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Best Books 2016

So in 2016 I read a couple hundred books (not including books I didn’t finish, books I reread, literary journals, newspapers, articles, magazines, etc). As usual, it was not nearly enough. Now, I’ve narrowed it down to the twenty books that most made me go “WHOA.” As usual, these were books read in 2016 (so not necessarily only ones published in 2016) and as usual the order is meaningless.

Some things I noted about my overall reading: 52% were written by men and 48% by women. And 39% were authors from the US, while the other 61% were authors from outside the US. I don’t usually break my reading down into statistics, but I thought it would be interesting to see these two in particular.

In a few places, I’ve reviewed or written about the book elsewhere and I’ve included those links.

 

  • The Ballad of Black Tom by: Victor LaValle. I love LaValle. His writing is beautiful and his pacing is stunning. This novella is no different. I reviewed it at Nerds of a Feather and I wrote a column on it at Ploughshares.
  • The Regional Office is Under Attack! by: Manuel Gonzalez. Fun and dizzingly pced and also achingly smart and well written. I reviewed it here!

3-4.) System of Ghosts by: Lindsay Tigue and Blood Song by: Michael Schmeltzer. These were the two best poetry collections I read last year. Each is exquisitely written and the language feels so precise and yet so natural. I wrote about both of these poets at Ploughshares: here and here!

  • Happiness, Like Water by: Chinelo Okperanta. Whoa. That’s what I said after reading the first story in this collection. Okperanta’s writing is so tender and so lyrical.
  • What is Not Yours is Not Yours by: Helen Oyeyemi. Oyeyemi makes me seethe with jealousy, she’s so damn good. These strange stories are wondrous and gorgeous and filled with sharp edges. I reviewed it here!
  • The Underground Railroad by: Colson Whitehead. If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you might know that Whitehead is my favorite author and that I’ve read his other novels over and over and over. This one is just as beautiful and powerful and heartbreaking as the rest. YES AND IT WON THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AS WAS JUST AND GOOD AND NOW I CAN FINALLY BE QUIET ABOUT HIM NEEDING TO WIN. I reviewed it here!
  • The View from the Cheap Seats by: Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s essays are as generous as one would imagine they might be and his storytelling makes everything he’s passionate about practically leap off the page. I reviewed it here.
    • Damned if I Do by: Percival Everett and Big Picture by: Percival Everett. One of my goals this year was to read every Everett that I hadn’t yet read. I did and I was not disappointed. WHY IS HE SO FRAKKING GOOD?
  • Where We Go When All We Were is Gone by: Sequoia Nagamatsu. I loved these stories. Each one is a gem. Lovely writing and dazzlingly strange plots.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by: Anthony Marra. Another “whoa” after each section. It’s also an interlinked story collection, so come on, it basically showed up at my door with chocolate and a coffee.
  • The Hidden Keys by: Andre Alexis. How do I love Alexis? Let me count the ways: HE IS PERFECT AND I DON’T NEED TO COUNT THE WAYS. This novel is funny, and weird, and wonderfully written, and there were some passages that were so good I thought I might have forgotten how to breathe while reading them. I reviewed it here.
  • Under the Harrow by: Flynn Berry. Smart and well written and talking about women and violence in ways both intelligent and emotionally true.
  • The Calling by: Inger Ash Wolfe. I can’t resist a good mystery. This was a really, really good mystery with sharp, evocative writing, an excellent protagonist, and, FYI, it was made into an actually well done movie (with Topher Grace in it!).
  • The Private Lives of Trees by: Alejandro Zambra. I’ll basically read anything Zambra writes. His writing makes me feel like I’m in a fugue state after I’m done with it. He’s basically just doing magic and putting it on the page somehow.
  • Known and Strange Things by: Teju Cole. What I love about Cole’s writing is that it always surprises me. He thinks about things in a way that makes me rethink them as well. Particularly, I loved his essays on photography.
  • Why Did You Lie? by: Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Even when it’s not top-line Yrsa, she still manages to write a mystery that keeps one so engrossed that “oh look, its one am, and the books done and didn’t I just started reading at ten??”
  • Scholarship in the Digital Age by: Christine L. Borgman. This book is on here for two reasons: one it made me think about scholarship and the collecting of knowledge in new ways (which on its own is a pretty cool thing) and two I think it solved a problem for a novel I’ve been trying to write for over ten years. So I’m now like indebted to this book forever.
  • End of Watch by: Stephen King. I debated including this one. It was solid but it took this series in a direction that I thought was unnecessary. But, ultimately, I think it did right by its protagonists to complete the trilogy and they were damn fine characters.

