New York Times Notable Books of 2011

The Globe Corner Bookstore’s Selection

Each year, the New York Times publishes their annual list of the 100 Notable Books of the Year along with some additional supplemental lists (Book Critics Top Ten; roundups of major books in categories such as Travel, Cooking, and Photography)

The Globe Corner features those books on the Times lists that fit within the scope of our focus on travel and geographic reference materials.  All books in this category are discounted 15% or more.

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Fiction

CHANGÓ’S BEADS AND TWO-TONE SHOES
By William Kennedy
In Kennedy’s most musical work of fiction, a newspaperman attains a cynical old-pro objectivity as Albany’s political machine pulls out the stops to head off a race riot in 1968.

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1Q84
By Haruki Murakami
This voluminous novel, set in 1984, is simultaneously a mystery, a love story and a dystopian fantasy that raises questions of psychology and ethics.

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OPEN CITY
By Teju Cole
The peripatetic hero of Cole’s indelible novel reflects on his adopted New York, the Africa of his youth, today’s America and a Europe wary of its future.

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PARALLEL STORIES
By Peter Nadas
This nearly 1,200-page novel opens in 1989 and is centered, roughly, on a Budapest apartment building whose residents have been trapped in the torpor of Communist tyranny.

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SCENES FROM VILLAGE LIFE
By Amos Oz
In these powerful linked stories of longing and disappointment, Oz returns to a spare, almost allegorical style.

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SHARDS
By Ismet Prcic
The Bosnian hero of Prcic’s absorbing and unsettling first novel is shattered by war.

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SWAMPLANDIA!
By Karen Russell
Russell’s exuberant first novel, an expansion of her story “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” concerns the pleasures and miseries of life in a failing theme park in the Everglades.

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THE TIGER’S WIFE
By Téa Obreht
In her first novel, Obreht uses fable and allegory to illustrate the complexities of Balkan history, unearthing the region’s patterns of suspicion, superstition and everyday violence.

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Nonfiction

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BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER:
The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
By Gabrielle Hamilton
This memoir by the chef at the Manhattan restaurant Prune is a story of hungers specific and vague.

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CARAVAGGIO: A Life Sacred and Profane
By Andrew Graham-Dixon
Caravaggio’s painting was deeply affected by the squalor, violence and energy of Roman street life.

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CATHERINE THE GREAT: Portrait of a Woman
By Robert K. Massie
Massie provides a sweeping narrative about the impressive minor German princess who became empress of Russia.

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COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS
By Alexandra Fuller
Fuller’s mother is the star of this funny and affecting memoir, a companion to “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.”

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
By Charles C. Mann
This follow-up to “1491” argues that ecological encounters since Columbus have shaped much of subsequent human history.

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GREAT SOUL: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India
By Joseph Lelyveld
While many of Gandhi’s aspirations (a Muslim-Hindu alliance, a full end to untouchability) remain largely unfulfilled, it is his role as a social reformer that most interests Lelyveld.

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HOLY WAR:  Vasco Da Gama’s Epic Voyages

By Nigel Cliff
The Portuguese explorer hoped to find Christians in India and enlist them in an alliance against Islam.

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JERUSALEM: The Biography
By Simon Sebag Montefiore. (Knopf, $35.)
Three thousand years, packed with telling detail, in the life of the holy city.

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ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE: A Memoir.
By Binyavanga Wainaina. (Graywolf, $24.)
The author describes fiction as his refuge from the confusing realities of politics and adolescence in his native Kenya.

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TO A MOUNTAIN IN TIBET
By Colin Thubron
Weighed down by grief after the death of his mother, the author makes a pilgrimage to Mount Kailas, venerated by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and others.

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A WORLD ON FIRE: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
By Amanda Foreman
While Union and Confederate guns blazed, a battle was also being waged for English hearts and minds, at both the elite and popular levels.

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Recommendations for NYT’s critics

Michiko Kakutani’s Recommendations for 2011

ROME: A CULTURAL, VISUAL AND PERSONAL HISTORY
by Robert Hughes
The former art critic of Time magazine gives us a guided tour through the city of Rome, excavating its bloody past and deconstructing its artistic masterpieces even as he creates an indelible portrait of a city that still stands today as “an enormous concretion of human glory and human error.”

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THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE: STRANGE DAYS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
by Kim Barker
In recounting her adventures as a reporter in one of the most dangerous regions of the world, the author captures both the serious and the seriously absurd conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, using black humor to convey the sad-awful-frequently-insane incongruities of war.

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BOOMERANG: TRAVELS IN THE NEW THIRD WORLD
by Michael Lewis
Using his uncommon ability to make virtually any subject interesting, the author takes us on a surreal trip through some of the countries hardest hit by the 2008 fiscal tsunami — including Greece, Iceland and Ireland — and in doing so, makes understanding today’s headlines about European sovereign debt both fascinating and lucid.

