The Twenty Best Books of the Year

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312655396
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - October 26th, 2010

Brilliantly brief stories of loneliness & flatness, relationships & breakups & all sorts of meanderings. Lydia Davis's voice is distinctive and inimitable. Through mostly unnamed characters and locations, Davis shows the extreme generality and the extreme specificity of emotion. Finally all together in one perfectly miniature paperback, these stories of the deserts of the suburbs, of academia, of traffic, of domesticity, are perfect for fans of Lorrie Moore etc. [Hannah]

Legend of a Suicide Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061875847
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - March 2010

Legend of a Suicide isn't really a "holiday" book. A collection of stories and a novella all providing variations on a single event - the real life suicide of the author's father - you won't be reading this while roasting chestnuts. That said, writing doesn't get much better than this. The stories are at once enthralling, repulsive, sad, and true; and the novella will, at times, take your breath away. Good writing should leave you, I think, with a new way of seeing things. Great writing should devastate. This is the latter. [Tom]

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594484650
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - July 6th, 2010

Maile Meloy's stories are spare, smart, and spot on. Sibling rivalry, infidelity, and the longing for youth and freedom are just a few subjects her collection covers. Meloy is masterful at creating mood and tone. She trusts here readers to feel what they will - much more showing than telling here. Switch up your novel habit and give this wonderful collection a try. [Ann]

A Geography of Secrets Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609530006
Availability: Special Order
Published: Unbridled Books - September 7th, 2010

I read A Geography of Secrets in a summer fit of thrillers and spy novels. Somewhat in spite of the spies lurking in the margins of this book and the attention Reuss's prose commands, this is neither of those. This is quieter work of fiction, a wonderfully evocative book about the personal and professional struggles of two fairly insignificant men on the periphery of the national security scene. What Reuss has done is scale the scope of secrecy, deception, and power back from the grand international stage to the infinitesimal level of the American family, and he has done so with more tender feeling for his characters, with their many flaws and shortcomings, than Jonathan Franzen could. [Jeff]

The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings Cover Image
By James Baldwin, Randall Kenan (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780307378828
Availability: Special Order
Published: Pantheon - August 24th, 2010

This anthology is a must for those who have an interest in James Baldwin's works & in American culture during the 1950's through the 1980's. [Cheryl]

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will Cover Image
By Judith Schalansky, Christine Lo (Translator)
ISBN: 9780143118206
Availability: Usually Ships in 3-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - October 5th, 2010

This book is impossible not to love. In a warped but endearingly whimsical way, Schalansky succinctly tells the brutal, sad and lonely stories of the world's remotest places. Her introduction captivatingly theorizes the power of remoteness to magnify and clarify something essential (I'm not sure exactly what) about human nature and experience. And each entry comes with a timeline to visually demonstrate how long it takes for anything to actually happen on a remote island, and a space-line to show how remote a remote island actually is. A perfect holiday gift book. [Dana]

Saul Bellow: Letters Cover Image
By Saul Bellow, Ben Taylor (Editor)
ISBN: 9780670022212
Availability: Special Order
Published: Viking Adult - November 4th, 2010

Great writers can make the most ordinary things interesting. Some of the letters in this collection are about the day-to-day details of life, and yet, we are interested in these small things, beautifully described. Not to mention the struggles of being a writer of novels and stories, day in and day out. There is a lot of Hyde Park and Chicago in these letters, and any fan of Bellow would love them. But even if you haven't read much Bellow, these letters are a window on the writer's life and world and daily struggles, big and small. Check out the index to see if your favorite writer or literary figure is included! [Laura]

X'Ed Out Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307379139
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - October 19th, 2010

I remember first hearing of Charles Burns when I discovered his illustrations for the record label Sub Pop, and I've been keeping an eye on him ever since. X'ed Out may be both his most bizarre and his best work to date. All I can tell you is that the story concerns a young man Doug who is in the process of recovering from a head injury. To try to summarize beyond that would be frustrating and ultimately pointless. The story and artwork are reminiscent of Tintin, but in a much darker, creepier, and cryptic way. The first in what promises to be an impressive series, we are forced to wait and wonder what becomes of Doug until the other books come out. If anything, at least pick it up and flip through it while marveling at how long it must have taken him to make this. This is a must for any graphic novel fans. [Saul]

Hocus Bogus Cover Image
By Emile Ajar, Romain Gary, David Bellos (Translator)
ISBN: 9780300149760
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Yale University Press - March 2nd, 2010

Hocus Bogus is a triumph in so many ways: here misdirection overcomes clarity; author trumps reader, and, in this volume, translator outs author. In his introduction, translator (and Man Booker International Prize-winner), David Bellos explores the peculiar contradictions of a work of nonfiction that is clearly false, but completely true. Given all of that, the spine of this slim work of grotesque absurdity tells the story too sparely and too quickly: "Romain Gary writing as Emile Ajar" According to Bellos, it was only as Ajar that Gary was free enough to write as he always wanted to, and to graduate from a literary humanism to the desolation and savory bile of a good modernist novel. If you're a fan of Samuel Beckett and Philip Roth, or if you're listening for a harsh scream from an unexpected quarter, this is the book. [Jeff]

Visitation Cover Image
By Jenny Erpenbeck, Susan Bernofsky (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811218351
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - September 30th, 2010

