Here are 10 books I read or re-read in 2011 that you might find interesting as well. They'll make fine Christmas presents or the means to an afternoon's end. Click on the hyperlink before the author's name to find out more about the book, to read what others have to say, and where and how to buy it.
Duane is Depressed By Larry McMurtry. I read this novel at least once a year and have since it came out several years ago. It is an ordinary book by almost any measure but it speaks to me honestly about what it is like to get older, to withdraw from the world, and what lessons we might learn from Proust.
The Liars' Club By Mary Karr. This is an astonishing and surprising memoir by a remarkable writer who grew up in a swampy East Texas refinery town in a working class family to become one of the wittiest survivors we can remember.
Louisiana Power and Light By John Dufresne. Dufresne is one of the most curious and entertaining writers working today. He takes the reader to Monroe, Louisiana and spins a Faulknerian tale about the ill-fated Fontana family. A book that is at once hilarious and heartbreaking.
Mrs. Ted Bliss. By Stanley Elkin. Elkin, America's best unknown writer died three or four years ago after having written sixteen books, novellas, and collections of essays. He taught at Washington University in St. Louis and will, if there is justice, come to be known to a much wider audience.
Deadwood By Pete Dexter. The basis for the HBO hit, Dexter tells the story of legendary gunman Wild Bill Hickok and his friend Charley Utter. Fueled by liquor, sex, and violence, this is the real Wild West, unlike anything written by Zane Grey.
Seeing Mary Plain: A Life of Mary McCarthy. By Frances Kiernan. Mary McCarthy was a beautifully gifted writer to whom all women writers owe a great debt for her having blazed a trail to publication and popular success. A good biography about a remarkable person.
American Bloomsbury. By Susan Cheever. This is a gossipy, affectionate and lively book about the lives and times of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau as residents of Concord, Massachusetts. Written by the daughter of John Cheever, Susan Cheever is a gifted writer in her own right.
Letters from the Pen. Dale McCurry. McCurry's book is a memoir of his time in prison. This sounds like an unlikely candidate for inspiration but it is another one of those books I dip into frequently to learn about grace, courage, and memory keeping. McCurry, by the way, is a formerly local writer now living out west.
Maurice. E.M. Forester. I've been a sucker for E.M. Forester ever since I saw my first Merchant & Ivory film back in the 70s. This novel is simply wonderful in a marvelously arch and subtle way.
Jake's Thing. By Kingsley Amis. Here is a funny, funny book about those pre-Viagra days and what might happen when your "thing" didn't work. A work of high farce at its best written by a comic genius at the height of his power.
I've purchased books at all of the links provided above and have always been satisfied by the safety of the transactions and the quality of the new and sometimes used books I received. But, by all means, shop locally and specifically at It's a Mystery in Berryville before going on-line.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!