Booklist 2011 – Suggestions Sought

In 2005 I asked readers of defective yeti to pick a year’s worth of books for me. They did, and I wound up reading some of the best literature of my life. I still harken back to the comments that entry when I am in need of a novel to devour.

I haven’t been reading as much in recent years, but for some reason signed on to the 2011 Tournament of Books, becoming a judge for the first time ever. And to that end, I spent January reading my assigned tomes: Model Home by Eric Puchner and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. (The details and brackets of the 2011 ToB were anounced today. check them out.)

From there I moved on to the Uglies quadrilogy, a teen sci-fi series that was recommended by a dear friend. Fun! But these novels each take like a day to complete, and I need to have something lined up if I want to maintain my momentum.

And anyway, reading a score of recommended books is a 2011 Project of mine. So I again turn my lonely eyes to you, Internet. Below are the books I have already selected; please aid me in rounding out the list to an even 20.

The Current List

Candidates

Recommendations From Comments & Email

Please make recommendations in the comments; I will keep the above list updated as more are suggested. Please second those Candidates that you feel ought to be promoted to the main list (or steer me away from those that you feel I best avoid).

If you want to triangulate your suggestions a bit, I’ll tell you that my favorite books from 2010 were: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (so good!), Little Bee, Zeitoun, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo SHUT UP I LIKED IT.

I’ll review each and every Booklist 2011 novel here on my site. That’s a defective yeti promise. Which means a promise likely to be broken. But I’ll try.

* * *

87 comments.

  1. The Vegetarian Myth is one of the most enlightening books I’ve read in the past year.

  2. Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard
    Voice of The Fire by Alan Moore
    Homicide by David Simon

    Good luck, and enjoy!

  3. This is also a ToB book, but still: I didn’t think I would love the switching-around perspectives of A Visit from the Goon Squad, but it was a fantastic read. It goes from future to past, narratives are drawn out years ahead in just a sentence, and there’s even a chapter written in Powerpoint slides that’s compelling instead of being obnoxious.

    The Metropolis Case was great — it’s science fiction-y, primarily about opera, and somehow makes that make sense.

  4. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. And if you do audiobooks, then I especially recommend you do Kraken as audio; it makes it doubly fantastic.

    I couldn’t get past the prologue of Child 44. It’s such an orgy of miserabilism that Smith burned through all the goodwill I extend toward an unfamiliar author.

  5. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart was in the 2009 ToB, so you may have already read it. It’s my go-to recommendation because I loved it so much.

  6. I loved both Bonk and Kraken, and if you liked The Wire, you’ll like Simon’s Homicide book.

    One of my favorite books ever is A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin, the writing is just breathtaking.

    I also liked Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and definitely won’t be seeing the movie. The Swedish movie uncomplicated it too much, I’m sure us ugly American’s will take that even farther.

    Did you read Time Traveler’s Wife? It’s also very good.

  7. Oh, and the epilogue of the 3rd GIRL WITH … book is a great epilogue, and I almost recommend reading the rest of the series just for that one chapter.

  8. Neil Gaiman, American Gods. Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather. Alan Moore, The Watchmen. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. Rudyard Kipling, Kim. Berkley Breathed, Flawed Dogs. Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Cory Doctorow, For The Win.

  9. (non-fiction) Michael Pollan – The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    (non-fiction) Neil Ferguson – The Ascent of Money
    (graphic novel) Tim Eldred – Grease Monkey
    (fiction) Eric Garcia – Cassandra French’s Finishing School

  10. I’ll strongly urge you to move COLUMBINE out of the candidate list… I found it riveting, sickening, uplifting & compelling.

    For a couple of off-beat fiction choices, I’d recommend:

    – THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart (which also has two sequels)… these are odd YA novels with their own rhythm & style – the characters are delightful and the adventures are actually adventurous. Both my son & I love them.