 

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Best Books of 2015

Well, hello, Dear Readers,

It is time now for my list of my favorite books that I read in 2015. I read a good amount of books (*by good, I may mean an extremely large number of books). Some were published in 2015 and some were not. The only books I deemed ineligible were ones which I reread in 2015 but had read for the first time in a previous year. I also decided to only select one book per author in cases where I read multiple books by the same author over the course of the year.

The numerical order is (as always) irrelevant. I just really enjoy putting numbers in front of things.

1.) Lock In by: John Scalzi. This book not only does something brilliant with narrative voice and a reader’s perceptions, but also is a clever and fun mystery that also has an extremely brilliant sci-fi premise.

2.) Trigger Warning by: Neil Gaiman. This isn’t my favorite overall Gaiman story collection, but there are some stunning gems in here and, honestly, even just “good” Gaiman is still pretty awesome.

3.) Voices in the Night by: Steven Millhauser. Now, yes, I love Millhauser. I love Millhauser times one million. But, I REALLY loved this collection. Millhauser might be getting even better as a writer, which is somewhat mind blowing that that is even possible.

4.) Ways of Going Home by: Alejandro Zambra. This is a slim book. Yet, it seems like it was overflowing with pages (in a good way). Nine months after reading it, I’m still thinking about how beautiful this book was.

5.) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of the Afterlife by: Deborah Blum. Yes, this subject matter is to me what catnip is to a cat. However, Blum’s writing makes this also an excellent and compelling read for anyone.

6.)  The Skeleton Road by: Val McDermid. I’d never read McDermid before and went in expecting a good, but maybe light mystery. What I got was an extremely well-written novel about the weight of guilt and the lasting effects of violence.

7.) Ghosts: A Natural History by: Roger Clarke. Enjoyable and expansive. Just what I was looking for.

8.) Unbecoming by: Rebecca Scherm. I have some qualms with the end of this novel, but up to that point this was a brilliant and unsettling character study.

9.) Baba Yaga by: Toby Barlow. This book is perfect. I need say no more.

10.) Finders Keepers and Bazaar of Bad Dreams by: Stephen King. Neither of these Kings were perfect, or even top-King, but each had some parts that were top-King and, dammit, I love Stephen King. So, I’m including both, because together the excellent parts added up to some quality reading.

11.) There’s Something I Want You to Do by: Charles Baxter. Man. Man. This writing was exquisite. One of my favorite collections I’ve read in a long time.

12.) Wallflowers by: Eliza Robertson. If you haven’t read a story by Robertson, I suggest you do so RIGHT NOW. If she’s not on best young writers lists soon, soon, soon, then I will be appalled.

13.) Three Moments of an Explosion by: China Mieville. Let me count the ways I love Mieville. Or, maybe, I shouldn’t because there are thousands. He is all that is perfect.

14.) Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by: Marina Warner. It is short, but it’s also dense. And, as always with Warner, the writing and scholarship are excellent.

15.) Windows on the World: 50 Writers, 50 Views by: Matteo Pericoli. Just lovely little snapshots into writers.

16.) Wonders of the Invisible World by: Christopher Barzak. Barzak just keeps on impressing me. His writing is lovely and filled with heart in  a way that many writers can’t accomplish without feeling treacly.

