Monday, September 13, 2010

A Few of the Better Things I've Read This Year

Since I talked about reading last week, I figured I'd highlight some of things I've read this year that I greatly enjoyed:

Bill Bryson - Notes From A Small Island/In A Sunburned Country
Bryson is one of the best non-fiction writers around and quite possibly the best travel writer on the planet. He bounces from silly to cosmically meditative in a way that is both quirky and utterly human. These books describe his trips in England and Australia respectively and if you've never read his work either one is worth a read. I'd give Sunburned Country a bit of an edge since he wrote such an excellent book about a country that is really, mostly, almost completely empty.

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale
It seems like everyone has already read this, but what a fantastic book it is. After the first 100 pages I finally got into the groove and tore through this like few books I've read in a while. Atwood, who's not a sci-fi author manages to describe this bleak near-future, where the need for children has reshaped society into a fascist state, in beautiful prose. And another book that described an imperfect future was ...

Kazuo Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go
... this. Another sad and beautiful tale about the near future (or a sort of alternate now) set in a British boarding school but taking on themes at the very core of human life. Word is that the forthcoming movie adaptation will be the greatest thing of all time ever. But before that comes out I recommend giving the novel a read.

John Banville - The Sea / Eclipse
Another author who I read a couple of books by this year. Eclipse, about a troubled former actor returning to his childhood home, was good, but The Sea was amazing. It's another returning-to-the-past novels (I have a feeling based on this two novel subset all his novels may be about returning to old residences and reminiscing) this time about the protagonist dealing with the death of his wife and returning to the vacation town of his childhood. It sounds dry, but for a short book I found it deeply affecting.

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