    – AURALIA’S COLORS by Jeffrey Overstreet (which is the first book in a four book series… the next two, CYNDERE’S MIDNIGHT and RAVEN’S LADDER, are available now. The last book, THE ALE BOY’S FEAST, will be released later this spring.) This is a wonderous fantasy world whose plot threads weave together from book to book while exploring the nature of belief, the heart of the artist, the true meaning of love and lots of other stuff. I was completely captivated by them and look forward to reading the final book in the coming months.

    And for your non-fiction “enjoyment”, I’d suggest ENDGAME, 1945: THE MISSING FINAL CHAPTER OF WORLD WAR 2. The author, David Stafford, follows 9 different people through the aftermath of the war in Europe – their stories are fascinating.

  11. This is by no means a recent book, but I just discovered “Never Let Me Go” and was totally blown away.

  12. Mark: When you say “move COLUMBINE out of the candidate list”, do you mean onto the main list or off the lists entirely?

  13. Onto the main list! COLUMBINE is an incredible book/work of journalism.

  14. Ok, done.

  15. You should read NOTHING TO ENVY about North Korea, which I am currently reading. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the subject matter is real, because parts of it read like distopian fiction.

  16. “The Black Hole War” by Leonard Susskind.

    An easy read. But at the end, you’ll come to the conclusion that all those other books you’ve read were a waste of time.

  17. Anathem by Neal Stephenson (best geek novel ever), and The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse (Nobel prize winner for Literature).

  18. I liked Dragon Tattoo too, much to my chagrin.

    How about: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
    Far Arden by Kevin Cannon (graphic novel)
    In the Woods by Tana French (suspenseful like Dragon Tattoo, but the writing’s much better)

  19. This is great! I’m always looking for book recommendations. Consider this post bookmarked.

    My Three Favorite Books:
    – “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger
    – “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson
    – “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

    Also, if you like weird “young adult” trilogies? “The Hunger Games.”

  20. Yeah, the Girl with the dragon tattoo series was ridiculously readable (especially surprising at that length). I’d recommend the Hundred thousand kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin — it was unusual fantasy (different from most of the genre themes) and the sequel was equally awesome. Also great were Graceling & Fire by Kristin Cashore, City of Bones (and rest of trilogy) by Cassandra Clare, and (if you don’t mind reading kid’s books) The lightning thief and sequels by Rick Riordan. Oh, and if you haven’t read Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, you should.

    In a non-fantasy recommendation, The Spellman files by Lisa Lutz was great, but the 2nd and 3rd books are even better.

    These books are all more short attention span books, the sort you can read in one obsessed weekend.

    I found The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart to be disappointing — not as cool as it could have been.

  21. I’d move The Manual of Detection onto the main list in a heartbeat, given the choice. I didn’t expect much going in, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a surreal little page-turner. Like Dickens if Dickens had recently read Murakami and said “Hey, that seems like fun.”

  22. “The Power of One” is not worth reading. I’d recommend “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, or “The Erotic Potential of My Wife” if you want something quick and easy.

  23. I’d move “Never Let Me Go” to the main list and add Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin.

  24. I love everything by Jonathan Tropper. This Is Where I Leave You is one of my favorites. I also love Richard Russo. That Old Cape Magic or some of his older stuff like The Risk Pool or Empire Falls. Cathedral of the Sea by Falcones is great. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant is fantastic.

  25. If you’re considering non-fiction, how about “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10″. I was fascinated by it! the “Time Traveler’s Wife” is also good and I loved “The Hunger Games” series.

  26. “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray

    (I really want to read Columbine, but I’ve sworn on pain of death and divorce to read Lonesome Dove before anything else on my list.)

  27. What is Friendless saying about marriage?
    “The Erotic Potential of My Wife” if you want something quick and easy.

    Anyway, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes is good.
    Also, The Great Influenza, by John Barry.
    Anything by Barbara Tuchman.

  28. I highly recommend the HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I read them over Christmas and couldn’t put them down.

    I also really enjoyed Steig Larsson’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO/WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE/WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST. Absolutely loved them, flaws and all.

    And I just finished reading THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER by Oliver Potszch. Found it really interesting…though I’m not sure I would say it has to go on to the first list.

