Wednesday, August 20, 2008

100 New Classics

Earlier this summer, Entertainment Weekly published a fun list of 100 New Classics, the best books of the past twenty-five years. I'm a sucker for lists, and this one is no exception. Only, the summer has been very busy, as it always is. So just as summer is now almost over—or it is if you count Labor Day and the return to school as the end—I'm finally getting around to studying the list.

It's hot and humid here, and all I feel like doing is curling up with a glass of chilled white wine and this list—languidly bolding those titles I have read, occasionally adding commentary, italicizing those books I would like to read, and striking through those I plan to never read. I'd love to see your list.

Would you like to play a game?

1. Just copy from below, or seek the source.
2. Bold the titles you have read.
3. Italicize the books you would like to read.
4. Strike through those you'll never read.
5. Annotate as needed.
6. We're not done yet. Provide your personal top 10 new classics (books published between 1983-2008, fiction and nonfiction, not necessarily from this list).
7. If it's not too much trouble, put a link to your list in my comments. Thx!

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987) [never say never]
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001) [all my mystery guys raved about Lehane for years before Mystic River]
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991) [own it; what am I waiting for?]
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997) [I would like to read something by Murakami]
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986) [will be re-read one day]
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990) [my window of opportunity has passed]
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000) [maybe]
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985) [do I get any credit for reading the first 50 pages?]
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984) [I will re-read, one day]
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990) [stunning title story]
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005) [unabridged audio, moving]
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000) [I have read so many reviews and commentary that I feel I've already ready it]
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991) [see #79]
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001) [see #79]
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995) [listened to unabridged audio]
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004) [Of course I've paged through this. Who hasn't?]

My top 10 New Classics
1. Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)
2. Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin (1993)
3. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson (1995)
4. Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins (1984)
5. House, Tracy Kidder (1985)
6. Pillars of Hercules, Paul Theroux (1995)
7. London Fields, Martin Amis (1989)
8. The Eight, Katherine Neville (1988)
9. Cowboys Are My Weakness, Pam Houston (1993)
10. Soul of the Chef, Michael Ruhlman (2001)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

FINISHED: Crime Brûlée

“Life doles out the most amazing surprises, not all of them pleasant.”

Needing to increase my reading average so that I might hit my target of 20 books read between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I have turned to cozy mysteries. Nancy Fairbanks, author of the comic police procedural series featuring Elena Jarvis, also writes this culinary series, featuring Carolyn Blue. I have enjoyed a few others in the series (French Fried and The Perils of Paella) and find them mildly addictive. I believe the culinary analog is profiteroles. The covers are well designed, setting the mood for a light, fun mystery.

Crime Brûlée is set in New Orleans and, as the first in the series, introduces Carolyn Blue, a forty-something homemaker who takes on a dream job as a food writer. If you ask me, it's a great premise! Carolyn has accompanied her husband, Jason, a chemistry professor, to an academic conference in New Orleans. She's also writing a book on eating in the Big Easy. Ostensibly, while Jason is occupied with lectures and plenary sessions and doodling molecular bonds on cocktail napkins, Carolyn is combing the city, sampling its culinary treats. When Carolyn's close childhood friend, Julienne—also an academic attending the conference—goes missing, and no one seems to care, including Julienne's husband, Carolyn investigates.

Occasionally, I found the plot to stagnate a bit, which I didn't notice in subsequent books, which leads me to believe that Fairbanks has work on the pacing and settled into Carolyn Blue's voice. And, occasionally, I found it hard to suspend disbelief necessary to accept that our protagonist would get involved with the sleuthing.

But, Fairbanks gets the foodie bits down, which more than make up for the rest. I find this series far more interesting and more delicious than Diane Mott Davidson's caterer Goldy Bear series. Often while reading Davidson's books, I'd feel the guilt that comes from empty calories. Sure, I keep reading them, but I prefer Fairbanks. And, no matter how formulaic Fairbanks' series may get, I'm committed to reading more titles. Up next: New York-set Truffled Feathers.