Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I have been extremely remiss in posting to this blog lately.  I was pretty good in the beginning of the year, but then, I don't know what happened.  I got behind, and then "behind-er"!

So here is a list of all the books I read this year, only some of which have been reviewed here (the titles of those books are links to the reviews).  I've included here comments* on some of the books that I feel merit it, but that I didn't review.  I've also split the list between fiction and non-fiction, and then vaguely into other categories.

*Okay, I've realized that a lot of these so-called "comments" are getting rather lengthy.  So I'm going to stop now!


Short Stories

Bierce, Ambrose: The Moonlit Road and other Ghost & Horror Stories
Burroughs, Augusten:  You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas
Calvino, Italo: Cosmicomics
Finney, Jack: About Time: 12 Short Stories
Lochhead, Marion (ed.):  Scottish Tales of Magic & Mystery
Various:  I Do Two!  An anthology in support of marriage equality

Graphic "Novels" and other stories in illustrations:

Chwast, Seymour: Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation
Gorey, Edward: The Awdrey-Gore Legacy
Lancaster, Osbert: The Littlehampton Bequest
Niffenegger, Audrey: The Night Bookmobile [A perfect book for obsessive readers and library-lovers]


Bidulka, Anthony: Flight of Aquavit
Greene, Graham:  The Third Man, and The Fallen Idol
Grey, Dorien: The Secret Keeper (A Dick Hardesty Mystery)
Hammett, Dashiell: The Dain Curse
Herren, Greg: Bourbon Street Blues
Herren, Greg: Murder in the Rue Dauphine
King, Laurie R.: The God of the Hive
Maron, Margaret: Sand Sharks
Maron, Margaret: Shooting at Loons
McCrumb, Sharyn: The Devil Amongst the Lawyers
Muller, Marcia: Coming Back
Muller, Marcia: Locked In
Parris, S.J.: Heresy
Peters, Elizabeth: A River in the Sky
Taibo II, Paco Ignacio: Frontera Dreams: A Héctor Belascoarán Shayne detective novel
Twain, Mark: A murder, a mystery, and a marriage

Other fiction:

Bryson, Ellen: The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno
Cummins, Jeanine: The Outside Boy
Giordano, Paolo: The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Johnson, Todd: The Sweet By and By
Mantel, Hilary: Wolf Hall

Maupin, Armistead: Mary Ann in Autumn [Not a bad book, but I had the sense that Maupin was going through the motions, sort of like "Okay, I've done Michael Tolliver all grown up, now it's Mary Ann's turn."]

Moore, Christopher: Bite Me: A Love Story
Roché, Henri-Pierre: Jules and Jim
Rushdie, Salman: Luka and the Fire of Life
Simonson, Helen: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Smith, Alexander McCall: Corduroy Mansions
Smith, Alexander McCall: La's Orchestra Saves the World
Smith, Alexander McCall : The Lost Art of Gratitude
Smith, Alexander McCall : The Charming Quirks of Others
Smith, Alexander McCall : The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

Story, Roslyn: Wading Home: a novel of New Orleans [One of my favorite books of the year, in which a jazz trumpeter comes home to New Orleans after Katrina to find his father.  All about home and food and music and family.  Lovely book.]

Wallace, Carey: The Blind Contessa's New Machine
Waters, Sara: Affinity



Dürer, Albrecht: Dürer’s Record of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries
Theroux, Paul: Sailing through China
Forbes City Guide New York 2010

Kanter, Evelyn: Peaceful Places: New York City: 129 Tranquil Sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island
Wall, Diana diZerega & Cantwell, Anne-Marie: Touring Gotham's Archaeological Past: 8 self-guided walking tours through New York City
Carniani, Mario: Santa Maria del Carmine and the Brancacci Chapel
Sinibaldi, Giulia: The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Anon.: La chiesa di Santa Felicita a Firenze
Knopf Guides: Florence
Guida: Musei Scientifici a Firenze

Grandin, Mme. Léon: A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World's Columbian Exposition

Greider, Katharine: The Archaeology of Home: An Epic set in 1000 Square Feet of the Lower East Side [The author's co-op building was in the throes of rehabbing when she received a call in the middle of the night saying that everyone had to leave, that the house, which dated from the early 1800's, was likely to collapse at any moment.  In trying to discover what went wrong, structurally, Greider delved into the history of the house, and, making lemonade from the lemon life handed her, wrote a book about the house, the history of the place where it stood, and the people who had preceded her there.  Unfortunately, she intersperses this history with often incoherent philosophical musings on the nature of "home", and with descriptions of her aggravating co-owners and the trauma of not being a millionaire anymore (although still having a very large family home in a high-toned Virginia suburb to which to escape).  Had she left the latter portions in a private journal, where they belong, this would have been a much better book.]

Janowitz, Rebecca: Culture of Opportunity: Obama’s Chicago: the People, politics, and ideas of Hyde Park
James, Rosemary (ed.): My New Orleans: Ballads to the Big Easy by her Sons,
    Daughters, and Lovers

Masini, Giancarlo: How Florence Invented America
Nencini, Franco: Florence: the Days of the Flood
Bissinger, Buzz: A Prayer for the City 


Canning, Richard: E.M. Forster
Caws, Mary Ann: Marcel Proust
Cooke, Alistair:  Letters from Four Seasons

Fraser, Antonia: Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter [Taken straight from Fraser's diaries, the best parts are their early courtship and marriage, and the ending with his death.  In between, they're just like any old married couple - except smarter and more famous!]

