'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

The books I've read

Best novel of the year: The Interrogative Mood

Best novel of the year:

I forget what I’ve read and that feels like letting friends die. Now that I consume words mostly via Kindle, it’s easier to keep track, but still, there is the odd physical object that crosses my eyeballs.

In 2010, the list will be exhaustive. For 2009, I’m remembering as best as I can.

Books are alphabetical by author and feature capsule reviews for each — as much for reader’s edification as for mine. (Memory aid and all that.)


-Chang, Leslie T. – Factory Girls

-D’Agata, John – About a Mountain

de Bellaigue, Christopher – Rebel Lands

-Hessler, Peter – Country Driving (Hand-delivered wisdom from a rapidly changing modern China.)

-King, Stephen – Under the Dome (Addictively shrill novel goes down in one gulp, gives nightmares.)

-Stegner, Wallace – Discovery

-Taylor, Kate, ed. – Going Hungry (Chilling collection of true and enlightening eating disorder tales.)

-Tower, Wells – Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – (Short stories so engrosing, they should be novels.)

-Twain, Mark – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (What is America, on the page.)


-el-Aswany, Alaa – The Yacoubian Building (Pitch-perfect novel renders the heartbreaking conundrum of modern Egypt.)

-Auster, Paul – Invisible (Not his best, but memorably gross and engrossing.)

-Bolano, Roberto – 2666 (A masterpiece, among the five best novels I’ve ever read.)

-Bowles, Paul – Sheltering Sky (A bitter and disturbing desert classic. Essential reading.)

-Greene, Graham – The Quiet American (The tragic problem of being a westerner in S.E. Asia. I reread this at least once a year.)

-al-Hamad, Turki – Shumaisi (So-so translation of a cloying novel still packs ethnographic punch.)

-King, Michael – The Penguin History of New Zealand (Painful/hopeful, apologetic/ambitious record of world’s strangest nation.)

-Lawrence, Linda – Bold Spirit (Bad book, interesting subject: 1896 woman walks from Wa to NY.)

-Mantel, Hilary – Eight Months on Gazzah Street (In progress… more when I finish.)

-Matthiessen, Peter – Snow Leopard (A zen artifact read accidentally builds to a forceful climax.)

-Meyer, Philipp – American Rust (A lightning read feels amateurish upon reflection.)

-Munif, Abdulrahman – Cities of Salt, The Trench, Variations on Night and Day (Byzantine trilogy of novels is as spiraling as the story of modern Saudi Arabia it tells.)

-O’Neill, Joseph – Netherland (I’m surprising no one when I call this truly post-9-11 Britisher’s tale among the form’s best.)

-Pamuk, Orhan – Museum of Innocence (A mesmerizing saga of love in Istanbul that grows more wise in hindsight.)

-Powell, Padgett – The Interrogative Mood (A dormant PoMo lion returns with the year’s best novel.)

-Rich, Nathaniel – The Mayor’s Tongue (Well-bred wunderkind narrowly makes good of showy silliness.)

-Roberts, Russell – Down the Jersey Shore (Laughably fawning but studded with juicy facts.)

-Seabrook, W.B. – Adventures in Arabia (Almost too-good-to-be-true found novel in which NYC couple abandons W Village coffeehouse to trek Arabia. 1928.)

-Stewart, Rory – Places in Between (Despite annoying faux-modesty, walking book dazzles with rugged intelligence.)

-Theroux, Paul – Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (Lazyish legend licks well-fed lips, content his notes better than your final draft.)

-Whitehead, Colson – Sag Harbor (A comic word magician at top of game tackles race in the ’80s East Hampton.)

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Filed under: Books, Entertainment, Riyadh, Writing, , ,

2 Responses

  1. Caitlin Kelly says:

    I wanted to love Stewart’s book, but gave up halfway through. You might consider the cultural difference that his British background makes for real modesty, not faux.

    I’m struck by only two women writers on your list. How about revisiting (or visiting) Virginia Woolf or Margaret Drabble or Margaret Visser or Margaret McMillan?

    • Nathan Deuel says:

      Great point about female writers. I read some Rebecca West this year and an Alice Munro book — both titles I forget — but yeah, the list is overwhelmingly male.

      As for Rory’s book, you should really consider finishing it some time. It’s great.

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