Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Read in bold.

11, 2003, The Known World by Edward P. Jones - C, I, N, P
9, 2001, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen - C, I, N, P
8, 2010, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - C, I, P
8, 2009, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - B, C, W
8, 2007, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz - C, I, P
8, 1997, Underworld by Don DeLillo - C, I, N, P
7, 2005, The March by E.L. Doctorow - C, N, P
7, 2004, Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst - B, C, W
7, 2002, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - I, N, P
7, 2001, Atonement by Ian McEwan - B, C, W
7, 1998, The Hours by Michael Cunningham - C, I, P
7, 1997, Last Orders by Graham Swift - B, I, W
7, 1997, Quarantine by Jim Crace - B, I, W
6, 2012, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - B, W
6, 2009, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann - N, I
6, 2009, Home by Marilynn Robinson - C, N, I
6, 2005, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - B, C
6, 2004, Gilead by Marilynn Robinson - C, P
5, 2012, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain - C, N
5, 2012, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson - C, P
5, 2011, Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman - C, N
5, 2011, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – B, W< 5, 2009, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín - W, I 5, 2008, The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - B, W 5, 2008, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - C, P 5, 2007, Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson - N, P 5, 2006, The Road by Cormac McCarthy - C, P
5, 2006, The Echo Maker by Richard Powers - N, P
5, 2005, Europe Central by William T. Vollmann - C, N
5, 2005, The Accidental by Ali Smith - B, W
5, 2004, The Master by Colm Tóibín - B, I
5, 2003, The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard – I, N
5, 2001, True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey – B, I
5, 2000, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – C, P
5, 2000, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – B, I
5, 1999, Waiting by Ha Jin – N, P
5, 1999, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee – B, C
5, 1999, Being Dead by Jim Crace – C, W
5, 1998, Charming Billy by Alice McDermott – I, N
5, 1997, American Pastoral by Philip Roth – C, P
5, 1996, Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge – B, W
5, 1996, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser – N, P
5, 1995, The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie – B, W
5, 1995, The Ghost Road by Pat Barker – B, W
5, 1995, Independence Day by Richard Ford – C, P
5, 1995, Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth – N, P

The Prizewinners

Here is our methodology: I wanted to include both American books and British books, as well as the English-language books from other countries that are eligible to win some of these awards. I started with the National Book Award and the Pulitzer from the American side and the Booker and Costa (formerly the Whitbread) from the British side. Because I wanted the British books to “compete” with the American books, I also looked at a couple of awards that recognize books from both sides of the ocean, the National Book Critics Circle Awards and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The IMPAC is probably the weakest of all these, but since it is both more international and more populist than the other awards, I thought it added something. A glaring omission is the PEN/Faulkner, but it would have skewed everything too much in favor of the American books, so I left it out.
I looked at these six awards from 1995 to the present, awarding three points for winning an award and two points for an appearance on a shortlist or as a finalist. Here’s the key that goes with the list: B=Booker Prize, C=National Book Critics Circle Award, I=International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, N=National Book Award, P=Pulitzer Prize, W=Costa Book Award (formerly the Whitbread) bold=winner, red=New to the list or moved up* the list since last year’s “Prizewinners” post
*Note that the IMPAC considers books a year after the other awards do, and so this year’s IMPAC shortlist nods were added to point totals from last year.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows

The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were a few parts of this book that really hit home for me, even though I will never go to war and I most certainly won't disable bombs. The running to pound down your other feelings - yeah, I get that. The brain exhaustion that comes from it having to work harder for the same simple tasks, yeah, I get that.

On top of that, I found this book fascinating because it presents us with a situation where someone got what they really, really wanted and then found that that thing had fucked them up. And that's not something people in general seem good at talking about, so it was refreshing to read a book that covered the topic. And it turns out, I find bomb stuff interesting - which was a surprise.

I seem to have headed myself into a bit of a mini-theme, what with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime walk right before and at least another book about the Iraq War coming up in the very near future. Bit bleak, bit rough, but also something I feel I really should know more about.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (2012) (winner of the 2012 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award)

- What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
- Sister Hills
- How We Avenged the Blums
- Peep Show
- Everything I Know About My Family On My Mother's Side
- Camp Sundown
- The Reader
- Free Fruit For Young Widows

I'm reading What We ... Anne Frank and that first story is absolutely amazing. And, I've played that game, most notably when in Amsterdam at the Anne Frank House (the only day I wasn't high in Amsterdam, in fact.). But even before that, because around about fourteen or so I read a book [b:Alicia|401838|Alicia|Alicia Appleman-Jurman|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347686865s/401838.jpg|391242] from the library that kicked off a serious round of reading about the Holocaust such that a course on the subject became one of my few electives at university.

