Thursday, December 30, 2010

NYRB Challenge #50: End of the Road. . .

At the beginning of this challenge, I was determined not to read the same author more than once, but then I've broken so many of the guidelines I set out for myself, that I'm not bothered by one more. Simply put, I was completely blown away after reading Everything Flows earlier this year; when NYRB recently published Vasily Grossman's The Roadtranslated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Mukovnikova, I knew it was the book I wanted to end this challenge with.

As expected, this was a very powerful and sometimes difficult (in terms of content) read.  It's a collection of short stories, journalism, essays and two moving letters Grossman wrote to his dead mother on the anniversaries of the 1941 massacre at Berdichev, in which she died. The stories are worthy complements to his journalism being mostly about ordinary people and their reactions - often unexpected - to the horrors of war and living in an occupied town. Several of the stories are about finding a moment of human connection in extraordinarily sad and lonely circumstances.  Two stories try to see the world from an animal's point of view. "The Road" follows the painful experiences of a weary, abused mule, dragging his master's cart over endless, devastated roads during the Second World War. "The Dog" portrays the life of one of Russia's first animals sent into space.

But it is the journalistic pieces that stand out the most.  At the center of the book is the harrowing "The Hell of Treblinka", Grossman's description of what happened, step by step, detailed moment by horrific moment, to the thousands who disembarked the trains at this notorious death camp.  "The Sistine Madonna" ponders the effect of Raphael's painting, which "speaks of the joy of being alive on this earth" juxtaposed against all the wars and horrors that have occured since its creation. There is a reflective essay entitled "Eternal Rest" about people's relationships to cemetaries and the dead.  A passage from this piece sums up many of the themes in Grossman's work, and gives a sense of the complexities he continually finds and explores in human nature - at the best and worst of times:

     Few close relationships are entirely clear and transparent; they are seldom - as it were - linear and single-story.
     More often they are buildings with thick walls and deep cellars, with dark, stuffy little bedrooms, with all kinds of little outbuildings, with extra floors aded on top.
     And there is no knowing all that goes on in these little rooms and cellars, in these little corridors and attics. There is no end to what has been seen adn heard by the walls of these incorporeal structures deep inside the human heart. They have seen clear light, merciless reproaches, eternal lust, satiety to the point of nausea, truth, the desperate wish to hae done with someone once and for all, year upon year of one trivial grievance after another and the need to account for every last kopek. They ahve seen terrible secret hatred. They have seen fights. They have seen blood being drawn. They have seen meekness.
NYRB and Robert Chandler have done a terrific job with this collection, assembling photographs of Grossman, useful introductions to each section which place the pieces in historical and biographical context, and providing detailed scholarly notes, follow-up appendices and even an afterword by Grossman's stepson. It's truly a great tribute to an unrelentingly brave and important writer.

And so, I've finally completed my 50 book NYRB challenge - a few months later than I'd hoped, but better late than never.  I'll assemble my thoughts on the process and list my top 10 favourites shortly.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Keeping Cozy. . .

Hope everyone is having a great holiday week.  It's been so cold that I've been happy to cocoon at home on my couch doing lots of reading and knitting. As with quilting, I've always been a straight lines knitter which means nothing too complicated, although I'm now crazy about cables, having realized they really weren't as hard as I'd thought. But my New Year's resolution is to take a chance and actually try something a little more ambitious like a sweater or a hat. We'll see. In the meantime, here are two recent neck cowl projects that I completed and quite like. And they were super easy - just rectangles!

The first one I spotted on the cover of the latest issue of knitsimple magazine and was so intrigued I bought it right away. Although the "one afternoon" boast is a bit misleading.  To make this cowl, you basically knit three long tubes and then braid them together, sewing them at the back.  But it still amounts to a little over 8 feet of knitting in total!  Took me three afternoons, but here's my version.

