My favorite tunes from the past year. Enjoy.
His working formula for this audacious feat seemed to be Steal All the Good Parts: If a sound has ever made you break out into a foolish, cheesed-out grin you couldn’t suppress, it’s probably here. String orchestras, glacial expanses of synthesizers, children’s choirs, ringing rounds of mandolin, screaming woolly saxophone— Hurry Up We’re Dreaming doesn’t just draw liberally from the spirit of the massive rock albums Gonzalez name-checked, it practically swallows them whole, regurgitating and redistributing them into something listeners from every corner of the music universe can hear a piece of their lives in.
Best of 2011 - Books
For the first time in my reading life, I kept track of the books I read all year. The only rule I gave myself is that I had to completely finish the book in order to make the list - no cheating. All together I read 45 books, and considering that I’m a pretty slow reader, I am very proud. Here are my top 10 favorites:
True Grit by Charles Portis. This is my favorite kind of book - simple but well written, strong female main character, reads fast, and stays with you for life. I once had a patron tell me, after I recommended it to him, that it is the best book he had read in 62 years of reading. It is the great equalizer, appealing to both young and old; men and women. A masterpiece. And yes, it is still very worth the read if you have watched the movies.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It took a great deal of convincing to get me to read what looks like a book about running. I used to run but never in any sort of hard-core way. I would take off with a dear friend and room-mate and we would pound the trails near my home in Michigan. Once I moved to the city, I pretty much stopped. But this book is about so much more than running, and once one person convinced me of that (thank you @jennIRL) I took it up. I’m so glad that I did.
The City & The City by China Miéville. This was my very first time reading Miéville and seriously, what an amazing writer. He is detailed and complex, and deals with extremely intricate plot lines, while still managing to be readable. I have tried explaining this book to people many times, but it’s tough. Bascially: two cities, one location, seeing/unseeing, murder turns the book from science fiction to crime fiction. It knows no genres, and follows it’s own rules. China Miéville has some pretty hard-core fans. After reading this, I understand why.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. I enjoyed this book in a way I wasn’t quite expecting. I’m not super big into chef memoirs because they tend to run the same territory, “ooh my life was so crazy, I did lots of drugs but zomg, now I’m famous and I love bacon” or something like that. I think this book really stands apart from that, simply because girl can write. Hamilton can craft one hell of a sentence. She is smart, sarcastic, and devastatingly honest. Plus: one of my favorite covers of the year.
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I destroyed this book. It’s like I inhaled and all of a sudden, the book was over. I am such a slow reader, so when something sucks me in like this book did, I just go with it. I pretty much did nothing but read for two days and it. was. wonderful. What I find interesting about this book is that some people h-a-t-e it, like HATE in all caps. But if the words “powerpoint chapter” make you curious and intrigued, then you should give it a shot. Because that chapter is RAD in all caps.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. So when people started talking about this book, it took me awhile to realize they weren’t talking about this Forever War, you know the one about the Iraq War, but instead talking about a Science Fiction novel. The recommendation came down the line to me, originating with the great @missliberty. (sidenote: srsly kids, you want great book recs? make nice with indie book sellers and preferably, buy their books) I’ve always loved anti-war military fiction, and this is pretty much just that, but with spaceships. I know, awesome, right?
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. Zomg, I loved this book SO HARD. If it came down to it, and I had to pick my #1 all time book from this year, this might be it. Maybe. We could make it cage-match battle True Grit and A Game of Thrones for the title but still…it’s close. This book is hilarious and frightening at the same time, a dystopian tale that is coming true right in front of our very eyes, which are glued to various devices and machines. I can’t tell you how badly I want to call one of my friends Precious Pony now. I wonder if Stefan would mind…
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. While inhaling several other books, this is the book that I slowly digested over the entire summer. It was not an easy read, particularly the chapter where David Mitchell says, “Gee, you know what would be fun? Making my own dialect up, out of thin air!” David Mitchell, we know. We know you are a genius. But why must the very middle of the book be SO HARD TO READ?? If ever a book paid off for the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into it, it is this one. Don’t give up on it because it is pure genius.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Since Cloud Atlas was my summer read, how very fitting for A Game of Thrones to be my winter read. This book also took me awhile to finish, but worth every second, and every word, and even every description of every meal, which as my brother-in-law warned me, Martin is likely to do. It is the very definition of epic - Queens, Kings, corruption, deception, dire wolves, and dragons. Now I am sucked in. And my whole winter will be devoted to A Song of Ice and Fire. The Starks would be so proud.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I know some people have complained that this book was a little too over the top. And it is…it seriously is over the top. But I think that’s why I loved it. When a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island, it kind of should be over the top! The audiobook version of this book is a masterpiece. Read by the author, she captures each character’s voice perfectly, and the production is just amazing. Hands down, the best audiobook I’ve listened to - and I listened to a lot. It is ridiculous but damn, it is fun.
There you have it. Now, there’s a reason I linked these to IndieBound - get thee to your local library or indie bookstore stat because reading isn’t just about saving dimes - it’s about community. Happy holidays, and happy reading.
04. Quitting Facebook: I’d say that this felt liberating except that I’m sitting here wondering— as one wishes they could do at their own funeral— how many “likes” and comments I got for leaving. Plus, now I’ll never know what some friend of mine from high school had for breakfast today. Oh wait, I’ll check Twitter.
Best of 2011, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Some of you may know (and some of you may not know) that I am a readers’ advisory librarian. And in my new(ish) job, I am in charge of all the Science Fiction and Fantasy collections. Yep. It is awesome. Since the end of the year is just around the corner, I have been working on my library’s Best of the Year list for SciFi and Fantasy. And of course, I want to share. So here it is. The top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy books for 2011 (according to me):
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- The Magician King by Lev Grossman
- Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson
- A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Among Others by Jo Walton
- Embassytown by China Mieville
- The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
- Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
- Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
Honorable Mention: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey