Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Choices, top 2011 reads!

It's just the first week in December, but everyone's putting up their "best-of" posts so I guess I had better get busy!

This year was really fun for me.  Because I've been fairly insistent on maintaining my niche of Eastern European or Russian titles, these have arrived in abundance and there's so many treasures! 

Top 7 Fiction ---too many great titles to pare down any more:  5 of 7 were translations!

The Devil's Share by Kris Farmen, McRoy and Blackburn.  http://www.theblacksheepdances.com/2011/01/devils-share-by-kris-farmen-literary.html  Unusual protagonist, Alaskan wilderness, rapid-fire pace and a plot full of twists with nothing routine in it. 

Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto and Europa Editions: http://www.theblacksheepdances.com/2011/09/bandit-love-by-massimo-carlotto.html  Italian crime, goodhearted criminals, and a dry wit that keeps it all moving forward

Frozen Time by Anna Kim, Ariadne Press: http://www.theblacksheepdances.com/2011/05/frozen-time-by-anna-kim-translated.html  Heartbreaking vision of the after-effects of the Balkan war, with unbelievable detail and real, flawed characters.

Heaven and Hell by Jon Kalman Steffanson, MacLehose Press

The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka, MacLehose in UK, will release from Tin House in 2012 in US

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Waterline by Ross Raisin, Penguin UK

Top 5 Poetry 3 of 5 were translations!

Before the Troubadour Exits by Jeffrey Alfier

A Fireproof Box by Gleb Shulpyakov, Canarium Books (Russian bilingual)

Signs & Wonders by Charles Martin, Johns Hopkins U P

These Hands by Per Aage Brandt, Host Publications (Danish Bilingual)

Yannis Ritsos-Poems by Manolis

Other categories:

Nonfiction Memoir:

Tramp by Tomas Espedal, The Art of Living a Wild and Poetic  Life, Seagull Books
http://www.theblacksheepdances.com/2011/06/tramp-or-art-of-living-wild-and-poetic.html translation

Maman's Homesick Pie by Donja Bijan, Algonquin


Tashkent, Forging a Soviet City by Paul Stronski U of Pitt Press

Shadows Walking by Doug Skopp (physician ethics, Holocaust) Technically a fiction novel but enough detail that I'm calling it history.

Favorite Publishers:  too many to list, but MacLehose, U of Pitt, New Directions, Archipelago, and Peirene are lovely to work with....

Favorite literary magazine:  Rain Taxi, of course!  But the PEN America journal is tied with Words without Borders for most fascinating coverage of unusual authors and themes.  World Lit Today and Tin House for their poetry coverage.

Favorite online book coverage:  HTML Giant, Galley Cat, and the Los Angeles Times Book Section (what's left of it).

My favorite blogs:  Manoflabook.com for Zohar's intense analysis, Bernadette's Reactions to Reading, Lisa Hayden's lisasotherbookshelf.blogspot.com, Mary Whipple's thorough coverage http://marywhipplereviews.com/, Daisy's Aconcise.blogspot.com where she streams through and posts the best lines of current novels, and the blogs for Open Letter, The Millions, and Conversational Reading.

Favorite Classic (Rediscovered):  Beowulf.  The Seamus Heaney version.  It finally makes sense, so maybe I've matured!


  1. You are very kind for the shut out Amy and I love reading your blog too. I admit though I have struggled with the Eastern European challenge which I will write about in some detail when I finally finish...which i WILL do in the next week or so. I can't even think about my best of list until the end of the year...you just never know what great book might be next up on the pile.

  2. I ve read heaven and hell and the sickness from your top seven books ,two other of mine would be parallel stories nadas and new finnish grammar Marani both great

  3. Thanks so much for the mention, Amy! I just asked a friend who's visiting Moscow to bring me Shulpyakov's novel, which sounds very interesting... I should also check out his poetry. Shulpyakov is on YouTube, here, and many of the clips look like they're poetry readings.