I’m notorious for loving tan-paged classics published in earlier centuries, but this year I’ve ventured into the manic-depressive world of new books. Too many new books can bewilder you. You’re dazed by the quantity and unexceptional quality. Sometimes you wake up and think, Did So-and-So at the East Coast Buzz really review that?
And so I’m taking a short break from my wobbling TBR of new books, but first let me share my list of Stunning Reads and Stinkers of the year so far.
- Klotsvog by Margarita Khemlin, translated by Lisa C. Hayden. A translation of this brilliant 2009 Russian novel was recently published by Columbia University Press. The Jewish narrator, Maya Klotsvog, dismisses the impact of Soviet history on her character, despite her tragic past. Absorbed in love affairs and multiple marriages that ultimately hurt her family, she has a psychological explanation for other people’s errors, but does not examine her own. The most extraordinary novel I’ve read this year.
- The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley. A stunning, lyrical modern feminist retelling of Beowulf.
- Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson. This retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein alternates two narratives, a fictional history of Mary Shelley and a narrative by a near-future doctor about the future of A.I.. This was longlisted for the Booker Prize.
- We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White. In this beautifully-written novel, two friends deal with political and social changes of the 1960s. I recommend this to fans of Mary McCarthy’s The Group and Marge Piercy’s Vida.
- Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country by Pam Houston. A collection of reflective essays on living on a ranch in Colorado with affectionate Irish wolfhounds, miniature donkeys, no electricity, and dealing with climate change.
- The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. A very slight novel about actress Hedy Lamar. A disappointing Barnes and Noble book club selection.
- The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine. This bon-bon of a book about intellectual identical red-haired twins who feud about grammar must be meant for the big screen. To be read and forgotten.