Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Recommendations 2007

My fellow sales reps and I were sitting together the other day and we were volunteering our favourite books of the year. There were the usual suspects but there were surprises (not to mention the wealth of titles cited below!), which means my personal reading pile has just suddenly risen exponentially…

A few of my personal favourites for 2007 must begin with Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. In my opinion, except for one misstep (The Body Artist), DeLillo has been a go-to author for me over the years. I was riveted and humoured by the train wreck that was Cosmopolis. I was immersed in the epic journey that was Underworld and I was horrified and saddened by the catastrophe that was Falling Man. For me, the strength of Don DeLillo is his singular mastery of the written word. His characters and plots do not always resonate for me but his writing definitely does.

Another favourite of mine was Patricia McLaughlin’s Edwards Eyes. A small (in size only) masterpiece, this triumph of spare, poetic prose is neither maudlin nor simple. There are many wonderful, memorable characters, an individual setting and a plot that, while fairly predictable, gracefully meanders to its conclusion allowing us along for the ride. I love this book.

A fiction title that was initially a dark horse for me was Linda Barry’s Later, At the Bar. It is a series of interconnected short stories that focus on each regular customer of this local bar in a small town in upper state New York. The book begins with story of the old woman who owns the bar and the circumstances by which she comes to own the establishment. The second story follows a man who is a regular at the bar and a good friend of the old woman (he is introduced at the end of the first story). The book connects all of the regulars together in a network of shared experiences but also uncovers the reasons why each person is there in the first place. This is an unassuming book that vibrates with the energy of life and the power of remembrance.

A nonfiction book that I read this year which actually was published in 2006 is Patrick Hanlon’s Primalbranding: Create Zealots For Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. It could be considered a business book but I would prefer to characterize this book as a primer of contemporary society. Patrick Hanlon is the founder and CEO of Thinktopia, a marketing firm that is responsible for many prominent advertising campaigns. Hanlon outlines the seven criteria to which every successful company or individual should understand in order to “create zealots for your brand”. How come people can recognize a Starbucks coffee cup from across a busy street? Who doesn’t know what that little swish on Tiger Woods golf cap stands for? Why does Tom Cruise’s image elicit a different reaction now than it did five years ago? Hanlon tells the reader what every successful person or company knows (sometimes only intuitively). I think anyone could read this fascinating book and learn something useful about how the world around us ticks.

And, finally, my pick of children’s picture book is the release in paperback of a book originally published by Picture Book Studios in 1990 (but out of print for several years) – Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki and illustrated by Ivan Gantchev. This wonderful story weaves together the Santa story and the Nativity story. Santa goes for a walk in the woods, decides he’s not going to go out Christmas Eve because he’s tired and all the forest animals are horrified. There won’t be a Christmas if you don’t go out, Santa, they say. Santa tells them he isn’t the reason there’s a Christmas every year. He proceeds to tell the animals his favourite story – the Nativity story. The story changes everyone’s mind, even Santa’s. I’ve read it to my daughter every year for five years. It’s a tradition in our household now.

No comments: