Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Books of 2008, So Far

I've read way more books than usual this year for some reason. That's probably due to the fact that so many of them were authored by Lemony Snicket, whose books take a very short time to read (and are great, but too numerous to mention.) So I'll just list the books I really, really liked so far:

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan. This book had a big impact on my life. I started thinking harder about what I eat, and buying only organic, local meat (mostly at Bi-Rite) and organic eggs. Pollan is such an engaging writer that the lessons went down easy, and I still remember lots of cool factoids from the book.

The Shadow of The Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I've long been interested in the Spanish Civil War. This book is an insanely entertaining drama, set in post-civil war Spain, about a boy who visits a mysterious repository of books as a child. He finds a wonderful novel there, and is drawn into love and intrigue when he finds out that the author's entire published output is being systematically burned. It's dark, dramatic, and romantic, and amusingly aware of it.

T is For Trespass, Sue Grafton
. I've been reading these alphabetically-named mysteries about Kinsey Milhone for a long time now, and they're very satisfying. This one entered the mind of a sociopath and was very creepy.

How to Breathe Underwater, Julie Orringer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book of short stories, which mostly depicted the world from the point of view of kids whose countercultural parents are in way over their heads.

Berlin, Jason Lutes. A graphic novel about a sympathetic cast of characters living out their lives in Weimar-Republic Germany. I loved the art and the storytelling, and I'm thrilled to find that the story continues: Volume Two of a planned trilogy is set to be released in August.

Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine. Another excellent graphic novel, this one about a miserable, cynical Asian guy and his misadventures in love. From his Mills College-going lesbian sidekick to his job as a rep-house manager, this book seemed like a piece of real Bay Area life unfolding just around the corner.

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion. This book is about the death of her husband from a very sudden heart attack, the illness of her daughter, and the aftermath. Even though she was so very good at explaining what it's like to be the one left behind, I still had trouble imagining it happening to me, which proves that all her trenchant points about denial are very true.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid. I read the whole thing in one plane ride. Great story about a Pakistani guy who falls in and out of love with America. I especially loved the menacing and ambiguous ending.

The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolano. Every know and then a book comes along that makes me wish I was writing a PHD thesis and could study it for years. This is one. The first section describes the adventures of a young, callow poet, a initiate of Mexico City's "visceral realist" poets, chief among them Arturo Belano, the thinly disguised alter ego of the author. The middle section is a series of interviews with people who know Belano and his best friend Ulises Lima, who drift fecklessly around the globe, losing lovers, teeth and their youth along the way. It's a book about being young, and the sadness that sets in when uncompromising people get older.

The Great Man, Kate Christensen. When a famous, lust-for-life type painter of female nudes dies, two biographers compete to chronicle his life. They interview his wife, his mistress, and his sister, a painter with a secret. The book is really about the wife, his mistress and his sister, and it's a great New York story, a great art story, and a great story about the lives of women.

1 comment:

Emmanuelle Serroy Leaf said...

Good news and big hope...
We came from vacations and Jen (J) told me that you are maybe not waiting for a long time now....
I am sorry to use this comment for my message ; I don't have your personal email...
I keep my fingers crossing and I would love to talk more about this adventure...
keep in touch...
A lot of support and love,