Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2012: Emil S.’s Picks

Classics play a major part in my reading life, but in 2012 I mainly re-read classics (or read classics that I obtained through Inter-Library Loan). Thus, my “New to Us” books are all fairly new, no older than 16 years old, and therefore many years away from even being considered for the shelf of classics. In the meantime, they can perhaps be classified as noteworthy contemporary reads! — Emil S.

Red Gold by Alan Furst
France is occupied by German forces, but things have changed since “Case Barbarossa” – the German led attack on Soviet Union. French communists who take their orders from Moscow have been activated and now participate in a war effort that reaches from France to the heart of Soviet Union. Jean Casson, a former film producer, lets himself be pulled into the French Resistance, and he is good at getting things done. But the different sides of the anti-German movement are suspicious of each other, and while the occupying forces are being attacked, the French are preparing for the next battle – the conflict after the war.

Arguably by Christopher Hitchens
British born, American writer Christopher Hitchens was arguably one of the great public intellectuals of our time. He was fantastically prolific and (as Ian Parker once put it) wrote faster than some people read. In 2011, Hitchens passed away, and the fearless opponent of (almost) any kind of oppression was dearly missed by many. Arguably, published about two months before his death, contains 107 of Hitchens’ texts – his range is enormous and it’s a great book to carry around as it embraces so much of this strange and wondrous world.

Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy
William Kennedy was born in 1928 and he writes with the confidence and authority of a veteran. Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes is a sprawling novel that mainly takes place in Cuba during the revolution of the late 1950s, and in an Albany, New York, that is about to explode after the killing of Robert Kennedy in 1968. When reading the novel, it is near impossible to predict where it is going, and the plot is (perhaps) hard to define. Instead, this novel is about strong, wonderful characters and about awesome dialogue – that’s the heart and soul of Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes.

The Sorrow Gondola by Tomas Tranströmer
When Tomas Tranströmer’s SorgegondolenThe Sorrow Gondola – was published in 1996, it was his first collection of poetry since the stroke that hit him in 1990. In Tranströmer’s native land, Sweden, the book instantly became a bestseller, and it’s easy to understand why, for the poet’s writing was as powerful as ever. He writes, “The sun is low now./ Our shadows are giants./ Soon, everything will be overshadowed.” But in another poem he writes, “A blue light/ radiates from my clothes./ Midwinter./ Clattering tambourines of ice./ I close my eyes./ There is a silent world/ there is a crack/ where the dead/ are smuggled across the border.”

The Submission by Amy Waldman
A jury gathers in New York, New York, to select a memorial for the victims of the massacre of September eleventh, 2001. The winner turns out to be an American Muslim, Muhammad Khan, and when media finds out, a heated debate and even acts of violence spread across the nation. The Submission is a novel about America and Islam, and about the open wounds of 9/11, but it is also a story about media and how media shape the debates in this nation (and elsewhere). And the reader has good reasons to ask, is media interested in the truth or merely in the news?

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