Top Ten Books of 2017

Top10-2-300x300David Letterman may not have known what he was starting with his top ten list; this Sunday the New York Times not only identified their top ten books of the year, Blake Wilson also wrote “The Top 10 Things About Top 10 Lists” for the second page of the paper.

I’ve read three of the five on the fiction list – and concur – great books.  One I do not plan to read, but will defer from naming it to avoid influencing you.  I may look for the other one.

Since I rarely read nonfiction, I’ve added 5 from my reading this year to round out the list.

New York Times Top 10 Books for 2017

Fiction

  1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – (informative) read my review here   
  2. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  3. The Power by Naomi Alderman (timely) – read my review here  
  4. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  5. Autumn (read but not reviewed) by Ali Smith

Five More I Would Nominate

  1. Dunbar by Edward St. Albyn
  2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  3. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
  4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  5. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Have you read any of them? What would you add to the list?

 

 

 

 

 

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Man Booker Shortlist

Although I have only read two books on this year’s Man Booker shortlist, I would read them again.  Both were books I started to listen to on audible and then switched by the first one hundred pages to reading online, to better savor the nuances.  George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo was a complicated chorus of voices accompanying Abraham Lincoln as he fought to make peace not only with his young son’s death but also a battered nation during the Civil War.  Autumn was Ali Smith’s gentle nod to the battering of circumstances (Brexit) and the relationship of time to life. Both books have a lot to say about personal perspective and national angst.  Both are award winning novels and well deserve to be on the shortlist.

The others on the list now have my attention; Sewall Chan quickly summarized each for the New York Times:

  • Paul Auster’s “4 3 2 1” – the story of a young American, Ferguson, across much of the 20th century, in four different versions. Events like the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement “reverberate around and through what’s happening in Ferguson’s life.”
  • Fridlund’s debut novel, “History of Wolves” about a wild adolescent, Linda, who lives on a commune in the Midwest and is changed by the arrival of a young family.
  • Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West,” about a couple uprooted by turmoil, in an unnamed city swollen by the arrival of refugees.
  • Fiona Mozley’sdebut novel, “Elmut,” about an English child’s struggle to survive and his memories of Daddy, a moody, bare-knuckle fighter who defies rural social norms.

Fridlund’s story catches my interest, but I’m not sure I will read the others.  Have you?

Review:    Lincoln in the Bardo

 

 

Man Booker Time – How Many Have You Read?

images-2The annual  Man Booker Longlist was announced today with five books from the United States –  two books I’ve read, one I do not plan to read, and two with possibilities.

Here is the list – have you read any?

from the United States:

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – my review
  • Autumn by Ali Smith – a lovely, sometimes humorous, testament to friendship across generations and time, the first in a four part series (think seasons)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead  – Although I have not read Whitehead’s imagined rail system, my vote for a better examination of the same subject is Yaa Gaasi’s historical fiction Homegoing!
  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Aster – “What If” books have become popular with treatments from Kate Atkinson, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Peter Howitt, and others.  Auster’s book promises to be easier to follow than most, with chronological exploration of possible lives for Archie.  It’s on my to-read list.
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fredlund –  A strange tale of a teenage babysitter in Minnesota confronting the life-and-death consequences of the things people do—and fail to do.  Sounds like an intriguing 288 pages.

The rest of the list includes:

  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

The shortlist of six books is announced in September – not much time to catch up on reading.

Taking a Short Break

I’ve decided to take a little time off from reviewing books to focus on a few unfinished projects.  I’ll still be reading voraciously and thinking about how each book changes my outlook.

To start the month of April, I am looking forward to reading:

9781101870730_p0_v1_s192x300 Autumn by Ali Smith (I listened to this on the plane, but I need to see it in print – so many nuances, I want to digest Smith’s words slowly).

9780679735908_p0_v1_s118x184Possession by A.S. Byatt (my friendly librarian gave me the movie version and now I am anxious to see how it compares to the novel by this Man Booker winner).

9781609453855_p0_v2_s192x300Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri (I just started reading this and am already under Lahiri’s spell of luxurious language).

9781941040515_p0_v1_s118x184Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (a pick of one of my book discussion groups).

9781616206901_p0_v2_s192x300The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church (another book club pick).

9780385350907_p0_v2_s118x184The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (her newest novel to be published April 18th.

I hope to restart the discussion of books with you here again next month.

 

 

 

 

I Am Ready to Listen

My Audible credits are piling up, and I decided to use them all before I cancel my subscription.  Although my library is full of books I have yet to hear, I am not discouraged. Short British mysteries, Maggie Smith and Julia Child biographies have kept me company as I walk, but heavy plots requiring attention tend to collect moss – started, stopped, ignored, replaced by a library book in print.  Flanagan’s Road to the Deep North still lingers – waiting to be heard on a long flight with no escape.

Five credits – five books:

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  1. Joanna Kavenna called Ali Smith’s first in a four-part series – Autumn – “a beautiful, poignant symphony of memories, dreams and transient realities…” in her review for The Guardian.  A symphony?  A candidate for an audiobook.
  2. Recently published Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders has a cast of 166 voices, including David Sedaris.
  3. Since I am number 279 on the library wait list, John Grisham’s The Whistler is a good candidate, promising fast-paced thrills.
  4. Melk Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge looked like a quick way to get life-style advice when I skimmed it in the bookstore, especially coupled with Rinzler’s The Buddha Walks into a Bar (already on my iPod).
  5. Finally (possibly because I have been reading articles about challenging the brain to prevent Alzheimer’s lately), the last book is French Short Stories (in French, of course).

Now I am ready to cancel my subscription.  But wait, those clever marketers have offered me a reprieve – 90 days on hold, a pause instead of a stop.  If I have not listened to my last five books by Spring, I may have the courage to really cancel.