Glover, Jane: Mozart’s Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music
Green, Jesse: The Velveteen Father: An unexpected journey to parenthood
Jones, Judith: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food

Kilmer-Purcell, Josh: The Bucolic Plague: How two Manhattanites became gentlemen farmers  
Lyon, Andrea D.: Angel of Death Row
Mazaroff, Stanley: Henry Walters and Bernard Berenson: Collector and Connoisseur
Raymer, Beth: Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling

Reardon, Joan (Ed): As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto [I just have to say, thank goodness Bernard deVoto wrote a column about knives, and thank goodness Julia read it and sent him one.  Because from such small things sprang a correspondence and friendship that led to the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which led to Julia on television, and thus to my being able to cook halfway decently!  But the letters are also quite an interesting account of America during the Cold War, with comments on the Eisenhower-Stevenson elections, and on Joe McCarthy, in particular how the rabid anti-communist witch hunts affected Paul Child's work.]

Spring, Justin: The Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist,and sexual renegade [As the title implies, Steward led quite a varied existence!  He grew up in a small Ohio town, got a Ph.D. in English lit, taught in a variety of institutions, including many years at DePaul University in Chicago.  He began working as a tattoo artist while there, and when he was eventually fired, turned to tattooing full time.   He was a good friend to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas - indeed, he wrote a couple of mystery novels in which they feature.  He was Thornton Wilder's occasional lover, had sex with Lord Alfred Douglas and Rudolph Valentino, and a lot of sailors, and kept records of all his encounters (and RV's pubic hair in a reliquary), which led to him becoming a key informant for Dr. Kinsey.  Nevertheless, despite his active sexual life, he seems to have led a rather isolated and lonely existence from an emotional standpoint.  Spring had access to a huge amount of material that had been stashed in the attic of Steward's executor, so this is really a definitive work, and a good read, as well.]

Steinberg, Avi: Running the Books: the Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Tomalin, Claire: The Invisible Woman: the story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens [Just as good as her bio of Jane Austen, and with the added difficulty of fighting off years of Dickens' admirers either defaming Ternan or trying to bury her existence.  You will not look at Dickens the same way after this book, but you may well have a better understanding of why he couldn't write a well-rounded, psychologically full female character to save his life.  As always, Tomalin tells us as much about the world in which Ternan and Dickens lived as she does about the people themselves.  My edition is a later one, and has an added chapter which casts new light on the circumstances of Dickens' death.  Tomalin's further investigations were spurred by the receipt of a letter she received following the book's initial publication, a letter describing a family story suggesting that Dickens did not die at Gad's Hill, but that his body had been transported there after his death.  It is, of course, a story that at this juncture cannot be proved or disproved, but it is interesting to consider the steps that Tomalin took to investigate its plausibility, steps that show her to be a true scholar.]

Wills, Garry: Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer

Art & Architecture & pop-ups:

diBello, Patrizia: Women's Albums and Photography in Victorian England: Ladies, Mothers and Flirts
Chiarelli, Caterina (ed.): Fashion: A World of Similarities and Differences

Joseph, Wendy Evans: Pop up Architecture [There are a fair number of architectural pop-up books out, but most are historical, about famous buildings and/or famous architects.  This one is different, because it is by the architect whose work it presents (in collaboration with the well-known paper engineer, Kees Moerbeek) and is intended as a presentation of her firm, an alternative to the usual monograph.  The pop-ups are combined with photographs and texts describing the problem and process of designing each structure.  A must!]

Mason, Christopher: The Art of the Steal: Inside the Sotheby’s-Christie’s Auction House Scandal [Intriguing, well-researched book on devious doings in the art world.]
Sloman, Paul: Paper: Tear, Fold, Rip, Crease, Cut [Altered books, and sculpture, furniture, clothing, etc. all made from paper, including a pop-up "book" that opens into a table lamp!]
Sommer, Robin Langley: Frank Lloyd Wright: a gatefold portfolio
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: Kubla Khan: a Pop-up version of Coleridge’s classic
Haines, Mike: Wild Alphabet: An A to Zoo Pop-Up Book

Etiquette, manners:

Bennett, Laura: Didn't I Feed You Yesterday? A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos
Gunn, Tim: Gunn’s Golden Rules Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work [Amazing how one man can manage to be charming and snarky all at the same time, and throw in a lot of good advice, and dish, along the way.]
Martin, Judith & Jacobina:  Miss Manners Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding

Other non-fiction:

Buckley, Christopher: Wry Martinis
Fornaciai, Valentina: Toilette, profumi e belletti alla corte dei Medici: il tutto ben pesto, e incorporato con acqua di fior d’arancio
Hillerman, Tony & Bulow, Ernie: Talking Mysteries
Johnson, Marilyn: This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
Ogbar, Jeffrey (Ed): The Harlem Renaissance Revisited: politics, arts and letters
Pierce, Charles P.:  Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Wilkerson, Isabel: The Warmth of Other Suns: The epic story of America’s Great Migration  [Probably the best non-fiction book of the year.  Wilkerson spent years interviewing people who had come up from the South to the North, over the period from just after World War I to after WWII.  She alternates the stories of three of these people (a sharecropper's wife from Mississippi who came to Chicago, a citrus picker and union organizer from Florida who went to Harlem, and a doctor from Louisiana who ended up in Los Angeles) with historical data, data that shows that a lot of what we thought we knew about the people who came north just isn't so.  They were generally better educated, harder-working and more stable, what some have called the "immigrant effect", for they were, indeed, immigrants in their own country.  Like the folks who sailed steerage from Eastern Europe, Ireland, Italy, the African-Americans who came north had grit and determination, and weren't afraid to face a new life in an unknown bourne.   It's interesting to see the different ways Wilkerson's informants handled the change, who shucked off the South and who kept it with them, how in escaping one form of racism, they found another, how they raised their children and coped with a strange, new world.  Gorgeously written, too.  "Many of the people who left the South never exactly sat their children down to  . . . tell them why they speak like melted butter and their children speak like footsteps on pavement . . ."]