Saturday, December 19, 2009

Runners-up: Books I probably should have put on the list but didn’t

Wonderful Town: The New Yorker published this collection of short stories in 2000; it doesn't really fit in the countdown, but it was one of my favorite books nonetheless. The short stories from The New Yorker's pages all are set in New York, and their authors range from John Cheever to Jonathan Franzen. A couple of stories are a reach – the John Updike entry is more of a sketch – but this is a grand collection and a painful reminder of how the genre of the New Yorker short story has wilted over the years.

Sightseeing – As a short story collection, again it doesn't fit (although Kissing in Manhattan is a short-story collection with repeating characters), but it's probably the best collection by a single author I read from 2000-2009. Rattawut Lapcharoensap looks at Thailand from many angles, from the most personal to the intercultural (interaction with Western tourists) to the political, as echoes of repression still are felt by many of the characters. A few of the stories are exciting as well.

God Breathes His Dreams Through Nathaniel Cadwallader: This beautiful novel. Set in Wales, seems to have gone unnoticed as published in paperback form in the United States – my review is the only one on It's a sad mystical tale of doomed love, and I'd recommend picking it up if you come across it.

Licks of Love: This John Updike collection has a few short stories and one novella, kind of a coda to the Rabbit Angstrom series in which his son and his daughter find each other and interact. I liked it because it extended and capped the story of Rabbit.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: Teen angst In a New York gallery by Peter Cameron.

Winner of the National Book Award and The Writing Class by Jincy Willett: Both books are fun; one is set during a snowstorm I remember from 1978, and the other is a murder mystery set in a writing class in California.

Nation and The Graveyard Book: Terry Pratchett (Nation) and Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book) wrote fun novels that happen to be aimed at young adults but really are good for anybody. Both novels revel in the art of storytelling with the fantasy elements enhancing character development.

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