One-Minute Book Reviews

December 18, 2007

Novels by Junot Díaz and Alice Sebold Rank Among the Best and Worst of 2007, the Editors of New York Magazine Say in Year-End Wrap-Up

What’s the best novel of 2007? It’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz‘s tale of “a monstrously fat, occasionally suicidal Dominican-American ‘ghetto nerd,'” the editors of New York magazine say in a Dec. 17 article written by Sam Anderson. I haven’t read the novel, but there’s room for a bit of caution here: Last year the editors’ choices included Claire Messud‘s The Emperor’s Children, second runner-up in the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books. But New York got it right that Alice Sebold‘s The Almost Moon stands out for badness even in a year in which “lots of big names underwhelmed us … Amis, DeLillo, Roth, Rowling.” Anderson faults the novel’s voice, pacing and characterization. He didn’t mention the fourth-grade reading level and almost comically off-key lines like: “This was not the first time I’d been face-to-face with my mother’s genitalia” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

December 14, 2007

One-Minute Book Reviews 10 Best Books of 2007 – The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

10 Best Books of 2007
The Year’s Top Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry
Source: oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

Yes, this was the year of The Secret and The Manny in the U.S., and the year On Chesil Beach was longlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award in Britain. So which books won’t leave you feeling like a patient in a literary burn unit? Here are the 10 best books reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews:

The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival (Putnam, $24.95), by Stanley Alpert. A former federal prosecutor who was kidnapped on a Manhattan street, then held at gunpoint for 25 hours, writes about his abduction in one of the best true crime books of the decade. us.penguingroup.com

*The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage, $13.95, paperback), by Joan Didion. One of the country’s finest prose stylists recalls the sudden death of her husband and its aftermath in a memoir that won a National Book Award. www.randomhouse.com

*Every Eye (David R. Godine/Black Sparrow, $23, by Isobel English. The first American publication of a novel that is an elegant minor classic, which involves a piano teacher born with “lazy eye” that affects her view of the world long after surgery has corrected the problem. www.blacksparrowbooks.com

Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, $18.95, paperback), selected and edited by Joseph Epstein. Wood engravings by Barry Moser. Scholars and critics of high distinction write about vanished titans in stylish literary essays. www.pauldrybooks.com

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (Holt/Metropolitan, $24.95), by Atul Gawande. A surgeon and medical writer for The New Yorker reflects on his art in a book that has a particularly enlightening section on childbirth. www.gawande.com

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Little, Brown, $24.99), by Peter Godwin. A former correspondent for the BBC refracts the terrors of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe through the prism of tragedies that struck his family and friends. www.hachettebookgroupusa.com

Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball (Norton, $19.95), edited and with translations by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura. More than 200 poems that transcend baseball, many by some of the finest living haiku artists. www.wwnorton.com

Four Days to Glory Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland (HarperCollins, $24.95), by Mark Kreidler. Two high school wrestlers prepare to compete in the Iowa state championship in a book of masterly reporting that offers a fascinating portrait of a little-known social and athletic subculture. www.markkreidler.com and www.harpercollins.com

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories (Random House, $22.95), by Katha Pollitt. Personal essays by the poet and columnist for the Nation, who writes with bite, depth and often wit about topics that include her discovery that her former boyfriend had been cheating on her almost the whole time they lived together. www.kathapollitt.blogspot.com and www.randomhouse.com

*Living Things: Collected Poems (Steerforth/Zoland, $15, paperback), by Anne Porter. Foreword by David Shapiro. All of the poems from Porter’s An Altogether Different Language, a National Book Award finalist, and 39 new ones, which together attest to what Shapiro calls “her Franciscan joy in created things.” www.steerforth.com

* Books with an asterisk came out in 2006. One-Minute Book Reviews was launched late last year and could not review some 2006 books until 2007. The “10 Best List” includes the 2006 books when they were better than 2007 books in their category. You can find reviews of all books except The Year of Magical Thinking by entering the title in the search box. You can find reading guides to The Birthday Party, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun and Learning to Drive in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category at right.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It is also for people who dislike long-winded weasel reviews that are full of facts and plot summary but don’t tell you what the critic thought of the book. Posts on the site generally appear daily. When no review appears, the site often has a quote of the day from a book, which may include commentary. One-Minute Book Reviews is the sixth-ranked book-review site in the world on the Google Directory of “Top Arts and Literature” blogs:

www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/.

Jan Harayda is editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews. Jan has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. She does not accept free books, galleys, catalogs, print or electronic press releases or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, agents or authors. For this reason, she does not see all the worthy books in a year. This list has the best new books she read in 2007. It does not include books written by her friends, published by her current publisher or represented by her literary agent.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for its annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Feb. 29 and the winners on March 15, 2008. Thank you for visiting this site.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

December 13, 2007

Coming Tomorrow — The 10 Best Books of the Year (and Funny Gifts for Readers)

Coming tomorrow …

The 10 best books of 2007, hand-picked by Jan Harayda, editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews. This list will include fiction, nonfiction and poetry and books from small presses and soul-destroying multinational conglomerates.

Funny gifts for readers. One-Minute Book Reviews has been running extra posts every day this week (in addition to the usual reviews) with gift ideas for readers. Another suggestion will appear later today. Tomorrow this site will entertain you with funny gifts for readers that didn’t made the list

The One-Minute Book Reviews list of the 10 Best Books of 2007 will be posted by 8 a.m. Eastern Time. The funny gifts will be posted by 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

Force majeure clause: It’s snowing here, and a nor’easter is on the way.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

December 9, 2007

One-Minute Book Reviews 10 Best Books of 2007 — Coming Friday

The New York Times Book Review has named its 10 best books of 2007, right after one of its 10 best of 2006 got shortlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Want a list of books that don’t have writing, on sex or any other topic, that will test your gag reflex?

By Janice Harayda

Are you sore that your favorite novel didn’t make the list of the 10 best books of 2007 published in the New York Times Book Review today www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/books/review/10-best-2007.html?

Or did you give up on the Times’s list after Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children made it last year? (Memo to the editors of the NYTBR: Read this and tell us if you still think the novel deserved its spot www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/16/. Maybe it’s not too late to publish a retraction?) Or are you skeptical of the NYTBR list now that another of the 10 best of 2006, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, made the shortlist for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the writing you can read here http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2217735,00.htm?

Okay, now you have an alternative list.

One-Minute Book Reviews will publish its first “10 Best Books of the Year” on Friday, December 14. This post is sure to be as controversial as its annual Delete Key Awards, partly because some of the best books may not even be 2007 books. (One-Minute Book Reviews didn’t begin until late last year, so I may have to grandfather in a couple of 2006 books that I didn’t get to until 2007 … and think how good those must be if they KO’d all the 2007 books.) You know how David Letterman said that traffic signals in New York are just rough guidelines? We’re applying a similar standard this year to the publication dates of the best books.

Other links: In addition to its “10 Best” list the New York Times has published a list of “100 Notable Books of 2007″ at this site www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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