Lisa is a bookseller from Colorado whose eclectic tastes are appreciated here at The Millions.Non-FictionThe Elements of Lavishness: Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell 1938-1978: In this delightful volume English novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner and New Yorker editor William Maxwell’s relationship blossoms from professional correspondence to a deep friendship. The two never actually met in real life, but their love for one another is apparent in their incredibly erudite and often quite funny years-long correspondence.The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary Lovell: I’m not usually one for biographies, but The Sisters is a thoroughly engrossing tale of these Bright Young Things of England’s interwar years. The five Mitford sisters ran the gamut from Nazi sympathizer to best selling novelist. Lovell’s book is heavily researched, but she maintains a light tone throughout, which makes it enjoyable for those of us who prefer to take our history with a bit of gossip and froth.It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten: Steingarten, the inimitable gourmand, former Harvard Lampoon editor and lawyer returns with a sequel to his first collection of food essays, The Man Who Ate Everything. Many of these pieces appeared first in Vogue and the New Yorker. Steingarten loves food and the sociology and mythology behind the art of eating. He is, most definitely, a latter-day Liebling. Delightful!The First World War by John Keegan: This book seems to be the definitive volume on WWI. It is an all-consuming narration on all aspects of WWI. Incredibly moving and never dull, it is essential reading, I think, as it profoundly informs the politics and culture of the world today.FictionMadeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum: More of a prose poem than a novel, this 2004 NBA nominee is a time and space bending fantasia populated by a young girl in a catatonic state, a photographer turned pornographer, a fat woman who sprouts wings and a woman who takes on the shape of a cello. Absolutely spell-binding.Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt: This most recent offering from A.S. Byatt, seemingly the most erudite and sensual of all women writing today, consists of five stories, some of which were previously published in various publications. By turn haunting and dark, Byatt maintains her trademark ability to effortlessly blend fairy tales into the everyday world.The Courage Consort: Three Novellas – Michel Faber: Michel Faber seems to be one of the most dynamic authors writing today. Coming off of his huge, Dickensian novel of last year, The Crimson Petal and the White, he returns with these three somewhat surreal, incredibly entertaining novellas.The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Alvaro Mutis: This is the best novel (or collection of novellas, I suppose) that I think I’ve ever read. Words cannot even begin to describe the stories here. The most imaginative, magnificent, gorgeous words I’ve read in a very long time. I didn’t want to ever leave Maqroll!Thanks for that, Lisa. We’ve got a few more year end lists on the way, and then I’ll be back at the helm.
If there is an award season for the book industry, it’s probably right around now. The Booker will be announced in a couple of days, the Nobel Prize was just announced, and now the finalists for the National Book Award have been announced. (The Pulitzer doesn’t happen until the spring, though.) The big news this year is that the 9/11 Commission Report has been nominated in the non-fiction category. It’s an unprecedented development, and I can’t help but think that a message is being sent. And it is a rather clever way of getting publicity for the award. It also, however, reflects the important place in history that 9/11 will hold. On the fiction side, the nominees are an interesting bunch, all of the women and none of them big, well-known names. Below you can find the nominees for the fiction and non-fiction categories, and some excerpts or whatever else I could find.FictionMadeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum — profileFlorida by Christine Schutt — interviewIdeas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories by Joan Silber — excerptThe News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck — excerptOur Kind: A Novel in Stories by Kate Walbert — excerptNon-FictionArc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle — reviewWashington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer — excerptLife on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett by Jennifer Gonnerman — excerpt (this is a good one)Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt — excerpt9/11 Commission Report — read it here