April 22, 2014

My favorite reads of last year

One of the best things about working in an office surrounded by books is the opportunity to discover things I'd never otherwise have come across. I've also realized that I much prefer reading books I know nothing about; I'm a sucker for a good bound galley. Here are my favorite books of the ones I discovered last year:

Minae Mizumura, A True Novel
Minae Mizumura's retelling of Wuthering Heights had me from the 165-page prologue, and I was alarmed when I realized that the advance reader's edition I had picked up housed only the first part of this two volume set. I immediately ran to the nearest bookstore so that I wouldn't find myself without. Set in post-war Japan, the book tells the story of a poor orphan boy who works his way up and his ongoing love for a woman always just out of reach.

Miklos Banffy, The Transylvanian Trilogy
A three-volume epic set in the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Banffy's masterpiece both captures the fantasy in which the noble class lived and excoriates them for their inability to see what was coming. The way in which Banffy, himself a Hungarian nobleman, describes their lives and their pursuits swept me away, and the love affair at the center of the novel kept me rapt throughout. Reading this series of books led me to visit Romania to seek out Banffy's ancestral home (unfortunately sacked by the Nazi's), where I spent the better part of an afternoon wandering the ruins. I wish I could read this again for the first time.

Lawrence Osborne, The Forgiven
For fans of Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, I offer you this. An automobile accident in the deserts of Morocco sets up a showdown between a western couple en route to a luxurious villa for a weekend-long party throws their

Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory
This one I can't reommend quite as unequivocally. The novel surprised me from its first paragraph and kept my attention through the first two parts; unfortunately, the third part did a slight 2666 shift into a procedural without quite the same effect. Still, a fascinating look at art and the relationship between a father and a son.

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