Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Best of 2011: Liz's Picks From Publishers We Don't Work For

As Gianna mentioned yesterday, we're spreading out our Top Picks list for the next month or so.  On the one hand, our dozen of fans seemed to like the 30 Day Book Challenge format.  On the other, do you understand how much [little] effort we put into coming up with blog post ideas here?  Literally minutes every month are spent agonizing over topics.  If we drag things out, you'll love us and we can maintain our lovely half-assedness.  Continuing where Gianna left off yesterday, it's my turn to pick my favorite books that don't involve our corporate shilling.  This is really difficult for me.  I hope you all understand that I'm an insufferable company whore.  I'm half-tempted to recommend crap so that the books I sell look even better.  In case you were wondering, I also cheat at Monopoly and Scrabble.  I wouldn't say that my parents are proud.

Liz's List of Best Books from Publishers for Whom We Don't Work [Unlike Gianna, I am pretentious enough to be disturbed by the whole ending-a-sentence-with-a-preposition thing.  Do not email me about the title of this post.  I know how it reads.]

1. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

Patchett just opened a bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books, with our pal Karen Hayes, so I'd be placing her on this list based on that tidbit of coolness anyway, but I actually really liked her book too.  State of Wonder is an adventure story, a mystery, a morality tale, and a highly entertaining read.  Scientists researching fertility find an indigenous tribe in the Amazon Basin in which the women give birth their whole lives.  One scientist goes missing, and his colleague is sent to find him and to ascertain why her mentor in med school has quit communicating with corporate headquarters.  Let's go back to that fertility thing, though.  Imagine squirting out a kid at the age of 70.  Hell no.  I'd much rather go the Pet Sematary route and make Zorro immortal, and it's pretty obvious that he's already a demonically possessed creature.  So anyway, State of Wonder is a fascinating and entertaining and thought provoking read, and Ann Patchett is awesome.

2. Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Yes, Gianna placed this book on her list too.  We have similar tastes.  I also think that Tina Fey may actually be my alter-ego, and she's most certainly going to star in both the Lifetime TV Movie of my life, A Liz to Replace All Lizzes, and the SyFy Channel flick, Hellcat: Revenge of Fat Zorro.  Tina has already begun stretching herself so that she'll be six feet tall.  If Meryl could do it to play Julia Child, Tina can do it to play me.  And Amy Sedaris and Amy Poehler are genetically fusing themselves with Mama Fratelli from The Goonies in order to accurately portray Gianna.  Moving on.

3. Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean

Gianna also picked this book.  While my general disdain for people is well known and the tales of my codependent relationship with my cat are the stuff of urban legend (all true), I actually like most animals.  Hate people, love animals.  It's the flaw in my quest for sociopathy.  Orlean's chronicle of the beloved "Rinty," her own quest to understand an American icon, and the relevance to a society disillusioned by the status quo make Rin Tin Tin a terrific read.  I was somewhat familiar with Rin Tin Tin's beginnings because the novel Sunnyside a few years back used it as a plot line. This book, though, is more Seabiscuit in its scope.  And I love German shepherds.  They are great dogs.

....Whose idea was it to come up with 10 books?  I don't really get a chance to read non-RH books until the holiday break.  Lists are hard.  I hate Gianna.  She's a bully.

4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

First, there's the baseball.  Secondly, it's a Franzen-reminiscent without the ugly stink of Franzen's public persona to ruin it.  Third, I think my colleague Jason liked it, and he has better taste than any of us.  And it's most likely going to win the Pulitzer Prize next April.

5. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

I credit my Lemuria bookselling pals for turning me onto this great short story collection.  Relying on her firsthand experience of the lives of army wives at Ft. Hood, these semi-connected stories capture the difficulties of the women left behind.  This is one of those books that receives some acclaim, and then in several years you can brag to your friends that you were all over Siobhan back before she was a literary wonder.

6. Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III

Gianna's going to kick herself when she realizes that she forgot to include Dubus's memoir on her list yesterday.  There are no redos, LaMorte.  The memoir tells the story of the author's difficult childhood and the problems with being the author Andre Dubus's son, who was absent much of the time.  It's a dark, tough book, but what's a best-of list without a tortured author memoir?

7. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

I'm a sucker for books with sleep and brain disorders.  Here's a suspense novel with a Memento-like twist. Every morning when Christine wakes, she doesn't know where she is, who she is, and she's at the mercy of her husband to fill in the gaps.  What caused her amnesia?  What happens when you can't even trust your own head?  Imagine getting up every morning and not understanding that Zorro will attack if you put your hand on the back of the sofa.  That's living dangerously.  Oh, and S.J. Watson is a first-time novelist.  We love those.

8. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

This book gets my vote for coolest book jacket of the year.  On top of that, it has literary chops, having made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize.  And it's a literary Western, one of my favorite sub-genres (think All the Pretty Horses as an example of the category, but this book is decidedly funnier than Cormac McCarthy).  Violence, 1850's American West settings, and the bond between brothers (Eli and Charlie Sisters)--good stuff.

Seriously?  Two more?  Sheesh.

9. These Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Just like Gianna picked I Want My MTV, I'm going to pick an oral history-type book that captures great television culture.  Picture me on the road for more than 40 days a year, and sitting in a hotel room alone.  It's 6 am.  If I start working, my boss will come to expect me to regularly work that early.  My pal Elizabeth won't let me play Words With Friends when she's sleeping because her iPhone will ding and wake her up.  What to do?  Sportscenter.  I can watch the broadcast loop for hours.  I love sports, particularly baseball and basketball, and I find the ways sports are reported fascinating.  Some of it is annoying, some of it is moving, some of it is top-rate.  There's no question that ESPN is synonymous with quality sports broadcasting, but that's only happened in the last 25 years.  Fascinating stuff.

10.  A Shore Thing by Nicole Polizzi

Snooki wrote a novel.  Allow me to quote some of the customer reviews out there on the interweb:

Marxius writes, "This is by far the best assisted suicide novel I have ever read. I was literally cutting my wrists as every page was turned. Bravo Snooki!!"

Goodcustomer writes,
"As a door stop, it lacks heft.
As a smoking adjunct, the paper lacks pliability.
As bird cage liner material, it doesn't lay flat.
As fish wrappers, it lacks breadth.
As an accessory to self-abuse, it lacks absorbency.
As compost, it's toxic.
As a weapon, it lacks a reliable grip.
As a comedy, it's too tragic.
As a tragedy, it's too pathetic.
As a book, the hardcover edition is 304 pages too long."

And Marcopolio shares this:  "I noticed that there are used versions of this on here, meaning someone bought it. The only saving grace to my mind is that the ones who did probably opened it, realized they couldn't read and put it back down."

Guess what Gianna's getting for Christmas. And thank the good lord I didn't have to sell this book.

1 comment:

  1. I was excited about the concept of this book, and at first had trouble putting it down. But, the characters were predictable as was the outcome so I was slightly let down about halfway through the book. Having had trouble with amnesia myself, maybe I just wanted some answers that made sense, but the many inconsistencies throughout this book made it less believable. A person with this degree of disability would not be left alone as much as Christine, but try it for might not be able to sleep tonight or any other night!