Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #1

We've arrived at our #1 books of 2011!  Pop the bubbly and raise a glass (of Diet Coke, of course, as it sure as hell tastes better than champagne).


The Tiger's Wife
Tea Obreht
Random House

Okay, so you’re not surprised. You had to be a little surprised that a first novel is at the top of my list (or at least surprised that so many first novels were in the list to begin with). 

Tea Obreht
I’ve talked about this book so much that I almost thought it was a 2010 book. I know I’ve said this before but I rarely read a book more than once, and certainly don’t read a book more than once in the span of just a few months. But that is exactly what I did with The Tiger’s Wife. I don’t know if I did it because I wanted to check myself; I had been going on and on about this book to anyone who would listen and maybe wanted to verify it before I looked like a complete idiot. Yeah, turns out I missed so much of this magical, layered, rich, beautiful book the first time around that a second reading just made me talk about it even more. Annoying right? [Incredibly.] In short, this novel is about a young doctor trying to navigate her way after the death of her beloved grandfather who was once a well respected doctor himself. It is filled with amazing stories, fables, and history. This is a novel that you will never forget; it will live on your shelf forever (and I am sorry but this is a book you must have in physical form, some books are just too good for e-readers only…and I will die on that hill).

Tea Obreht is an extraordinary writer, a genius.

This was one of the last books I sold when I was with Random House, and I just can’t help but think how incredibly lucky I was to have that opportunity.


Michael Crummey
Other Press

For those people not in the book industry or unfamiliar with the various alignments of publishing houses, allow me a moment of explanation.  In my capacity as a district sales manager for Random House Inc, I sell both publishing groups owned by Random House--Knopf, Doubleday, Vintage/Anchor, etc--and I also sell books from independent presses that contract with Random House for distribution services.  Other Press is one of those smaller presses, one that specializes in literary fiction and nonfiction.  The press publishes books that challenge readers as well as entertain and educate, and the team working for Other Press regularly manages to find surprising, wonderful books from around the world.  My top pick for 2011 is one of those books.

Michael Crummey
Sometimes as a reader you just have to let go of the reins and go where the story takes you.  In the case of Galore, that place is Paradise Deep, a remote fishing village in Newfoundland so removed from the rest of the country that the only Bible in town is half a book that was found inside a fish that was obviously hungry for the Word.  Galore starts with a beached whale, and as the citizens of Paradise Deep begin to break down the beast, they find a man, naked and bleached, inside of the belly.  While they stand around making fun of the size of the man's genitalia (and you know that's what Gianna and I would be doing), the man moves.  He is alive, he smells like rotten fish, and he has no back story.  The people name him Judah--after a debate about whether Jonah or Judas was the biblical whale bait and a compromise--and he becomes a constant in this story of multiple generations and diverse characters.  I compare Galore to other favorite books--the storytelling magic of The Hakawati, the folklorish charm of Maritime Canada in The Shipping News.  The wonderful cast of characters reminds me of the town people in the Dutch movie Antonia's Line, one of my favorite movies ever.  

While Galore was published in the United States in 2011, it was an earlier release in Canada. There it won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best Book, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award, and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction.  It's full of mythology and sea yarns and terrific characters.  It's a book that I would love to see illustrated because Michael Crummey creates so many amazing images that have lingered in my mind all year. Oh, and you know I love my Canadian fiction.  Galore is my favorite book of the year.


  1. I almost bought Galore at BookPeople. I'll definitely get it now. Speaking of Canadian lit, Liz have you ever read Timothy Findley's Not Wanted on the Voyage?

  2. Just bought copies of The Tiger's Wife for my mom, stepmom, my grandmother and myself. Wanted to get a book that we would each enjoy, and after reading this I'm pretty sure it'll hit the spot. Happy New Year, ladies. I've loved the blog this year.

  3. Thanks for the support Dreya, and John, you definitely need to read GALORE. It's super. I'll have to check out Timothy Findley--I haven't read that yet.