Dear New Yorker, I'm Reading Someone Else
I suspect I am not alone in feeling a slight sense of defeat with each week's delivery of the New Yorker.
With at least three issues lying untouched on the bedside table, an exploding Google Reader queue, and an ever-growing stack of children's stories extending the family bedtime routine, there is little time for reading books. I have missed books. So, in 2010, I decided the New Yorker and I needed to spend some time apart ... and I gave my attention to those wonderful things with spines and uncoated paper. Listed here are ten of the favorites I read this year (though only a few were written this year), with acknowledgments to the friends who pointed me toward them since, like music, half the fun is in the sharing.
Offshore, by Penelope Fitzgerald
Written in 1961, this is the story of a small group of circumstantial outcasts living on derelict barges on the Thames in the 1960s. The characters are fantastic and the sense of place and time, complete. Recommended by: Amy Ruth Buchanan
The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft, by Ulrich Boser
I love a heist story and the ease with which this one was pulled off is unbelievable. That it remains unsolved is more unbelievable still. Recommended by: Gillian MacKenzie
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, by Allison Bartlett
A fascinating profile of a serial mini-heister and the world of rare books. Similar to the Gardner Heist book, however, this might have been better as a long New Yorker article.
Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben McIntyre
True WW2 story about British spymasters' unbelievably wacky scheme to plant fake intelligence on a dead body planted to wash up on the Spanish coast for the Nazis to discover. It worked and changed the course of the war. Best mother's day present ever. Given by: Kyle Smith
Driftless, by David Rhodes
An astute portrait of small town Wisconsin, my native stomping grounds, complete with Amish farmers, corrupt agribusiness and, of course, a cougar. Passed along by: my mom, who doesn't read fiction.
Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories by Lydia Peelle
Sharing a sensibility with one of my favorite books of 2009, Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Peelle's stories are dark, but generous. Recommended by: Phoebe Lawless
Possession, by A.S. Byatt
You've probably read it? Academic sleuth story, winner of the Booker Prize in 1990. Given by: Chris Payne
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
Franzen's new blockbuster - funny, poignant, and savvy ... if a little wink-wink to the knowing audience, which is us, nudge-nudging back. Recommended by: Everyone, except those who hated it
What is the What by Dave Eggers
Profoundly affecting true story of Valentino Achak Deng and the Lost Boys of Sudan. Not a day has gone by since I read this that I haven't considered everything differently. I have seen Deng speak and I have read many news accounts of the horrible war in Sudan, but Eggers' treatment of the story demands a true compassion - and action - that was hitherto escapable by the remove of the media.
Loaned by: Chloë Seymore
Captain Small Pig by Martin Waddell
This is a children's book. It's a sweet little story about Small Pig's row boat outing with gentle, generous Old Goat and cantankerous (and also old) Turkey. It's a quiet glimpse into a child's world and one of the few children's books that I was as happy to read for the one-hundredth time as I was for the first. Borrowed from: Durham Public Library
Please support independent bookstores.