Thursday, December 29, 2011

Start the New Year With A Great Book - Required Reading for 2012

Time for a new year and some new books to put on your bookshelf.  Here are some books published in the later half of 2011 that I'm looking forward to delving into in 2012.

If you are a Jane Austen fan or someone who loved the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly, you may remember that Pemberley is the estate owned by Mr. Darcy, who ends up marrying Elizabeth at the end of Austen's novel.  This new book is intended as a sequel to the original and is set in 1803. In Death Comes to Pemberly, Darcy and Elizabeth have two young sons and are expecting their third child.  On a dark and windy evening, they discover their brother-in-law drunk and bloodstained in the woods, (but still alive) alongside the dead body of his best friend, Captain Denny.  He begins to mumble something that sounds like, but may not be, a confession, and so begins the mystery of what happened and who was behind it all.  P.D. James is the author of 20 previous books and The New York Times called her "the greatest living writer of British crime fiction, and probably that genre's most talented practitioner ever."  I can't wait to delve into this murder-mystery and spend some more quality time with Mr. Darcy!

In Coco Chanel: An Intimate Portrait, a new biography of one of greatest entrepreneurs and designers to ever live, Lisa Chaney artfully chronicles Coco Chanel's journey from poverty (she was sent to an orphanage as a young girl) through her transfiguration and ascent into fashion's elite circle, including her intimate connections with Picasso, Dali, and Stravinsky.  Relying on love letters from Arthur Capel (the love of her life who helped set up her empire) which have never been seen by previous biographers, this book details surprising and fascinating facts about Coco's secret lesbian affairs, drug use, her relationship with a German lover (and possible Nazi spy) during World War II, and many never before reveled details on what made her the exceptional and complicated woman that she was.  This was one of the Christmas gifts I gave to myself and I'm looking forward to Cheny's insight into this remarkable and iconic woman.

This novel, by Haruki Murakami, was released in October to rave reviews.  Considered by most to be one of the world's greatest living novelists, Murakami's latest novel is set in 1984 Tokyo and revolves around a young girl named Aomame who begins to notice unusual discrepancies in the world around her.  What she realizes is that she had entered a parallel existence which she calls 1Q84.  The second character, Tengo, is an aspiring writer who becomes so wrapped up in a suspect ghostwriting project that his life begins to crumble around him. As their stories converge over the course of a year, the strong and intricate connections that bind them are revealed: a religious and violent cult, a recluse who runs an abused women shelter, and an unattractive private investigator are just some of the characters who run through their lives. A mystery, a love-story, and a fantasy, this novel was an instant best-seller in Japan (Murakami's home) and has been called "a tremendous feat of imagination." The New York Times said, "Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.”

Written by the director of the British Museum, this best-selling book is an overview of human history as told through the things we have made.  From the first music, to the year people started wearing jewelry, to our domestication of cows, this book looks at 100 man-made artifacts, each which tells a story of an unexpected turning point in human civilization. A History of the World In 100 Objects begins by going back two million years to look at the first hand axe and globe-trots forward in time to looks at the objects we have made and what they say about who we are. With over 150 color photographs and surprising details, this is a must-read for anyone interested in history and is guaranteed to arm you with some great cocktail party conversation.

The Art of Fieldingset at Westish Collge on Lake Michigan, tells the story of Henry Skirmshander, a shortstop and college baseball star destined for the MLB.  But when a routine throw goes awry, his life and the lives of four other people are thrown into disarray. There is Guert Affenlight, the president of the college and a confirmed bachelor who suddenly falls hopelessly and deeply in love. Mike Schwartz, the baseball team captain who struggles with the realization he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own, and Henry's roommate Owen Dunne who becomes involved in a dangerous love affair. As the baseball season forges towards the climactic final game, these individuals build bonds and help one another confront their deepest hopes and fears. This novel tackles ambition, friendship, love and a commitment to oneself to succeed.  Michiko Kakutani summed it up by saying, "You don't need to be a baseball fan to fall under this novel's spell, but The Art of Fielding possesses all the pleasures that an aficionado cherishes in a great classic game: odd and strangely satisfying symmetries,  unforeseen swerves of fortune, and intimations of the delicate balance between individual will and destiny that play out on the field." This is a novel both my husband and I are looking forward to.


Theresa / InspirationCOOP said...

Ha, now that one of my New Year's goals is to read one book per month, I love these recommendations. The Art of Fielding and 1Q84 were definitely on my radar, and now I'll have to check out the others. Thanks for putting such a great and wonderfully written review together.

California Chic said...

So glad you liked it! I just finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides and I can't say I'd recommend it, especially if you read Middlesex (which I LOVED!). I too am trying to read more! Next up I'm going to tackle the Chanel bio and then Death Comes to Pemberly.

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