The 10 Best Books of 2013 from the New York Times

The New York Times just released their top 10 Books of 2013. Check out the article here first, then come back and place them on hold in the catalog!

FICTION

AMERICANAH By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Booklist Review *Starred Review* To the women in the hair-braiding salon, Ifemelu seems to have everything a Nigerian immigrant in America could desire, but the culture shock, hardships, and racism she’s endured have left her feeling like she has cement in her soul. Smart, irreverent, and outspoken, she reluctantly left Nigeria on a college scholarship. Her aunty Uju, the pampered mistress of a general in Lagos, is now struggling on her own in the U.S., trying to secure her medical license. Ifemelu’s discouraging job search brings on desperation and depression until a babysitting gig leads to a cashmere-and-champagne romance with a wealthy white man. Astonished at the labyrinthine racial strictures she’s confronted with, Ifemelu, defining herself as a Non-American Black, launches an audacious, provocative, and instantly popular blog in which she explores what she calls Racial Disorder Syndrome. Meanwhile, her abandoned true love, Obinze, is suffering his own cold miseries as an unwanted African in London. MacArthur fellow Adichie (The Thing around Your Neck, 2009) is a word-by-word virtuoso with a sure grasp of social conundrums in Nigeria, East Coast America, and England; an omnivorous eye for resonant detail; a gift for authentic characters; pyrotechnic wit; and deep humanitarianism. Americanah is a courageous, world-class novel about independence, integrity, community, and love and what it takes to become a full human being. –Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

The flamethrowers : a novel Kushner, RachelTHE FLAMETHROWERS By Rachel Kushner – Booklist Review *Starred Review* In her smash-hit debut, Telex from Cuba (2008), Kushner took on corporate imperialism and revolution, themes that also stoke this knowing and imaginative saga of a gutsy yet naive artist from Nevada. Called Reno when she arrives in New York in 1977, she believes that her art has to involve risk, but she’s unprepared for just how treacherous her entanglements with other artists will be. Reno’s trial-by-fire story alternates provocatively with the gripping tale of Valera, an Italian who serves in a motorcycle battalion in WWI, manufactures motorcycles, including the coveted Moto Valera, and makes a fortune in the rubber industry by oppressing Indian tappers in Brazil. These worlds collide when Reno moves in with Sandro Valera, a sculptor estranged from his wealthy family, and tries to make art by racing a Moto Valera on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Ultimately, Reno ends up in Italy, where militant workers protest against the Valeras. As Reno navigates a minefield of perfidy, Kushner, with searing insights, contrasts the obliteration of the line between life and art in hothouse New York with life-or-death street battles in Rome. Adroitly balancing astringent social critique with deep soundings of the complex psyches of her intriguing, often appalling characters, Kushner has forged an incandescently detailed, cosmopolitan, and propulsively dramatic tale of creativity and destruction.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

The goldfinch Tartt, DonnaTHE GOLDFINCH By Donna Tartt – Booklist Review *Starred Review* Cataclysmic loss and rupture with criminal intent visited upon the young have been Tartt’s epic subjects as she creates one captivating and capacious novel a decade, from The Secret History (1992) to The Little Friend (2002) to this feverish saga. In the wake of his nefarious father’s abandonment, Theo, a smart, 13-year-old Manhattanite, is extremely close to his vivacious mother until an act of terrorism catapults him into a dizzying world bereft of gravity, certainty, or love. Tartt writes from Theo’s point of view with fierce exactitude and magnetic emotion as, stricken with grief and post-traumatic stress syndrome, he seeks sanctuary with a troubled Park Avenue family and, in Greenwich Village, with a kind and gifted restorer of antique furniture. Fate then delivers Theo to utterly alien Las Vegas, where he meets young outlaw Boris. As Theo becomes a complexly damaged adult, Tartt, in a boa constrictor-like plot, pulls him deeply into the shadow lands of art, lashed to seventeenth-century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius and his exquisite if sinister painting, The Goldfinch. Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Word of best-selling Tartt’s eagerly awaited third novel will travel fast and far via an author tour, interviews, and intense print, media, and online publicity.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

