Amis propels a very Martin Amis-like Keith Nearing through a summer of poolside torment-sexual, psychological, literary-in 1968 Italy. This dark drawing-room comedy is a showcase of Amis's ability to make the English language bend to his whims.

[Own a copy; haven't read it.]

Parrot & Olivier in America
Peter Carey (Knopf)
Olivier, a fictionalized and absolutely obnoxious riff on Alexis de Tocqueville, contends with Parrot, a cunning servant dispatched to spy on Olivier by Olivier's mother, as the two journey across early 19th-century America. In this vast picaresque, Carey finds, via a snobbish Frenchman and an earthy Brit, a truly American story.


The Privileges
Jonathan Dee (Random)
Dee again turns a gimlet eye on the way we live now, offering a churning story of greed, risk, danger, and financial industry chicanery set amid the foibles of a rabidly ambitious Manhattan family. Think: Bonfire of the Vanities, updated, hipper, and stripped to the bone.

Nick Drake (Harper)
Drake easily injects a serial killer plot into the middle book of his Ancient Egyptian trilogy while vividly evoking the reign of the boy king Tutankhamun.

Extraordinary Renditions
Andrew Ervin (Coffee House)
Modern Budapest comes to life in three linked novellas with characters that cover the spectrum from a concentration camp survivor who returns for the premiere of his opera to a black American G.I. forced into gun running by his unscrupulous commander.

Faithful Place
Tana French (Viking)
Suspense blends with family demons in French's meticulous crime novel about a cop's quest for the truth behind the disappearance of the young Dublin woman he was planning to elope with 22 years earlier.

[Loved her earlier two.]

To the End of the Land
David Grossman, trans. from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Knopf)
Grossman's epic masterwork maps the long, dark shadow war has cast over an Israeli family. From domestic disruption to harrowing violence, this unflinching account is devastating and seductive.

The Four Stages of Cruelty
Keith Hollihan (St. Martin's/Dunne)
Hollihan combines a labyrinthine plot with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life in his impressive debut.

Father of the Rain
Lily King (Grove)
King's intense family drama coincides with the demise of Waspdom and exposes the thrill and despair of an alcoholic, charismatic father who is wildly entertaining to a child but difficult to deal with as an adult.

Our Kind of Traitor
John le Carré (Viking)
Those who have found post-cold war le Carré too cerebral will welcome this Russian mafia spy thriller involving an English couple on holiday in the Caribbean.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze
Maaza Mengiste (Norton)
African novelists have been taking center stage, and Mengiste's debut marks her as one to watch. Ethiopia from the fall of Haile Selassie through the dark '70s of Derge rule is her setting as a family struggles to maintain its humanity.

How to Read the Air
Dinaw Mengestu (Riverhead)
Mengestu sticks to familiar territory in his soulful second novel, but here brings an intriguing formal rigor to the tale. Jonas Woldemariam retraces a brief road trip that his parents, both Ethiopian immigrants, took 30 years before, compelling him to distort the truth about not only their lives, but his own, in ever more complicated ways.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
David Mitchell (Random)
Mitchell goes straightup historical in this majestic account of a young Dutch East Indies clerk's time in the trading port of Dejima, in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan.

[Got a review copy of this one. Got derailed somewhere along the way, but it seemed a good read.]

Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco)
Yes, we suspect there are really three separate writers producing the endless stream of prose: Joyce, Carol, and Oates. Here, Oates takes it to the edge, bringing her recurring themes of violence and desire to terrifying fruition. Widows figure prominently, as do children, and everyone's in trouble.

Years of Red Dust
Qiu Xiaolong (St. Martin's)
This collection of linked short stories from the author of The Mao Case and five other Inspector Chen novels charts the political changes in China under Communist rule through the eyes of the inhabitants of Shanghai's Red Dust Lane.

The Imperfectionists
Tom Rachmann (Dial)
The ragtag staff of a dying English language daily newspaper in Rome provide a memorable cross-section of experience, failure, expectation, and perilous aspiration. It's also a magnificent paean to that increasingly endangered species: the printed newspaper.

Invisible Boy
Cornelia Read (Grand Central)
Acid-tongued ex-socialite Madeline Dare uncovers a child's skeleton in Queens' Prospect Cemetery in a crime novel that exposes undertones of racism and classism in New York City's justice system.

John Reimringer (Milkweed)
This sensitive and searching debut confronts the conflicts of a newly ordained young priest from a family whose men "have always loved strong drink and a good fight," torn between his desire for spirituality and the temptations of the flesh.

Scott Turow (Grand Central)
Twenty-two years after the events in Presumed Innocent, former lawyer Rusty Sabich once again faces a murder charge in a novel that rates as a worthy successor to that memorable debut.

[Scott Turow?! Really?]

Frederic Tuten (Norton)
For 40 years, since his early postmodernist stunner, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, Tuten has reworked the shape and consistency of the novel. In this one, Tuten, now 74, turns self-ward. The result: magical Calvino-like tales both revealing and uncompromising, as the author's energy for invention trumps nostalgia while ennobling it.

Marlene van Niekerk, trans. from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Tin House)
South African van Niekerk takes readers into the muck of her homeland's complicated history of race relations via the perspective of a dying woman whose only companion is her black servant.

See the Website for their other lists. Guess I'm mostly a fiction kinda gal, though their nonfiction list is pretty tempting, too.

But I'm pretty dismayed how few of these I've read.

Top 100 “Killer Thrillers”

From NPR:



Of these I've read 11:

The Shining

The Hound of the Baskervilles


Angels & Demons


'Salem's Lot

Dead Zone

The Woman in White

In the Woods

The Club Dumas


I don't know. Doesn't seem like all that impressive a list, to me. And I question their definition of "thriller" in a few cases. But it's a list. And I like lists.