Notes from the Now

Posts Tagged ‘lists’

Not keeping up with NYT 100 Notable Books

In literature on December 5, 2011 at 6:11 am

I always feel a little overwhelmed by the NYT 100 Notable Books list.

This year, I’ve read none of the 2011 Notable Books (although I did purchase “The Information” which made the list).

Looking back at the 2010 list it seems like I still am an Adam Dunne-esque 0-100.

On the 2009 list, I read Ishiguro’s “Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall” and Eggers “Zeitoun“.

2008:  Lahiri’s “Unaccustomed Earth

2007:  Diaz “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao“,  Alex Ross “The Rest is Noise“.

I don’t think that I’m reading the wrong things, but perhaps I’m missing out on something important?  I’m thinking this is the year that I’ll coordinate my library checkouts with this 2011 list a bit… just to see what (if anything) I’ve been missing…


12/18/2011 Update:  I just finished DeLillo’s “Falling Man” which was on of these lists (2007 or 2008).  Progress!


Books Read in 2010 – List

In Books, literature on December 18, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Here’s my list of Books that I read in 2010 (in reverse chron order). I’ll write separately about the most significant of these.

My 2009 in Reading

In literature on January 1, 2010 at 12:13 am
Here’s my reading list for 2009.  Looking back it’s been a good mix of topics and ideas, I put stars by particularly good reads.
Here’s looking forward to 2010!
  • American Scripture: Making the Declaration of independence Pauline Maier
  • ***That the world may know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity James Dawes


  • The Book of Saladin Tariq Ali
  • ***Running to Maputo (1990) Albie Sachs
  • Off The Books: The Under ground economy of the Urban Poor Sudhir Venkatesh
  • Harold! Photographs from the Harold Washington Years Muwakkil, et al


  • The Rise of Barack Obama Pete Souza
  • ***The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid & International Charity Michael Maren
  • ***Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee


  • You Shall Know Our Velocity! Dave Eggers
  • ***Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America Paul Tough
  • On Chesil Beach Ian McEwan
  • Genghis: Bones of the Hills Iggulden Conn
  • Weep Not, Child Wa Thiong’o Ngugi
  • ***A Legacy of Liberation: Thabo Mbeki & the Future of the South African Dream Mark Gevisser


  • The Book of Ralph John McNally
  • Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence Geoffrey Canada


  • ***Outliers Malcolm Gladwell


  • Shakespeare Wrote for Money Nick Hornby
  • The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey Salman Rushdie
  • Hiroshima Notes Kenzaburo Oe
  • The Waiting Country: A South African Witness Mike Nicol
  • ***FAB: The coming revolution on your desktop Neil Gershenfeld


  • Billions & billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Carl Saganl
  • The Dream: Martin Luther King JR and the Speech that Inspired a Nation Drew Hansen
  • Unlucky Lucky Days Daniel Grandbois
  • The Other Ryszard Kapuscinski
  • Armageddon in Retrospect (2008) Kurt Vonnegut


  • ***Zeitoun Dave Eggers
  • Sound Unbound (Edited by DJ Spooky)


  • ***How to Walk to School: Blueprint for a Neighborhood Renaissance Jacqueline Edelberg
  • Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
  • Star Trek (2009) Alan Dean Foster
  • Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon


  • ***Invictus: Nelson Mandela & The Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin

Science Fiction Shame (Remarks on another “Best of” List)

In literature on December 13, 2009 at 11:13 pm

I’m more than a little ashamed that I haven’t read any of the books that i09 put on their “Best Science Fiction of the Last Decade” List.  I don’t have a good excuse for it, really, beyond the fact that I’ve been mired in the present happenings of technology this decade, and that in spite of my general love for the genre (I grew up on a steady diet of sci-fi) and generally voracious reading appetite, I simply didn’t make any time to go after any of the modern classics.

Certainly I’m aware of many of the highlights from this this list, both from their general impact on the culture (Harry Potter) or their critical acclaim (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Pattern Recognition, etcetera), but the shameful fact remains that I haven’t read any of them!

I suppose my reading list for next year is going to have to have a bit of a sci-fi lean to it
(mutters something about bring balance to the force I must, and shuffles off).

