Speaking of Books

Family Life by Akhil Sharma won the Folio Prize for fiction last night. According to a New York Times report, Family Life, a “semiautobiographical second novel, tracks the Mishra family, who migrate to Queens from Delhi in the 1970s, but whose life slowly unravels when one son suffers a freakish accident.”

George Saunders’s short-story collection Tenth of December won last year.

Best Books

In 2003, The Guardian published a list of 100 greatest novels of all time.

Beginning in October 2013, “[w]ithout any reference to the 2003 list…a serial account of the classic English and American novel, from A to Z, and from the late 17th century to the present day.” The 100 best novels.

Seventy-eight essays have been published so far — the most recent, published today, is for book 78, To Kill a Mockingbird.

And, “[a]fter keen debate at the Guardian’s books desk, this is our list of the very best factual writing, organised by category, and then by date.” The 100 greatest non-fiction books. From 2011.

List of the Day

In 1999, San Francisco Chronicle readers ranked the 100 best non-fiction and fiction books of the 20th century written in, about, or by an author from the Western United States.

NewMexiKen has posted the top 10 from the lists several times — because the lists are interesting — but primarily to honor Wallace Stegner, who was born 106 years ago today.

Stegner is first in fiction, second in non-fiction; now that’s a writer.

Timothy Egan wrote an appreciation of Stegner in 2009, Stegner’s Complaint.

Angle of Repose

TOP 10 FICTION
1. “Angle of Repose,” by Wallace Stegner
2. “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck
3. “Sometimes a Great Notion,” by Ken Kesey
4. “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London
5. “The Big Sleep,” by Raymond Chandler
6. “Animal Dreams,” by Barbara Kingsolver
7. “Death Comes for the Archbishop,” by Willa Cather
8. “The Day of the Locust,” by Nathanael West
9. “Blood Meridian,” by Cormac McCarthy
10. “The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett

TOP 10 NON-FICTION
1. “Land of Little Rain,” Mary Austin
2. “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian,” Wallace Stegner
3. “Desert Solitaire,” Edward Abbey
4. “This House of Sky,” Ivan Doig
5. “Son of the Morning Star,” Evan S. Connell
6. Western trilogy, Bernard DeVoto
7. “Assembling California,” John McPhee
8. “My First Summer in the Sierra,” John Muir
9. “The White Album,” Joan Didion
10. “City of Quartz,” Mike Davis

The Gift of the Magi

This is a Christmas season tradition here at NewMexiKen. Go ahead, read it again. It makes everything about the season seem simpler yet more precious.

Merry Christmas!


The Gift of the Magi
by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), 1906.

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-sevencents. And the next day would be Christmas.

Continue reading The Gift of the Magi

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning,–if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o’clock till morning to make good your escape,–how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom,–the little sleepy head on your shoulder,–the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?

So wrote Harriet Beech Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, describing the scene as Eliza runs with her son, Harry. Reading this classic has somehow escaped me all these years, but I am enjoying it now, and can see — in the early going — why Lincoln reportedly said on meeting Mrs. Stowe, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

The book came out in 1852; proportionate to the population, it is one of the most popular novels ever.

And it’s fun and interesting to read.


Reposted from May 1, 2011.