Well, hello there!
It's a new year and this is kind of exciting: THIS IS MY 100th BLOG POST. I kinda feel like it's cheating because I'm supposed to be doing all these 97 things, right, and I only have 43 of them done and this is my 100th post. I know I'm bad at math, but something doesn't compute. But whatever, I have still hit "post" 100 times -- or will when I finish this! (Insert noisemaker sound here.)
The reason I have the 100 is because I have written extra entries -- including the annual New Year "Hey Don't Give Up On Me!" post and books I've loved. Well, since this is the year I get Organized, I'm combining 2 posts into one. Isn't that clever? And read aaaaaallll the way to the bottom, and there will be another GIVEAWAY! (Insert that noisemaker sound again.)
So one of my New Year's Resolutions is to read more this year, and I thought that if that was one of your resolutions, too, I'd give you a list of a few of my favorites I've read over the past year or so. I've read quite a few more, but I've been bad and haven't kept track and have lent them out and can't remember them off the top of my head. But here are some that I've really enjoyed, and I hope you'll enjoy them, too:
2011 was a lucky year for us, because a new Lynn Peril book was released: Swimming in the Steno Pool! This time around my favorite author tackled the subject of secretaries throughout history, and goes way beyond the stereotypes of "office wives" making coffee. Smart, witty, and informative, whether you know shorthand or not. A must!
Another book with "swim" in the title: Swim to Me by Betsy Carter. I saw this in the Algonquin Books catalog and knew it would be a winner, because I love everything Algonquin publishes. This is no exception -- the story of a girl's journey to become a fabulous Weeki Watchee mermaid. When I was finished I was ready to book tickets to Florida and see the show.
Another one set in Florida, Swamplandia by Karen Russell. I really liked this book and loved the premise, but I did have a problem with some of the details near the end -- but don't let my persnickety-ness deter you. (I didn't like Time Traveler's Wife because of a minute detail, and it's everyone's favorite book.) I'd love to hear what you think!
Okay, this is old news by now (a lot of these are, but there are always gems in backlist titles that may get passed over the initial PR sweep), but I absolutely LOVED ROOM by Emma Donoghue. So much so, in fact, that I still, to this day, think about the characters and wonder what they're doing, much like how I felt about Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. So powerful, and what's funny is that when I first started reading, I had no idea how she could sustain the story. Oh, she does.
This is old news, too, but still very good news: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I read it when it first came out -- I bought into the hype of the wunderkind young author, and was so enthralled that I kept sneaking reads of it while I pretended to shelve books at the bookstore where I worked. This past year I went to dinner with a group of women, and one of them said that this book is her litmus test of potential friendships and standing gift to everyone with whom she's friends. I understand completely.
I Was Told There'd be Cake and How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley. I kind of hate Sloane Crosley because she's another wunderkind -- super witty, a terrific writer, and cute. And has been compared to Dorothy Parker, David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell, three of my absolute favorites. I kind of hate her because I am totally jealous of her and wish I could be her. Sigh.
Another wit that had me laughing out loud, and that may surprise you if you've read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, as it is one of the most horrifying (and best) short stories ever written. But one of the things that makes "The Lottery" so scary is how real it seems initially -- the everyday life of a housewife in an everyday town, but then horror seeps in. (I always thought that was what made Stephen King and Steven Spielberg's "Poltergeist" so popular, too -- everyday people confronted with terror.) Life Among the Savages is Shirley Jackson's chronicle of her own life, and it is hysterical. I want to go back and share all the funny parts here, but I won't. You need to read them for yourself. Those kooky kids!
Speaking of kooky kids... I bought Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs because I loved the cover, and it did NOT disappoint. It is all-around fantastic, from the premise, the craft, the story and the found photos within. It reminded me of the great books I read as a kid, with a little Geek Love (but much, much sweeter) thrown in. I heard there's going to be a sequel and I CANNOT WAIT.
While Miss Peregrine had a group of peculiar kids, none of them were only a foot tall, but that's where Chumpy Walnut by Will Viharo comes in. Chumpy (oh, how I love the name -- in fact, the book is chock full of fabulous names) is only 12 inches tall, but holds his own with lots of fast talkin' guys and dolls. The reviews call it "Runyon-esque," but I think it's way more Viharo-esque. Super fun read,complete with illustrations, and I'll bet you'll be wishing you had friends named Goosey, Hotsie and Cupey, too.
