Welcome to The Sunday Salon! The day of the week where we bookish people catch up on what we've been reading, and all the other bookish things going on around us. Grab a cup of joe and relax. It's been a hectic weekend for most of us. First with preparing for our Thanksgiving with cooking & cleaning, welcoming family & friends to our homes, and then for some the tradition of a black friday shopping excursion. Did you start your Holiday shopping friday?! I usually work the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no different, except that if I really wanted to, quite a few shops were open 10pm on Thanksgiving. And of course there were the 4am openings on friday. But I merrily avoided those long lines and drove to work, half comatose from eating way too much turkey and Juniors cheesecake for dessert! (Thanks to my sis-in-law that works in the city for picking the later up!) I did manage to get myself into a long line at Borders at the beginning of the week though, because they were tempting us readers with a 50% off anything coupon. It was the first time in a long time that I saw Borders that busy! Do you buy books for gift giving?! I usually do. Already there are "the best" of 2010 reading lists out there. How do we qualify the books published in the last few months of the year? Remind me that if I ever publish a book I do in the middle of the year! In any case, I love reading these "best of " lists. So, today's Sunday Salon is a few books on the top of the "Best of 2010" Books, that I keep seeing on list after list....
Just Kids by Patti Smith... In 1967, 21-year-old singer–song writer Smith, determined to make art her life and dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities in Philadelphia to live this life, left her family behind for a new life in Brooklyn. When she discovered that the friends with whom she was to have lived had moved, she soon found herself homeless, jobless, and hungry. Through a series of events, she met a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe who changed her life—and in her typically lyrical and poignant manner Smith describes the start of a romance and lifelong friendship with this man: It was the summer Coltrane died. Flower children raised their arms... and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, and the summer of love.... This beautifully crafted love letter to her friend (who died in 1989) functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Smith transports readers to what seemed like halcyon days for art and artists in New York as she shares tales of the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's, and Strand bookstores. In the lobby of the Chelsea, where she and Mapplethorpe lived for many years, she got to know William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter. Most affecting in this tender and tough memoir, however, is her deep love for Mapplethorpe and her abiding belief in his genius. Smith's elegant eulogy helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work.
Patti Smith won The National Book Award this year for Just Kids in the nonfiction category. This book sounds like a wonderful trip back to the New York of the 60's and 70's. I don't know much about Patti Smith, but being an art student in the 70's, I knew about the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Besides the National Book Award, Just Kids has gotten lots of great buzz, and is on almost every "best of" list I've seen. And how can you go wrong with a book that "shares tales of Scribner's, Brentano's and Strand."?! Right now the paperback version of this book is priced at $7.71 at Amazon, so if you know someone who loves memoirs, Rock 'n Roll and New York back in the day, pick this one up. I've got it on my wish list now. *P.S. This Book is also Kindle Ready!
The Girl who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow... Durrow's debut draws from her own upbringing as the brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. to create Rachel Morse, a young girl with an identical heritage growing up in the early 1980s. After a devastating family tragedy in Chicago with Rachel the only survivor, she goes to live with the paternal grandmother she's never met, in a decidedly black neighborhood in Portland, Ore. Suddenly, at 11, Rachel is in a world that demands her to be either white or black. As she struggles with her grief and the haunting, yet-to-be-revealed truth of the tragedy, her appearance and intelligence place her under constant scrutiny. Laronne, Rachel's deceased mother's employer, and Brick, a young boy who witnessed the tragedy and because of his personal misfortunes is drawn into Rachel's world, help piece together the puzzle of Rachel's family.
This book was released in early January of this year, and that it makes more than one "best of" list speaks volumes. The author wrote a great column for Bookpage, talking about what inspired her to write The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, and what she wanted to impart to the reader. This has book club pick written all over it, with the story exploring race and identity. This book also won The Bellwether Prize for Fiction in 2008. The Bellwether Prize is awarded to an unpublished novel representing "serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The prize is awarded to a previously unpublished novel representing excellence in this genre." The Bellwether Prize is awarded on even-numbered years, includes a $25,000 cash payment to the author, and guarantees publication by a major publisher. This January Algonquin Books will release this in paperback, in the meantime it is available in hardcover from your local bookstore, or This is Kindle Ready!
Fall by Lauren Oliver... Here's NPR's Gayle Forma's review:
High school senior Samantha Kingston is a typical mean girl. She and her popular troika of friends cavalierly treat the lesser students like dirt because th
ey can. Early on in the book, on Feb. 12, Sam is killed in a car accident on the way home from a party with her friends. But instead of floating away to some afterlife, Sam wakes up in her bed to find it's the morning of Feb. 12, and she must relive the last day of her life over. With the rules upended, Sam tweaks her actions (seducing a teacher, ditching school to spend the day with her little sister, attempting to help a deeply unhappy "loser," kissing the boy she maybe should have been kissing all along). This may sound like Groundhog Day meets Afterschool Special, but it's actually a subtle, layered and ultimately ethical book. As Oliver widens her lens, Sam comes to understand not only the butterfly effect of kindness but also the cumulative effect of cruelty: "If you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. ... You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That's how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth." By the end, Sam's (and the reader's) understanding of herself and of her friends is so complete that the bitches from chapter one have become complex, even sympathetic girls.
This is one of those YA books that tugs at our adult hearts. Had we the chance to change something when we were young, would we? Do we view our teenage years differently now that we are adults? I love the idea that Sam comes back (after dying) and discovers the world around her that she never took the time to get to know. There are plenty of "dead teens" coming back stories, but Before I Fall is the one getting some great buzz and topping some YA lists to boot! It's a 480 page book too! The hardcover is under $11 right now at Amazon, and This Book is Kindle Ready!
Here are some sights to check out for the Best of 2010 Book lists:
I'm going to sit down and look back over the next few weeks and make my own "favorites" list from this year's reading. What were your favorites? Do you like reading the Best Book lists? Who's list do you read?
I hope you had a great reading week! And a great Thanksgiving! Did you get any reading done this week? Share your favorites! I'd love to hear about what you're reading! Next week, I will be reviewing Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro! I was going to review it this past weekend, but things got a little hectic after Thanksgiving....
Happy reading... Suzanne