    Oh, also. I’ve become a pretty big fan of Lee Goldberg’s fiction. Goldberg writes for Monk and his novels are hilarious, shocking, and generally entertaining. I recommend starting with MY GUN HAS BULLETS.

  29. Wait, I don’t understand the “yeah, I know…” bit. Elaborate?

  30. Dave: The reviews on Freedom have been … mixed.

  31. If it helps, you can preview a bit of the book via these two New Yorker short stories, which are excerpts:

    http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2009/06/08/090608fi_fiction_franzen

    http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2010/05/31/100531fi_fiction_franzen

    (I haven’t read “Freedom,” but I enjoyed “The Corrections” and “Strong Motion” immensely, as I did both of the above entries, especially “Good Neighbors.”)

  32. Hey, thanks for promoting my book (Columbine). I’m eager to hear what you think. And thanks for the big nudge, Mark.

    It’s pretty great company.

    I’d recommend Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, by Ben Hale, and The Architect of Flowers by William Lychack (it doesn’t come out till next month, but you’ll have time. I’m reading an ARC, and it’s really something.)

    And if you’ve never gotten to Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, you have a treat ahead. Somehow I love that book more every year.

    And Homesick by my mentor Lucia Berlin is and always will be priceless.

  33. Thirds on Homicide. Thirds on Never Let Me Go.

    With your interest in crime fiction and general braininess, you may like either Remainder by Tom McCarthy or The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills. The first is about a man who loses his memory in an accident while getting a great deal of money in a settlement, and spends his time trying to recreate scenarios. The second is about an anxious manager and a pair of mooks who work digging fences, and keep killing people by mistake. And what the hell, I’ll throw in a third: Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard, about a British resort town on the Spanish coast where a man goes to clear his brother of a murder charge, only to discover all sorts of transgression, with the deep complicity of the whole place.

    All of this reminds me: if you haven’t read Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins, you should stop updating online or tweeting or talking to anyone or going to work until you do. That will probably take about half a white-knuckle day. It’s about a middleman who sells guns to bank robbers. The first paragraph:

    Jackie Brown at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns. “I can get your pieces probably by tomorrow night. I can get you, probably, six pieces. Tomorrow night. In a week or so, maybe ten days, another dozen. I got a guy coming in with at least ten of them but I already talk to another guy about four of them and he’s, you know, expecting them. He’s got something to do. So, six tomorrow night. Another dozen in a week.”

    I shut up now.

  34. PS Child 44 is fine in the Thomas Harris vein, but kind of crappy too… overall a pleasant enough time, but I’m stunned it made the Booker shortlist.

  35. Gregory David Roberts – “Shantaram” (from around 2004)
    I can’t think of words to describe how entertaining it was to read it. It’s a fictionalized version of the life of an australian prison fugitive from the 80’s who settles in Mumbai depicting his life in the slums, involvement in local mafia, fight in Afghanistan against the russians. Not to mention his imprisonment in India, his work as an extra in Bollywood movies, passport forgerer, etc.
    I think it is incredibly antertaining and well written. I will forever be indebted to my sister for giving me this book.

  36. “Room: A Novel,” by Emma Donoghue — my favorite novel last year. A completely unexpected book, unlike any other novel I’ve read.

    Amazon.com Review, Amazon Best of the Month, September 2010: In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way–he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue’s Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enter Room will leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time. –Lynette Mong

  37. I donbt really want to addanother book, but could you please write short reviews of your favorite books from last year?

  38. “Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood” by Oliver Sacks

  39. I second The Power of One. It’s one of those epic, triumphant, growing-up books. I would say it’s in my top 10 favorite books with The Seas by Samantha Hunt, LA Confidential and several Neil Gaiman books.

    Of the books you listed as your favorites from 2010, I have only read Dragon Tattoo. I felt it was a little transparent, but still an enjoyable read. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a book that seems to pop up on every list recommended for me, if that tells you anything about my tastes.

