Thursday, October 2, 2014

Our NYRB Top 10

We always been big fans of NYRB Classics here at PSB and so were very excited to organize an event in which Daniel Mendelsohn (who is brilliant) talked with William Giraldi (who is also brilliant) about John Williams’ (yep, brilliant) National Book Award-winning novel, Augustus. Alas, illness forced the cancellation of the event, but we can still celebrate the good work NYRB Classics does in keeping great old books alive and in bringing great foreign books to America. So, to thank them for all the work they do for books and reading and to compensate as best we can for the canceled event, here is my NYRB Top Ten.

Quiet and humble this is a beautiful, yet melancholy, story of a simple life, that offers a precise and fascinating look into Japanese culture, while touching on  events and themes universal to human experience. 

A 19th century Quantum Leap, if Mark Twain were a consulting writer. Lee hops from body to body touching on just about every aspect of 19th-century America in the process. Along with being a classic of satire, Sheppard Lee would be a great text for any history course taking a deeper look into daily life.

Would you rather be held captive by Caribbean pirates or a group of children? After reading Hughes’s somewhat surreal high seas adventure, you might have some trouble answering that question.  

Part narrative history, part reference guide, Stewart’s account of how American places got their names is a fascinating read for anyone interested in history and culture. Read front to back, look up your hometown, or just dip in and out.

For fans of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri (who wrote the introduction for this collection) Gallant is one of the great short story writers who almost fell into obscurity. Start here and you’ll find yourself quickly snapping up her other collections.

Not only does Neil Gaiman love this book, Gary “The Most Interesting Bookseller in the World” was overjoyed when he saw it come back in print. He staff picks it and recommends it to anyone (of any age) looking for a great story.

Renata Adler’s funny, wise, insightful novel accumulates through a series of vignettes; each one acting as both a brilliant portrait in its own right and a tile in the mosaic of the novel. Politics, journalism, class, wealth, sex, singing "Happy Birthday," money, parties, and lovers, Speedboat reads like the Facebook feed of the most interesting person you know.

The greatest adventure novel ever written. In related news, Vikings are awesome.

Suddenly, everyone was talking about a forty-year-old book. Not only were they talking about it, but folks like Ian McEwan and Colum McCann were heaping praise upon it. So big was the impact of Stoner’s re-release that it was even a Waterstones book of the year.

Definitely the greatest novel of WWII. Arguably the greatest war novel, period. Should be included in any discussion of the greatest novels ever written. Further description would just diminish this monumental achievement of the written word.

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