Friday, December 30, 2011


Several centuries ago, books were precious.   Not so much anymore, when you can sift through the bargain bin and come up with enough tomes to bury a moderately-sized elephant (also you will learn to knit, and how to talk to God, and that you are crap at sudoku.)  With an overwhelming array of choices, what's a modern lady reader to do?

Give thanks she was not born during the storied precious-books time, for one (too much birthing and prayerfulness; not enough reading).  And: harangue her friends and acquaintances into providing book recommendations.   Say, the 5 most engrossing books you read in 2011.

I'll kick off.  In no particular order, mind you.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (Tom Franklin).  A page-turning, yet invidiously slow-moving, mystery(-ish) novel set in the deep South.  Decades ago, lonely Larry Ott went on a date with a girl who never came home.  Now, another girl in his tiny Mississippi town has gone missing.  Suspense!  Chickens!  Kudzu!  Writing that, for a mystery(-ish) novel, is a whole lot better than it needs to be.

The Women (TC Boyle).  Frank Lloyd Wright's tangled tale of a life, read backwards.  Women; architecture; fire; more of the Great-Man-&-his-acolytes thing Boyle explored so satisfyingly in his Kinsey bionovel The Inner Circle (which, to be honest, was the better & more cohesive of the two books, but I read it in 2010 so no dice!)  Boyle is always engrossing, and if his accretion of detail doesn't quite hang together, it makes for smoky, engulfing read.

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norman Juster).  I read this as a child and loathed it, I think primarily for its coyness and the fact that its narrative was employed in the service of its text, rather than the other way around.  It felt cheap.  Decades later I find it antic, brief, and fun- which just goes to prove, I suppose, the power of a re-read.

The Brutal Telling (Louise Penny).  I read a lot of genre fiction this year, as I tend to do when things in my non-reading life are moving and shaking.  Penny's novels, like the best mysteries, ask more questions than simply: whodunnit?  They're all good reads, and I downed them all in 2011 (jag, anyone?), but this one, in particular, speaks to the power of words.

Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke).  People had been recommending this sucker to me for years.  YEARS!  I ignored them.  Which was stupid.  The book was awesome.  Mea Culpa.  That is all.

1 comment:

Lauren Good said...

I recommend "Those Who Save Us" by Jenna Blum (I think) -- too lazy to look it up right now. :-) It's 2 stories in one: how a civilian woman survived in WWII Germany and how her grown daughter looks back on her fractured memories. Heartrending and fascinating. Find more books I've read at!