Monday, November 12, 2012
The LRG Best Books of 2012
Since it's only November,it may seem a little soon to post a Best Books of the year list. However, with the holiday rush(which is even more rushed than usual)coming upon us all too soon,this list might be helpful for your gift giving needs or just put in mind a few good reads to look for paperback next year.
Granted,most of the book talk in 2012 has been taken up by the whole 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon and while I enjoy a good sexy saga every now and then,taking a breather from the hot and heavy page turning there gives you an opportunity to explore other strange new worlds of literature,not to mention a few familiar ones along the way:
TURNING BACK TIME
One of the greatest pleasures I had this year was reading The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani,a steadfast saga story that was based upon the romance between her grandparents.
The lives of Enza and Ciro seemed destined to entwine,despite the numerous separations that fate set in their path. From their first meeting in the Italian Alps to their unexpected reunion in America,where Enza pursues her dreams of being a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House and Ciro works towards being a master shoemaker,the beauty of their developing relationship is as charming as a fairy tale.
Trigiani has written plenty of wonderful,heart warming novels but this one is clearly her masterpiece as well as a loving tribute to her family lore:
I was lucky enough to receive several good books from Library Thing's Early Reviewers program and one of them was Lois Leveen's debut novel,The Secrets of Mary Bowser. Also based on a true story,Mary was born a slave but was later freed by the daughter of the family she and her mother worked for and even sent to school in Philadelphia just before the outbreak of the Civil War.
Mary wound up returning to her home state of Virginia in order to become a spy for the Union,posing as a maid in the household of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. This tale of one of the unknown heroines of the Civil War is engaging and inspiring,with much to think and rejoice about:
Louise Erdrich's The Round House has it's Native American narrator recall the spring and summer of 1988,when his mother was sexually attacked and the search for justice was made more difficult by the legalities between tribal and state law.
The author initially sought to address an ongoing injustice within the Native American community towards women and violent crimes but it become a look into a corner of society that connects very deeply to the rest of the world with it's emotional scars and sorrows. The Round House is currently up for a National Book Award and for it not to win would be a real crime against art:
A group of female friends in modern day India seek to reunite in The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar,mainly to say a final goodbye to the one who started a new life in America. These women were close as sisters during the turbulent times in Bombay in the late seventies but have mostly gone their separate ways since then.
This chance to see each other again causes not only reflections upon the past and present for themselves but also for the men in their lives as well. Umrigar was a journalist before she started writing novels and while I'm sure she did excellent work in that field,we are all the better for her switch in literary careers:
MUSIC,MOVIES AND LOVE
I had heard a lot of great things about Jess Walter but until I read Beautiful Ruins, I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. Now,I am happy to know why many find his work so pleasing.
In this book alone,his characters go back and forth through time and countries,with the strong plot thread beginning on a small island inn in a remote corner of Italy where a young actress is hiding out and the wistful young inn keeper falls hopelessly in love with her.
Decades later,that inn keeper travels to Hollywood to find her and runs into quite a few fishy folk,including a desperate to stay on top film producer,his one step away from quitting assistant and a would be screenwriter eager to turn the story of the Donner party into a big budget extravaganza.
Brilliantly meta,darkly humorous and at times,rather touching,Beautiful Ruins is a delight for all seasons:
Another great book that I got from Library Thing was Emily Arsenault's Miss Me When I'm Gone,that has a pregnant woman looking into the mysterious death of an old friend.
Her former college roommate made a name for herself with Tammyland, a memoir that used country music divas as it's theme and while researching a sequel,stumbled onto a few family secrets that may have lead to her demise. In seeking answers to those questions,more than one life is put in jeopardy.
Plenty of country music lore is mixed in with the plot and it creates an emotional soundtrack to this tale of lost chances,misunderstandings and regret that is just as stirring as a Tammy Wynette song:
Speaking of songs,the leading man in Jonathan Tropper's One Last Thing Before I Go has quite a sad one to sing. His big moment of glory was as the drummer of a one hit wonder band that fell apart when the lead singer broke away from them.
Now,living in a apartment complex full of fellow divorcees with his former wife about to marry a successful doctor and his teen daughter unexpectedly pregnant,he doesn't see much to live for and refuses to have heart surgery that could save his life.
This may sound like a depressing book but give it a chance and you'll see the solid silver story telling lining that this likable sad sack discovers along the way towards making a steady decision about his future:
MAKE MINE MARVEL
In Marvel Comics:The Untold Story,Sean Howe chronicles the rise and mixed fortunes of a comic book empire that is still growing by leaps and bounds to this day.
From in-house feuds to the bizarre notions put forth by new management over the years and numerous battles to keep in touch with the trends of the times,the behind the scenes adventures at Marvel are about as compelling as those faced by the likes of Spiderman or the Fantastic Four.
Even if you're just a fan of the movies made from Marvel Comics,this book gives you real insight into what makes this creative realm tick and that it's not just a grown up version of child's play:
There are many other wonderful books that came out this year and now with the election over with,we should be able to enjoy them more thoroughly. As for 50 Shades of Grey,one good thing about that sexy series of books hitting the mainstream is that people are realizing that they don't have to hide their guilty pleasure reading in public anymore:
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