NYTBR Holiday Books Issue (2013)

Did self ever mention how humongous her PILE OF STUFF is? LOL. Self has no clue how it got that big.

Nevertheless, she is making inroads.

Today, she finally gets to the huge December 2013 issue of The New York Times Book Review.

It is, naturally, full of reviews of interesting books self wants to add to her reading list. And it has the annual “100 Notable Books List.” A couple of selections from that list:

Fiction

  1. Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, $28.95)
  2. The Color Master: Stories, by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, $25.95)
  3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, $26)
  4. Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III (Norton, $25.95)
  5. Duplex, by Kathryn Davis (Graywolf, $24)
  6. The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride (Riverhead, $27.95)
  7. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99)
  8. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (Little, Brown, $27)
  9. A Marker to Measure Drift, by Alexander Maksik (Knopf, $24.95)
  10. Submergence, by J. M. Ledgard (Coffee House, $15.95)
  11. Want Not, by Jonathan Miles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)
  12. Woke Up Lonely, by Fiona Maazel (Graywolf, $26)

Nonfiction

  1. The Barbarous Years, The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600 – 1675, by Bernard Bailyn (Knopf, $35)
  2. The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood, by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco/HarperCollins, $19.99)
  3. The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, $25.95)
  4. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink (Crown, $27)
  5. A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout (Scribner, $27)
  6. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, by Katy Butler (Scribner, $25)
  7. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, by Robert Kolker (Harper, $25.99)
  8. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books, $25)
  9. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, by Carla Kaplan (Harper, $28.99)
  10. Thank You for Your Service, by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)
  11. This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider, $27.95)
  12. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala (Knopf, $24)

There’s also:

  • The Most of Nora Ephron, a collection of her essays (Knopf, $35)
  • A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York, by Anjelica Huston (Scribner, $25)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR 24 November 2013

The Pile of Stuff is incredible, simply incredible. She probably hasn’t looked at it for over six months. This morning, she went through a New York Times Book Review from about a year ago. Here are the books that most piqued her interest:

Recommended by crime writer Patricia Cornwell in the By the Book section:  Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and “anything by Marcella Hazan.”

Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars and This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Harper, $27.99)

Autobiography of a Corpse, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated by Joanne Turnbull (New York Review of Books, $15.95)

The Isle of Youth: Stories, by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14)

In the Memorial Room, by Janet Frame (Counterpoint, $24)

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2: 1923 – 1925, edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. DeFazio III and Robert W. Trogdon (Cambridge University Press, $40)

The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, by Graham Robb (W. W. Norton, $28.95)

 

NaNoWriMo 2014 Almost Upon Us, Looking Back at NaNoWriMo 2013

Self has never signed up for NaNoWriMo (Also, she has never applied to UCross. Self’s just saying. Nothing against Wyoming. You know what? Right this very second, she’s going to apply for a residency to UCross!)

The New York Times Book Review she is reading is the one from Nov. 17, 2013 (Her pile of back-reading is HUMONGOUS! Simply HUMONGOUS!)

A little over a month ago, when self was cooling her heels in southern California, she looked over Fall course offerings for UCLA Extension and saw that there was a class offered on “Achieving Your NaNoWriMo Goal.” And she quickly contacted the Program Administrator to indicate that she wished to enroll. She was informed that the class was “on-site.” And ya know, that’s 10 weeks of weekly on-site meetings, and self can’t commit to being in one place for 10 weeks. Seriously! So she regretfully had to pass up taking the class.

Here’s an excerpt from the article on NaNoWriMo 2013 which was in the Nov. 17, 2013 NYTBR:

We’re now past the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month — or, as it’s inelegantly shortened online, NaNoWriMo — when aspiring authors aim to produce 50,000 words during November. More than 277,000 writers signed up for the sprint this year. Erin Morgenstern, whose best-selling novel The Night Circus originated as part of the exercise, once advised: “Don’t delete anything. Just keep writing. And if you don’t want to look at it, change the font to white.”

Excellent advise! How does one register for NaNoWriMo 2014?

Stay tuned.

 

 

First NYTBR Post in Forever: 15 December 2013

Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.  It’s been nearly a year since this issue came into self’s hands. She has since suspended her New York Times Book Review subscription (in case dear blog readers were wondering. It was just too depressing seeing the book review in her mailbox every week, and not being able to read for months and months and months.)

It just so happens that the By the Book interview is with Michael Connelly, and he has many, many interesting book recommendations, which include the following:

  • Act of War:  Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo, by Jack Cheevers
  • The Public Burning, by Robert Coover
  • The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler

This issue also has the list of Ten Best Books of 2013, and since self is well aware that time is a river, and self is disappearing quick, she has to be choosy about which of the Ten she really really wants to read, and it is these:

In Fiction

  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
  • Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
  • Tenth of December: Stories, by George Saunders

In Nonfiction

  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink
  • Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

One of the highlights of this issue is a review (by Anthony Doerr) of Brown Dog: Novellas, by Jim Harrison.  Self doesn’t know why exactly but she’s loved Jim Harrison for a long long time. His books are violent, they are pungent, they are precise, and they are very, very funny.

And here’s a round-up of a burgeoning sub-genre, the cookbook as memoir:

  • Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
  • Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, by Abigail Carroll
  • Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers and Food, by Peggy Wolff

And here’s a sub of a sub-genre, the fate of elephants in America:

  • Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard Thomas Edison, by Michael Daly
  • Behemoth:  The History of the Elephant in America, by Ronald B. Tobias

And one about elephants in Africa:

  • Silent Thunder, by Katy Payne

Finally, much thanks to Rivka Galchen and Pankaj Mishra for recommending (in the end-paper, Bookends) two books by authors self hasn’t yet read:

  • My Struggle, by Norwegian writer Ove Knausgaard
  • Zibaldone, by Giacomo Leopardi

Whew! Finally self has arrived at the end of a monster post. Stay tuned.

 

 

NYTBR 12 January 2014: Self Will Not Read Any Review That Describes a Main Character as “Beleaguered”

Even though self suspended her subscription to the NYTBR, she still has a pile of back issues to get through.

Perusing the 15 January 2014 issue, self sees that NYTBR editors have not lost any of their interest in Russia or its writers:  There are reviews of a new novel by Lara Vapnyar (partly about a Soviet youth camp), as well as a translation of Michael Shishkin (famous in Russia).

In the By the Book interview, Sue Monk Kidd named the following as “books with spiritual themes”:  Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson; The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver; The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy; and Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. Asked which books “we all should read before dying,” she responds with:  Night, by Elie Wiesel, What is God? by Jacob Needham, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Self finds herself skipping over several reviews, for several reasons, one of them being that when a reviewer describes a novel’s main character as “beleaguered,” self quickly loses interest.  Also, right now, self has no interest in reading books about “ornery old men” who drink and smoke themselves “to death” because she doesn’t consider either of these activities even remotely tempting.

She is interested in the books Sue Monk Kidd is “reading these days”:  Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, Dear Life, by Alice Munro, Sister Mother Husband Dog, by Delia Ephron, and Edith Wharton’s Three Novels of New York:  The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence.

Self loves discovering new women writers, and this issue of the NYTBR introduces her to Elizabeth Spencer (“Spencer’s great gift is her ability to take ordinariness and turn it inside out, to find focus in a muddle.”)

She also loves Diane Johnson, who happens to have written a memoir (Flyover Lives: A Memoir).

Having come — finally! — to the end of this post, self realizes that blogging about The New York Times Book Review is an exceedingly intricate and time-consuming activity, because it involves making a list, and a list involves — naturally — exclusion, which then causes her Catholic guilt to rear its annoying head.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

About the End of Self’s New York Times Book Review Subscription

Self still has a huge backlog of NYTBR issues to go through.  She pulled them out of her hopelessly muddled “Pile of Stuff” and started to go through them.  The very first one she started to read was the January 5, 2014 issue.

Front page review of Chang-rae Lee’s science fiction novel, On Such a Full Sea.

Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more.  It’s a wonderful addition not only to Chang-rae Lee’s body of work but to the ranks of “serious” writers venturing into the realm of dystopian fantasy.

Lost self at “dystopian,” everyone’s favorite catch-all one-word description for the Apocalyptic Future, now swarming the world on hundreds of reviews of the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The NYTBR, 16 June 2013

Congratulations to the following writers/contributors, who made this issue of the NYTBR worth reading (Although self is still canceling her subscription):

Elaine Blair * Jeannette Walls *  Donovan Hohn * Justin Cronin *

Elaine Blair’s review of What Do Women Want?  Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner was the title page review.  Blair’s review made self want to read Bergner’s previous book, The Other Side of Desire.  See, it is so interesting that a man is responsible for doing all this research into female desire.  Self fully expected that a woman scientist would produce the first comprehensive look at this fascinating topic.  But then, why can’t it be a man?  Men, after all, are just as affected by feminine desire as women are!  Onward.

The “By the Book” interview is a good one.  It’s with memoirist Jeannette Walls (There was one time the “By the Book” interviewee was Amanda Knox, she who was jailed in Italy for several years after being convicted of the murder of her roommate.  What on earth the NYTBR thought they were doing when they interviewed Amanda Knox about her favorite books is still a profound mystery to self)

Jeannette Walls’ favorite book “of all time” is The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene.

Recently, she was impressed by A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout, a memoir about Lindhout’s time spent “kidnapped in Somalia.”  In addition, Walls recommends the following memoirs:  In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, by Neil White; The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartok; Denial, by Jessica Stern; A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah; An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison; Chanel Bonfire, by Wendy Lawless; The Center Cannot Hold, by Elyn Saks; After Visiting Friends, by Michael Haimey; The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison (Self has read this one; it’s about Harrison’s affair with her father); My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor; Couldn’t Keep It to Myself:  Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution, edited by Wally Lamb.

The book that “had the greatest impact on” Walls when she was growing up was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Donovan Hohn reviewed The Riddle of the Labyrinth:  The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Margalit Fox.  It is wonderful to read that the “gentleman archaeologist who led the excavation at Knossos” on the island of Crete brought along for sustenance “two dozen tins of ox tongue, 12 plum puddings and a Union Jack.”  Hohn also brings up the term “hash marks” which then leads self to wonder how far we have come, from markings on an ancient tomb in Crete to Twitter.

Finally, there is Justin Cronin, who reviews “the world’s first 9/11 werewolf book,” Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy.  Here we are in a world where “lycans” (werewolves, for you non-initiates or total ignoramuses) are confined to a reservation on a “discouraging patch of permafrost in northern Scandinavia, currently under American military occupation to safeguard its valuable training resources.”  A majority of Americans goes about their business peaceably under “mandated medication — a mind-dulling silver-infused concoction wittily named Volpexx.” Sold!  How soon can self get her hands on this book?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The NYTBR: 22 December 2013

Boring, OK?  Boring.

Self is cutting off her subscription.

There is only one review she enjoyed reading:  the one by Stacey D’Erasmo, on The Apartment, a short novel (193 pages) by Greg Baxter.

Stay tuned.

Bookends/ The Joy of a Quiet Afternoon

Two days since Thanksgiving ended.  Though self had no one over, the clatter in her head can be quite deafening, a clatter the sole other occupant in this house is always happy to add to.  Every day brings a new spurt of instructions, whether it’s when to mail bills or covering windows with cardboard.  Mother-in-law said it best:  “My son is such a character.”

Now he has stepped out, without any prior warning: A friend of his from Ateneo, Randy, came over.  Self imagined both would want to watch the games.  But suddenly, after she’d bought all manner of chips and snacks and drinks and ham and what-have-you, she arrived to find the two men preparing to go out.  What is self going to do with all this food?  She’ll send it home with Randy, probably.  It’s either that or scarf on chips for days on end.

Anyhoo, after self watered a bit, she settled down in the tiny room she calls her “Office.”  This has all her memorabilia, all her saved literary magazines, all her knick-knacks.  Through the French doors, she can look right into the backyard:

The View From Self's "Office": What a Gorgeous Day!

