JC: For the last 3g1b post of the year, I’m following the other guys pieces on their best books of the year with my own. In an effort not to be repetitive, I’m going to avoid any duplicates, although any best books of the year list must, to my mind, include both The Imperfectionists and Mr. Peanut. None of these were on my radar early in the year, so let’s call this piece Four I Didn’t Expect.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer – A giant, roaring WW2 novel. The Invisible Bridge centers around Andras Levi, a Hungarian-born architectural student in Paris, who become entangled in rampant anti-semitism, political machinations, and an ill-advised love affair. The Invisible Bridge is a broad-shouldered, Tolstoyian epic crossing personal tragedies and successes with international turmoil. A big book and a good one. My mother received one of these for her birthday.
Sunset Park by Paul Auster – Prior to Sunset Park, I’d never read anything by Paul Auster, having been turned off by the hipper-than-thou aesthetic of the cadre of postmodernist-worshiping grad students I encountered in the mid-90′s. That being said, Sunset Park was perhaps the most surprising of all the novels I read this year. Miles Heller, who has made a life out of running away from life; now he’s headed to a squat in Brooklyn a few steps ahead of statutory rape accusation from a pissed off sister. From there, Auster’s narrative fractures to the pov’s of his roommates and family and weaves a story through Vietnam, baseball, and The Best Years of Our Lives. A sharp, sharp novel.
The Unnamed by Josh Ferris – I didn’t love Then We Came To The End as much as the rest of the world, but I think his second novel has been seriously underrated. Removed from the dark humor of the crumbling workplace, The Unnamed is a powerful novel about one man’s descent into mental illness. The Unnamed is the story of Tim Farnsworth, a lawyer cursed with inexplicable episodes that drive him from his comfortable life into a homeless wanderer’s existence. Heartbreaking and awesome, The Unnamed is in paperback now.
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli – We’ve talked about Tatjana’s great novel about photojournalists during the Vietnam War a few times already, but it belongs on any list of great books of 2010. Evocative of some great war novels, The Lotus Eaters held me tranfixed with it’s vicious war scenes, genuine characters, and poignant love story. It’s in paperback now, too.