Friday, November 25, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #30

Thanksgiving has passed, so it's time to get down to the business of the Best Books of 2011.  This year we've decided to countdown to our #1 picks over the course of a month.  Our fan seemed to like our 30 Day Book Challenge, and it's a pleasure listening to Gianna whine about posting everyday even though it was her idea.  These are our favorite 2011 books from the publishers we sell.  Don't argue with us if you don't see, say, Haruki Marakami's 1Q84 on the list.  I haven't read it.  No doubt it will appear on bunches of best lists, but those people have staffs and we're just two lowly book reps trying to get by.  (We take bribes, so if you're an author and stumble upon our blog while doing a Google search for "Bobby Hill eats a steak"--that's a real search--send us your leftover pie.  Liz doesn't eat pumpkins or other gourdy nastiness.)

Best of 2011 #30


West of 98
Edited by Lynn Stegner and Russell Rowland
University of Texas Press

Sixty-six writers share what it means to be a Westerner through essays, poems, and stories. From Texas to North Dakota these pieces cover race, politics, landscape, and what home really means. Rick Bass, Louise Erdrich, Jim Harrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, David Guterson, and Walter Kirn are among some of the writers included. Here is an excerpt from the really wonderful essay by Larry McMurtry reminiscing on his cowboy days and what it means now:

“My experience with Lonesome Dove and its various sequels and prequels convinced me that the core of the Western myth – that the cowboys are brave and cowboys are free – is essentially unassailable. I thought of Lonesome Dove as demythicizing, but instead it became a kind of American Arthuriad, overflowing the bounds of genre in many curious ways.”

Many of these are contradicting; each writer seeming to have his or her own view of western life and connectedness with landscape and history.   Unsentimental and often brutally honest, this was a great collection to start off my career  at University of Texas Press.


Jerusalem: The Biography
By Simon Sebag Montifiore

With my love of Russia, I had previously read Simon Sebag Montifiore's biographies Stalin: Court of the Red Czar and Young Stalin.  (I like my crushes in red military uniforms.  I love Mounties!)  He is a wonderful writer who has the ability to keep histories featuring numerous figures and events enthralling.  I was somewhat nervous about this new book, though, because I wasn't an internally inclined to the subject in the way I am to the sweet Soviet.  Nonetheless, I found Jerusalem rich and enlightening, a worthy and successful attempt to capture the holy city on paper.  How did this one outpost city become the center of three religions and the key to Middle Eastern peace and perhaps eternal salvation?  Here are the players, from Herod to Disraeli, Caligula to Churchill.  Jerusalem is the epicenter of our world and, depending upon what you believe, Apocalypse HQ.  This is a terrific book.

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