Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stephanie's GRAND List of Books!

Hey! Thanks for having me along for this challenge!! I actually joined up last week, but have been busy caring for my 4-year with Strep....Yuk! Anyway, one day at work last year when they announced the 2006 list, I was bored (but don't tell my boss!! I was trying to look busy!). So I printed off the last 10 years lists, with the book summaries. Now, I have so many check-marked, I don't know what to do! So I picked out about 17 fiction and 6 non-fiction. Not sure I will be able to read them ALL, but I figure I might as well try!! Here goes nothing:

  • Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
  • Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
  • Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  • Digging to America by Anne Tyler (I'm not sure about this one...I wasn't impressed with the other Anne Tyler book I read)
  • The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger
  • Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Inhabited World by David Long
  • The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • The Keep by Jennifer Egan
  • Lisey's Story by Stephen King
  • One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
  • Terrorist by John Updike
  • The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits


  • Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir by Danielle Trussoni
  • Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Flaubert: A Biography by Frederick Brown
  • Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent
  • State of Denial by Bob Woodward
  • Sweet and Low: A Family Story by Rich Cohen

Seems like a pretty good mix. I love looking at all the lists to see what books all have in common....and what books are unique!!


Monday, February 26, 2007

Loose Baggy Monster's list o'books

Today I give you my updated list o'books for the NYT Notable Books of 2006 challenge. I have both fiction and non-fiction selections, but because I really want to use this challenge to read books I normally would pass by (or read only the reviews of) I'm trying to stick with more fiction than non. I have 20 fiction books on my list and 5 or 6 non-fiction--the idea is that if I feel the need, I can substitute a non-fiction book at any time. Also, I'm going to be easy on myself--I recognize that I am the world's greatest procrastinator, so I'm not saying I have to read ALL of the books--this is just what I have culled from the list based on what appealed to me most at the time. So....drum roll please.....Here they are!

  • Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart (he's coming to speak at my U so I get to go to the reading!)
  • Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  • Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead
  • Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  • Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
  • Brookland by Emily Barton
  • The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin
  • The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
  • Forgetfulness by Ward Just
  • Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Keep by Jennifer Egan
  • The Inhabited World by David Long
  • The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • Old Filth by Jane Gardam
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Skinner's Drift by Lisa Fugard
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
  • Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
  • A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua


  • The Courtier and the Heretic: Liebniz, Spinoza, and the Fat of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart
  • Flaubert: A Biography by Frederick Brown
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  • Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke
  • The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
  • Sweet and Low: A Family Story by Rich Cohen
Overly ambitious, and perhaps more than a little delusional, but I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone has to say about their books!

Sally906's Initial list

G'day All

Thank-you for letting me join in :)

I am keeping my list small to start (5) with as I am in a few challenges - hoping to combine most of them :)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

If, as we talk about them, I think I will be interested in some of the others then I will add to my list :)

Hoo Roo

Sunday, February 25, 2007

3M's List

I am totally nuts--insane, bonkers, crazy, etc. Why am I doing another challenge? Because I'm really enjoying the literary blogosphere. Because I'm "meeting" fellow bookaholics. Because I love to read. (And because a lot of the books were on my list, anyway!)

I am only reading 10. That's wimpy compared to others, but that's all I can do!!

*Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
*Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski
*The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
*Lisey's Story by Stephen King
*The Road by Cormac McCarthy
*Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
*The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

Edit: I am adding some more possibilities. The ones with the asterix above are definites. I can still commit to only 10, but after doing some more research, the following titles are interesting as well:

The Translator, by Leila Aboulela
The Dead Fish Museum, by Charles D'Ambrosio
Twilight of the Superheroes, by Deborah Eisenberg
Old Filth, by Jane Gardam
Golden Country, by Jennifer Gilmore
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman
The Stories of Mary Gordon, by Mary Gordon
The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin
All Aunt Hagar's Children, by Edward P. Jones
Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury
The Inhabited World, by David Long
Gallatin Canyon: Stories, by Thomas McGuane
Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell
Everyman, by Phillip Roth
A Woman in Jerusalem, by A.B. Yehoshua
Eat, Pray, Love By Elizabeth Gilbert
The Omnivore's Dilemma By Michael Pollan
Reading Like a Writer By Francine Prose

Literary Feline's List of Potentials

Wendy (Caribousmom) twisted my arm, and here I am. At least, she is just my excuse for letting myself be swept into another irresistable challenge. For the long version of the story, stop by my personal blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty.

In order to make the NYT Challenge work for me, I am going to allow myself a lot of freedom. I will not be setting a specific number of books to read from the list (although I would like to read them all!). I have jotted down a few titles that appeal to me, and my choices will come from that list (subject to change based on other books that catch my fancy or recommedations by others).

Without further ado . . .

Forgetfulness by Ward Just (read 12/2006)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
The Inhabited World by David Long (read 06/2007)
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Absurditan by Gary Shteyngart
Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta
Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

CLARIFICATION of Rules by Wendy

I have had some questions concerning the rules of this challenge, so wanted to clarify...

1. There are no set numbers of books you have to read.
2. Books read should be from the 2006 NYT Most Notable Fiction OR Non fiction lists (see lists already posted to this blog).
3. If you choose to read both non fiction and fiction, at least 75% of the books read should be from the fiction list. This is so we have enough overlap to be able to share and discuss books.
4. Participants are encouraged to cross-post their reviews of books to this blog. Feel free to include a link to the original review on your own blog.
5. When posting, please use appropriate labels. For example: fiction, non fiction, etc... When posting a review, please include a label for the Title of the book so that others can quickly look at and read all reviews for that book in one place.
6. You do not have to select books "in advance"... but you are free to do so if you want to (many participants are creating provisional lists which are subject to change).

Whew! I think I've covered it all.

Thanks for your participation...I hope this will be a fun and rewarding experience for all!

SleepyReader's List

Hi Everyone! Despite thinking I am crazy for joining another challenge, I am really excited to participate. So far the challenges have really motivated me to accomplish my reading goals and this one in particular has motivated me to stretch my reading choices.

Here are my choices:

1. The Inhabited World - Long
2. Golden Country - Gilmore
3. Lisey's Story - King
4. One Good Turn - Atkinson
5. The Road - McCarthy
6. The Keep - Egan
7. The Inheritance of Loss - Desai
8. The Echo Maker - Powers
9. Eat the Document - Spiotta
10. The Uses of Enchantment - Julavits
11. Falling Through the Earth - Trussoni
12. The Ghost Map - Johnson
13. The Great Deluge - Brinkley
14. The Omnivore's Dilemma - Pollan
15. The Worst Hard Time - Egan

***Edited to Add: I missed the original discussion about choosing a minimum of 10 fiction. I got excited and stopped reading too soon! I will choose 5 more fiction to follow the challenge guidelines.

Good luck everyone and Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Joy's Challenge Choices

1. Half of a Yellow Sun (Adichie)

2. One Good Turn (Atkinson)

Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert)
Finished on 1-15-07
Finished 3-25-07

The Road (McCarthy)
Finished 4-03-07

6. Black Swan Green (Mitchell)

Shelved for another day.

7. Suite Francaise (Nemirovsky)

Shelved for another day.

Beasts of No Nation (Iweala)
Finished 3-29-07

9. The Echo Maker (Powers)

Reading Like a Writer (Prose)
Finished on 11-5-06

Everyman (Roth)
Finished on 5-22-07
Finished on 09-7-06

*Click on a title will link you to "Thoughts of Joy..."

Kim's List....

Hello there! I am excited to join the challenge with you all :0) I just thought I would pop in and post my list of what I am going to read for the challenge...there are definitely some great books to choose from, but the following books were the ones that caught my eye! I am looking forward to discussing these book with everyone!

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
High Lonesome by Joyce Carol Oates
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits
Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore
Skinner's Drift by Lisa Fugard
The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger
The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford
The Keep by Jennifer Egan
The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D'Ambrosio
Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
The Translator by Leila Aboulela
Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
The Inhabited World by David Long
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiren Desai
Lisey's Story by Steven King
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

I have already started to read "The Emperor's Children"...happy reading everyone!

Friday, February 23, 2007


Hello, fellow NYT Notable Book Pursuers!

Wendy suggested that we look into an organizational scheme that would make it possible to view all the posts on a specific topic or book in a single place or folder. I have been experimenting with this idea and this is what I propose:

When you write a post, "tag" it in the section of your "Create" or "Edit Posts" page called "Labels" (at the bottom of the composing section) with the name of the book and any other tags you or the group find useful. The blog's readers can then click on the labels at the bottom of individual post to see all the posts that share that label.

For instance, I have gone through and tagged all of the existing posts by title (I have two tags for Suite Française, because some browsers have trouble using the ç) and by the additional tags "fiction," "non-fiction," "lists," and "personal lists." [The difference between the last two is that "lists" is for posts that link to or post the NYT Notable Books list, and "personal lists" relates to our own personal book goals.]

But this is just the beginning. Feel free to add labels as they come to you ("links" might be a natural next step, for instance), or to change the labels I have applied if they don't suit. I can continue to do some superficial maintenance (making sure that all reviews are labeled by title of book reviewed, for instance), but you should feel free to use the labeling system any way you like!

The New York Times on the NYT Notable Book List 2006

Here is the original article outlining the New York Times' list of notable books for 2006 (and giving short descriptions of each work).

Included in this list are the Non-fiction "Notable Books" selections. I put it to the group: are these viable candidates for our challenge, or should we limit the challenge to the fiction selections?

The following is a list of the Non-fiction selections:

  • THE AFTERLIFE. By Donald Antrim
  • AMERICA AT THE CROSSROADS: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. By Francis Fukuyama
  • ANDREW CARNEGIE. By David Nasaw
  • AT CANAAN'S EDGE: America in the King Years, 1965-68. By Taylor Branch
  • AVA GARDNER: ''Love Is Nothing.'' By Lee Server
  • THE BLIND SIDE: Evolution of a Game. By Michael Lewis
  • BLOOD AND THUNDER: An Epic of the American West. By Hampton Sides
  • BLUE ARABESQUE: A Search for the Sublime. By Patricia Hampl
  • CLEMENTE: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero. By David Maraniss
  • CONSIDER THE LOBSTER: And Other Essays. By David Foster Wallace
  • THE COURTIER AND THE HERETIC: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World. By Matthew Stewart
  • THE DISCOMFORT ZONE: A Personal History. By Jonathan Franzen
  • EAT, PRAY, LOVE: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. By Elizabeth Gilbert
  • FALLING THROUGH THE EARTH: A Memoir. By Danielle Trussoni
  • FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. By Thomas E. Ricks
  • FIELD NOTES FROM A CATASTROPHE: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. By Elizabeth Kolbert
  • FLAUBERT: A Biography. By Frederick Brown
  • FUN HOME: A Family Tragicomic. By Alison Bechdel
  • THE GHOST MAP: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. By Steven Johnson
  • THE GREAT DELUGE: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. By Douglas Brinkley
  • THE GREATEST STORY EVER SOLD: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina
  • HAPPINESS: A History. By Darrin M. McMahon
  • HEAT: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. By Bill Buford
  • IRAN AWAKENING: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope. By Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni
  • JAMES TIPTREE, JR.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon. By Julie Phillips
  • JANE GOODALL: The Woman Who Redefined Man. By Dale Peterson
  • KATE: The Woman Who Was Hepburn. By William J. Mann
  • LEE MILLER: A LIFE. By Carolyn Burke
  • THE LOOMING TOWER: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. By Lawrence Wright
  • THE LOST: A Search for Six of Six Million. By Daniel Mendelsohn
  • MAYFLOWER: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. By Nathaniel Philbrick
  • THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN AMERICA: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
  • THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA: A Natural History of Four Meals. By Michael Pollan
  • ORACLE BONES: A Journey Between China's Past and Present. By Peter Hessler
  • THE PLACES IN BETWEEN. By Rory Stewart
  • PRISONERS: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide
  • PROGRAMMING THE UNIVERSE: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos. By Seth Lloyd
  • QUEEN OF FASHION: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. By Caroline Weber
  • READING LIKE A WRITER: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. By Francine Prose
  • REDEMPTION: The Last Battle of the Civil War. By Nicholas Lemann
  • SELF-MADE MAN: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again. By Norah Vincent
  • STATE OF DENIAL. By Bob Woodward
  • SWEET AND LOW: A Family Story. By Rich Cohen
  • TEMPTATIONS OF THE WEST: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond. By Pankaj Mishra
  • THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW: A Memoir. By Robert Hughes
  • THE UNITED STATES OF ARUGULA: How We Became a Gourmet Nation. By David Kamp
  • THE WAR OF THE WORLD: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West. By Niall Ferguson
  • THE WORST HARD TIME: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. By Timothy Egan
I must admit that if democratic sentiment ran towards including these non-fiction works among the possibilities for the challenge, I might be tempted to expand my list of twelve to include three books that are already on my shelf: The Looming Tower, Oracle Bones and The Worst Hard Time. Other pressingly intriguing candidates are At Canaan's Edge (or should I attempt the earlier volumes in the series first?), Field Notes from a Catastrophe, James Tiptree, Jr., and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