  40. Of the books I’ve read recently, I’d nominate Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr.

  41. Never Let Me Go is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

  42. My all time favorite read:

    The Underground Man
    By Mick Jackson

  43. Oh I very much second “Gilead” and “Goon Squad” — they’re fantastically different, too, which will make for a rich juxtaposition.

  44. Skip “The Vegetarian Myth”. It may have some interesting points, but it is short on verified information and long on “facts” cherry-picked from unreliable sources just because they support the author’s own opinions.

  45. Matt,

    Read Tom Bissell’s EXTRA LIVES: video games and why they matter. Interesting book about how games work as art.
    Jon

  46. (Quickly scanned through the comments to see it hasn’t been mentioned before and I don’t see it, but in case I’m mistaken, sorry for the redundancy.)

    Jasper Fforde – Shades of Grey.
    Or really, anything Jasper Fforde. His Thursday Next series (five books, soon to be six) is absolutely brilliant; Shades of Grey, the first in what will be a separate series, is very different from the Thursday Next books, and in some ways is more like ‘traditional’ scifi, but it’s… well, it’s *different*, and it’s clever, and it’s fun, and it makes you think.
    (And I also heard good things about his young-adult book The Last Dragonslayer, but haven’t read it yet.)
    Go get yourself some Fforde, and soon. You won’t regret it.

  47. I just finished Bonk. Warning: this book takes a very risque subject, and delivers it in a very clinical, dry way. While somewhat interesting, it will takes the sexy out of sex.

  48. Three from my 2010 list:
    To Say Nothing Of The Dog – by Connie Willis
    and
    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – by Susanna Clarke
    and
    The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – by Michael Chabon

    and I’d second The Time Traveller’s Wife as well as The Omnivore’s Dilema.

  49. I’ll second “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” (by Barbara Demick). I’m reading it now, and it is fascinating to get a glimpse into a truly closed world. It’s written from interviews Demick did with North Koreans who had defected to South Korea.

  50. I would definitely second Anathem by Neal Stephenson – or the whole of his Baroque cycle, if you haven’t read that. All substantial reads, and very easy to get hooked.

    If you haven’t read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, that would be the place I would start from with Michael Chabon, although The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (as Tom suggests above) is also worth a read.

  51. Kavalier and Clay was a non-starter for me (but it’s still on my to-read list) and Cryptonomicon is another good Neal Stephenson read.

  52. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
    by Susanna Clarke

    It’s a novelized history of the return of English Magic in the early 19th Century. I recommend it for the excellent footnotes alone!

  53. I’m recommending ‘The Interrogative Mood’ to everyone at the moment, whatever their tastes. Is it a novel? I don’t know. Its 150 pages of questions, some will have you thinking for days, some will make you laugh. You’ll never forget reading this book.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/books/review/Emmons-t.html

  54. I highly recommend Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. There’s a follow up, The Year of the Flood, and a to-be-realeased third installment. Wonderful post-apocalyptic science fiction.

  55. I second “The Book Thief”, one of the best books I read last year. I also enjoyed David Mitchell’s “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”.

  56. I absolutely second Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman — beautiful, haunting stories.

    Some recent favorites I didn’t see listed:

    The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, who is a lovely writer and my new favorite
    This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Holmes
    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – seriously, amazing.
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – I didn’t expect to like a book by the creator of Boing Boing as much as I did!
    Sunshine by Robin McKinley is a vampire story with a nice twist
    Flicker by Theodore Roszak is a weird read, but a fun ride.

    And for non-fiction, my favorite one to recommend is At the Water’s Edge by Carl Zimmer (a god among science writers). Awesome history of how humans came to understand whale evolution. No, really, it’s awesome.

  57. Guns, Germs, and Steel is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

    For what it’s worth, I think one book about money is enough, but I like the idea of Video Games and Why They Matter. I come to you for board games ideas all the time.

    Not sure if it adds any weight to my suggestions, but I loved Little Bee and the whole Stieg Larsson series. I also loved Infinite Jest. By the way, can you make this list into Summer of Booklist 2011 or something? There is a huge gap in my life still remaining where Infinite Summer ended.