And then I found this wonderful Irish tweed that had flecks of blue, gray, yellow and brown in it. (Katia Irish Tweed #8905  if you're interested) Just loved the colours and the texture but only had two small skeins -  just enough for another neck cowl.  This one is my design - just one long rectangle, sewed at both ends with alternating stripes of knitted rows, ribbed rows and stockinette stitch. And it was quite quick to make, just a few hours.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Citizen Kid

Kids Can Press will be coming out with a new title in their Citizen Kid Series. This Child, Every Child is a beautiful book that shows kids, in a very easy way how other children around the world live. Below is a trailer from their first book in the series: If the World Were a Village. KCP has launched a YouTube Citizen Kid channel with more trailers from the series. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa, This is Just My Type of Gift. . .

The New York Times has this article about high-tech electronics that are being refurbished to look retro. I love this old typewriter, rejigged so that you can type with the old keys onto your laptop.  Okay, a bit heavy to lug around on the bus, but still . . . very cool!  More info here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NYRB Challenge #49: The Fox in the Attic. . .

Richard Hughes is best known for his children's pirate adventure tale, A High Wind in Jamaica (also published by NYRB), but The Fox in the Attic is something quite different.

Conceived as the first part in a multi-volume project called "The Human Predicament", it follows the wanderings of Augustine, a young man in his twenties, heir to a large, empty house in a small Welsh town.  It's been five years since the end of the First World War (in which he was too young to fight), but this is not a Mitford or Fitzgerald type story of the jazz age.  Rather, it's a grim look at the lives of several characters - on both sides - struggling with personal tragedies against the still haunting echoes of the war.  The novel opens with Augustine carrying the body of a young six year old girl over his shoulder as if she were game. She has been found dead in the marshes, but by the time he gets her home, she's become something not unlike a corpse in a trench:

This had ceased to be "child" at all: it was total cadaver now. It had taken into its soft contours the exact mold of the shoulder over which it had been doubled and it had set like that - into a matrix of him.  If (which God forbid) he had put it on again it would have fitted.
To escape the village's implications that he might have had more to do with the child's death than just discovering the body, Augustine goes to visit distant German relatives living in a castle not too far from Munich, where he falls in love with his blind cousin Mitzi, distracting him from observing the political tensions swirling in the town.  During his visit, Hitler's failed putsch to seize power in Bavaria occurs, and Hughes devotes an interesting chapter to describing a few days in which an injured Hitler hides out at a friend's house before being captured.  He's not the only fugitive; strange noises are coming from the castle attic and not just from the fox that roams the corridors freely.

This is a rather disturbing book, full of meditations on the nature of self and self-consciousness, wrapped in a narrative of grief and almost hallucinatory madness at times. The very descriptions of the landscapes, whether in the bleak outdoors or in claustrophobic interiors, adds to the gloom and sense of menace that pervades the novel, even though there are a few comic, if macabre moments.  As such, it makes perhaps an interesting companion read to Bruce Duffy's The World As I Found It  (in fact G.E. Moore, or at least his philosophy, even makes an appearance).  It's both an eccentric and enthalling read where the fictional characters are juxtaposed against historical ones but equally distanced from each other so that it never feels contrived. It is very much a novel exploring individual isolation - physical, political, religious and philosophical. Hughes never finished his projected "Human Predicament" but there is a sequel - The Wooden Shepherdess - that continues Augustine's story and includes twelve chapters from what would have been the third book.  The Fox in the Attic reads just fine as a stand alone novel, but I'm intrigued enough both by the narrative and the prose style, that I'll definitely continue the journey.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So You Want To Write a Novel...

Ros sent the Deweys this video which I forwarded to many of my colleagues...I know many of us have had these deep dark responses to queries from people who think writing a novel (especially children's books) is sooooo easy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Books Would Fit Nicely. . .

I'm oddly attracted to this red purse.  But alas, it's Kate Spade - quite a bit beyond my budget.  Santa, if you're reading. . . (thanks to Design Sponge for the link).

Water For Elephants Movie Trailer

Book club favourite Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen is coming to the big screen April 15th, 2011, starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattison, and Christoph Waltz.