Life after life : a novel Atkinson, KateLIFE AFTER LIFE By Kate Atkinson – Booklist Review *Starred Review* In a radical departure from her Jackson Brodie mystery series, Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. She drowns, falls off a roof, and is beaten to death by an abusive husband but is always reborn back into the same loving family, sometimes with the knowledge that allows her to escape past poor decisions, sometimes not. As Atkinson subtly delineates all the pathways a life or a country might take, she also delivers a harrowing set piece on the Blitz as Ursula, working as a warden on a rescue team, encounters horrifying tableaux encompassing mangled bodies and whole families covered in ash, preserved just like the victims of Pompeii. Alternately mournful and celebratory, deeply empathic and scathingly funny, Atkinson shows what it is like to face the horrors of war and yet still find the determination to go on, with her wholly British characters often reducing the Third Reich to a fuss. From her deeply human characters to her comical dialogue to her meticulous plotting, Atkinson is working at the very top of her game. An audacious, thought-provoking novel from one of our most talented writers. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Atkinson’s publisher is pulling out all the stops in marketing her latest, which will no doubt draw in many new readers in addition to her Jackson Brodie fans.–Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist

Tenth of December : stories Saunders, GeorgeTENTH OF DECEMBER: Stories By George Saunders – Booklist Review *Starred Review* Saunders, a self-identified disciple of Twain and Vonnegut, is hailed for the topsy-turvy, gouging satire in his three previous, keenly inventive short story collections. In the fourth, he dials the bizarreness down a notch to tune into the fantasies of his beleaguered characters, ambushing readers with waves of intense, unforeseen emotion. Saunders drills down to secret aquifers of anger beneath ordinary family life as he portrays parents anxious to defang their children but also to be better, more loving parents than their own. The title story is an absolute heart-wringer, as a pudgy, misfit boy on an imaginary mission meets up with a dying man on a frozen pond. In Victory Lap, a young-teen ballerina is princess-happy until calamity strikes, an emergency that liberates her tyrannized neighbor, Kyle, the palest kid in all the land. In Home, family friction and financial crises combine with the trauma of a court-martialed Iraq War veteran, to whom foe and ally alike murmur inanely, Thank you for your service. Saunders doesn’t neglect his gift for surreal situations. There are the inmates subjected to sadistic neurological drug experiments in Escape from Spiderhead and the living lawn ornaments in The Semplica Girl Diaries. These are unpredictable, stealthily funny, and complexly affecting stories of ludicrousness, fear, and rescue.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

NONFICTION

After the music stopped : the financial crisis, the response, and the work ahead Blinder, Alan SAFTER THE MUSIC STOPPED: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead By Alan S. Blinder – Booklist Review Blinder, a corporate executive and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, sets out to tell the American people what happened during the financial crisis of 2007-09. He explains the events that are still reverberating in the U.S. and globally and will challenge public policy for years. With public policy as his focus, he considers how we got into that mess and how we got out to the extent we have gotten out. The author considers the future what have we learned both economically and politically, and will we handle future crises better? What vulnerabilities do we still have? What future problems have we accidently created? Finally, Blinder offers a host of recommendations, which include his Ten Financial Commandments, including Thou Shalt Remember That People Forget (people forget when the good times roll) and Thou Shalt Not Rely on Self-Regulation (Self-regulation in financial markets is an oxymoron). This excellent book in understandable language offers valuable insight and important ideas for a wide range of library patrons.–Whaley, Mary Copyright 2010 Booklist

Days of fire : Bush and Cheney in the White House Baker, PeterDAYS OF FIRE: Bush and Cheney in the White House By Peter Baker – Booklist Review *Starred Review* Baker, the senior White House correspondent for the New York Times, has written an ambitious, engrossing, and often disturbing study of the inner workings, conflicts, and critical policy decisions made during the eight years of Bush and Cheney governance. It is no accident that Baker consistently refers to Bush-Cheney, since Cheney was undoubtedly the most influential and powerful vice president in recent years. Baker’s portrait of him is not flattering. Cheney prided himself as a hard-nosed tough guy, to the point of ruthlessness. He fought constantly with other cabinet members, showing little respect or tolerance for their views. He was a conservative true believer with a tendency to ignore facts that got in the way of his view of reality. By the end of their eight years together, even Bush stopped listening to him. Bush is a more sympathetic figure, and Baker sees him as a man trapped by events, whose hopes for a more modest foreign policy and a compassionate conservatism domestic affairs were frustrated by the vast shadows cast by 9/11. This is a superbly researched, masterful account of eight critical, history-changing years.–Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist

Five days at Memorial : life and death in a storm-ravaged hospital Fink, SheriFIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital By Sheri Fink – Booklist Review *Starred Review* As the floodwaters rose after Hurricane Katrina, patients, staff, and families who sheltered in New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital faced a crisis far worse than the storm itself. Without power, an evacuation plan, or strong leadership, caregiving became chaotic, and exhausted doctors and nurses found it difficult to make even the simplest decisions. And, when it came to making the hardest decisions, some of them seem to have failed. A number of the patients deemed least likely to survive were injected with lethal combinations of drugs even as the evacuation finally began in earnest. Fink, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her reporting on Memorial in the New York Times Magazine, offers a stunning re-creation of the storm, its aftermath, and the investigation that followed (one doctor and two nurses were charged with second-degree murder but acquitted by a grand jury). She evenhandedly compels readers to consider larger questions, not just of ethics but race, resources, history, and what constitutes the greater good, while humanizing the countless smaller tragedies that make up the whole. And, crucially, she provides context, relating how other hospitals fared in similar situations. Both a breathtaking read and an essential book for understanding how people behave in times of crisis.–Graff, Keir Copyright 2010 Booklist

The sleepwalkers : how Europe went to war in 1914 Clark, Christopher MTHE SLEEPWALKERS: How Europe Went to War in 1914 By Christopher Clark – Booklist Review The immense documentation of the origin of WWI, remarks historian Clark, can be marshaled to support a range of theses, and it but weakly sustains, in the tenor of his intricate analysis, the temptation to assign exclusive blame for the cataclysm to a particular country. Dispensing with a thesis, Clark interprets evidence in terms of the character, internal political heft, and external geopolitical perception and intention of a political actor. In other words, Clark centralizes human agency and, especially, human foibles of misperception, illogic, and emotion in his narrative. Touching on every significant figure in European diplomacy in the decade leading to August 1914, Clark underscores an entanglement of an official’s fluctuating domestic power with a foreign interlocutor’s appreciation, accurate or not, of that official’s ability to make something stick in foreign policy. As narrative background, Clark choreographs the alliances and series of crises that preceded the one provoked by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, but he focuses on the men whose risk-taking mistakes detonated WWI. Emphasizing the human element, Clark bestows a tragic sensibility on a magisterial work of scholarship.–Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist

Wave Deraniyagala, SonaliWAVE By Sonali Deraniyagala – Booklist Review It was a festive time. Economist Deraniyagala, her economist husband (they met at Cambridge), and their two young sons flew from London to Sri Lanka to spend the winter holidays with her parents. They were all staying in a hotel near their favorite national park on December 26, 2004, the day of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. Deraniyagala describes their bewilderment as they flee the hotel and her terror as they are swept up by the 30-foot-high, racing wave that brutally changed everything. Only Deraniyagal survived. In rinsed-clear language, she describes her ordeal, surreal rescue, and deep shock, attaining a Didionesque clarity and power. We hold tight to every exquisite sentence as, with astounding candor and precision, she tracks subsequent waves of grief, from suicidal despair to persistent fear, attempts to drown her pain in drink, helpless rage, guilt and shame, and paralyzing depression. But here, too, are sustaining tides of memories that enable her to vividly, even joyfully, portray her loved ones. An indelible and unique story of loss and resolution written with breathtaking refinement and courage.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

 

Sources:

The 10 Best Books of 2013: The year’s best books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/books/review/the-10-best-books-of-2013.html?smid=pl-share)

Booklist Online: Book Reviews from the American Library Association (http://www.booklistonline.com/)

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