2009 was such a wonderful year for books. Every once in a while we would look at each other and say, “Gee, it’s got to end soon right? They just can’t keep coming?!” But they did and frankly we are very very spoiled.
Here is a list of some of our favorites from the year. They are not in order of preference because for a lot of us that would be like naming our favorite child.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
It is August 1974 and Philippe Petite is walking between the Twin Towers and setting off a chain reaction in the lives of seemingly unconnected New Yorkers. This was the National Book Award winner for fiction.
The Wentworths by Katie Arnoldi
California is home for our favorite dysfunctional family of the year. This one had us shaking our heads in awe of their total lack of normality and the wonderful writing of Arnoldi.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghase
Everyone in Readers Advisory just loved this novel that was 20 years in the making. The world of Marion and Shiva, twins who are raised in a hospital in Ethiopia will take over your life. Be prepared to surrender to the fact that you will not get anything done until the last page is read.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This was the Booker Prize winner of the year and while not the easiest of reads, it brings alive the world and mind of Oliver Cromwell.
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Whenever anyone asked us for a book that would make them happy this is what we handed them. And no one ever came back to us wondering what we were thinking. Tropper presents a rollicking tale of love and redemption with humanity and not a small amount of humor.
The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee
This wonderful debut examines the lives of ex-pats in Hong Kong both before the beginning of World War II and after.
East of the Sun by Julia Gregson
This was one of our favorite pure escape reads. Three young English women in the 1920s go to India to seek their fortunes. Rumor has it the BBC is making a 6 part adaptation. We can’t wait.
The Bolter by Frances Osborne
Lady Idina Sackville was far from your typical Edwardian stereotype. Five times divorced, with a dog named Satan at her side she rocked convention and propriety to its core.
This had to be the book of the year. Whoever would have thought that a book about Alabama housewives and their domestic help could strike such a chord?
We wish you all a very Happy New Year!
It is true.....it wasn't on purpose, of course, but, yes, I snubbed John Irving (more than once). It was at the National Book Festival In Washington D.C. in September. I knew he looked familiar. I'd already been chatting with Lee Child(!), David Baldacci(!), Nicholas Sparks(!), and Jeannette Walls(!), and though I had nodded in Irving's general direction earlier in the day when he said hello, and made small talk with him at the buffet table, I basically ignored him. The moment of realization on the train ride home (Ahhhhhhhhh!) and the regret that followed will haunt me the rest of my days. There. Now I have confessed. Do I feel better? No.
What I cannot ignore (even if I tried) is Irving's newest novel, Last Night in Twisted River. It is said to be as disturbing as his breakthrough bestseller The World According to Garp, one of the most memorable books I've ever read. Last Night in Twisted River is next on my reading list. I love the voice of this incredible storyteller...unfortunately, I couldn't place the face.
Here's a treat - watch and listen:
Don't miss the next of my true confessions, I Fell in Front of Phil Caputo. (Egad.)
Augusten Burroughs is one of my favorite writers (and one of my favorite narrators). Readers will be most familiar with his bestselling memoirs, Running with Scissors and Dry. Both are hilarious and both are also sometimes (um) horrifyingly so. Sellevision is Burroughs' only published work of fiction. The book is about the backstage antics at Sellevision, a fictional top-retail shopping network and though there had been talk for a while about this becoming a feature film, it was just announced yesterday that it's going to be adapted into a television series for NBC. The show is being talked about as an "hour-long comedy" or "dramedy" with Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," Heroes") writing and Bryan Singer ("X-Men," Valkyrie") to direct. For us, that green light means that we must sit back and wait for what will hopefully be some must-see tv. In the meantime, we can look forward to the October 27th release of Augusten Burroughs's upcoming You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas. Oh. Dear.
How about heading out to sea this September?
I recently started listening to Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey & Stephen Maturin series during my commute. If you haven't read these books and you're looking for a impecibly researched adventure on the high seas, then this series is for you. If you have read them and you're pining for the open sea, intrigue, and the roar of broadsides, consider listening to them.
The first two, Master and Commander and Post Captian are read by one of my favorite narrators, John Lee, who also narrated Pillars of the Earth and World Without End--two more (and very different) excellent historical narratives.
Get hooked on this 21-book series and it may just last you through the winter!