The much-anticipated trailer for the film debuted last night on Entertainment Tonight. Check it out below!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A European Bookstore Tour

On a recent trip to Germany and the Czech Republic I visited some wonderful bookstores. One of my favorite stores was Hugendubel, which is part of a family owned chain with approximately 35 stores. Great name, great stores. The Frankfurt location was bigger than any bookstore I’ve seen in Canada, with four floors and many stairs and escalators, and it was full of people on a weekday morning. On each floor there’s an area to sit and read (you’ll notice the red leather seats in the pictures), and there’s a little café with delicious pastries. Hugendubel carries mainly German books of course, but there are also lots of English and French books to browse. We also visited quite a few small independent bookstores. In the medieval town of Rothenberg, Germany there are four charming independents within two or three blocks, each one focusing on their own specialty. In Prague we stumbled upon a tiny English bookstore on a side street. Here’s a picture of me sitting outside The Anagram, clutching my bag of literary treasures.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Favourite Reads of 2010: Calgary Public Library. . .

We finish our postings of Favourite Reads lists for this year with the two Sarahs from Calgary Public Library. Sarah Laing is one of their book selectors, and Sarah Meilleur is their Customer Service Manager for the library's Humanities, Community Heritage and Family History Department.  Some terrific reads here to give as gifts or to hunker down with yourself over the holidays. 

Sarah Laing's Favourite Reads of 2010:

Annabel by Kathleen Winter.
 I really enjoyed this first novel set in Labrador. Winter writes a unique story about a couple raising their hermaphrodite child as a boy and does a great job..

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon.
An excellent historical novel about the relationship between tutor, Aristotle and student, Alexander the Great. I really enjoyed Lyon’s meticulous research and portrayal of life during this time period.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny.
I always love Louise Penny’s settings and descriptions and this one was particularly wonderful as it was set in Quebec city. Penny’s research into Samuel de Champlain’s burial place was a joy to read.

On the Proper Use of Stars by Dominque Fortier, translated by Sheila Fischman
A very different viewpoint of the quest to discover the Northwest passage told by Sir John Franklin’s wife.

 Heartstone by C.J. Sansom.
Number 5 of an intriguing, well-written historical series set during Henry VIII’s reign and featuring lawyer, Matthew Shardlake.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. A charming and thoughtful first novel.

Captive Queen by Alison Weir.

Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life by Brian Brett.
After hearing Brian at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the written arts, I just had to read his book about his family homestead on Salt Spring Island in B.C. A fascinating, witty look at farming on an independent small mixed farm.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  The best children’s book I’ve read for a long time!

The Quickening by Michelle Hoover. A beautifully written debut historical novel set in the early 1900’s in the Midwest plains. Hoover’s characterization, setting and descriptive prose is very strong.

Sarah Meilleur's Favourite Reads of 2010:

April & Oliver by Tess Callahan
A haunting tale about childhood, innocence, and hope that I couldn’t stop thinking about after I put the book down.

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber
Great to read out loud, to kids or spouses. Quirky and funny with a quest and fairy tale elements.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
A family saga of love, loss, deception, and secrets.

The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle
I’ve recommended this to many men in my life, who have all enjoyed this tale of food, France, good wine, and a grand theft.

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault
If you love words, their meanings, and mysteries, this is the book for you.

The Factory Voice by Jeanette Lynes
Set in WWII at a northern Ontario airplane factory this is written in alternating perspectives of four very different women, whose voices ring true.

The Spice Necklace by Ann Vanderhoof
I read this while on vacation in the Caribbean, and it was the perfect read for the place, resonant of the culture, and more importantly the food.

Vanishing and other Stories by Deborah Willis
A fantastic collection of short stories about family and relationships, written from widely varying perspectives whose individual voices are remarkably authentic.

A History of Forgetting by Caroline Adderson
A novel of loss, and human nature, and I can’t wait to read her next book, The Sky is Falling.

Solitaria by Genni Gunn
A body is found and a family’s history unravels before us, through the confessions an aunt makes to her nephew.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Favourite Reads of 2010: Ottawa Public Library. . .

Today's list comes from Marcia Aronson, Manager of Diversity and Accesibility Services at Ottawa Public Library. She also puts together great lists of book club picks every year and is an avid reader. Here are her favourite reads of 2010:

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.  Delightful satire.
Great House by Nicole Krauss. Well-written convergence of four stories of loss, memory & loss.
Solar by Ian McEwan. Fabulous comic novel, well written satire.
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hoffman. Emotionally difficult novel to read but a must for anyone who wants to understand the life & choices of the common man under a wartime regime.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.  Intimate view of ex-pat journalists.
The Man From Saigon by Marti Leimbach. Viet Nam War from the perspective of a female journalist.
What Is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman. Novel of love, strong emotions and forgiveness set in Nova Scotia.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. Beautifully written historical romance.
Room by Emma Donoghue. Totally consuming.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant.  Magical adventure set in Siberia.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Favourite Reads of 2010: Woodstock Public Library. . .

