Thursday, November 30, 2023

Best Books I Read in November

You're probably already inundated with the best of the year book lists, but over here, we have just one more post to get through before we get to my favorite books of the year (next week). Here are the best books I read in November:

From Dust To Stardust, by Kathleen Rooney -- This is a dazzling Jazz Age tale about silent movie star Doreen O'Dare (based on real-life star Colleen Moore), her rise through the burgeoning movie industry, her fraught first marriage, and her construction of the magnificent Fairy Castle, a huge doll house now housed at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Down to the dialogue, wardrobes, and hairstyles, Rooney really gets the Roaring 20s right here, and this is a joy to read. If you like Rooney's novel Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk (which I did a lot!) or are just a fan of a good period piece, you'll love this too.

The Latecomer, by Jean Hanff Korelitz -- In some ways, this is a pretty standard dysfunctional family story (which is fine, I LOVE these stories) -- the family here, the Oppenheimers, is a rich New York brood doing rich New Yorker things, like buying art and managing a hedge fund. Also, the father is kind of a tool and has an affair, and this affects all the children.

But this terrific novel also strikes out on its own and breaks many of the conventions of the traditional dysfunctional family story. The bulk of the story is about the kids: A set of triplets who all hate each other. It is fascinating to watch their dynamic play out here as we switch between their perspectives. Two of the three are sympathetic, root-able-for characters, and the third, like his father, is a tool. But they're all interesting, and do lots of interesting things.

Then of course, as per the title, there's a new sibling. The Latecomer. And that's when things start to get REALLY dramatic.

This is a novel that starts slowly and builds over time (this novel's a SHINING EXAMPLE of why you don't DNF after 50 pages).😊

Again and Again, by Jonathan Evison -- I'll read ANYTHING Evison writes, but even so, I had to talk myself into this one. I've just never been a huge fan of reincarnation stories. Just not my thing -- I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe because as a literary device to move a plot, it seems a little too gimmicky. But this novel is far from a straight-forward reincarnation story, if there's such a thing. Evison's got plenty of surprises in store for us here.

This is a novel about finding connection, finding love, and why these are the only things that matter. Told with Evison's signature charm, you'll love these characters, and you'll love digging into their relationships to each other.

If you've read Evison before, you'll love this one too. If you haven't, this is a great place to start with him.

Birnam Wood, by Eleanor Catton -- A wholly unique thriller that makes the political personal and the personal political. It's a novel about the limits of a personal ethos: When are you willing to compromise what you believe to get what you want?

I'd read this novel was about a group of "guerilla gardeners," and that had kind of put me off it for a while. And while it is about that, it's not REALLY about that. Birnam Wood is a collective that plants gardens in public space and on unused private land (like that rich people have which they never use), and the story is about what happens when a billionaire, who unbeknownst to them is up to all kinds of other shady stuff, offers to sponsor their group.

Even with several digressions about politics or culture or any other direction to which Catton (who is a BRILLIANT writer) lets her mind wander, this truly reads like a thriller -- twisty and turny and shocking and really tough to put down, a book I was constantly thinking about when I wasn't reading.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. My own experience is that I forgot the book almost immediately on finishing it, and my only thought between reading sessions was "do I really need to finish this". In the end, my answer was "not really". A predictable ending, the demise of characters without any depth at all, and a sequence of events that were utterly improbable brought this tale to it's fairly pointless end.