  58. If you end up liking Black Swan Green, read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It’s Mitchell’s best work to date, very beautiful, with compelling characters. Funny and sad, at turns.

    Also, recommending that Anil’s Ghost get moved onto the main list. It’s a short read, but also beautifully written. The prose is sort of ethereal and based a lot on images and impressions, but there’s also a mystery at the center which keeps the plot moving. Manages also to give a good “slice of life” overview of the political/racial turmoil in Sri Lanka, without being a straightforward history of it.

  59. Seconding Laura’s American Gods recommendation. One of my all time favorites, if not number one.

  60. I really don’t get all the hating on Freedom. It’s so good. Maybe he’s done too well? I loved it. And I’m kind of picky. I’m really interested in what you have to say about Model Home. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself until I see your review. Super Sad True Love Story is on the kitchen table…have to read Lord of Misrule (if I can finish it – good lord with the HORSES already) and Skippy Dies first before I owe the library yet more late fees.

  61. My favorite book is The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. Since you liked House of Leaves, I think you’ll like this one.

  62. I recommend Born to Run by Christopher McDougal

    Even if you’re not a runner this is a fascinating, entertaining book that will change your perspective on something that has grown to be a part of you. Shoes.

  63. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. A surprisingly good book — it makes you feel good about the whole endeavor of reading.

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. To those who scoff at YA — take that. The machinations of empire, the corruption of power, and a gripping narrative to boot.

  64. I second “A Soldier of the Great War.” A beautiful novel.

    If you want to read “Guns, Germs & Steel” I’d recommend reading “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann, first. It has some truly fascinating history of the pre-columbian Americas, and completely turned my view of that period on it’s head. You get some of the same insight as “Guns, Germs…”, but it’s written for a layman rather than academic audience and, for a history book, is a page-turner.

  65. You likle boardgames (like me), so I wholeheartly recommend “Word Freak” by Steafn Fatsis, even if you dislike Scrabble (like me)! Its so funny and interesting that I bought & Read (& enjoxed) Fatsis second book “A few seconds of panic” despite (as being from Germany) that I dont know anything about American Football.
    Check it out!

    And my favorite book of the last 6 month:
    “Merchants of doubt – How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Its delievered matter-offactly an unbelieveble Story which constantly lets you shake your head – Great Read!

    (There is so muc fiction on your list already, so I wont say anything about “Anathema” and “Shades of Grey” ;-)

  66. “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” by Alexandra Fuller.
    Totally engrossing memoir of her childhood in Africa. Brilliant read.

  67. Bonk! Read Bonk! It’s funny, the subject is interesting, and while all Mary Roach books have entertaining footnotes they reach a new height in this book.

  68. I also second Winter’s Tale – so strange and lovely. But I am interested in why Friendless didn’t think The Power of One was worth reading? A statement like that implies a fundamental flaw in the book, not just a dislike of the style or topic.

  69. Freedom was good, and it is easier to read than many novels of its length. Bump it up~

    I’d also recommend The Escape by Adam Thirlwell (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/books/review/Salvatore-t.html). I just finished it and it was one of the more interesting books I’ve read in a while. One that you don’t just finish with and put down but think about for a while to decide if you like it or not. I did.

  70. Oh,hell. I’m in the minority, but I’d gladly give away my copy of Never Let Me Go. Hated that book; thought it was vapid and silly. Terrible. Honestly, if someone wants it and will pay for shipping, it’s yours–hardback, even.
    I’d recommend, in nonfiction, The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Completely riveting story of the ongoing obsession of explorers of the Amazon. I saw Jon Stewart interview the author and I got it immediately. If you haven’t ever read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which is a sort of retelling of Hamlet novel, that’s a really good read. It’s beautifully written, yet still very nicely engaging.

  71. I am third-ing Manual of Detection. Probably my favorite of last year. Weird and good and engrossing.

  72. If you like food – American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen made me drool (and was very well written).

    And, I’m not a big zombie fan but World War Z is very well done and so much more – by Max Brooks (son of Mel).