This year, the Dewey Divas presented at Woodstock Public Libary for the first time and got a marvellously warm reception from all the great librairans there.  Today's list of favourite reads of the year comes from Deputy Chief librarian Susan Start:

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway – this novel will change the way you view your world. If you were moved by Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road, you will not want to miss this riveting, and shorter, book on the same theme, but set in the modern era.

My Life In France by Julia Child – a memoir that will appeal to you not only if you loved Julie and Julia. A wonderful, warm and insightful view of Paris and the French countryside in that charismatic post-WWII era.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – so well written, such clean and clear prose, with a truly engaging, though deceptively ordinary heroine.

The New Traditional: Reinvent, Balance, Define Your Home by Darryl Carter – my favorite decorating book of this year; truly lovely, both its photographs and the writing, if a calm oasis is your goal.

A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke – I defy you to read this animal story without sinking into a puddle of tears.

The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway – it’s twenty years old, but a wonderful engaging memoir of an Australian childhood and why this respected Can/American academic had to leave it.

The Architect of Desire by Susannah Lessard – an amazing read about the ‘architecture’ of families, told by the granddaughter of the celebrated and notorious American Beaux-Art architect, Stanford White.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – such a treat; laugh-out-loud in that way that only a Brit can convey.
What The Psychic Told The Pilgrim by Jane Christmas – better than Eat, Pray, Love; a 50-year-old Canadian woman takes on Spain’s Camino.

March by Geraldine Brooks – if you harbor a secret ‘Little Women’ sentimentality, here is a brilliant retelling of the story through Mr. March’s eyes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Favourite Reads of 2010: Greater Victoria Public Library's Youth Advisory Council's Picks. . .

Today we have a treat - a list of books chosen entirely by teens, members of the Greater Victoria Public Library's Youth Advisory Council.  Many thanks to librarian Kirsten Andersen for asking the group and sending the list along. Here's what this bunch of teen readers chose as their favourites of the year ( I love that there's a classic included):

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
By Royal Command by Charlie Higson
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Host
by Stephenie Meyer
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

NYRB Challenge #47 & 48: A Lost Love and No Love Lost. . .

I first discovered the marvellous writing of  Stefan Zweig through the NYRB editions of Chess Story and the strange and haunting novel The Post-Office Girl which was a Dewey Diva pick (I reviewed it here.)  So when NYRB's new edition of Journey Into the Past, translated by Anthea Bell, landed on my desk last month, it was a no brainer for this challenge.  The fact that most of this novella takes place on a train, was just a bonus.

Ludwig has returned to Germany after nine years and is travelling with his former employer's wife - a woman he fell in love with all those years ago. The feeling was mutual, but Ludwig was sent to work in Mexico for two years and stuck in North America when the First World War broke out. Now married with children, he's returned for a brief visit, only to find that his love is as strong as ever but the obstacles that separate the two are just as problematic, if different. Zweig has a subtle way of juxtaposing this brief, unconsummated love against the huge historical backdrop of the two world wars (though the second hasn't yet started, there are clear intimations of what is to come). The intensity of emotion between the two lovers is both everything and nothing, insignificant against the tide of political events, and thwarted even by the mundane. They can't even talk in their train compartment because of the entry of noisy companions.  This is a lovely novella of longing, lust and looking back.