17.) Slade House by: David Mitchell. I’ve had Mitchell issues before. But I loved this one: creepy, evocative, and a read in one sitting book.

18.) Fifteen Dogs by: Andre Alexis. Alexis writes so beautifully that I often feel intensely jealous. And then I just feel happy that I get to read his work. Warning: I’m not someone who cries during reading (except for rare moments. JK Rowling, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID), but I had to put this book down several times because I was actually shaking from how heartbreaking some of it is.

19.) Half an Inch of Water by: Percival Everett. Everett’s writing always shines and in these short stories that shine comes through even more. Lovely.

20.) The Buried Giant by: Kazuo Ishiguro. I debated including this title. It was wonderfully written (which shouldn’t be a surprise with Ishiguro at the helm) but it was by no means my favorite of his works. It’s flawed, in many ways, and yet, months later I continue to go back to some of the ideas and images.

 

And here’s to a hopefully equally brilliant 2016 in books!

 

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Best Books of 2014

Well, hello, Dear Readers, (whoa, “dear” is “read” spelled backwards! A coincidence?? I think not!). I just remembered that I haven’t yet put up my best books of 2014 list yet! I read a “some” (*laugh of pure insanity*) books in 2014 and have come up with a list of my 15 favorites. Some were published in 2014 and some were not. The only books I deemed ineligible were ones which I reread in 2014 but had read for the first time in a previous year. I also decided to only select one book per author in cases where I read multiple books by the same author over the course of the year.

The numerical order is (as always) irrelevant. I just really enjoy putting numbers in front of things.

1.) Before and Afterlives by: Christopher Barzak. This collection of short stories didn’t have a single flawed one in the bunch. Each story was beautifully written—Barzak’s use of language always stuns me—and the stories were sometimes funny, often heartbreaking, and always perfect.

2.) The Gamal by: Ciaran Collins. The voice of this novel stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Collins does a brilliant job with a truly memorable character.

3.) Visitation Street by: Ivy Pochoda. Tense and evocative. The neighborhood of this mystery came so fully to life in Pochoda’s writing that the reader truly feels as if they are involved in the story.

4.) All the Light We Cannot See by: Anthony Doerr. I had mixed feelings after reading this book (preferring other Doerr works), but the more I thought about it the more I was impressed with Doerr’s precision of language and the complex webs of the novel.

5.) Bird Box by: Josh Malerman. One of the most original horror concepts I’ve read in years. The fact that Malerman also writes with great skill and makes the reader care deeply about his characters makes this a pretty fantastic debut novel.

6.) Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by: Michael Krondl. Not only is this books filled with delicious and delightful facts about dessert (which is basically I’d have asked for), but his writing is also compelling and the descriptions are lovely.

7.) Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by: Wendy Lesser.  I feel like the title says it all. I love books about reading and Lesser writes wonderfully. Enough said.

8.) Siege 13 by: Tamas Dobozy. Each story in this collection feels like it’s been chiseled to its absolute purest, most perfect state. What a stunning group!

9.) Elizabeth is Missing by: Emma Healey. Save for an epilogue that I felt took away slightly from the beauty of the ending, this was a skillfully written book—sorrowful in just the right ways, an elegy for the still living.

10.) Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by: Diana Wynne Jones. Because DWJ forever.

11.) Station Eleven by: Emily St. John Mandel. Mandel is fast becoming a favorite author and this book further pushed me into fangirl mode. Mandel does dazzling things with the apocalypse—making it thoroughly original.

12.) The Cold Song by: Linn Ullmann. Gorgeous prose and a tightly wound story makes this a striking read.

13.) At Night, We Walk in Circles by: Daniel Alarcon. Lovely writing and a strangely layered story.

14.) Pastoral by: Andre Alexis. Alexis tackles faith and the natural world, writing about both with a tender humor and precisely lovely prose.

15.) The Silkworm by: Robert Galbraith and Mr Mercedes by: Stephen King. Yes, a bit of a cheat on my part. Yet, I feel these two connected in my head. In both cases, they are writers not necessarily known for the genre tackling more traditional detective novels. And, in both cases, the results are thoroughly enjoyable.

