The Accident by Ismail Kadare
It seems wrong to have this one as #14 as it was probably the most challenging of all the books I read this year. It follows the lives intertwined with a couple that die in a phenomenal accident of which is unexplainable. Those who remain are forced to try to sort out the couple's relationship, their relationship to each one of them, and the long, complex history of Albania in world affairs. I picked this one up because he is listed yearly in possible Nobel Prize winners.
Evel Knievel Days by Pauls Toutonghi
This story follows Khosi Saqr as a half Egyptian in Butte, Montana, who is super smart, but anything but a risk taker. After a brief romantic interlude with his childhood obsession, he learns that his father, who he had long thought dead, is alive. He impulsively travels to Cairo in search of him and to flee his broken heart and mother's idiosyncrasies, but is ill prepared for the culture shock and family dynamics that he only is just now starting to come to understand.
The Time It Takes to Fall by Margaret Lazarus Dean
This wonderful book details the lives of teenagers growing up during that fateful Space Shuttle disaster in 1986, a watershed moment for generation X. Dolores Gray and her friends live along the Space Coast and their parents and livelihood (as well as Dolores' own dreams of becoming an astronaut) are threatened by the impending investigation and suspension of the Shuttle program. Having grown up in Houston where NASA was such a strong presence and remembering where I was made this novel especially poignant. Also, having watched many Space Shuttle launches since relocating to Florida, Margaret Lazarus Dean captures the excitement and risk inherent in every launch, reminding us that it was anything but routine. At the library, we have a finite amount of space, but are constantly buying new materials. This was one of the books I pulled off the shelf to possibly weed to make room for other works. The cover was stunning. I read the dust jacket and thought, "Wow. Sounds awesome." And....it was. Totally incredible.
Machine Man by Max Barry
Max Barry is hysterical. Syrup (about Coca Cola) and Jennifer Government were hysterical. I saw this new one by him and it was also absurd, but wonderful. Charles Neumann loses his leg in a freak industrial accident, but then is absolutely appalled by the top of the line prosthetic, knowing he can build something much better. His company immediately realizes the potential of turning the prosthetic market into a cosmetic market (like plastic surgery) and that people would willingly give up their functioning limbs, eyes, hearts, if artificial ones make them stronger, see differently, evolve. It really is Million Dollar Man meets Chuck Palahniuk.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
This book received Titanic like press about a year ago. Like, it can't possibly be that good. Henry Skrimshander is a natural baseball talent and it follows those closest to him as he transforms an unknown baseball program as he thrives on his skill. After a freak accident, Henry and those who have invested so much in him, have to deal with rebuilding his confidence and try to come to some meaning in life beyond the baseball diamond.
I read Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle a number of years ago and it was a powerful rendering of this largely unknown country by Westerners. In Jerusalem, he portrays this city and region which is infused by the convergence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism from a nonbeliever's point of view. This book made me reflect on why I don't read more graphic novels since this is only 1 of 3 or 4 I read the entire year. In fact, once I read it and described it to one of my much older coworkers, she picked it up (her first graphic novel ever) and told me she really enjoyed it.
The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
This may have been the most uplifting book I read all year. It follows Maira Kalman's images of happiness and wonder through her travels, poetry, images, and musings. Absolutely stunning.
Stay tuned for the rest of the list tomorrow! Same book time, same book channel!