In this dense little translation, we move through time but we never move in space. We are spectators to the grand passage of Germany's twentieth century in this one spot: a wood that lines the shore of a small lake. The physicality of experience weighs on Erpenbeck's words, tying human action to land, to rooms, to objects and to views. With no explanation of outside forces or political changes, "history" becomes nothing more than the vicissitudes of productivity and ruin. [Dana]

Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes Cover Image
By Daniel Kehlmann, Carol Janeway (Translator)
ISBN: 9780307378712
Availability: Special Order
Published: Pantheon - September 14th, 2010

Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes is by far the smartest novel I read this year. Kehlmann plays with form, character, and even the reader, all while delivering a fun, exhilirating experience. If you love the meta, you’ll love this book. If you love good writing, you’ll love this book. Actually, no matter who you are, you will love this book. Kehlmann is a frighteningly talented writer. Twenty years from now you’ll be eagerly awaiting his new book. Why wait until then to read him? [Tom]

Special Exits Cover Image
ISBN: 9781606993811
Availability: Special Order
Published: Fantagraphics Books - December 1st, 2010

This is a book about dying. There isn't really any way around it. Dying in all of its slowness, diffuseness, bumpiness, and of course, pain. It's a semi-autobiographical story of a woman caring for her aging parents in Los Angeles in the early 90s, and though at times its heavy content makes it difficult to read, it's absolutely worth it. Joyce Farmer's dark, cross-hatched drawings perfectly capture the inside of a house that's been heaving and wearing for years and years. Through sometimes brutal flatness and repetition, Farmer chronicles two lives tending towards their end, and the incredible, relentless caring of a daughter for her sometimes difficult parents. Somewhere between Fun Home and Stitches, Special Exits is a welcome contribution to the long-form comic genre. [Hannah]

Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400067381
Availability: Special Order
Published: Random House - August 10th, 2010

Were you moved and wowed by Drinking: A Love Story? Did you know the author (Caroline Knapp) died in 2002? Well, Gail Caldwell took the memoir reins and wrote about her 10-year friendship with Caroline. Sad and sharp, this writing covers feelings of loss, longing, and remembrance. Caldwell and Knapp first met through their jobs and got reacquainted through their dogs. Both women also dealt with alcohol addiction at different times in their lives, which also served to bond them. Not a saccharine read here - just a heartfelt account of a dear friend and the zillion reasons why she's missed. [Ann]

To the End of the Land Cover Image
By David Grossman, Jessica Cohen (Translator)
ISBN: 9780307592972
Availability: Special Order
Published: Knopf - September 21st, 2010

This is a story about the anxiety of attachment and estrangement, of family and of relationships. Through the narrative of a woman torn between two men and her memories of her two sons, Grossman addresses the problems of the Israeli family as it struggles to exist in a culture of constant war and hostility, and after fifty years of tension, violence, and occupation. This book is a traumatic
masterpiece, lovingly written, and a phenomenal tour of modern Israel. [Jeff]

Shadow Tag Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061536090
Availability: Special Order
Published: Harper - February 1st, 2010

Erdrich's novel delves into the complexities of marriage & family with surprising twists (it reads like a Shakespearean play). [Cheryl]

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307268938
Availability: Special Order
Published: Knopf - August 24th, 2010

I'm primarily a fiction reader, so my understanding and interest in the genres of nonfiction is mostly still in the development stage. I generally stumble upon nonfiction books, and continue reading them only if the story is interesting and the narrative exciting. “Tiger” blew away my expectations. It's the account of a rural Siberian village and the mysterious tiger that ostensibly terrorizes its inhabitants. A tired story, you might think – maybe you've seen the movie The Ghost and the Darkness - so why is this a book and not a simple article in National Geographic? The answer lies in the incredible backstory that Vaillant illustrates for us. “Tiger” is not only the tale of Man vs. Beast, but of history, culture, ecology, and anatomy, and how all of these intersect in a fringe post-communist Russian town. If you're a fan of Jon Krakauer or just love a good adventure story, this book's for you. [Saul

While the Women Are Sleeping Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811216630
Availability: Special Order
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - November 29th, 2010

Javier Marias is the best writer alive. There, I said it. This latest collection of his stories isn’t even necessarily the best place to start (it’s the only new work of his out this year), but it is a fine book, full of the fantastic prose only he is capable of. I seriously picked this book in order that more people would know about him. So, please, do yourself a favor and pick this or any of his other works up. [Tom]

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307379207
Availability: Usually Ships in 3-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - September 7th, 2010

In his gutsy debut novel, Yu creates a world in which "science fiction" describes everything from Star Wars to the suburbs -- everything that seems imagined, fantastic, artificial and unattainable to Yu and his immigrant family. He uses the time travel trope to explore his relationship with his parents and to explain his family's troubling disconnect with reality. I would like to call it a "science fictional memoir," but I'm not sure that's even allowed. [Dana]

Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375711398
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - November 2nd, 2010

What could be better than good food and great writing? This book, newly out in paperback, goes through the year with entries for each day including musings about memorable meals, delicious recipes and intriguing ingredients. Included are darling color illustrations throughout. A great gift for the foodie in your life, but also for someone who appreciates good prose writing or memoir. James Salter is a delightful writer and this volume proves once again that a book in the hand can be more than just for reading - it is a lovely object, nicely produced. No Kindle can match it. [Laura]

Some Sing, Some Cry Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312198992
Availability: Special Order
Published: St. Martin's Press - September 14th, 2010

A rare narrative of African American women spanning many generations telling their stories of struggle & survival from slavery to now. [Cheryl]