Here’s the list to check out again: i09’s list of Best Science Fiction Books of the Decade

The Economist’s Best of 2009 List

In literature on December 6, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Sticking with the “Best of 2009” theme, here’s the Economist’s Best of 2009 list.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve read any of these yet, but here are a few that sound intriguing to me:

  • The Idea of Justice. By Amartya Sen. Belknap Press; 496 pages; $29.95. Allen Lane; £25
    A commanding summation of the work of Amartya Sen, an Indian-born Nobel laureate, that focuses on economic reasoning and the elements and measurement of human well-being.”
  • It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower. By Michela Wrong. Harper; 368 pages; $25.99. Fourth Estate; £12.99
    A down-to-earth yet sophisticated exposé of how an entire country can be munched in the clammy claws of corruption and tribalism to ensure that those in power win the fattest share of the cake.”
  • When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment. By Mark Kleiman. Princeton University Press; 256 pages; $29.95 and £20.95
    America has one prisoner for every hundred adults—a rate unprecedented in American history and unmatched anywhere in the world. Brute-force crime control has been a costly mistake, both socially and financially. Mr Kleiman shows how smarter enforcement strategies are more successful and make existing budgets go further. An important book that deserves a wider readership.”
  • American Rust. By Philipp Meyer. Spiegel & Grau; 384 pages; $24.95. Simon & Schuster; £12.99 Set in America’s crumbling industrial heartland, Mr Meyer’s first novel is a paean to the end of empire—a book that is as painful as it is enjoyable.”
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. By Daniyal Mueenuddin. Norton; 249 pages; $23.95. Bloomsbury; £14.99
    A remarkable debut by a Punjabi writer who has gained plaudits from Mohsin Hamid and Salman Rushdie. A small book that reveals, in every detail, the extent to which life in Pakistan is dictated as much by whom you know as what you do.”

Best Books of the Decade?

In literature on November 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

I don’t believe we’ve already reached this year’s season of lists, much less that we’ve reached the point where “Best Blanks of the Decade” lists are being circulated.  But, as Pete Lit points out, we’ve already got the Times Online UK’s Best Books of the Decade list to ponder.  For the most part, I think ranked lists of literature like this are only useful in establishing what books are well regarded generally, and not useful in any comparative sense. So #98 is not necessarily much “worse” than #12.  Still, I have to admit that I’m always interested (from a cultural literacy standpoint) in finding out what’s what.

Here are the books from the the Times UK list that I’ve read, and a quick comment:

  • #89 The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie (2008) — Certainly the best book of Rushdie’s from the past decade.
  • #81 The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (2006) — A meditation on morality that leaves you liking almost none of the characters.
  • #50 No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein (2000) — Klein is very persuasive & thorough in looking at the psychology of branding and corporate identity formation (her subsequent books on economics are nowhere near as solid)
  • #44 Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005) — Uchicago prof makes you go hm…
  • #33 Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004) — I was stunned by how good Chronicles was.  The distinctness of Dylan’s voice and the uniqueness of the literary style made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
  • #24 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) — Ishiguro steps lightly into the world of science fiction with magnificent results.
  • #20 White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000) — Eventhough the story fell apart in the end, Smith’s pacing and voice was fresh.
  • #12 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000) — I didn’t much like AHWOSG when I read it in 2001, but have loved everything else by Eggers that I’ve read since then.  Makes me want to revisit this book.
  • #6 The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (2000) —  Gladwell’s gift is his engaging writing-style and the fresh perspective he brings to most topics.   He’s often guilty of over-simplification, and of ignoring established disciplines when they don’t suit him, but he always makes you think.
  • #3 Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (2004) — A great book that was really released in 1995, Obama would have been lauded as a great writer had he not ventured into American politics.
  • #2 Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2003) — A remarkably good graphic novel, packed with much more history than the film version.

The rest of these are on my “to read” shelf or a wish list of some variety

  • #1 The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) — I’ve been meaning to read this for a year now, and am now going to wait until we get to the desolate part of the Chicago winter
  • #98 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007) — want to read
  • #54 Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (2003) — Bought, traded away, still want to read
  • #32 Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  • #28 The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross (2007) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  • #The plot against america by Philip Roth (2004) — On my waiting to read shelf at home
  • #14 Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi (2003) — On my waiting to read shelf at home