The editors at NYRB are clearly attracted to novels featuring strong, sometimes disagreeable, but always original and utterly unforgettable narrative voices. I think of Rachel in Stephen Benatar's Wish Her Safe at Home or Cassandra in Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding.  I can now add nasty Harriet in Iris Owen's After Claude.  And the cover is just perfect! This 1973 novel opens brilliantly with, "I left Claude, the French rat." And goes on for several pages describing the couple's fight over an art movie depicting the death of Christ. Here's just a sampling of Owens' caustically funny style:
     Claude, his arms tightly wrapped around his chest, his crossed legs encased in tight white jeans, said, "I don't want to discuss the movie."
     "I couldn't agree more. To hell with the rotten movie. Admit it was torture, so we can talk about us."
     Claude sighed.
     "Stop suffering so much," I cried. "It's getting all over the taxi."
     A tiny, stubborn, human part of me needed to hear that Claude hated the movie, because, believe me, it's no holiday for a woman of my refined tastes to discover she's living with a fool."
This is no Woody Allen relationship tale though - not even in his darker Ingmar Bergman phase.  Harriet may be outspoken and brash, but she's also a lazy, mean and manipulative parasite, not only to Claude, but to Rhoda, a former friend who let her crash in her apartment.  Once in, people find it very difficult to extract Harriet from their lives, but since she's the one telling her story, it never of course is her fault. Harriet makes you repeatedly wince and that's the pure delight of reading this novel. The second half falters a bit as Harriet, now ensconced in a Chelsea hotel, wanders into a neighbouring room where she is oddly fascinated by the group of strange, drugged partiers she encounters. We see a more vulnerable, quieter side of her, but it's the spirited, abrasive and toxic Harriet that readers will remember.  There's a good piece on the book and Iris Owens' life at Bookforum.  Read it here.

Mario Vargas Llosa's Nobel Speech. . .

You can now read the 2010 Nobel lecture by Mario Vargas Llosa, entitled In Praise of Reading and Fiction here. Here's a snippet:

From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation. Nothing has sown so much disquiet, so disturbed our imagination and our desires as the life of lies we add, thanks to literature, to the one we have, so we can be protagonists in the great adventures, the great passions real life will never give us.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Favourite Reads of 2010: Ron Stadnik's Picks. . .

Today's list of favourite reads comes from Ron Stadnik, the Print Manager for Library Bound. He's one of the most eclectic and eager readers I know, and I can always count on him to deliver a list with plenty of adrenaline. Here are his top picks of the year:

Since straight up “best of” lists of top fiction & non-fiction books can eventually be a dull overload, this year I’ve created my own fringe categories. They are:

Best Books of Men Behaving Badly (Fiction)

Solar by Ian McEwan
Hysterically funny misadventures of a middle-aged prize winning philandering physicist whose best days are behind him, this is also an effective satire on academia and the politics of climate change.

All That Follows by Jim Crace
A narcissistic British jazzman struggles with past and present, private and public. While it reminded me of Solar in many respects, this is a quieter book, more subtle and nuanced.

Swap by John McFetridge
An ex-army Detroit criminal comes to Toronto to make a guns for drugs deal with a biker gang. McFetridge has garnered critical praise for dialogue worthy of Elmore Leonard but what impressed me even more were the observations he’s able to make about U.S. and Canadian culture. His knowledge of bike gangs rivals that of the best non-fiction. Released in the U.S. as “Let it Ride,” to the general confusion of Canadian libraries and their customers.

When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle
Another outstanding Boyle tale of obsession, hubris, and the sheer ignominious folly of man. Conflict rages between an environmentalist and a biologist in Santa Barbara and on The Channel Islands over the fate of invasive species.

The Swap by Antony Moore
A very funny book that manages to be a mystery, thriller and dark comedy verging on horror at times, this is another tale of a middle age British loser having a terrible time of it, thanks entirely to their own extremely selfish decisions, past and present. A comic shop owner returns home for a 20th anniversary school reunion and becomes haplessly involved in revenge and murder. Probably the most surprising book I read all year, it’s beyond any simple attempt at categorization.

Best Books of Men Behaving Badly, Non-Fiction

Siberian Education: Family, Honour, and Tattoos: an Extraordinary Underworld Life by Nicolai Lin, translated by Jonathan Hunt
This look at the lives of the Urkas, a close knit criminal community relocated from Siberia, absolutely transcends the true crime genre in its poetic beauty and moral certainty.

Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields by Charles Bowden
Charles Bowden cries with the intensity and poetry of a Biblical prophet who can’t turn off the visions that overwhelm him, of life on the ground in Ciudad Juarez.

