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Poll closing Friday!

From: Michelle
Sent on: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 9:59 AM
Hey Bibliophiles!

You have until this Friday, December 10th, to vote for the upcoming Hip and Well Read books.
Until then you can place a vote, change a vote and see how the voting is going.

The poll can be found here:

Here are the book descriptions again:

1. Sherman Alexie’s War Dances
Part of the One Book, One Philadelphia program:
The One Book, One Philadelphia Selection Committee has chosen Sherman Alexie’s War Dances as the featured selection for 2011. Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, Sherman Alexie’s War Dances is a collection of short stories and poems that examine with humor and grace the intricate facets of human relationships. The title story features a man who reflects on his father’s death when suddenly confronted with his own mortality, and the poem “Ode to Small Town Sweethearts” weaves a witty tale of the trials of young love. Using skillfully crafted prose that is at turns shocking, funny, and poignant, War Dances takes readers on a grand tour of life in all its complexity.
The advantage of the One Book choice is that there will be many events related to this book that we could all attend.

2. John Kennedy Toole's Neon Bible
If you liked Confederacy of Dunces...
This youthful novel was the only substantial writing left by Toole, who won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for his modern comic classic, A Confederacy of Dunces (he killed himself in 1969). Court action has finally cleared the way for publication of the present work, written when Toole was just 16 and left in pieces to his heirs. This story of a poor boy growing up in a small, claustrophobic, closed-minded Southern town in the 1940s, is an astonishing accomplishment for an adolescent. Narrator David lives with his mother, who is never fully herself after his father dies in World War II, and his gaudy Aunt Mae, a bleached-blonde roadhouse singer in her 60s. The story is familiar and believable, a tantalizing reminder of the talent that has been lost. It deserves a wide audience.

3. Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel
A pointedly old-fashioned May-December love story, complete with references to Chekhov and Tolstoy. Mired in protracted adolescence, middle-aged Lenny Abramov is obsessed with living forever (he works for an Indefinite Life Extension company), his books (an anachronism of this indeterminate future), and Eunice Park, a 20-something Korean-American. Eunice, though reluctant and often cruel, finds in Lenny a loving but needy fellow soul and a refuge from her overbearing immigrant parents. Narrating in alternate chapters—Lenny through old-fashioned diary entries, Eunice through her online correspondence—the pair reveal a funhouse-mirror version of contemporary America: terminally indebted to China, controlled by the singular Bipartisan Party (Big Brother as played by a cartoon otter in a cowboy hat), and consumed by the superficial. Shteyngart's earnestly struggling characters—along with a flurry of running gags—keep the nightmare tour of tomorrow grounded. A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title.

4. David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
David Mitchell reinvents himself with each book, and it's thrilling to watch. His novels like Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas spill over with narrators and language, collecting storylines connected more in spirit than in fact. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, he harnesses that plenitude into a more traditional form, a historical novel set in Japan at the turn into the 19th century, when the island nation was almost entirely cut off from the West except for a tiny, quarantined Dutch outpost. Jacob is a pious but not unappealing prig from Zeeland, whose self-driven duty to blurt the truth in a corrupt and deceitful trading culture, along with his headlong love for a local midwife, provides the early engine for the story, which is confined at first to the Dutch enclave but crosses before long to the mainland. Every page is overfull with language, events, and characters, exuberantly saturated in the details of the time and the place but told from a knowing and undeniably modern perspective. It's a story that seems to contain a thousand worlds in one.

5. Mark Vonnegut's Just Like Mental Illness, Only More So
Yes, Mark Vonnegut as in Son of Kurt.
Two not unrelated challenges--being novelist Kurt Vonnegut's son and suffering episodes of schizophrenia--shape, but don't confine, this mordantly witty, slightly subversive memoir. Vonnegut (The Eden Express) weathered a scruffy childhood with his as yet obscure dad ("I'll always remember my father as the world's worst car salesman") and was hospitalized for three bouts of psychosis in his 20s. He recovered and went on to Harvard Medical School and a successful career in pediatrics--then a fourth psychotic break upended him 14 years after the first one. (Taken to the hospital where he worked, he found himself greeting colleagues while tied to a gurney.) Vonnegut vividly conveys the bizarre logic of the voices and delusions that occasionally plagued him, which he finds not much nuttier than what passes for normalcy. (He's especially incensed by the insurance bureaucracies he thinks are ruining medicine.) His father's son, he writes with a matter-of-fact absurdism--"The patient who just died lies there quietly and everyone else stops rushing around trying to do something about it"--champions misfits, and attacks the system. All his own are Vonnegut's hard-won insights into the value of a humble, useful life picked up from pieces.

6. Jonathan Franzen's Freedom
Yes, it's an Oprah Book. But as Jeff (I think it was Jeff) mentioned... you will probably read it anyway, so why don't we all just do it together and get it over with?
a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock'n'roll--and in some ways can't be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their charm or goodness, but because they have their reasons, and you know them.

7. Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind
In post-World War II Barcelona, young Daniel is taken by his bookseller father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a massive sanctuary where books are guarded from oblivion. Told to choose one book to protect, he selects The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. He reads it, loves it, and soon learns it is both very valuable and very much in danger because someone is determinedly burning every copy of every book written by the obscure Carax. It's big, chock-full of unusual characters, and strong in its sense of place. Daniel's initiation into the mysteries of adulthood is given the same weight as the mystery of the book-burner. And the setting--Spain under Franco--injects an air of sobriety into some plot elements that might otherwise seem soap operatic. Part detective story, part boy's adventure, part romance, fantasy, and gothic horror, the intricate plot is urged on by extravagant foreshadowing and nail-nibbling tension.

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