Monday, December 05, 2011
The LRG Best Books of 2011: plenty of page turning goodness for all
With December now officially here,it's time for those "Best of the Year" lists to start rolling around and while 2011 certainly offered a variety of delights for pop culture fans to enjoy,our focus today will be on books.
So,here are the tales that made a lasting impression on me this year from finding new favorites amongst the bestsellers of yesteryear to unusual depictions of love and loyalty and one amazing book that I'm still in midst of reading as we speak,yet it's bound to be a truly memorable masterwork for this author(more on that one later). For now,let's get this party started:
LOVE IS STRANGE(AND THEN SOME)
One of the most startling surprises of the year was Benjamin Hale's debut novel,The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore,which chronicles the bizarre life and times of a chimp trained to speak and act like a human.
Bruno,our simian leading man,believes that he is very much a real man to the point of falling in love with his trainer Lydia and embarking on a consummated romance with her. While that alone is a stunner of a storyline,it's the compellingly written narrative that keeps you from merely dismissing it as a tale of simple shock value.
Granted,this book may not be for everyone but if you are intrigued by exploring the notions of what constitutes humanity and how disregarding the emotional impact upon living subjects of scientific inquiry can backfire big time,there is a whole banquet of food for thought here:
Kevin Wilson has a slightly more down to earth approach to examining usual relationships in The Family Fang but the dysfunctional dynamics of this clan of performance artists also offers a twisted take on the expected norm.
As the adult children of Camile and Caleb Fang,a couple of do or die exhibitionists in pursuit of true art,Annie and Buster are somewhat used to being unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight.
However,when the disappearance of their parents in what looks like a brutal car jacking is brought to the attention of the police,this brother and sister are torn between actual concern and suspecting that this is yet another set-up by their attention seeking elders. The offbeat tone of the story graces the antics of all of the Fangs with charm and the urge to see them achieve their dreams.
FANTASTIC JOURNEYS OF THE MIND AND HEART
Superhero novels are still a growing genre and Carrie Vaughn takes a new bounding leap into this field with After The Golden Age. The focal point of this tale is not the extraordinary team of Captain Olympus and Spark but their daughter Celia,who was born an ordinary girl.
Celia's grown accustomed to being a regular kidnapping victim for all sorts of bad guys but she didn't expect to be caught up in the tax trial of The Destructor,the worst villain of them all.
As secrets from her past are threatening to come to public light,Celia must decide if discovering a few truths about her family is the right path to take. If you only know Vaughn from her Kitty the werewolf series of books,you really need to check this engaging adventure tale out and see what a real game changer it is.
Speaking of game changing,Ernest Cline's Ready Player One takes virtual reality,pop culture obsession and video gaming to the next level.
In the dismal year of 2044,the only hope that young Wade Watts has to better his situation in life is to unlock the hidden Easter Eggs in OASIS,a popular worldwide online game,left as a legacy by deceased creator James Halliday.
Wade's quest gains him unlikely allies,determined enemies and the chance to reenact a John Hughes film. This lively adventure has appeal even for the non techno inclined as well as for those who count Wil Wheaton as one of their personal heroes:
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
With the arrival of the film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's The Help this summer, the time for me to read this acclaimed yet controversial novel was ripe indeed. I was happy to find a thoughtful and entrancing story of how three women took on a risky book project that changed all of their lives as well as exposed some ugly truths on both sides of the social divide in the South during the 1960s.
This was one of those books that I couldn't stop reading and thinking about,which got my mother interested in reading it. Mom and I rarely share books but The Help was a literary gem that brought us even closer together.
One of the joys of our mini book club was discussing our favorite character,Minnie,who reminds me so much of my mother. While we also adored Abileen and appreciated Skeeter,Minnie was definitely the one we related to the most:
As the HBO fantasy series,A Game of Thrones,was beginning to be promoted,I soon took an interest in reading The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin that the show is based on.
Before episode one,I had finished the first book and then eagerly moved on to the other titles(A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords),managing to complete Book Four(A Feast of Crows)before the release of the long awaited fifth volume this summer,A Dance with Dragons.
I'm taking my sweet time with the last one,since it will probably be awhile before the last two books arrive. The waiting won't be so hard,since there are more seasons of the show on the way to make the time entertainingly fly by:
2 BOLD GIRLS
A lovely salute to the pleasures of reading aloud,The Reading Promise is Alice Ozma's memoir about the eight year streak of bedtime reading that she shared with her father,a dedicated children's librarian. Their initial goal was a hundred nights,which then grew to a thousand and wound up lasting until Alice went off to college.
What stuck with Alice was not only the time that her dad was willing to invest in her but his sincere belief that reading aloud to children is of great benefit to their education. It's a message that she happily spreads to others,through this book and other venues,living his life lessons out to the fullest:
The realm of professional cooking holds plenty of heat in the kitchen and potential chef Lauren Shockey walks into an international quartet of them in Four Kitchens,which chronicles her apprenticeship in such locales as New York's famed wd-50 and Verticle in Hanoi.
Shockey paints a portrait of restaurant life that is colorfully highlighted by her cultural encounters and enhanced culinary experiences. Her time and talents were seasoned with friendships and recipes that add flavor to her words,plus give the reader a revealing look behind the scenes and the best table at your favorite eatery.
SURPRISE STANDOUT OF THE YEAR
As of this writing,I am still in the midst of Stephen King's 11/22/63 however,it won't be long before New Year's Eve that it will claim a space in my home library. I've been a fan of King's work for a long time and while some of his books haven't appealed to me over the last few years,this one is a real keeper.
Yes,King is telling a time travel what-if? story about Jake Epping, a modern day high school teacher, who takes the seemingly golden opportunity to rewrite history and save JFK from his deadly date with destiny. Like most of the best King stories,though,the true heart of the book is in the characters rather than the situation.
I'm looking forward to see not only the final outcome for Jake in his mission to save Kennedy but in the budding romance between him and Sadie,a woman of those times who may be the true love of his life. Most of all,it's been good to see Jake try to right the little things that once went wrong and hopefully make that destined leap of faith to find his way home:
That wraps up this year for the most part,and many of these books will be available in paperback by 2012. Times will be tough next year but I hope that we all get the chance to visit our local libraries and brick n' mortar bookstores. Reading is a solitary pleasure,true,but book shops and libraries are excellent places to find friends and share secrets along with reading recommendations:
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