S.G. Browne

A is for American (Psycho and Gods)

Okay. I’ve started a new blog endeavor, which is to share my favorite books I’ve read from A to Z. To be clear, I’m not saying these are the best books beginning with these letters. Just the best books I’ve read throughout my life. For the sake of argument, I’ve left out short story collections and anthologies and have stuck mostly with fiction, though one or two works of non-fiction might make it in.

I’ll include my favorite novel, then one or two runners-up and, occasionally, one novel I couldn’t stand. These will usually be classic works of literature I was forced to read in school, which I’m still happy to complain about. And I invite you to share your thoughts on my picks and your own favorite novels that begin with each letter.

So, without further delay, we’ll get on with the letter A:

And the winner is:
American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
A friend bought this for me years ago. I doubt I would have picked it up myself and had no idea what it was about but found it amusing, compelling, inspiring, disturbing, and impossible to stop thinking about. Great satire and social commentary, with an ending that I found ambiguously perfect.

Close but no cigar:
American Gods andAnansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
I’m not sure which one I enjoyed more, so I’ll include them both here. I loved the themes of immortality and the way Gaiman played with concepts of gods in American Gods, but found the storytelling in Anansi Boys to be more playful and engaging. Either one is well worth the time. Read them both.

What about…?
The first novel to come to mind for A was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll but, um, well, I haven’t read it.

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:08 pm

Favorite Reads of 2009

First of all, I want to make one thing clear:

This is not a Best of List. A Best of List implies that I thought these were the best books of 2009. While to some extent that’s true, a Best of List is only my opinion, not a statement of fact, and has nothing to do with the value or the quality of the writing of the books I included. It’s just a reflection of my own personal tastes and perceptions.

I’m attempting to make this subtle clarification because people tend to take Best of Lists a little too personally and passionately, as if by leaving a particular book off the list I was somehow disparaging the author or showing my lack of taste or literary judgment. And I can show that just fine without being reminded of it, thank you.

So instead, these are simply my favorite books – the reads I enjoyed the most, for one reason or another. And before you say, “Hey, that book didn’t come out in 2009,” I never said these were my favorite books that hit the shelves last year. Just the favorite books I read.

1) Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
Books capture my imagination for a number of reasons, but this one captured them for all of them. Narrative voice, structure, style, flow, and a story populated with characters that I felt I could reach out and touch. Who doesn’t love a good story about a circus? I recommend this book to everyone. It was my favorite read of 2009.

2) Beat the Reaper (Josh Bazell)
“So I’m on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow…” How can you top that for an opening line in a novel? A fun, unabashedly dark and imaginative debut novel, this one pushed all of my buttons. Darkly comic, entertaining, and a plot that never lets up. If you like your romance sprinkled with mafia hit men and hospital hi-jinks, then this is the book for you.

3) The Likeness (Tana French)
This is the follow up to Tana French’s debut In The Woods. Both novels are mysteries set in small towns on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland. While I found the story and the mystery of her first novel more complex and compelling, The Likeness is one of those books where the characters seem so real that you can’t believe they’re not still hanging about once you’ve finished with the book. This one stayed with me for several days after I finished it.

4) Fool (Christopher Moore)
If you haven’t read any of Moore’s novels, you can’t go wrong starting off with this one. Richly detailed with research, Fool tells the story of King Lear from the viewpoint of Pocket, the King’s fool. Filled with trademark Christopher Moore humor and lots of tawdry Shakespearean antics, Fool is Christopher Moore at his best.

5) American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
Filled with beautiful prose and a dark, compelling, poignant story about the battle between the forgotten gods of the old world and the new gods who have sprung up to take their place, Gaiman manages to make the fantastic and magical seem possible. A rich, satisfying read.

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 11:58 am