Best in 2011: BOOKS


The hardest adjustment to parenthood has been the cut back in reading time.  Life with a 3 year-old does not leave you much time for 2-hour reading blocks.  Not complaining, just an adjustment.  Instead of reading 15 or 20 good books I try to find those  4 or 5 great books, and if I start to read a book of questionable quality I stop reading around chapter 4 and move onto something captivating.  The library is your friend, I have only bought one book in the 2011 calendar year.

Winners:

Fiction – 1Q84
Non-Fiction – The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
Missed Fiction – Time to Hunt

Honorable Mentions

Bone Machine
11/22/63

FICTION: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

The epic serial written in Japan in 2009-2010 finally makes its way to America.  It has not sparked the craze that overtook Japan, but give it sometime, it took a year of solid sales before America went Da Vinci Code crazy.  After a 2 months in US print it still hangs on near the bottom of the NYT Best Seller list, and holds the #2 slot for Amazon’s books of the year.

From Amazon:

“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.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

Be warned, the book is long, 944 pages long.  It reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s IT because of the epic length and the focus on multiple main characters.  You really should read this before it is adapted to film.

Non-Fiction: The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

People love Stephen Hawking, he is absolutely brilliant and has devoted his entire life to knowledge and teaching.   Hawking numerous books have always been written down to a level that the common man can comprehend, something Brian Greene has taken to heart.

Though Dr. Sheldon Cooper is actually the theoretical physicist of the gang in Big Bang Theory and would look down upon an experimental physicist, Brian Greene would be the Leonard Hofstadter of the physics world.  Young, cool and making math fun, Greene will one day take the torch from Hawking and lead the world into the wide open universe when Hawking feels it is time to retire his brilliant mind and give another brain the spot light.  Until then, Hawking is still king, but Green is his loyal and most trusted subject in the world of Physics for the Masses

From Amazon:

From the best-selling author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos comes his most expansive and accessible book to date—a book that takes on the grandest question: Is ours the only universe?

There was a time when “universe” meant all there is. Everything. Yet, in recent years discoveries in physics and cosmology have led a number of scientists to conclude that our universe may be one among many. With crystal-clear prose and inspired use of analogy, Brian Greene shows how a range of different “multiverse” proposals emerges from theories developed to explain the most refined observations of both subatomic particles and the dark depths of space: a multiverse in which you have an infinite number of doppelgängers, each reading this sentence in a distant universe; a multiverse comprising a vast ocean of bubble universes, of which ours is but one; a multiverse that endlessly cycles through time, or one that might be hovering millimeters away yet remains invisible; another in which every possibility allowed by quantum physics is brought to life. Or, perhaps strangest of all, a multiverse made purely of math.

Greene, one of our foremost physicists and science writers, takes us on a captivating exploration of these parallel worlds and reveals how much of reality’s true nature may be deeply hidden within them. And, with his unrivaled ability to make the most challenging of material accessible and entertaining, Greene tackles the core question: How can fundamental science progress if great swaths of reality lie beyond our reach?

Sparked by Greene’s trademark wit and precision, The Hidden Reality is at once a far-reaching survey of cutting-edge physics and a remarkable journey to the very edge of reality—a journey grounded firmly in science and limited only by our imagination.

Missed Fiction: Time to Hunt by Stephen Hunter

The first time I ever actually read Stephen Hunter was by accident.  As a child my parents use to always buy me Stephen King novels and one year my father in a rush grabbed a Stephen Hunter novel, how this happened I don’t know, because seeing as books are categorized by author last name commonsense would dictate I end up with John King, Jack  King or Ross King… how he ended up with Stephen Hunter I will never know.  I never intended on reading it, but as a kid I read a lot… seriously.  Maybe a book a week, and when I was short on material I grabbed it on my way to work one day and the book caught me in the first few chapters and I was hooked.  A decade later it became a fairly successful film called Shooter.

While most of the Bob Lee Swagger stories take place in modern-day and reference his tours of Vietnam as a Marine sniper, Time to Hunt actually brings you back to Vietnam and plays out the events that took Swagger’s close friend and brought him to his wife.

Originally written in 1993 a few years after I was gifted Point of Impact I never knew it existed until I stumbled across it at the library this past summer.

From Amazon:

He is the most dangerous man alive.  He only wants to live in peace with his family, and forget the war that nearly killed him…

It’s not going to happen.

Stephen Hunter’s epic national bestsellers, Point of Impact and Black Light, introduced millions of readers to Bob Lee Swagger, called “Bob the Nailer,” a heroic but flawed Vietnam War veteran forced twice to use his skills as a master sniper to defend his life and his honor.  Now, in his grandest, most intensely thrilling adventure yet, Bob the Nailer must face his deadliest foe from Vietnam–and his own demons–to save his wife and daughter.

During the latter days of the Vietnam War, deep in-country, a young idealistic Marine named Donny Fenn was cut down by a sniper’s bullet as he set out on patrol with Swagger, who himself received a grievous wound.  Years later Swagger married Donny’s widow, Julie, and together they raise their daughter, Nikki, on a ranch in the isolated Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho.  Although he struggles with the painful legacy of Vietnam, Swagger’s greatest wish–to leave his violent past behind and live quietly with his family–seems to have come true.

Then one idyllic day, a man, a woman, and a girl set out from the ranch on horseback.  High on a ridge above a mountain pass, a thousand yards distant, a calm, cold-eyed shooter, one of the world’s greatest marksmen, peers through a telescopic sight at the three approaching figures.

Out of his tortured past, a mortal enemy has once again found Bob the Nailer.  Time to Hunt proves anew why so many consider Stephen Hunter to be our best living thriller writer.  With a plot that sweeps from the killing fields of Vietnam to the corridors of power in Washington to the shadowy plots of the new world order, Hunter delivers all the complex, stay-up-all-night action his fans demand in a masterful tale of family heartbreak and international intrigue–and shows why, for Bob Lee Swagger, it’s once again time to hunt.

Honorable Mentions

I have two honorable mentions, both for different reasons.  First, The Bone Machine [read my review here] which was another great “missed fiction” that I stumbled upon browsing the Mystery section at the library.  Written by Martyn Waites, who drags you away from the iconic sights of London and into the seedy and dangerous underbelly of Newcastle, England.  If you love mystery I highly recommend giving Waites a shot.

The other book would be 11/22/63, King’s newest novel that I just have yet to get a moment to read.  Obviously an interesting concept of someone going back in time to halt the assassination of JFK, but the real interest would be, the result.  How does one incident change the course of time?  We seen what happened when Marty lost the sports almanac to Biff back in 1955, what will happen when a world-changing event is halted.  A good shot for next years, Missed Fiction winner.

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About The Shogun of Baseball

Geek, lover of Baseball, avid comic reader, Bruce Lee fan, follower of Jesus and last but Never least Dad and Husband. View all posts by The Shogun of Baseball

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