Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New 30 Day Book Challenge

We haven't suffered through one of these Facebook-style list projects in over a year, which means that Gianna is getting complacent.  We can't let that happen. Plus, Gianna loves list projects. They keep her on her toes and give her regular opportunities to make crass comments about my nonexistent social life.  And I need the abuse lest I become too well-balanced.  So here we go.  Want to play along?

Day 1: The Best Book You Read Last Year


I don't know why I agree to do these lists. Liz enjoys making me crazy, and I guess I feel the need to make Liz happy. Maybe 2014 will be the year I refuse to do these Sophie's Choice type of lists but for we go. We will be doing one question a day for the next 30 days.

favorite book of 2012
I really did love Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, but if pressed (and I do feel pressed) I would have to say that Jeanette Winters memoir, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, edges it out ever so slightly. I actually kind of feel guilty about it.

2nd favorite book of 2012...
I know Boo’s book is big, bold, and important [just like me!--Liz], but there was something so personal in Winterson’s memoir that my gut reaction is going to pick it as my year-end favorite. That’s it, not going to go back and try to change this later. I’ve made my choice. I guess. 

I will say without hesitation however,  Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? is the best title of the year. It refers to a heartfelt question that Winterson's mother asked her and in fact, I think it's a question that many parents of gay and lesbians used to wonder (or maybe still do). thanks. 

Jeanette Winterson...not "normal"

What can I say? I am a sucker for the John Cheever-esque family saga. Families broken open in the midst of their American dream lives satisfy my fiction loving soul.  Thus, I'm picking In Between Days by Andrew Porter as my favorite book of 2012 (followed closely by Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son because I also can't get enough of the crazy that is North Korea).  Andrew Porter's first novel is terrific.

Andrew Porter
Living in the middle of Houston (America's center of urban sprawl?), the Hardings are a family starting to unravel.  Patriarch Elson was supposed to be a major player in the architecture community, but by mid life he hasn't lived up to his promise, and he's recently separated from his wife, Cadence.  Their older child, Richard, has just graduated from Rice, but instead of following his writing aspirations, he is lingering at home and working a food service job while attending parties at a professor's house at night.  And then there's Chloe.  Attending school in the East, Chloe is sent home unexpectedly and won't talk to the rightfully concerned members of her family.

This is a story of family, modern life, the rot under surface of "the good life." It's a book about unfulfilled dreams.  Best of all, it's a literary novel with terrific writing that doesn't bog down.  It's a book that's stuck in my head.

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