Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Knopf 100--Day 17

I just realized that Gianna picked Plainsong yesterday, which I'd picked on Day 2 or so, so you need an extra pick there, La Morte.

61. Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo, originally published in 2005. I think people have forgotten about this book and that's a cryin' shame. Acts of Faith is pure storytelling genius, but it's also the book that made the Sudan crisis real for me. That's the power of great fiction, right? Warlords, aid workers, a pilot who goes from flying in supplies to smuggling in arms, and the missionaries--the characters are unforgettable, as is the setting.

62. Baseball by Ken Burns and Geoffrey C Ward, originally published in 1994. It should be noted that all of those amazing Ken Burns documentary series on PBS have beautiful and well-written companion books, and I could have picked The Civil War or The National Parks or Jazz for this spot. Taken together, they are a pictorial, encyclopedic history of the defining elements of American culture. I chose Baseball because I'm already missing the game since the World Series ended a few days ago, and because Burns added "an extra inning" updating the book a couple of years ago and I happened to catch his publicity tour then in both Washington, DC, and Baltimore. I love baseball and I love this book/series. Burns covers the whole history of the game and its biggest personalities and players, from Rogers Hornsby to Babe Ruth to Jackie Robinson to a hell of a lot of stupid Yankees I hate to the game and players of today.

63. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander, originally published in 2007. Nathan Englander is one of those writers who needs to write more because his books are always worth the time (all three of them). Like Acts of Faith, The Ministry of Special Cases was a novel that brought to life a specific time and place in my mind's eye. This novel is set during Argentina's Dirty War and swirls around a Jewish family in Buenos Aires. When their son becomes one of the disappeared (and this was a time when anti-government supporters were flown up in helicopters and then pushed it to fall to their deaths in the river below), a father and mother desperately seek relief and aid from the Ministry of Special Cases. It's a Kafka-esque hell of bureaucracy and futility. Fun times!

64. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, originally published in 2012. I have a colleague who loves this book so much that she still gets emotional when talking about it and she keeps copies at her desk to give to anyone who happens by who hasn't yet read it. Peter Heller wrote nonfiction for years for journals like National Geographic and I feel pretty confident in saying that he writes about nature better than any other fiction writer out there right now. Heller's Colorado setting is a land of beauty, peace, hope, peril, and redemption. The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic story of a pilot who manages to survive a killer infection. He's alone in a Denver suburb except for the companionship of a burly, surly man he doesn't particularly like, and his dog. He hunts, he takes his plane out to look for other survivors, and he struggles to keep going. The Dog Stars thoughtfully questions the value of life and what a person needs to keep going when all hope seems lost.

1 comment:

  1. When I first moved to NYC I thought I needed to learn about baseball so I read that entire book, based on the documentary, all summer. It was fascinating.