"Suite Française" by Irene Nemirovsky

"Suite Française" Irene Nemirovsky ****1/2

"Important events— whether serious, happy or unfortunate— do not change a man’s soul, they merely bring it into relief, just as a strong gust of wind reveals the true shape of a tree when it blows off all its leaves." (167)

It pleases me that my month was bracketed by two excellent French novels by authors I had never read before. At the same time, I am immeasurably saddened to find that both authors were cut off in the prime of their lives and the apex of their talent by events of world wars - Henri Alain-Fournier (author of Le Grand Meaulnes) in the battles of the first, and Nemirovsky in a concentration camp during the second. "Suite Française" is a an impossibly lucid (more light language! Time to expand my critical vocabulary.), detailed study of the occupation of France, written as the events were unfolding. The humanity of a broad cast of characters (broad on the scale of a Russian novel, showing the profound influence of Tolstoy on the Franco-Russian Nemirovsky) is underscored again and again, for good and for ill. German soldiers, living in French homes and requisitioning French property, are both eager to please and defensive about their actions. The upper classes (and particularly the upper middle class) come in for a scathing critique of their selfishness, but people from all walks of life manage to be alternately poisonous and self-sacrificing. Ideals like patriotism and piety have their roots in a profound selfishness. It is the details that scar and sear, a particularly striking feat since this novel remains unfinished and largely unedited by its author. In one nightmarish scene, a priest who agrees to take charge of a group of orphans from an institution under his family's patronage. They beat him to death after he leads them through the evacuation of Paris, and leave him mired in much on the grounds of a decayed estate.

Some other scathingly honest observations on the occupation:

On the French response to defeat -
"They feared a German victory, yet weren’t altogether happy at the idea that the English might win. All in all, they preferred everyone to be defeated." (270)

And, from the terrifying appendices of the book, which provide Nemirovsky's notes for the work as a whole and the correspondence that traces her family's struggle with occupation authorities who sent both Irene and her husband to their deaths in Nazi camps -
"The French grew tired of the Republic as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realise she’s dead, their Republic, their freedom. They’re mourning her." (344)

[I have to note, at least tangentially, that this was the first eBook I have ever read in its entirety, and it was a laborious endeavor. It was very hard to maintain a rhythm of reading when you have to wait for the next page to load, or cannot see the whole page at once. I hadn't fully realize before how darting my reading style is - rather than proceeding methodically and linearly down the page, I frequently retrace my steps, reading a phrase here and there from different parts of the page. Don't ask how this makes for a coherent reading experience; I don't completely understand it myself.]

