Maybe 2016 was an all-out Dumpster Fire for you. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, you probably missed some great books as the months sped by. I have compiled a resource list to help you choose your next book (a best book) before 2017 takes over and you have to keep up with those.
I have broken them into some categories to make it easier to peruse. Perhaps you like Award winners. Committees form, discuss, celebrate a winner. Man Booker Award winners are usually great books for me because they are often quirky. However, they do not allow Americans to enter, so if you want an American experience, go instead with the PEN or the National Book Award winners. Of course, if you want to give someone new a chance, the Hemingway award is only for debut novelists.
But maybe prizes are meaningless. There are deadlines and politics involved. No problem! I have also compiled a list of “Best of…” from a number of different resources. The typical news outlets that have book reviews like the New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, but also a little less literary, like Harper’s Bazaar. But, if you want to get insider knowledge, there is also Publisher’s Weekly.
Of course, there are a few books that are on every list or almost every list. One is Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. If you haven’t read it, put it on the list. In non-fiction, Evicted by Matthew Desmond.
But read on, friends. It is the best way to understand the miles of someone else’s shoes.
I peruse the shelves, putting down copy after copy of books I had been meaning to read for years. No, I reasoned. I am in the middle of reading Waveland by Frederick Barthelme, about a man caught between his ex-wife and his girlfriend a few years after Hurricane Katrina. There’s a lot of drinking and pondering over bad decision-making skills. I’m halfway through. Poor life choices made by middle-aged people doesn’t compel me much, but as always, it is well-written, and I am compulsive about finishing books. I’ll get there.
And I had just started Broken: a love story by Lisa Jones. I only read the first few pages the other night before something else had demanded my attention, but the introduction tells me I am going to read about a paraplegic Native American man who can break even the wildest of horses, and this will somehow serve as a metaphor for the author’s journey, too.
So I shouldn’t buy any books is what I am telling myself. Nope, no books.
Except this one. What a find! This is why used bookstores are amazing! Caves and Caving? Perfect! And really, it isn’t just for me! Andy will be interested!
Sure, it’s from 1986, but it has locations in it, and we have been itching to do more caving since Bouncing the Well.
Can we talk about Bouncing the Well again? No? Oh.
Well, I’m just going to leave the link here for you again. You know. Just in case you need to fill 14 minutes of your time today.
Ok. So just one book, that’s fine.
Perfect really, except, what about Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez? I have been hearing about this book for ages AND it is a National Book Award Winner.
It says so right on the cover.
Plus, with Big Five Dive this summer, many of those woman will be later going on an Arctic expedition, so this will help to have some common knowledge, a way to ask intelligent questions and get to know people better.
THIS BOOK IS GOING TO HELP ME MAKE FRIENDS.
But whatever, two books? No big deal. Besides, they’re both non-fiction, which just means I’m interesting.
Cruising over to the literary fiction section, I’m thrilled to see my friend and mentor’s book on the shelf, Blue Rodeo by Jo-Ann Mapson, kicking it with Hilary Mantel and Damian Lewis’ face. I take a picture to send it to her later, because I would be thrilled if that were me.
I mean, I would be thrilled if my book were in a bookstore across the country from where I lived, not that I was next to Damian Lewis’ face. Er. Well, I mean, I’m sure he’s lovely, so maybe being next to his face would be lovely also, but I’M TALKING ABOUT BOOKS, DAMMIT. Books! Continuing down the alphabetical line–oh, no. This one is just mildly misfiled. I revert only momentarily to my Title Wave/Eagle Eye Books days where I shelved and shelved and shelved. But then I get to something that really strikes my fancy (sorry, Damian Lewis).
Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears. I loved his book An Instance of the Fingerpost. He writes historical mystery/thrillers. Plus, I am writing historical fiction, so if I buy that book, it’s just work. A financier/arms dealer falls out of a window in Edwardian London? A reporter with gumption hired by the aristocratic and oddly beautiful widow? In the backdrop of the emerging financial markets? I have been reading up on the history of the London Stock Exchange for another Idea I have for a book. So this is both work AND research. Well. If I have to, then.
At the end of the literary fiction section, The Martian by Andy Weir catches my eye. I’ve been waiting to buy it used, but unfortunately this copy is new. I listened to a Star Talk podcast where Andy Weir talked about writing this serially on his crummy website (he said it was crummy, not me.), and then once he got finished, his readers enjoyed the story so much but hated his site, so to make reading easier, Weir made it an e-book. Self-published success. This particular edition is now published by Broadway Books. I hope Andy Weir ends his evening by clutching a wad of money, rocking back and forth and cackling. Matt Damon starred in the movie version of his e-book that had no sex in it.
And it’s about Science.
So that’s a must read, if only to support Andy Weir’s logistic brilliance on outwitting the publishing industry.
I pay for the books, we drive back home, I watch some TV with my husband, but then I have to go to bed. Sure, I’m tired or whatever, and it is a little early, but really?
Stone’s Fall is whispering for me so sweetly that I cannot ignore it. I used my California Parks brochure for a bookmark. I haven’t read the brochure yet either, but I will.