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Here, finally, is the second installation of the books I had the most fun reading this year. These books were a blast. You should read them.

George and Weedon Grossmith – The Diary of a Nobody (Oxford): A friend gave this to me the last time I was in Scotland. I was so enchanted by its quiet charm and gentle social satire that I read it in a single sitting. The suburban Englishman’s diary entries of daily routines in Victorian England are full of slapstick and social faux-pas. I thought it was absolutely hysterical.

Kevin Barry – The City of Bohane (Jonathan Cape): Great read. The west Irish accent really comes through here in the speech patterns. There are wonderful turns of phrase, and a Burgess-like linguistic invention. I love Barry’s language, and the non-tech vision of the future gives the story an oddly workable hybrid of old west/1920s mobster feeling. The characterization could use some work, and the plot seems to lose steam, but all in all it was a very refreshing read. This is a must-read just for the incredible inventiveness of the language.

Tiffany Murray – Diamond Star Halo (Portobello): Tiffany Murray has an excellent ear for storytelling language. Here, she tells the story of the Llewellyn family who run a recording studio in rural Wales. The story follows the family from the 1970’s through to the 1990s. I especially enjoyed the character of Nana, and the back-story of Halo’s parents, which contains wonderful imagery and is emotionally pitch-perfect. There is a pseudo-taboo broken in the latter part of the novel that I wasn’t terribly smitten with, but it is a small flaw easily over-looked in light of the sheer joy to be found in the language, and the overwhelming charm of so many of the characters. Also, two of the best literary grandmothers EVER live within the pages of this book.

Robin Sloan – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux): Sloan’s fast-paced romp through bookshops, secret societies, and the world of high-tech gadgetry is an ode to friendship and a recognition that perhaps the tech world and the book world aren’t really as distant from one another in their principles as we have been made to believe. This one’s a bit slick, and not as “bookish” as I might have liked, but it made me think about my own book vs. tech assumptions a little more carefully. It’s a light, quick read, and very timely.

Patrick DeWitt – The Sisters Brothers (Ecco): Okay, this is a bit of a cheat because I technically read it last year, but it’s now available in paperback and was so entertaining that it deserves a spot on this list. If you haven’t read Patrick DeWitt’s dark and hilarious tale of two assassin brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters, you have been missing out. It’s full of murder, gold, sibling rivalry, and a desperate need just to be loved. Fantastic!

 

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