I found it both dark and funny and I felt like I learned about the process of decision making undertaken by religious Jews. I'm an atheist who grew up with few religious friends and what I learned from them (rightly or wrongly) was more about judgement and moralizing, rather than the actual process of weighing religious law against a situation. That fascinated me.

The second story didn't smack me up the side of the head in the same way, but Sister Hills I found interesting in the way it crammed so much history about the settling of contested areas in such a short story. And again with the glimpse into religious decision making. The next three I found sort of meh, and then the last three picked up again. I found Camp Sundown really interesting, The Reader a bit disturbing but quite an idea, and then the last one I liked a great deal.

That first story was 5-stars all the way though. The entire book is worth reading for that alone. (I mean, sure, you could just read that one story if you aren't me, but I can't do that. Must finish all pages in the order they are in - even if I'm reading Cosmo, so with a book I'm just compelled.)

View all my reviews

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's first just get out of the way how geeked out I was to see a reference to Reach for the Top, having myself been geeky enough in high school to have been at the provincial finals one year.

I really, really liked this book. It seemed to have the perfect balance between things I could relate to and things that the author was teaching me about a group of people that I have never known much about (in particular, I thought the Mennonites were much more like the Amish and I assumed that at the very least there'd be no TV.) The narrator's voice felt authentic, as did the situation of her friend Lids, who saddened me a great deal.

"That I belong within the frightful fresco of this man’s dream unnerves me."

"The mark of the beast? Streets paved in gold? Seven white horses? What? Fuck off. I dream of escaping into the real world."

"I wanted to experience goodness and humanity outside of any religious framework."

Okay, so it was a bit odd to find a lot of my very atheist teenage thoughts mirrored here in the voice of a teenage Mennonite, who spent a lot of the book worried her sister was going to go to hell. Granted, I related a lot to Nomi and the restlessness that comes from growing up in a small town, feeling cut off from the big city.

"It was the same feeling you get when you’ve spent a lot of time with a friend or relatives or someone and you’re kind of sick of them and want to be alone again but then the time comes for them to leave and suddenly more than anything you don’t want them to go and you act really nice again and run around doing things for them but you know that time is running out and then when they’re gone you’re kind of relieved but also sad that you hadn’t been a better friend and you tell yourself next time for sure I’ll be a better friend. And you kind of want to call them up and apologize for being a jerk but at the same time you don’t want to start something stupid and you hope the feeling will just go away and that nobody hates you."

So perfectly what it is like to be at home visiting the family for more then ten days at a time.

"I also liked it because every time I looked at it I was reminded that I was, at that very moment, not bleeding from my face. And those are powerful words of hope, really."

One of my best friends always tells me that you don't need to worry until you're bleeding from the eyes. And I have also always found that cheering and hopeful.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gThis book was really, really good. There were bits about American football and I actually found them interesting. An author who can interest me in American football is a damn fine author.

Billy was an amazing character to see a book through. I kept thinking about all the really young military guys I've met here in Korea and seeing parts of them in the book.

This was funny. It was sad. It was hard to read and yet something I didn't want to stop reading, even if I had to get off the bus and go to work. It tied together American culture and the fakeness and realness in such an insightful way.

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it took me quite a few times to figure out nina levin. I thought it was a person. Oops. Thing is, as a non-American who lives in a non-English speaking country, I could easily have missed a key news story about Nina and so I assumed just that. I didn't love the sections with the large amounts of blank space and just a few words, as pronounced, because after a few it felt a bit gimmicky, but really, that's my only criticism.

Basically, a wonderful book and one I'm glad I finally clicked on in my Kindle.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Review: Pinball, 1973

Pinball, 1973
Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked Hear the Wind Sing so much perhaps I went in with expectations that were just too high. You can see the beginnings of Murakami's style in this one as well, but somehow it just didn't catch me in the same way. Though I did find the twins hilarious - that ability to present a completely absurd situation and have the narrator and the reader just accept it, that's one of the things I like best about Murakami.

View all my reviews