 

And, already looking ahead to 2015’s list, there are new books coming out this year by some of my absolute favorite authors: Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Kazuo Ishiguro, Andre Alexis, Daniel O’ Malley, and more. EXCITEMENT!

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Books of 2013 (and bonus news)

Lalalalalala…Oh hello there, dear Reader. It has been a while since Old Pints has updated. And so for a hit of fabulous, here is my best books list of 2013. I read a “few” (*giggles insanely*) books in 2013 and have come up with a list of my 20 favorites. Some were published in 2013 and some were not. The only books I deemed ineligible were ones which I reread in 2013 but had read for the first time in a previous year. I also decided to only select one book per author in cases where I read multiple books by the same author over the course of the year.

The numerical order is irrelevant. I just like numbering things.

1.)    I Remember You by: Yrsa Sigurdardottir. I love Sigurdardottir’s mysteries, so I was ecstatic with joy to find she had a ghost novel out there. It’s creepy and wonderful!

2.)    Flora and Ulysses by: Kate DiCamillo. A squirrel who wants “gianter doughnuts” since the universe is expanding. That’s all I need to say about that.

3.)    The Pinhoe Egg by: Diana Wynne Jones. DWJ makes all the lists forever and anon.

4.)    The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt. Was there anyway this wouldn’t make the list? Tartt is my idol. This book was so filled with depth and brilliant lines that you want to savor each word, but also so intense and intriguing that you want to read it all in one sitting. Still, The Little Friend remains my Tartt favorite and one of the best novels of all time. Just saying.

5.)    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by: Neil Gaiman. A short well-told tale with just the right amount of longing and sadness at its heart.

6.)    We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by: Karen Joy Fowler. Extremely well written and heart-wrenching without ever falling into melodrama.

7.)    The End of the Point by: Elizabeth Graver. One of the best written books I’ve read in a long time. Completely absorbing and deep.

8.)    Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by: Sara Gran. This book just makes me happy. A great mystery with a completely original detective at its center.

9.)    An Everlasting Meal by: Tamar Adler. I just love to read well-written descriptions of food. What can I say?

10.)  A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters by: Julian Barnes. Barnes is just brilliant.

11.) The Little Stranger by: Sarah Waters. Reading this perfectly rendered ghost (or not?) story made me think that reading everything by Waters was something I needed to do immediately.

12.) Three Graves Full by: Jamie Mason. I loved, loved, loved this. Sharply written, tightly wrought with fully realized characters and a genuine heart beating within.

13.) The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by: Manuel Gonzales. Go out and read this, dear reader. Each piece is so different from the last that one might expect to get dizzy, except that Gonzales’ prose is so strong that each story feels exactly in the right place.

14.) Splendors and Glooms by: Laura Amy Schlitz. Lovely and well told.

15.)  Madness, Rack, and Honey by: Mary Ruefle. Ruefle’s essays are funny and interesting and engaging.

16.) Mistaken by: Neil Jordan. I’ve long been a fan of Jordan’s films but had never read his fiction until this. This is a twisting and surprising and haunting novel. I keep going back to scenes from it in my mind long after having finished reading it.

17.)  The Shadow of the Wind by: Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A one sit read. I didn’t want to be pulled from the strange and dark and often beautiful world of this story.

18.) Catastrophe by: Dino Buzzati. Technically cheating because I had read some of these stories previously but never the whole collection. Ah, Buzzati!!

19.)  Vampires in the Lemon Grove by: Karen Russell. Mostly for two of the stories in this collection which were absolute gems.

20.) One for Sorrow by: Christopher Barzak. Lovely and sad in equal amounts.

PS Dear Reader, if you’ve come this far…Here is some good news from Pints. In the past month, I’ve been lucky enough to be included in some great literary journals: 3elements Review, Abyss & Apex, Driftwood Press, The Lake, Menacing Hedge, Rose Red Review, Sleet, and Treehouse Magazine. The links to all are up on my Writings page alongside my other published work. Please consider reading these lovely journals and let me know what you think about the pieces!

