Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Book? Is It NOTABLE?

The New York Times published their annual year-end list of "Notable Books" last week -- the free-standing Book Review comes out one week, and then appears in the next Sunday's paper (well, Saturday, these days), for reasons that I'm sure someone at the Times could explain if you took the time to track down that person.

And I spent a little time today looking through that list, because other people's rankings of art always have that tar-baby appeal; they're always wrong in one way or another, which is endless fascinating like an itchy scab. (Although, this year, there was an introduction that went out of its way to emphasize that these are not the best books of the year, or the only books of the year, or, really, anything other than one list of a hundred books that a group of Times editors happened to agree on one particular day. Timidity is not an attractive feature in a book review, though.)

The whole list is available here; this year, the Times ditched all of the smaller categories (they may have officially done this some years ago) and simply gave us fifty works of fiction and fifty things that are supposed to be true.

Of interest to genre audiences are:
  •  Alif the Unseen, the first novel by comics writer G. Willow Wilson
  • Arcadia by Lauren Groff, which includes a future dystopia
  • Building Stories, the box of comics from Chris Ware
  • City of Bohane by Kevin Barry, set in 2053 Ireland (though I'm sure that its author, publisher, et al. have made repeated ritual denunciations of the mere idea of it being "sci-fi")
  • Pure by Julianna Baggott, yet another literary dystopia
  • Are You My Mother?, the second major comics memoir from Alison Bechdel
  • Saul Steinberg, a biography of the sublime New Yorker cartoonist/cover artist by Deirdre Blair

There is also a list of Notable Children's Books, which is much shorter -- pre-adults only get a total of 25 notable titles (roughly eight each in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Books). Amazingly, there seems to be only one dystopia on the list. Congrats to sometime SFF writer Elizabeth Wein, whose historical thriller Code Name Verity is in the Young Adult section.

The two books I've read on the Children's list -- by Jasper Fforde and "Lemony Snicket" -- both deserve to be there, which is more than I can say for the one similar book on the adult list, Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth.

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