My original blog entry, which deals with a number of other books in addition to Suite Française, can be found here.

Pour of Tor's Provisional To Do List

There are a couple of ways to approach this challenge (at least). The first involves setting a number of "Notable Books" you would like to make your way through before the end of 2007, and then allowing yourself the freedom to choose which books will make up that number as you progress through the list. The second (and the one, obsessive planner that I am, that I chose) involves outlining a list of specific works that you would like to cover over a twelve month period. Here is my list:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
**Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky** - finished!
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Will this list change over the course of the year, as some books don't take and others seduce me away from my plans? Probably. If I finish all twelve (ha!), will I move on to others on the list? Perhaps. Will the reviews posted by other participants influence what I want to read? Definitely.

At any rate, I am currently at work on two works for the challenge, both of them none too jolly: Beasts of No Nation and The Road. Iweala's book was so massively, shatteringly grim that I had to take a break in the middle (it is not long, but it is densely, evocatively written). Why, despite all warnings about the unrelenting darkness of the McCarthy, I chose it to leaven my depression, is a mystery to me.

[Update from Saturday, Feb. 24: I wanted to add a few books from the NYT Non-fiction list to my goal, bringing the provisional goal to 15 books in 2007. The additions are:

THE WORST HARD TIME: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. By Timothy Egan

ORACLE BONES: A Journey Between China's Past and Present. By Peter Hessler

THE LOOMING TOWER: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. By Lawrence Wright]

The List (Part II)

Thanks for posting the list, Wendy! Hopefully by the end of the year we will be able to compile some kind of a master list involving all the reviews of all books read by all participants. My bibliophile heart thrills at the very thought!

I wonder if, between us, we will cover the whole list, or whether we will tend to overlap on the more prominent authors and leave some books unread. It will be interesting to see.

In other news, the LibraryThing widget at the right of the blog also lists all the potential books for the challenge. If you click on the title or author links, it will take to you LibraryThing entries, with the abundance of interesting information to be gleaned from their data. Clicking on the covers will take you to Amazon.

Suite Francaise - Book Review by Wendy

Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky
Original post of this review found here.
Submitted by Wendy

To lift such a heavy weight

Sisyphus, you will need all your courage.
I do not lack the courage to complete the task
But the end is far and time is short.
-The Wine of Solitude- by Irene Nemirovsky for Irene Nemirovsky
-penciled at the top of the original first page of Suite Francaise-

Suite Francaise is an amazing piece of literature - a work in progress by a woman who lost her life in a German concentration camp before she could complete her masterpiece. Irene Nemirovsky had intended to write a 1000 page novel consisting of five parts: Storm in June, Dolce, Captivity, Battles, and Peace. Because of her untimely death at Auschwitz in August 1942, she drafted only the first two parts of the novel - a story with the promise of greatness. After turning the final page, I was left with the feeling of sorrow that we will never get to read Irene Nemirovsky's finished work.

Both Irene Nemirovksy and her husband died in Auschwitz. Their two children, hidden from the Nazi's by a family friend, survived the war - and in so doing, saved Irene's work, Suite Francaise, to be published 64 years after her death.