War by Sebastian Junger
Brilliant old school war reporting from the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.

Best “End of” Books

The Wayfinders by Wade Davis
The 2009 Massey Lecture explores the end of cultural diversity.

Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges
The end of literacy, from the Pulitzer Prize winner.

Eaarth by Bill McKibben
The end of everything! (At least, earth as we’ve known it.)

(Maylin's note:  After Ron handed in his list, I got an e-mail from him raving about The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean  by Susan Casey so with his permission, I'm adding it here, mostly because I chuckled over the ahem . . . wave of his enthusiasm:
"Holy clacking Underwoods, I absolutely loved this book! One of those rare non fiction reads you learn from while being entertained as though it was a thriller. Make a great beach read... well, unless a rogue wave came in and sucked you out to sea I guess. LOVED IT!")

Heinrich Böll Revival. . .

Ever since reading Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone, I've been a bit obsessed with reading German literature of the twentieth century.  And Melville House, responsible for bringing Fallada back into print and into English translation, has now turned its attention to Heinrich Böll.  Starting this month, they will be reissuing several of Böll's works - The Clown, and The Safety Net, translated by Leila Vennewitz, and Billiards at Half-Past Nine, translated by Patrick Bowles.   Three more titles - The Train Was on Time, Group Portrait With Lady and Irish Journal, all translated by Leila Vennewitz - will follow in April.

There is an amazing, and I mean AMAZING interview with the indefatigable Dennis Johnson, editor and publisher of Melville House, conducted by Jessa Crispin, who contributes an afterword to Billiards at Half Past Nine. They talk about the literature of aftermath, Melville's new imprint Neversink Library, devoted to bringing back lost classics (I can't tell you how excited I am by this - they have some incredible books lined up!) protests in Ireland and why publishing isn't for wussies.  Read it here. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Favourite Reads of 2010: Maylin's Picks. . .

Over the next few days we'll be posting various (and varied) lists of great reading suggestions from librarians and library wholesalers. Today we'll start with my list, which like any book rep's, will be a bit out of sync.  Some terrific books that were published in 2010 I actually read in manuscript or galley form back in 2009, just as I've been lucky enough to dip into some goodies coming our way next year.  So those won't be included in this list.  I'm also not including any books read for my NYRB Challenge as I'll post my top 10 of those when I finish (soon, soon, I hope).  One of the highlights this year was definitely discovering the work of Javier Marais - I ended up reading five of his books this year, including the fantastic Your Face Tomorrow trilogy.  Here then, in alphabetical author order are my top ten favourite reads of 2010:

 Room by Emma Donoghue.  Rosalyn gave me an early galley of this and I read it in two sittings, completely captivated by the story and the voice of young Jack.

The American Girl by Monika Fagerholm, translated by Katarina Tucker.  An endlessly fascinating mystery as two young girls try to solve a murder in a small town but get sucked into a web of adult lies and game playing.

To The End of the Land by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen.  A sweeping, romantic, lustful, tragic and unforgettable story about war and its everlasting wounds.

Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War by David Haycock.  A wonderful study of painters Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, Richard Nevinson and Stanley Spencer and how the First World War impacted on their lives and work.

Fame by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Janeway.  The perfect hilarious antidote if you are tired of being bombarded by narcissistic social media.

Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy by Javier Marias, translated by Margaret Jull Costa. Part spy story, part love obsession, this was a fully engrossing, all absorbing read. I loved his style and circular narratives and this is definitely a work that can be read over and over again.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.  Glorious storytelling by one of my favourite writers. Still think it should have won the Booker.

 The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O'Hagan. Dogs should narrate more novels when they are this astute, witty and clever. The Russian bedbugs also had me in stitches.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.  A warm and very funny look at the lives of several oddball characters working on an English newspaper in Rome.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  I don't read as much children's literature as I should, given that it's such a rich field, but I just loved the characters and inventiveness of this Newbery Award winner.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Books Make Great Gifts...

The holidays are upon us and you can no longer be in denial. Here is a totally cute video on why Books Make Great Gifts. This fun piece features all kinds of folks from Elmo to Maya Angelou to Jon Stewart talking about why books make great gifts. Enjoy!