Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nick's Picks, 100 Notable Books of 2012 - 70, 69, 68, 67...

 #70:  The Sandcastle Girls, by Chris Bohjalian.  Doubleday.  $25.95.

Chris Bohjalian's writing is always lush, but in The Sandcastle Girls, he takes the reader on a remarkable journey drawing from his Armenian heritage.  Follow this story from Syria during the First World War to New York today - and back again.

#69:  Dead Stars, by Bruce Wagner.  Blue Rider Press.  $35.

Bruce Wagner is usually entertaining and often profane - Dead Stars delivers doses of both.  There are so many stories and so many characters who occupy the sex-filled waters that makes up Mr. Wagner's Hollywood, and since most of them show no compunction about dipping their toes repeatedly in this dirty pool, sometimes you'll be looking for the nearest shower so that you can clean up before continuing.

But if you sometimes indulge in reality TV, sometimes sneak a peak at tabloid headlines while waiting to check-out at the market, Dead Stars is for you.

The English cover is better than ours.
#68:  Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel.  Henry Holt and Co.  $28.

So, if you're Hilary Mantel and you won the Man Booker Prize for your last novel - Wolf Hall - what do you do for an encore?  You pen Bring Up the Bodies, deliciously delving into Tudor history and the trial of Anne Boleyn.  Throw in a little Cromwell, a little court intrigue, package it with the scents and scenes of the times - all leavened with details that don't ever feel thrown in to show how much research you've done but rather rise up from the story and enrich it.

That's what you do.  And then you go out and win the Man Booker, again.

#67:  The People of Forever are Not Afraid, by Shani Boianjiu.  Hogarth.  $24.

Follow three young women in Israel as they go from high school to their stark new world after they're conscripted. 

This debut from Shani Boianjiu demonizes neither side in the war taking place - forever now, forever and ever - in the Middle East.  Does it show them in times of triumph and beauty and anger and hatred?  Yes, and Ms. Boianjiu does it brilliantly.  I don't want to say that this is a coming of age novel - I mean, it is - but that cliche diminishes what has been accomplished.  Buy it.  Buy it and read it and then we'll talk.

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