Another charming walk through the past, literally -- Caroline Preston, the author of The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, has collected 1920's ephemera and crafted a story (much like the found photos of Miss Peregrine) out of wonderful vintage illustrations, ads, photos, drawings, and knick knacks. And yet with just a few written words per page, she has written a novel with a terrific storyline that takes the reader from Cornish, NH, to Vassar to Manhattan to Paris and back to Cornish again and created a spunky character, the brave and independent Frankie.
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. Another young girl's madcap adventures in Paris. God, I LOVED this book. Just get this line as she talks about wanting "to sin" and go to the Ritz in the 1950's: "I mean... oh... Luxe, satins and silks... leopardskins and peacock's tongues. Silk -- that's what I want rubbing against me. I feel so woolen all the time." Tres magnifique!
I suppose I was on a kick this year -- single, intrepid women from decades past. Hmmm. But this one, I think, is the best of the lot. (And trust me, I loved them all.) So much so that when I finished, I went right back to page one and savored it again for a few hours.
Well, of course one of the original New York "party girls," the ultimate spunky gal about town was Holly Golightly, one of my all-time favorite characters in literature. But, believe it or not, she's not one of my favorites on the big screen, as much as I love and absolutely adore Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy. Fifth Avenue 5 a.m. is behind the scenes of the movie, and whether it's your most favorite film in the world or you feel the way I do, you will LOVE this book. Who knew that a "behind the scenes" look would be so enthralling? Trust me, it is.
And here he is, the creator of Holly, and one of my all-time, most revered authors. Now, Truman Capote was the party boy about town, and Party of the Century is the story of his famous Black and White Ball, when Truman was at his peak of fabulosity. And a side note that's so exciting for me -- I bought this book less than a mile from where Truman lived as a child, next door to Harper Lee, in Monroeville, Alabama. (One of my best friends and I went on a pilgrimage there, and it was so wonderful! Here's a photo of me at the site of Truman's old house!) Capote came a long way from his humble beginnings, and this book is a taste of that -- literally, too -- check out the decadent recipe for The Plaza's chicken hash!
Talk about GLAMOUR. I read this book while sitting on a crowded Southwest flight with the guy in front of me leaned all the way back, and a kid watching a movie on a laptop next to me with the volume turned up to 11 through his headphones, while eating a bland airport sandwich and pretzels. And there were Dick and Liz jetsetting on private planes and ginormous yachts, flying in food from Chasen's, spending millions of dollars on diamonds, and boozing it up like nobody's business. (Except it was EVERYBODY'S business. Even the Vatican's.)And yet... you still love them, and want it to work for them. I'd been chomping at the bit to read it since I read the excerpt in Vanity Fair, and it was even better (and juicier) than I hoped it would be. And what's good about this -- the very good authors clearly respect Elizabeth and Richard, and that makes a difference.
And now, drumroll, please, the best book I've read all year:
ZSA ZSA. One Lifetime is Not Enough. No,no it isn't. I am NOT kidding, this book is AMAZING. If you're friends with me on facebook, you know that already. And I hope I've converted you to the Church of Zsa Zsa. She has done EVERYTHING. You NEED this book. It will change your whole life, and you will start calling everyone dahling and realize that the Kardashians PALE in comparison to being famous for being famous -- the Gabors are the real thing, dahlings. Order it NOW.
Speaking of ordering books, I implore you to order/buy from local bookstores and/or brick and mortars. I think you all know how I feel about this, and how important it is to support your local bookseller. Show them some love!
Speaking of showing some love, it's giveaway time!
Leave a comment of YOUR favorite book you've read all year, or ever, or on your To Read list -- I would love some new recommendations, or conversation for ones I've read, too! And please share this post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, that Google Plus, myspace, friendster, with your mom... Everywhere!
I'll draw a name from a bowl like I did here. And the prize will be the first book on this list, a copy of Lynn Peril's fabulous Swimming in the Steno Pool! Hooray! Won't that be a great way to start 2012? I'll pick the winner on January 12 around 8 pm PST, so be sure to comment by then.
Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you so much! And good luck!