Will A.’s Top Ten

1. Possession by A.S. Byatt: I can't say enough good things about this powerhouse of a novel. Byatt earns every one of “Possession's” 500+ pages by deftly crafting an intricate, thoroughly spellbinding story of parallel romances ? two Victorian poets and the contemporary researchers who study them. Every bit as graceful, sophisticated and elegant as it is enthralling, this story of love and letters is as close to flawless as I've read. {Review}

2. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham: Cunningham wraps a portrait of a wealthy, disenchanted New York couple in a gauze of midlife navel-gazing, exceptionally vivid one-liners and high-class erotic friction. I'd call it a guilty pleasure if I felt remotely guilty about liking it, which I don't.

3. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: The new Great American Novel is a portrait of the American Dream's meteor-like flame-out. Americana has never been quite so sad or quite so richly rendered.

4. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: Well, this was quite a surprise. I fully expected to be underwhelmed by this much-hyped tale of a love than spans continents and generations. Instead, I was just about knocked flat by the plot's purity, poignancy and ambition.

5. Wild Child by T.C. Boyle: Boyle has a knack like no other author I know for pulling off stories that are weird but still interesting and relatable rather than odd for odd's sake. Reading his work sometimes reminds me of being in a zoo or walking through an exhibit of curiosities and I mean that in the best possible way. {Review}

6. A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore: The Way We Live Now comes to a Madison-like town in Moore's account of a girl's coming-of-age in the beginning of a new social and political climate. Here, Moore applies her novelist's talent for description and detail to a highly topical plotline, making A Gate At The Stairs far more interesting than any headline on CNN.com. {Review}

7. Loot by Sharon Waxman: Full disclosure ? I'm a complete sucker for any book that contains “art,” “international,” and “intrigue” in its synopsis. But even with that bias, Waxman's thorough research and evenhandedness as she examines art controversies ? who owns ancient objects, stolen artwork, cultural heritage? ? make this a standout of the genre. {Review}

8. The Safety of Objects by A.M. Homes: Each one of Homes' deeply unsettling short stories made me feel like I had been cut somewhere in a place I could feel but not quite see. Upon finishing this collection, I became much more grateful for my very ho-hum existence. {Review}

9. The Infinities by John Banville: The Infinities needed a little something stronger running through its veins, but Banville's writing is crystalline in its observation and precise in its detail. He might not be able to make the phone book interesting, but his attempt would be technically perfect. {Review}

10. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich: I finally got around to reading this piece of modern muckracking, an account of how Ehrenreich tried to make it in several American cities on low-wage jobs. I got the feeling, at times, that Ehrenreich would've written this book no matter what the results of her experiment, but overall I was glad someone was being a rabble-rouser and demanding we pay attention to things we'd rather ignore. {Review}

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1 Comment

  1. Stefanie 01.Jan.11 at 10:55 am

    Isn’t Possession wonderful? I read it several years ago and have been a fan of Byatt’s ever since. Highly recommend her nonfiction book On Histories and Stories.

    Reply

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