Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best Books of 2010.

This year was the first year that I actually numbered the reading experiences. Each is linked to the original blog post (or two).  Enjoy.

10. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It's a mystery about (life and) books. It's set in Barcelona. What is not to love?

9. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I thought it would be a little too sappy or not well written, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

8. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemiresky.  I love historical fiction and Nemiresky's personal story as connected to this unfinished piece about Germany's occupation in France was fascinating.

7. American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I wasn't sure how I escaped Roth.  This dark story went along brilliantly with a lot of the cultural portraits and critiques I've read or seen recently.

6. March by Geraldine Brooks: how I got away with not writing about this book, I have no idea.  This short book followed the father's story from Little Women, but had plenty to say about both men and women. Post to follow soon!

5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy by Steig Larsson: I jumped on the bandwagon and got sucked in.  These are incredibly smart and addictive mysteries (technically I'm finishing the third one in the final days of 2010...100 pages in as of now).

 4. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible was one of the most thought provoking books I've ever read.  My book club decided to read this as soon as it came out and it was a gorgeous blend of storytelling and history.

3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann: this book was phenomenal. Go buy it now. 

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling reread with students: Harry Potter 7 made my top ten list back in 2008, but this fall's rereading experience with my students was a-maz-ing. So much passion. So much intellect.

1. Great House by Nicole Krauss: History of Love, Krauss' second novel, made the top ten in 2008 right along with HP. I could not wait for this book to be released and had its date on my refrigerator months in advance.  This book is beautiful, haunting and thought provoking.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not good for the soul.


There are a lot of things that make me appreciate my neighborhood in Brooklyn: the lack of chain stores, the Farmers' Markets, Prospect Park, that I can walk to work, that the guys at the bodega know my order (medium English breakfast with one splenda and skim milk, if you're wondering) as soon as I walk in the door.  Between my colleagues who have become great friends, my friends who have transplanted themselves here, my church that loves Brooklyn so well and running into faces that used to grace M.S. 51's room 116 on a daily basis, there's a lot to love.

That being said, there are plenty of people who love to make fun of my neighborhood--and there is a lot of fodder that I can laugh at it, too--as long as we all remember it was ranked best neighborhood to live in by my favorite New York Magazine.  The trees in the fall, the vintage Christmas lights strung across the streets, snow covering brownstone steps, the park in the summer and spring. It all outweighs the ridiculous that one sometimes sees in Park Slope.

Last summer there was a lot of buzz about Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn, a book set in Park Slope whose tag line could be read in a similar way to Gossip Girl's (and I believe it is being discussed for a new series).  Though I don't read the subgenre this book falls into, when a hard cover copy was left in the lobby of my apartment (another thing I love about this neighborhood),  I thought I'd check it out as long as I wasn't paying for it.

Satire well done makes me laugh.  Satire well done is brilliant.  But this didn't feel like either to me: the underdeveloped characters seemed to try their hardest to turn me into a cynical hater.  And that's no way to live, right?

That's really all the time I want to devote to this book.  I left it in the lobby on my way to work this week.