  73. First comment on your blog, but given that I like the books you like, I’ll give you three of my favorite books of all time:

    A Fine Balance – Rohintin Mistry
    Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
    Water Music – T.C. Boyle

    You simply can’t go wrong with any of them.

  74. Second The Raw Shark Texts. A surreal adventure, with some wonderful settings.

  75. This may be a silly question, but have you read A Game of Thrones? Pure entertainment.

  76. I second (or third or fourth) Jasper Fforde, “Oryx and Crake” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

  77. Ooh ooh! Read the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness! If you enjoyed Westerfield’s Uglies it’s a must. It’s about a human colony on another planet. There are only men in the village, and everyone’s thoughts are constantly broadcast. The call it, “noise.” The noise includes animals as well, and the opening line of the book is the main character’s dog saying, “Need a poo, Todd.” Which, hilarious. Ok, but seriously these books are great. Exciting and thought provoking and I was so mad when I read the first two and found out that the third hadn’t been published yet (it has now, and I don’t even have an excuse for this since I’m a Youth Services Librarian)

    Also, I can’t believe Little Bee was a favorite. I thought it was so bogus that Sarah brought Charlie to Nigeria. I thought it was totally out of character for her and the revelations that she JUST HAD. Also, when she did bring him, his role became totally predictable. YMMV

  78. I second both Nothing To Envy and Room, especially if you enjoy books about people desperately trying to escape from unimaginably horrific and seemingly hopeless situations.

  79. Oh, right TC Boyle. Forgot to say that. I really liked Tooth and Claw, but that’s a story collection so I don’t know if it counts. Drop City was great, too.

  80. Bonk is perhaps one of my top books I’ve read this year. (read it while waiting for “Packing for Mars” to come back to the library.) The subject matter being what it is, the author must have carefully re-read each chapter to make sure it didn’t fall into the “playground laugh” zone. The footnotes, like always, are hilarious, perhaps more so than the main writing. It’s also a pretty quick read, though I don’t suggest you bring it along to places where people are likely to ask the awkward question of “what’s that about?”, ie work, coach tours, family reunion/gatherings. Grandma had to ask about the ladybugs on the cover…

  81. My recommendation, (though you don’t know me from Jack) is a book by the name of: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This book surprised me like no other book has in a long while, grabbed me up and forcibly dragged me along for a ride on a train gone rogue and you’re waiting for the tracks to fall out from under you the whole time. Yet, when it happens, you’re shocked and heartsick, but find redemption, hope, and true faith so beautiful, your heart breaks again. Did I give too much away? ooops, darn it. ~grinz~

  82. The Stone of Laughter Hoda Babakarat. On the problem of femaleness in civil war and life.

  83. Saw you’re considering “Bonk” by Gail Roach. Anything by her is great, “Bonk” included. She actually has sex with her husband in an MRI as part of her research.

    If you haven’t read any of her books I’d start with “Stiff: The Curious Life of a Cadaver”. I read “Packing for Mars” a while ago and that set me on to reading some of her recommendations (her footnotes are the equal of her prose) like, “Riding Rockets” the autobiography of Astronaut Mike Mullane. There is some seriously laugh out loud stuff in that book.

  84. Oh please read Skippy Dies. It is fantastic.

    Please do not read the Bryce Courtenay book. Execrable.

  85. “Bonk” by Mary Roach was phenomenal, as were her books “Spook” and “Stiff” about the afterlife and cadavers. I think my favorite of hers however is the most recent one about packing for Mars. A real riot.

    And I just read the coment above saying basically the same thing. But, I’m leaving my comment anyway :)

  86. […] which brings my required reading for the year up to four. As for the remainder my 2011 Booklist, I asked you for suggestions. Based on your feedback, here are the 25 books I have selected. (Twenty-five rather than twenty so […]

  87. Not the newest book (do they have to be new) but “The Boy Detective Fails” by Joe Meno. Just wonderfully odd and entrancing, it deals with serious subject matter but balances it with the remnants of the childhood detective genre (for pete’s sake, the bottom of each page is in code, and there’s a cipher in the back).

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