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30 Day Book Challenge (super compresssed into one day)

Okay, so I’ve been seeing this 3o-day book challenge thing going around and I decided to try it out (anything to sooth a troubled mind that only wants to think about MFA programs sending out notices of acceptance but that really shouldn’t be thinking about that because oh god…oh god…oh god…ad infintum).

Looking over the list of the challenge, I thought “oh, that sounds quite fun” (we all know I’m a book nerd, don’t act so surprised). Then I thought “the one to make this better would be to do it all at once” (I say yes to instant gratification, apparently).

So, here goes:

 

The Rules…
Day 1: Favorite book

Can I possibly pick this? The answer is no. This changes all of the time. I could give you a list of what I term my “soul books:” but then you might know too much about me. So, I skip this one (see? I’m ALREADY cheating! On Number 1! I’m just cool like that.)
Day 2: Least favorite book

That I’ve ever read through? I’d have to say probably something by Jane Austen.
Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud

Apex Hides the Hurt By: Colson Whitehead, Me Talk Pretty One Day by: David Sedaris, Archer’s Goon by: Diana Wynne-Jones, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by: Douglas Adams, All Families are Psychotic by: Douglas Coupland, The Commitments by: Roddy Doyle.

Day 4: Book that makes you cry

As a defender of my stone-cold heart reputation, I scoff at this, while I’ve never cry-cried at a book, I have gotten teary-eyed at the last line of Lord of the Rings, the final battle in Harry Potter, the final scene of Of Mice and Men (but you would have to be the devil himself not to be moved by it).
Day 5: Book you wish you could live in

I don’t think I’d live in any, but I would visit Oz, Neverwhere, Unlundun, Hogwarts, and quite a few others.
Day 6: Favorite young adult book

Anything by Diana Wynne-Jones, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by: Terry Pratchett, Blitzcat by: Robert Westall, Unlundun by: China Mieville, The Graveyard Book by: Neil Gaiman.
Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite

The last lines of quite  a few. Definitely whole passages of The Beach by: Alex Garland. Lines of dialogue from Harry Potter. certain passages from Ghosts and Lightning by: Trevor Byrne, Huge portions of Ffangs the Vampire Bat, some Calvino.
Day 8: Book that scares you

Hmmm…..I’ve never been consistently scared by a novel, but the short stories of MR James, “The Specialist’s Hat” by: Kelly Link, when I was younger Alvin Schwartz scary stories.
Day 9: Book that makes you sick

Like physically? What can this mean? Sick of the world? Then Beasts of No Nation by: Uzodinma Iweala (gorgeous book and completely traumatic to read).
Day 10: Book that changed your life

Several short stories: “The Twenty-Seventh Man” by: Nathan Englander, Bullet in the Brain” by: Tobias Wolff, and others.
Day 11: Book from your favorite author

Can’t pick a favorite author. Sorries!
Day 12: Book that is most like your life

Ha. Let’s see someone try to write my life. Okay, fine, I’ll answer, it’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you

Again, hmmm….I’d say I identify with the protagonist of The Little Friend by: Donna Tartt and Polly (sort of) of Fire and Hemlock. Also, Smaug,
Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry

Yeesh, some of us have very certain plans to NEVER marry. And, seriously, this is just an odd question….I know the authors who would make excellent trophy husbands, though….
Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

The Secret Garden
Day 16: Longest book you’ve read

Actually, I don’t know page length, here. The longest book I read at the youngest age though would have to be The Stand when I was ten. I read it when I was home sick in one twelve hour span. Talk about an experience.
Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read

Again, I’m not sure, about page length. Is this just a filler question?
Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

I would never be embarrassed for liking a book! That’s like being embarrassed about the people who you are in love with!
Day 19: Book that turned you on

Um, skipping with a *shudder*
Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times

