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10/7: Staff Picks
Here's another round of staff picks for the week. In honor of the National Book Award finalists announcement on the show next week, we're all picking our favorite books we've read this year. Luckily, we're not NBA judges, so we're giving ourselves the freedom to pick books published any year. Let us know your picks at our National Book Awards page.
John Rosman (New Media Intern): I have read some great books this year, but I think my favorite was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This was the first, and only, novel featured in the now defunct book club: True Midnight Warriors of Rapid Page Succession. It's my fault TMWRPS quietly bowed into nothingness. We were to read 100-pages every week, but once I started, I couldn't stop. I finished the book before everyone, and they said I killed the whole point of the club…Anyways, the book is amazing. I recommend it highly, and refuse trying to explain the plot.
Allison Frost (Senior Producer): I recommend The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (though I have not finished it, I admit.) Also, anything by Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto — particularly her memoir Truth and Beauty, that just about killed me. Speaking of killing, the latest Chelsea Cain book, The Night Season, was a delight. On the magazine front (not that you asked) I was just recently reminded how engaging the magazine Mental Floss is — and I'd also been forgetting all about Adbusters, til the recent Occupy protests.
Julie Sabatier (Producer): Margaret Atwood is hands down my favorite author. I thought I had read just about everything in her rather exhaustive canon, but somehow, up until this year, I had missed The Penelopiad. It's a re-telling of Homer's Odyssey from the perspective of Odysseus's wife, Penelope. (I've always been something of a classics geek and The Odyssey was probably my favorite of all the epic poems.) My other favorite reading material from this year has to be Chelsea Cain's series about Gretchen, the fetching, female serial killer. I especially liked that she gave her journalist character, Susan, blue hair in the second book. But I haven't read the fourth one yet. So, NO spoilers, Allison Frost!
Dave Blanchard (Producer): The best book I've read this year is David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. The writing is dazzling—switching among several dialects and personalities as separate narrators from different eras tell their individual, but tangentially related stories. It's beautiful, bizarre, and surprising. It's special enough to keep me from diving into Mitchell's new book, not wanting to read all of his work too quickly and have nothing new left. Now, inevitably, it's on it's way to a theater near you (starring Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon...sigh), but read the book first—I can't imagine a movie will be able to capture the sprawling magnificence of the book.
Sarah Jane Rothenfluch (Executive Producer): Just last week I read the literary thriller Before I Go To Sleep by the British author S.J. Watson. Watson is an audiologist who wrote this book between her shifts. It's the story of a 47 year-old woman who has amnesia and pieces her mysterious life together by journaling her experiences. It might not be the best book of the year, but it certainly is a page-turner. I laughed out loud through Tina Fey's hilarious memoir, Bossypants. And (just as Virginia Euwer Wolf suggests) I'm revisiting the 100 Acre Wood in The World of Pooh with my son and remembering the impact literature can have on your life from a very early age.
Kayla Anchell (Intern): My favorite book this year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It was also made into a movie, but I have yet to see it (I'm a little worried that it won't live up to how amazing the book was). It's an incredible novel set in 1960s Mississippi. It follows the lives of black women who have spent their whole lives working for white women and raising their children. A white reporter is determined to interview these housekeepers, despite the disapproval from her friends. When reading this book I found myself relating to almost all of the characters; Stockett really brings their personalities to life.
Dave Miller (Host): I've read some amazing new books over the last year, but it's three re-readings that have stayed with me. Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections was funnier and sadder than I'd remembered. Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety is still full of tender beauty. And George Eliot's Middlemarch, the second time through, blew me away all over again. It just might be the best novel ever. Three cheers for returning to old favorites!