Last week on our blog, National Book Critics Circle president John Freeman shared the NBCC's picks for its "Most Recommended" list, along with some of the voters' comments on the titles they picked. Here are some more.
From Amy Gerstler, whose book Bitter Angel (1990) won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.
In choosing 3 books published this year that meant a lot to me, I tried to zero in on titles that might not be on everyone else's list — to call attention to a trio of deserving gems. There were oodles to choose from. It was slightly painful to name only three.
POETRY: 30 years worth of Elaine Equi's poems are collected in Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems. Her work is consistently witty, surprising, graceful, and fluid. This is an indispensable and long awaited volume for those who have been juggling her pile of smaller books, as well as for readers who have not yet had the delight of encountering her inventive, magical voice.
NONFICTION: Lucia Perillo is one of America's finest living poets. The
writing in her dark memoir I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature combines, as her poetry does, brilliant intellect, bravery, ferocity of spirit, great precision and admirable command of language.
contemporary of Kafka's, with whom his work shares some characteristics. His novel Jakob Von Gunten and the various collections of his short prose are wonders. The Assistant, a novella translated by Susan Bernofsky, appeared this year for the first time in English.
Walser is by turns comic and heartbreaking, modest and grand, fresh and cheeky. He seems to inhabit this world and several others simultaneously. The voice of his mind is wildly unique, very pure, and strange in the most inspiring ways.
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From Lev Grossman, author of Codex, Time book critic, NBCC board member.
After 11 years of near-silence, following the publication of his slender, cruelly promising story collection Drown, I was ready to write off Diaz as a never-was. Until he hauled off with this massive, heaving, crackling tragi-comic epic starring Oscar, a dorky Dominican-American "social introvert who trembled with fear during gym class," and his mom and sister. Having escaped from Santo Domingo to New Jersey, they still suffer the manifold curses of the old country along with the alien demands of the new world, as well as the depredations of their own hearts — which are crueller than any dictator, even Trujillo.
A thought-experiment investigating what would become of the earth if humanity were to softly and silently vanish away. What starts as a morbid parlor game becomes a Malcolm Gladwell and John McPhee mashed together and set on fast-forward.mesmerizing and grandly entertaining examination of how horrifically humanity has managed to perturb our little planet, and with what wonderful blithe resilience said planet will shrug us off when we're gone. Weisman writes like
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Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, on Junot Diaz:
The reams of rightfully deserved press that accompanied his debut collection, Drown, as well as the recent Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, often respond to Diaz's originality and to the freshness of the Dominican American lives he renders with his dazzling prose.I suspect his originality is evidence of his moral purpose. From the sentence-level to the narrative structure, in both scope and in spirit, he treats people and the emotional and physical spaces in which they live generously and unsparingly, by which I mean with microscopic respect. Oscar Wao, the young man at the center of Diaz's new novel, is a young man capable of loving fully — a very rare thing. I'm grateful that we met.
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Former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky on Tom Sleigh:
In Tom Sleigh's Space Walk the characteristic poem "Oracle" portrays a man and a family and an era — all through its lucid account of an experimental rocket-launch, as beheld by an engineer and his two little sons on a family expedition to view (before breakfast) the focus of superhuman, violent energy: a spectacle that reflects the explosive and attentive nature of Sleigh's imagination.
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Now we want to hear from YOU, dear readers! Which books do you recommend most, and why? Don't be shy — share your comments below.
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Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.
The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.
Books mentioned in this post