Um, ha, there are so many I’ve read greater than 20 times. I reread things with a disturbing frequency. I can say that the top contenders for this position though are: books by Diana Wynne Jones, Harry Potter series, The Beach, Of Mice and Men, Le Morte D’Arthur, various fairy tales collections…
Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood

Ffangs and Rumpelstiltskin (Paul O’Zelinsky version)
Day 22: Book you plan to read next

Finally, get around to The Hunger Games, the new Dan Chaon collection, the new Nathan Englander collection.
Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

None. Honesty when it comes to books is always my only policy.
Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene

Yeesh, I can’t pick one! Who could possibly pick just one scene???
Day 25: Favorite book you read in school

Goodness….I’m not sure.
Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book

Hoop Roots, Assassination Vacation (oh, Sarah Vowell, I love thee!), On Photography by: Susan Sontag, Jean Robert Houdin’s autobiography (though nonfiction should probably be applied loosely here)…
Day 27: Favorite fiction book

Yeah, like I’m going to pick.
Day 28: Last book you read

Mr. Fox by: Helen Oyeyemi.
Day 29: Book you’re currently reading

Rereading Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.
Day 30: Favorite coffee table book

I actually have to admit I don’t really know what a coffee table book is….Like an Art book? Then it would be the complete artwork of James C. Christensen or Donald Roller Wilson.

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Things that go through my mind on a sadly regular basis

1.)    Why when an author has huge success with their first book is there second novel so routinely badly reviewed?

Two of my favorite novels are The Autograph Man by: Zadie Smith (and, why fault Smith for so wonderfully going away from the intergenerational saganess of White Teeth—which don’t get me wrong is a lovely book, funny and beautiful, and was adapted delightfully by the BBC—to try something really quite different.) and the amazing The Little Friend by: Donna Tartt. The Little Friend is a gorgeous book. Did I identify with it because the main character was so perfectly constructed out of things I too love (any little girl obsessed with Shackleton and Houdini has to be close to my heart)? Yes, absolutely, but I also found it to be so perfectly constructed that it made me want to cry.

2.)    When will there be a really good (i.e, actually enjoyable to read and not completely full of scholarly dryness) academic book done on subterranean fantasy?

In particular I want something that covers the Subway fantastic of recent years: King Rat by: China Mieville, Neverwhere by: Neil Gaiman, the Hungarian film Kontroll (trust me I can make a very excellent argument as to why this great film fits into subterranean fantasy), etc. If there is such a book, let me know about it…Or, if there are any subterranean fantasy novels that I should check out, I am all ears (and wouldn’t that be something frightening? A person/ creature who was all ears? It could hear EVERYTHING!!)

3.)    And speaking of China Mieville (which apparently I am never not doing): why is the man so amazing?

His books are each so distinct and so well created. How can someone go from a children’s fantasy novel (UnLunDun) to a truly glorious mash-up of noir and fabulism (The City and the City) to an excellent sci-fi dissection of truth and language (Embassytown) and on and on and I haven’t even mentioned quite a few books here?

4.)    In the vein of UnLunDun, why am I so fascinated by stories of contemporary people who end up falling into fantastic worlds and why am I equally fascinated by the ways in which these types of books diverge?

There’s the person who is taking/ falls into a completely separate world in the vein of Alice in Wonderland, the Oz books, Peter Pan, UnLunDun, etc  and then there are the ones where the protagonist learns of worlds that exist within our own such as the Harry Potter series and I could argue that Stardust fits into this category versus the other. I think my fascination probably stems back to an early fascination with fairy tales that were centered on children stolen away to the land of fairy, etc.  Or, perhaps, on my over watching of Return to Oz (one of the greatest literary adaptations to film. Ever. I will fight people on this one, if I must).

5.)    And perhaps the most important question: Why am I rambling on about these things and letting them fill up my head?

This is actually the simplest to answer and in just two words: MFA applications.