The View From Self’s “Office”: What a Gorgeous Day!

These bookends were from a consignment store in San Carlos, whose name is eluding self.  It's on Laurel Street.

These bookends were from a consignment store in San Carlos, whose name is eluding self. It’s on Laurel Street.

The Rabbit keeps her literary magazines upright.  One Story faces out.

The Rabbit keeps her literary magazines upright. One Story faces out.

Now self settles down to tackle a huge pile of back issues of The New York Times Book Review.  There’s a “Let’s Read About Sex” issue, and the October 20, 2013 issue, which has more than the usual number of “Women’s Literature” reviews.  Self is bored reading about sex in the staid NYTBR.  It would be much more fun reading books about sex if she were reading something like Rolling Stone.  So she goes for the October 20, 2013 issue.

A short story collection by T. C. Boyle is reviewed in this issue.  Self really loves T. C. Boyle so she is happy to read the review (and would read anything by him, regardless of whether the review was good or bad).  There’s a review of a novel about the forty-ish Bridget Jones, and a review of a Scandinavian novel in which a traumatized woman is plagued by the conviction that her husband is guilty of a heinous crime (Don’cha just love those traumatized women in Scandinavian novels who are so . . . so noir-ishly fragile in temperament!  After all, there can never be another Lisbeth Salander.  That’s over.  That’s done.  Now it’s back to the Scandinavian women of an Ingmar Bergman movie)

Of the four crime novels reviewed by Marilyn Stasio in this issue (Sunday, October 20, 2013), two are set in Florence.  How absolutely fabulous!  That’s Florence, Italy, in case you were wondering.  The third is set in Manhattan (It’s by Jeffery Deaver, who writes about Manhattan like nobody’s business).  And the last one is set in a small town in Connecticut — but in 1956.  Self likely won’t get to the Connecticut novel, as she is easily confused by mysteries that happen in the recent past (Mysteries about the way, waaaaay past are much easier on her nerves.  At least, everything’s different, not like the ones set in the 1950s, where self keeps forgetting the decade and then wonders why she is so confused)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Awesome Book Titles: The NYTBR of 15 September 2013

The Pile of Stuff is humongous!  Actually humongous!

There are issues of The New York Times Book Review dating as far back as September!

But self cannot bring herself to end her subscription, which she’s kept up for over a decade.

Anyhoo, she is as usual very short on time, so she does a quick browse-through of aforementioned issue of the NYTBR, and is so excited to discover (from reading the “By the Book” interview with Richard Dawkins) that he recommends a book called Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, because self absolutely needs to have guidance in this area.  And Dawkins recommends another book that self thinks would really help her in her social interactions:  Avoid Boring People, by the eminent Nobel-Prizewinning molecular biologist James D. Watson.

Dawkins also mentions that he has not interest in reading Pride and Prejudice because “I can’t get excited about who is going to marry whom, and how rich they are.”  But self IS greatly interested in the topic, so she adds Pride and Prejudice to her reading list (She read it decades ago; it’s definitely time for a re-read!)

This issue of The NYTBR also has a funny story about Gary Kamiya, and it turns out he is a pack rat, just like self.  His new book has a fabulous title:  Cool Gray City of Love:  49 Views of San Francisco.

This issue’s Fabulous Author Photo (There’s always at least one, in every issue) belongs to Chinelo Okparanta.  Kudos for not only having a Fabulous Author Photo, but for actually being exotic, Ms. Okparanta!  She migrated to America from Nigeria at the age of 10, and the first part of her book, Happiness, Like Water: Stories — the “more powerful” part, according to reviewer Ligaya Mishan — is set in Nigeria.

There is also another fabulously titled book:  an essay collection called Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc.) by one of the fabulous Ephrons (Nora passed away recently, but thank goodness she had writing offspring like Delia Ephron to perpetuate the legacy).

At the very back of the issue is a section called “The Shortlist,” and here are four International Thrillers, which includes The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth’s latest, and Masaryk Station, which sounds like it ought to be by Martin Cruz Smith but is actually written by David Downing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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