Archive for December, 2009

My Top 10

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Of course I review nowhere near as many books as the newspapers, but I thought I would go ahead and do my own top 10 books from the year anyway.  I’m including the date of my original review in case you want to go into my archives and read the original full review.

In no particular order…

Cutting for Stone By Abraham Verghese

A wonderful epic novel that takes you from India to Ethiopia to America as you follow two generations of doctors and the family and political powers that shaped them. Reviewed May 10.

The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels

This book is so beautifully written and contains so many thoughtful passages you don’t mind the simple plot. Rich and fulfilling. Reviewed August 12.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Broockmeier

This is a cheat since this book was not released in 2009, but the paperback was issued. One of my all time favorite books, it explores human relationships as mankind disappears from the planet. And, no, it’s not depressing. Reviewed March 1.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

An unflinchingly fierce look at modern India as seen through the eyes of an ambitious young man. Written with humor and plenty of punch. Reviewed January 2.

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Gosh

This engrossing novel intertwines the stories of several families and individuals in 1830s India. The rich, memorable characters inspire the full gamut of emotions. Reviewed March 8.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The true story of Amazon explorer Percy Fawcett and others who searched for the legendary El Dorado, this book is one wild ride. It’s a clear case of fact being stranger than fiction. Reviewed May 23.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

A charming mystery suitable for young and old. It stars an eleven year old girl who thinks finding a dead body in the garden makes it the most interesting day in her life. Flavia de Luce is a worthy heroine. Reviewed June 22.

The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatine.

A compelling portrait of the evolving relationship of an interracial couple against the background of the birth of Zimbabwe and the ensuing struggle for safety and survival. A wonderful first novel. Reviewed October 9.

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

Tightly focused on Jackson’s two terms, this biography gives a clear-eyed portrait of a man who made indelible marks on our country — for better or worse. Jackson’s war on the National Bank is particularly interesting given recent events. Reviewed February 20.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

An intense and thrilling mystery built around one of the most interesting characters to come along in years. It’s a page turner to the very end. Literally. Reviewed September 12.

Keep in mind I like every book I write about — but often for very different reasons. I try to write reviews that give you an idea if what I like is also something you will care for.

I hope I’ve made it easier for you to find some new good books this past year. And that you’ll continue to visit (sign up for my RSS feed!).

Enjoy the holidays. I’ll spend mine with a good book. Or two. Or more.

“I want to read more books like that one.”

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

When you find an author you absolutely love, you start gobbling up every other book he or she has out there like potato chips. Well, I do anyway.

So what do you do when the last book is read and the next one hasn’t come out yet?

You probably try to find other authors with a similar writing style in the same genre. Of course your best source for new writers is friends who love the same books you do. But I’ve come across a fun alternative online:

Gnod – The global network of dreams

This “learning” website recommend authors based on your likes, gives you a chance to join discussions about authors (though these tend to be rather lame and not worth anyone’s time), and can create a Map of Literature around any author you wish. Basically Gnod takes your favorite authors and the favorites of others who have visited the site and places their names in a galaxy of writers. The author you enter is at the center and surrounding it are numerous other writers. The names closest to your author are most likely to be read and liked by people who also liked your author.

That doesn’t sound very clear in words but is crystal clear visually, and it is fun to do. You can also click on any author’s name in that galaxy and a new galaxy will form with that writer at its center. The author’s names always take some time to settle into place and it’s rather fascinating just to watch.

Want to try it out? Just click here.

Oh, yes. It also does the same thing for music and movies. I think you’ll enjoy a visit. You might even want to bookmark the site. I did.


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December 2009