As a Jewish writer living with her husband and two children in France at the time of the Nazi occupation, Nemirovsky brings the reader a unique perspective of the war. She indicates in her notes a desire to write a novel not merely about history, but one with a greater depth of experience:

Never forget that the war will be over and that the entire historical sides will fade away. Try to create as much as possible: things, debates…that will interest people in 1952 or 2052.
-From the notes of Irene Nemirovsky, 2 June 1942-

Nemirovsky's writing is beautiful. She captures a sense of place and time with ease. Her descriptions of nature seem almost surreal when contrasted with the reality of war:

It was an exquisite evening with clear skies and blue shadows; the last rays of the setting sun caressed the roses, while the church bells called the faithful to prayer. But then a noise rose up from the road, a noise unlike any they'd heard these past few days, a low, steady rumbling that seemed to move slowly closer, heavy and relentless. Trucks were heading towards the village. This time it really was the Germans. -From Suite Francaise, page 92-93-

Important events -whether serious, happy or unfortunate- do not change a man's soul, they merely bring it into relief, just as a strong gust of wind reveals the true shape of a tree when it blows off all its leaves. -From Suite Francaise, page 167-

The novel opens with Book I (Storm in June) on the eve of the Nazi invasion of France. Nemirovsky introduces a cast of characters who include a writer, a priest, a family of the upper class, a working class couple - all fleeing Paris. They have lives which seem parallel to each other, and yet their stories intersect in surprising ways.

In spite of everything, the thing that links all these people together is our times, solely our times.
-From Irene Nemirovsky's notes, 24 April 1942-

The contrast between the rich upper classes and the poor or less fortunate, is stark. We know from the author's meticulous notes that this is intentional:

If I want to create something striking, it is not misery I will show but the prosperity that contrasts with it. -From Irene Nemirovsky's notes, 30 June 1941-

Nemirovsky deftly shows these class differences between characters and how this impacts relationships:

What separates or unites people is not their language, their laws, their customs, their principles, but the way they hold their knife and fork. -From Suite Francaise, page 291-

In Book II (Dolce), the setting is a French village which has just become occupied by the Germans. It is here that Nemirovsky's novel begins to soar as she weaves together the stories of the people - the Mayor and his snotty wife, the farmers, the women who are mourning the loss of sons and husbands, and the soldiers. Amazingly, given that Nemirovsky wrote this novel as the war was unfurling and she was being victimized by the Nazis, she portrays the German soldiers without hatred or malice. With honesty and skill, she deconstructs the idea of the Nazi invader - revealing men with the capacity to think and feel as all humans do.

In the heart of every man and every woman a kind of Garden of Eden endures, where there is no war, no death, where wild animals and deer live together in peace. -From Suite Francaise, page 321-

Although Suite Francaise is a novel - a piece of fiction - it trembles with a sense of truth; an almost autobiographical feel that I could not shake and which touched me deeply. There were moments when the reality of Nemirovsky's life resonated within the pages of her book.

He wrote with a chewed-up pencil stub, in a little notebook which he hid against his heart. He felt he had to hurry: something inside him was making him anxious, was knocking on an invisible door. By writing, he opened that door, he gave life to something that wished to be born. Then suddenly, he would become discouraged, feel disheartened, weary. He was mad. What was he doing writing these stupid stories, letting himself be pampered by the farmer's wife, while his friends were in prison, his despairing parents though he was dead, when the future was so uncertain and the past so bleak?
-From Suite Francaise, page 179-

There is no doubt that had Irene Nemirovsky survived the war, she would have gone on to polish and finish her book. She established herself as a writer of exceptional quality having already published her highly acclaimed novel David Golder. Suite Francaise is an important story which deserves to be read and savored. It is heartbreaking to read the author's notes, as well as the frenzied communications shared between her husband and friends following her arrest. Irene Nemirovsky writes in her notes dated 1 July 1942, only days before her deportation to a Nazi concentration camp:

What lives on:
1. Our humble day-to-day lives
2. Art
3. God

By reading Suite Francaise, we insure that her art lives on.