Ordinarily, sports films are really hard to get right: walking in the door, the audience knows what's going to happen. Making everything look authentic and telling the story in a fresh way is a huge challenge and often results in a pale imitation of the original events. These two films, however, are the exception that proves the rule. Both go to painstaking lengths to reproduce the look and feel of the eras, and both stories transcend sports.
We Are Marshall recalls the tragic plane crash that decimated the school's 1970 football team, and the slow, painful recovery of a university, team, and town. The Express brings Syracuse running back Ernie Davis to the big screen as his too-brief career played out against the backdrop of the early Civil Rights struggles. As we get ready for tailgating, cheers and chants, the snap of the snare drum, team mascots, and cool autumn afternoons at the stadium, these two films are the perfect way to start to the season!
The days are getting shorter, the nights a little longer and fall is definitely around the corner and no doubt this month will herald the return of Dan Brown to the number one position on the New York Times Best Sellers list with his new offering The Lost Symbol but what else do we have to look forward to?
Well as it turns out, plenty! There are some old friends and totally new authors appearing on the scene. We think that this Fall has a little something for everyone.
For those of you that like a little romance to your science fiction Diane Gabaldon revisits the story of eighteenth century Jamie Fraser and his time travelling wife Claire Randall in An Echo in the Bone. This is the seventh offering in this enormously popular series.
Speaking of time traveling, Audrey Niffenegger , the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife has a new one coming entitled Her Fearful Symmetry. We got an advance copy and have been passing it around amongst ourselves. We can’t wait to share with you this chilling ghost story about a set of twins, an inherited apartment and the cemetery next door. It is a story we cannot stop thinking about.
Another title that we have been passing around is the new Margaret Atwood The Year of the Flood. Atwood delves deeper into the Gods Gardeners, a religion that was first mentioned in her novel Oryx and Crake. When a disaster occurs on Earth destroying most human life those left are left to piece together anything that will help them survive. Those who have read this really enjoyed the thought provoking premise that Atwood always brings to the table.
Pulitzer nominee E.L. Doctorow once again delves into the American landscape and comes up with a wonderful story. Homer and Langley is based on two of New York City’s most infamous residents, the Collyer Brothers. Doctorow uses the voice of Homer the blind brother to tell the strange and bizarre story of two of the most notorious hoarders in history. If nothing else, after reading this you will feel the need to finally tackle that basement or garage. Think of this as public service fiction!
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tilman is the latest from Jon Krakauer and one we have been waiting a long time for! Tilman’s story is familiar to all of us by now. He walked away from millions playing pro football and lost his life to a cause that he believed deeply in: the defeat of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But sadly this quest ended up not to be what he envisioned and it ended badly.
See you in September!
On Monday, Whilte House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton announced the President's reading list for his summer vacation.
The Way Home by George Pelecanos
Hot, Flat and Crowded by Tom Friedman
Lush Life by Richard Price
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
John Adams by David McCullough
That is perfectly stunning in its awfulness. It is so awful you cannot abandon the book. Much as you would like to, the angry reader in you continues on. Why? It’s simple really. It is because you are wishing death on the characters. After all, they have eaten away a portion of your life with their whining so doesn’t death seem like a perfectly reasonable trade off?
Beach Trip by Cathy Holton is the newest addition to novels of this type. It centers around four self absorbed fortyish women who re-unite at the beach house of oneof them to relive and revive their college friendships. They are all successful in their own rights and yet, the need to constantly complain is ever present. One of the main characters is so vague and child like that you want to slap her. What sort of woman gets lost while she is shopping? In her own hometown? And no, there is no Alzheimer’s going on here. But there is a lot of self medication.
By the end of this book you think that you are going to get what you want; character revenge, but it won’t even let you have that satisfaction.
Want something good to read that won’t make you as angry as this made me? Ask us at the Desk! We are always ready with a suggestion. We make the mistakes so you don’t have to.
As Gershwin so famously stated, “summertime and the living is easy!” So shouldn’t picking your beach/poolside reads also be? Here is what Readers' Advisory is looking forward to delving into during these last days of summer. It is a lot like us, eclectic with some old friends making an appearance and some new things to look forward to!
As Gershwin so famously stated, “summertime and the living is easy!” So shouldn’t picking your beach/poolside reads also be? Here is what Reader’s Advisory is looking forward to delving into during these last days of summer. It is a lot like us, eclectic with some old friends making an appearance and some new things to look forward to!