The editors of the New York Times Book Review have sifted through the items they reviewed since last December and have come up with their list of the "100 Notable Books of the Year." As always, it's an interesting list, one that ranges over vast literary distances.
In the fiction section, for example, the editors have selected many books from writers around the world. These include Per Petterson's "Out Stealing Horses," about an Oslo professional trying to overcome his loneliness; "After Dark," by Haruki Murakami, about two sisters, one awake all night, another asleep for months; and "Dancing to 'Almendra'," by Mayra Montero, set in Cuba in the 1950s.
Of course, the list includes some of the more publicized novels we've heard about, including J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Philip Roth's "Exit Ghost" and Alice Munro's "The View from Castle Rock: stories."
In the non-fiction section, the titles appear tantalizing. The list begins with "Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal," about a British criminal who became a double agent during the Second World War, and proceeds through an extensive choice of biographies and other works that provide explanations in a variety of subjects.
Interested in Africa? The Book Review proposes "Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer" by Tim Jeal and "Too Close To The Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton," Sara Wheeler's look at the man who was the focus of Karen Blixen's autobiographical "Out of Africa" story.
If you like popular culture, the Times highlights "Shulz and Peanuts: A biography." The book explores how Shulz's frequent gloom and melancholy were reflected in the actions of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and other cartoon characters in the famous syndicated strip.
Biographies of note this year also include volumes on Pablo Picasso, Thomas Hardy, Alexis De Tocqueville, Leni Reifensthal (the woman who directed Hitler's Nazi propaganda films) and Princess Diana.
The Times selects some notable explanatory books. There is "How To Read The Bible: A Guide To Scripture, Then and Now." (A former professor of Hebrew guides readers through the Bible, navigating through waters marked by literalists and skeptics.) Another is "How Doctors Think," a look at the difficult relationship between doctors and patients and some of the tough choices facing medicine today." If you're interested in the American justice system, there's "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court."
Finally, I'd like to list two more. The titles are rather curious: "Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir" by Shalom Auslander and "Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire" by Judith Thurman. Hmm...
You can review the entire list on-line at the New York Times book pages here. Each listing links to a separate book review.
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