It all started here, thanks to Kevin Brennan. I’m not sure whether I should curse him or thank him. It’s been interesting reading these books, but frustrating at the same time because I have found so little that I actually liked. So, what’s the tally so far. From the New York Times Notable Book List of 2014, I have now read, or tried to read:
All our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
American Innovations by Rivka Galchen
China’s Second Continent by Howard French
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Demon Camp by Jennifer Percy
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Duty by Robert Gates
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
The Dog by Joseph O’Neill
If my counting is correct, that’s 11 of the 100 notable books for 2014, according to the New York Times. There are also two books on the list that I read a number of months ago before the list came out. I have not yet reviewed those.
So, where do I stand? Of those 11 books, I have only read from beginning to end the following books: The Dog, Family Life, Duty, Demon Camp, All the Birds Singing, and All Our Names. So 5 of the books weren’t even worth completing and of the 6 that I completed, I was pretty much thoroughly disgusted by The Dog, Duty, and Demon Camp, with kudos but ambivalence for All the Birds, Singing and Family Life. And the one highlight of the list was All Our Names.
There’s a trend I think I’m noticing. The New York Times seems to favor stories written by foreign writers, located in foreign places, or both. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but of the 9 fiction books, 7 fit either or both of those categories. Where are the American authors? Where are the stories about us normal, every day Americans? (By the way, the next two fiction books I checked out also fall in these categories.)
Maybe it’s in how I am selecting books to read. Randomly. I printed out the list of 100 books and take it to the library with me when it’s time for a couple more books. Our downtown library has a wonderful area called Central Express which tends to have newer releases. So I head there with my list and start looking for any books I can find that are on the list. Fiction books are easier to find. It seems that non-fiction is a little harder to find and I’m going to have to change my approach to try to get to some of the non-fiction books on the list.
Anyway, maybe my random selection has led me to the “foreign” books and there are a whole bunch of good ol’ traditional American authors elsewhere in the list, just waiting for me. We’ll see.
If I don’t find something soon that knocks my socks off, I’m going to move to the stack of books I got from friends and family for holiday gifts.