How to Generate Ready Cocktail Party Banter and Handy Table Conversation — READ!
Whether you are hosting a party or a guest at any event, it is important to be able to be conversant with others on everything from current events, to the hottest vacation destinations, to the pros and cons of the iPad. It is also helpful to be well read and up to date on the best books to hit the bookshelves each year. So we are beginning a new, hopefully, regular blog feature we are calling Table Topics. First up …
Best Books of the Year… So Far
Discover Amazon.com's favorite books of 2010 from January through June–they've selected the top 10 must-reads of the year so far, plus 10 picks each in fiction, nonfiction, and books for kids and teens. Do you have a favorite book to recommend? Leave a comment!
To the ranks of iconic mid-century modern men Gump and Garp, add Lisa Grunwald‘s The Irresistible Henry House. Henry arrives in the world as a “practice baby,” passed between a dozen young women at the Practice House of Wilton College's Home Economics program in a decidedly pre-Spock era that discouraged mothers from holding babies “too much.” From the beginning, Henry inspires in women the desire for his exclusive attention. But what propels this fascinating story is Henry's struggle to define the desires of his own heart, while the women who love him forge their own identities in the crucible of the 20th century’s sexual revolution.
In the superb Country Driving, Peter Hessler has observed the past 15 years of change in China with the patience and perspective–and necessary good humor–of an outsider who expects to be there for a while. He takes to the roads, as so many Chinese are doing now for the first time, driving on dirt tracks to the desert edges of the ancient empire and on brand-new highways to the mushrooming factory towns of the globalized boom. He's an utterly enjoyable guide, with a humane and empathetic eye for the ambitions, the failures, and the comedy of a country in which everybody, it seems, is on the move.
A familiar evil lies in wait for Lisbeth Salander in the finale to Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium Trilogy, but this time her only choice is to take it down or be destroyed by it. Her survival depends on journalist Mikael Blomkvist, and in spite of her most feral instincts, she must trust his judgment when the stakes are highest. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the finest example of a book that saves the best for last: it roars with an explosive storyline filled with neck-snapping revelations that make the ending of this phenomenal, game-changing suspense series all the more bittersweet.
Though many at its center have argued that no one saw the economic meltdown coming, Michael Lewis, with his unerring instinct for the under-reported story, has found a handful of people who did, and who made a whole of money doing so. Following the people who knew what was happening turns out to be brilliant way to explain the inexplicable, and in The Big Short he makes an entertaining and enlightening return to high finance over 20 years after Liar's Poker, with the same sharp eye for great character and contrarian ideas as more recent favorites like Moneyball and The Blind Side.
Matterhorn is a marvel–a living, breathing book with Lieutenant Waino Mellas and the men of Bravo Company at its raw and battered heart. Mellas is a bundle of anxiety and ambition, a college kid who realized too late that “because of his desire to look good coming home from a war, he might never come home at all.” A highly decorated Vietnam veteran himself, Karl Marlantesbrings the horrors and heroism of war to life with the finesse of a seasoned writer, exposing not just the things they carry, but the fears they bury, the friends they lose, and the men they follow.
Printing presses whirr, ashtrays smolder, and the endearing complexity of humanity plays out inTom Rachman‘s debut novel, The Imperfectionists. The chaos of a fictional English-language newspaper provides a stage for characters unified by a common thread of circumstance, but Rachman's depiction of a paper deemed a “daily report on the idiocy and the brilliance of the species” becomes more about the disillusion in everyday life than the dissolution of an industry.
Henrietta Lacks was a mother of five who died from a cruelly aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her tissue turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive–even thrive–in the lab. Their stunning potency became a building block for countless breakthroughs, including the cure for polio. For a decade, Rebecca Sklootdoggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of Henrietta's story, fashioning in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a rich and haunting tale that redefines what it means to have a medical history.
While Big Love seeks the inherent soap opera in a man with many wives, in The Lonely Polygamist Brady Udall finds the slapstick. But Udalldoesn't settle just for jokes (though the jokes are excellent). Golden may be hapless, distracted, and deceitful, but he is large-hearted and so is his story. With a fresh and faultless ear for American vernacular, Udall's big tale of beset manhood effortlessly earns its comparisons to tragicomic family classics from The Corrections to John Irving.