Half of a Yellow Sun - Book Review by Wendy

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Read the original post of this review here.
Submitted by Wendy

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's
Half Of A Yellow Sun is a wrenching novel about love, disappointment, forgiveness and the unbearable emptiness of loss. Set during the 1960's, the story details Biafra's struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria. The novel gives the reader a glimpse into the politics which created Nigeria's civil war. Adichie's simple and eloquent language reveals the vivid, stark images of Nigeria's cities, people and bush villages. Ugwu, Olanna, Odenigbo, Richard and Kainene are just some of the characters who people this novel - complex, rich and unforgettable they show us what it is like to be vulnerable and human during a time of uncertainty.

This is not a 'feel good' novel - instead it stuns the reader with the horrifying images of a brutal war and reminds us that in the end, despite cultural and religious and race differences, we are all just people struggling to anchor our lives with others.

Half Of A Yellow Sun is a literary masterpiece that has earned its place on the New York Times Most Notable Ficiton of 2007.

Excerpts from the book:

About forgiveness....
"I also think that you should forgive Odenigbo," he said, and pulled at his collar as though it was choking him. For a moment Olanna felt contempt for him. What he was saying was too easy, too predictable. She did not need to have come to hear it.
"Okay." She got up. "Thank you."
"It's not for him, you know. It's for you."
"What?" He was still sitting, so she looked down to meet his eyes.
"Don't see it as forgiving him. See it as allowing yourself to be happy. What will you do with the misery you have chosen? Will you eat misery?"


"There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable," Kainene said.There was a pause. Inside Olanna, something calcified leaped to life.
"Do you know what I mean?" Kainene asked.

About the horrors of war...
His first article was about the fall of Onitsha. He wrote that the Nigerians had tried many times to take this ancient town but the Biafrans fought valiantly, that hundreds of popular novels had been published here before the war, that the thick sad smoke of the burning Niger Bridge had risen like a defiant elegy. He described the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where soldiers of the Nigeria Second Division first defecated on the altar before killing two hundred civilians. He quoted a calm eyewitness: "The vandals are people who shit on God. We will overcome them."

About loss...
She wanted him to truly talk to her, help her to help him grieve, but each time she told him, he said, "It's too late, nkem." She was not sure what he meant. She sensed the layers of his grief - he would never know how Mama had died and would always struggle with old resentments - but she did not feel connected to his mourning. Sometimes she wondered if this was her own failure rather than his, if perhaps she lacked a certain strength that would compel him to include her in his pain.


Olanna reached out and grasped Odenigbo's arm and the screams came out of her, screeching, piercing screams, because something in her head stretched taut. Because she felt attacked, relentlessly clobbered, by loss.

About racism...
"Who brought racism into the world?" Odenigbo asked.
"I don't see your point," Kainene said.
"The white man brought racism into the world. He used it as a basis of conquest. It is always easier to conquer a more humane people."
"So when we conquer the Nigerians we will be the less humane?" Kainene asked.
Odenigbo said nothing.

Welcome Challenge Participants!

Thank you, Ariel, for starting this group blog...what a fantastic idea! I hope everyone involved in this challenge will participate in posting reviews and thoughts about the books we're reading. I am also a member of Library Thing, and you can find my library under writestuff. I've categorized the books from this challenge under the tag line "NYT Most Notable (2006)" to make it easier for people to view my challenge books. My personal blog may be found here. I will be posting my reviews on this blog as well as at my personal site. Here is the link to the original post about this challenge.

So far I've completed two books (Half of a Yellow Sun, AND Suite Francaise)...I still have a long way to go to reach my ultimate goal of 20!


The Inhabited World by David Long

I feel that I should explain that I don't do traditional book reviews. I do book recommendations more than anything else. I rarely quote the book in question, and I don't give away major plot points, preferring just give a general idea of to expect when reading the book.

When I joined the NYT Notable Book Challenge, I posted the ones I wanted to read here. I was then asked by the author of one of the unchosen books if I would consider reading his. I happily agreed. Here is the bulk of the review I posted on my blog...

The Inhabited World by David Long

The main character, Evan, has committed suicide but is still existing in his house, unable to leave it or to communicate with the people who have moved in and out of it in the 10 years since his death. He also doesn't quite know
why he shot himself, which is the crux of the story.