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A really utterly absolutely incomplete book list

Okay, so I was asked by my dear lone reader to provide a book list of recommendations. As I tend to get a little carried away with book lists (and by a little I mean ridiculously). I thought that I should instead keep the list to 10 really excellent reads from the last five years. That should be simple enough, I thought to myself (not very brightly). So, here is my attempt:
1.) Apex Hides the Hurt By: Colson Whitehead. This is the first book that I read by Whitehead (after reading an essay he wrote for the New York Times and getting freakishly intrigued by his writing style). This is one of the rare books that has made me both laugh out loud (I refuse, absolutely refuse, to use “LOL”) as well as make me get a little choked up at the end.
2.) Ghosts and Lightning By: Trevor Byrne. I picked this book up on a bit of a lark (basically I always pick up books by new Irish authors) and quickly fell in love with it. Byrne manages to be simultaneously haunting, a little scary in a slow building sense of creepiness way, and hysterically funny. I didn’t want this book to end.
3.)Once the Shore By: Paul Yoon. Paul Yoon makes me want to stop writing. He uses language so beautifully and so effectively that it makes me furious that I can’t do it a tenth as well. It also makes me want to read his stories until the end  of time…
4.) Brodeck By: Phillipe Claudel. Did I completely understand this novel? No. But, this darkly fable-istic story is beautiful and startling and exquisite. Only read if you are willing to sob uncontrollably (yes, even ol’ heartless me was caught out by the imagery and emotion). It’s also a book that stays with you. I read it well over a year ago and I still find myself running through this book and stopping, sadly quite literally, in my tracks to consider something that I may have missed in my initial reading.
5.) Ray of the Star By: Laird Hunt. I read something else by Hunt and I thought ‘meh’. But this novel is so good that it makes me want to cry. Check out the run-on sentences that are phenomenally perfect and you’ll see why. Also, the shoes. The shoes! Just trust me. They are one of the best concepts ever.
6.) Tokyo Cancelled By: Rana Dasgupta. So, it’s basically Canterbury Tales at an airport. I have a fondness for frame story novels, it’s true. But, I still expect the stories to be kick-ass and Dasgupta delivers. There’s even one piece that is downright glorious: “The Rendezvous at Istanbul.”
7.) The Ministry of Special Cases By: Nathan Englander. Nathan Englander is a god! If, lone reader hasn’t read “The Twenty Seventh Man” then lone reader simply must run out and do so because it is one of the ten best short stories ever frakkin’ written! And this novel, while not quite the perfection of that short story, is still lovely and wonderful and amazing.Truly, Englander could walk up to me and slap me in the face and I would still say something along the lines of: “I love you! Sign my book!”
8.) In the Woods By: Tana French. Bad mysteries are like being forced to eat bitter melon soup (a torture too heinous to ponder for very long) but good mysteries make me insanely gleeful (yes, I have a bizarre fixation with mysteries. Seriously, I am devoted to BBC Mystery! It is my…My precious! [Okay, yeah, a lot of things are my “precious”. I am like Gollum’s totally less picky cousin—Cnc0eagol, but…] In fact, I will go ahead and recommend French’s entire mystery series so far.
9.) Kraken By: China Mieville. Mieville does to Urban fantasy what Proust does for writing about memory and Shakespeare did for whatever he was writing about.. He makes it sing. I think Mieville deserves to be in his own genre—The genre of AWESOME.
10.) The Wizard of the Crow By: Ngugi wa Thiong’O. This book is Thiong’o’s masterpiece. And trust me when I say that that is saying a lot.
Okay, so ten books was not nearly enough. Damn me and my need to give myself limits! There is not enough space in the world for all of the recent books that I wish to write not so poetically about. But can I just say: Neil Gaiman, Nadeem Aslam, Daniel Alarcon, Paul Guest, Kate Atkinson, Patrick Somerville,Alejandro Zambra, Jesse Ball, Ander Monson, Anthony Doerr, Kevin Brockemier (oh my gods I forgot Kevin Brockemier), Kelly Link, and now I am really going to stop myself, but—

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