Sunday, November 8, 2015

Knopf 100--Day 21

Before we get to today's picks, I'd like to point out that this is the 500th post we've made to this crappy, half-assed book blog. I think that the only proper celebration would be for Gianna to bring me brownies. 500 brownies. It's okay if that many brownies makes me vomitous; this blog does as well. Bring on the books!

77. Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru, originally published in 2012. This book has some of my favorite possible aliens, and national parks, and multiple, interconnected plot lines. The novel begins with an autistic child disappearing while he and his parents--at their wit's end with raising a disabled child--are on vacation in the Mojave Desert. The Pinnacles, the rock formation where the child vanishes, are a focal point for the book and site for native legends, a desert cult, a rock star, a bunch of weird occurrences. Hari Kunzru is probably a genius.

78: Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montifiore, originally published in 2004. Oh Stalin, be still my heart! I love (biographies of) totalitarian dictators and I love Russian/Soviet history. Throw in that Montifiore writes great histories that aren't in any way dull. Stalin is fascinating reading, from power plays and eliminating one's rivals to controlling one's country's popular culture on every level. I love this book and Joe's bushy mustache.

79. Find a Way by Diana Nyad, originally published in 2015. Diana Nyad is the woman who, at age 64, swam from Cuba to the United States in open ocean. I read her memoir Find a Way expecting it to be cheesy, but I wanted to know why the hell anyone would want to swim 100 miles nonstop in the ocean. Or anywhere. It's a crazy endeavor. What I didn't expect was how much I'd love this book. Nyad is truly inspirational without taking for granted anything in her life. From an abusive childhood she found peace in open water swimming and became the first woman to swim around Manhattan. In her 20's she attempted the Cuba swim several times, but each time she failed. After a successful broadcasting career, in her 60's Nyad realized that she'd left a dream unfulfilled. Most of this book is the story of her impossible quest, the failed attempts, the people who carried her through jellyfish and sharks and fatigue and pain, and the strength of following one's dreams. It's not cheesy at all and I now consider Nyad one of my heroes.

80. Mating by Norman Rush, originally published in 1991. Mating is another book I borrowed from my boyfriend once upon a time. Unlike Gianna, though, I never stole any of these borrowed books. Here's the thing about Mating: I'm an educated person with degrees in English and History. I read constantly. And I've never needed to look up as many vocabulary words as when I was reading this book (luckily the boyfriend had a dictionary on hand). Set in Botswana, Mating is the story of a woman with an anthropology thesis in progress that's going nowhere when she meets the head of what seems to be a utopian society on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. She is lustful and this novel is a unique, literary tale of romance and the exotic erotic.

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