A young woman who is trying to break off a relationship she's having with a married man, moves into Evan's house, and the novel weaves in and out through her trials and Evan's back story.

I thought it was great how the author shows us how different people will react to life's difficulties. What might lead one person to end it all, will cause another to become stronger.

A couple of times, I was confused because Evan would reminisce about his marriages (both to the same woman) and at first, I wouldn't know if he was referring to marriage #1 or marriage #2, but I quickly figured out where we were and continued on my way.

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to everyone. And I'd like to thank David Long for encouraging me to read his excellent novel. I'm definitely going to take the time to read his other books now.

Update: Mr. Long left this message after my review that I feel is important to any discussion of this novel.

"I remember in the background of one of the last Beatles songs on Let It Be, John is heard to say something like: I hope we passed the audition . . . That's how I felt having laid the bloody book at your feet, so to speak. In any case, I'm relieved.

Wanted to say that I was very much taken by the film WINGS OF DESIRE [Wim Wenders], which centers on a pair of angels in the city of Berlin, one of whom longs for the physicality of the world so much that he renounces his status as angel and is returned to earth. The first thing he does--it's a cold evening--is to buy a coffee from a street vendor and wrap his hands around the cup to feel the warmth. A great moment. But there's another scene I found really moving: many of the angels hang about the library at night--they stand beside people as they read, and sometimes the reader will pause for a moment and look around as if they almost sensed something, but then go back to their reading. Sometimes the angel might touch them on the shoulder in a comforting way.

A close reading of the novel will show that the word "ghost" never appears--and I wanted to steer clear of as many of the common elements of "ghost" fiction as I possibly could--no scaring the living, that sort of thing. So you could rather think of it as a story about someone in a state of limbo, trying to understand things, and trying to act, insofar as he can, as a guardian angel."

It is interesting that the author thinks of Evan as an angel rather than a ghost, considering Evan states repeatedly that he doesn't really subscribe to any particular religious belief, even after his death.

Hallo, all!

The New York Times Notable Book Challenge was the brainchild of the brilliant Wendy at caribousmom, who proposed a personal (and later, group) challenge based on the New York Times'* annual list of Notable Books. In 2007, the challenge goes, choose a feasible number of books from the 2006 list that you would like to read over the course of the year (Wendy chose 20, like a champ) .

There is a certain distinctive beauty to this as a group challenge, I think. We are all choosing our challenge books from a relatively limited list, so there is considerable overlap (as well as room for inspiration and temptation to include previous unconsidered books in our annual reading). To take advantage of this, I thought it would be convenient to have a single, group blog where participants in the challenge can cross-post the blog entries and reviews that relate to the challenge, where those who are interested can find all these reviews in a single place, and where a central discussion can be fostered that will be in dialogue with our individual blogs.

If you already are participating in the challenge and would like to join this blog (or if you are new to the challenge but would like to join our illustrious ranks), please leave your email address in a note in the comments on this message, and I will drop you an invitation to become a co-author. If you would prefer not to post your email address publicly, you can leave it for me in a private message on the LibraryThing account I have created for this blog: NYTNotable. Be sure to click the button that says "private."

The LibraryThing account is also helpful because it includes all the books on our "long list," and you can use it to access all kinds of LibraryThing features relating to these books: all the reviews and ratings by fellow Thingers, discussions that mention these books in their forums, publication date, author websites, and a chance to examine what the libraries of those who have read or own these books look like.

To get things rolling, I will now head off to cross post a review of the only book I have read so far for the Challenge (my goal is 12): Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. When you have joined, pop on over here and introduce yourself. Let us know what your challenge goals are, and be sure to post any reviews or comments you have accumulated over the first two months of the challenge.

* OK - here's a question relating to my ongoing obsession with the plural "'s". Is the possessive of "New York Times" "New York Times' " because the word "times" is plural, or "New York Times's" because the newspaper itself is singular?