Dec 29, 2013
Today's Top Ten comes from Amy B. of RCL - Maplewood. For Amy, "2013 was the year of troubled hearts and dark places. With the sunny exception of Delilah Dirk, the books that interested me in 2013 were emotionally complicated. From lovers on opposite sides of an interplanetary war, the desire to understand horror and the thrill of the forbidden, to the love of nation, family, ethnicity and culture, it was a dark, transformative reading year. And my top ten goes to 11."
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (Delilah Dirk, #1) by Tony Cliff - Swashbuckling, thoughtful, funny, sweet, and above all, a great graphic novel romp for everyone.
Winger by Andrew Smith - On the plus side, Ryan Dean is the youngest junior in his class (he’s 14) and the best Wing the rugby team’s got. Of course, he’s also rooming with the school bully and is in love with his best friend Annie: She thinks he’s an adorable little kid. A coming of age story with a snarky antihero you wish you’d been friends with in high school.
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea - Folk tales and economic stagnation, a filthy, trash-talking ancient mermaid, and a girl with a pathological need for salt: Michelle Tea has such a singular voice! Mermaid in Chelsea Creek shines out like star in a dark galaxy of YA urban fantasy.
Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand - This series of short stories is tiny bites of a perfectly crafted feast. Elizabeth Hand is wonderful at making the unnamed, taboo, or abhorrent readable and accessible. Each story is rich, delicious, and completely unique, and resonates so impressively you can't even think about what is coming next. You’ll want to pause for a little quiet reflection time between tastes.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes - I love the elegant confusion of the storyline, the sweet prose, the fractured but completely recognizable characters, all well developed people who breathe out the story. I love the fantastical elements living smack in the middle of a realistic world, but mostly I love an excellent heroine who is tough and tender. All my thumbs up.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl - Pessl is a magician, filling a bright world with hidden corners, dark shadows and trapdoors. Her stories get under your skin, a very visceral joining of reader and author.
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan - Brian K. Vaughan is an excellent storyteller. Coupled with Fiona Staples sweet and comical art, this series deserves all the buzz and more. True love! Family! Babies! Interplanetary War!
How to Greet Strangers: A Mystery by Joyce Thompson - This is a wonderful work with a compelling and complicated narrator. Archer is outstanding, in every moment and every guise. The rich detail of his world as a young law student, a star-struck young lover and a sad penitent are equally evocative. The mystery is less about the murder than it is about where Archer will find equilibrium as a black, HIV positive, underemployed, ex-Santeria, gay man, living in the Bay Area.
If you talked with me at any point in the month of October, you know how much trouble I had with this book. I questioned my reaction to it and had long conversations about authenticity of voice and artistic license, it made me think hard, and ultimately *that* is why I chose it for my top ten.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki - You think Ozeki has been wrapping your brain in soft descriptions of the wet green of the Pacific Northwest, of the critical descriptions of daily life of contemporary Japan, of home and family and of two women’s lives. In reality, she has been unraveling the blanket around you. She deftly strings you up with gentle puzzles of time and place. Are you reading to pass the time, for the time being? Or are you reading for the Time Being, the culmination of everyone and everything, a connectedness that transcends time?
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen - Here you find family history, national identity, and the food that binds the pieces together. Anya Von Bremzen takes on her own family story, one dish at a time. What does it mean to have been a Russian, a Soviet, and finally an American? Does food shape your identity? How does food taste differently in memory, and is it something you can recreate? Is it worth trying?