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Janet Maslin’s Recommendations for 2011

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER’S BERLIN
by Erik Larson  (Crown, $26)
Novelistic nonfiction doesn’t get any more gripping than this. Mr. Larson draws upon the writings of William E. Dodd, who was appointed the American ambassador to Germany in 1933, and the even more unguarded writings of Martha Dodd Stern, his self-styled ingénue of a daughter. There are plenty of hindsight-laden books about Hitler’s rise, with its atmosphere of fear and mounting oppression. But there has been nothing quite like Mr. Larson’s true chronicle of the myopic Dodds, unlikely innocents abroad, who found themselves caught in a new Germany full of nasty surprises.

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Dwight Garner’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2011

IS JOURNALISM WORTH DYING FOR? FINAL DISPATCHES
by Anna Politkovskaya (Melville House, $19.95)
Politkovskaya, the fearless Russian journalist who was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in Moscow in 2006, wrote about the dark side of Vladimir V. Putin’s reign: the brutal war in Chechnya; the top-to-bottom thuggery and corruption; the lack of an independent judiciary; the “bureaucratic black magic” that could poison, or snuff out, a life at a moment’s notice. Her prose fit her subject: it was mostly hard and balefully direct, wormy with unpleasant truths. This book collects some of her last and best work.

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OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE HUMAN CONDITION:
SELECTED ESSAYS AND REVIEWS, 1989-2010

by Geoff Dyer
Mr. Dyer, a shape-shifting British writer, is among the best essayists on the planet, and this book includes some of his finest work. He casts an almost perversely wide net here. There are pieces about Ian McEwan and the photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue and the jazz cornet player Don Cherry. He goes on tour with the aging rockers in Def Leppard and goes up in a decommissioned Russian MIG-29 fighter plane. He wanders though Camus’s Algeria. He reflects upon the joy of having sex in good hotels. What these essays impart is ecstasy.

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THE VOYAGE OF THE ROSE CITY: AN ADVENTURE AT SEA
by John Moynihan
This posthumously published book, from the son of New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, tells the story of how the author left Wesleyan University during the summer of his junior year and joined the merchant marine. He spent four months crossing the equator on an oil supertanker called the Rose City. This is a young man’s book, for sure; it was written when its author was barely 20. But Moynihan has a good story to tell, one that’s flecked with briny bits of Melville and Conrad and Raban. His unshowy prose has genuine immediacy. He’s never less than frank, funny company on the page.

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Notable Cookbooks of the Year

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ANCIENT GRAINS FOR MODERN MEALS
by Maria Speck
Yes, part of the appeal is the title: “Ancient” sounds so much more interesting than “whole.” But Ms. Speck’s skill as a researcher, and her dual heritage in Greece and Germany, enrich the text — and not just in flavorful recipes like bulgur with butter-roasted almonds and cinnamon, and brown rice cakes with pecorino cheese, olives and sage. Refreshingly, she covers — and then dismisses — the subject of eating whole grains for health in the first half-dozen pages. She’s interested in flavor first, texture second and history along with both. (review by Julia Moskin, NYT)

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THE FOOD OF MOROCCO
by Paula Wolfert
More than an update of her influential 1973 book, “Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco,” this  colorful tome is the culmination of 40 years’ research and unprecedented access to Moroccan cooks and kitchens. (review by Julia Moskin, NYT)

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THE FOOD OF SPAIN
by Claudia Roden
The first hundred pages of this doorstop by a prolific and serious food writer and Sefardita, or Jew of Spanish origin, offer a comprehensive history of the evolution of Spanish food. They are followed by a collection of clear recipes divided into a dozen sections, starting with tapas, and made accessible by inviting the cook to use canned beans and stocks. My guests raved about the thick spinach and chickpea soup, giant Galician tuna empanada in flaky pastry and lamb stew with honey. (review by Florence Fabricant, NYT)

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THE HOMESICK TEXAN COOKBOOK
by Lisa Fain
The author was never told in her Texas elementary school that if she ordered queso or kolaches or chalupas once she left home, she’d get only a plateful of disappointment. Transplanted to Manhattan, she found out. In her Dr Pepper-deficient environment, Ms. Fain taught herself to conjure the flavors she grew up on, and the fruits of her research make up this appetite-rousing book. (review by Pete Wells, NYT)

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A NEW TURN IN THE SOUTH
by Hugh Acheson
Though he is the chef behind acclaimed restaurants in Atlanta and Athens, Ga., Mr. Acheson thinks and cooks like a civilian. His modern, Southern-leaning recipes are models of clarity and simplicity, and reading them makes you feel at home: the book begins with lemonade (spruced up with mint, rosemary and vanilla) and ends with chocolate-chunk oatmeal cookies. (review by Pete Wells, NYT)

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RICE AND CURRY: SRI LANKAN HOME COOKING
by S. H. Fernando Jr.
A wonderful tour of a lesser-known cuisine. If you dined out and ordered Leela’s Chilaw crab curry you’d make a spectacle of yourself, coating your wrists in gravy rich with coconut, curry leaves, chile, garlic and cumin, flecking your face with bits of crab shell. At home, only your family will stare, and they’ll be a mess, too. (review by Nick Fox, NYT)

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RUSTICA: A RETURN TO SPANISH HOME COOKING
by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish
Beautifully photographed though somewhat randomly organized, this book, by an Australian chef who was born in Spain, covers key regions and ingredients with many alluring home-style recipes: crisp baby shrimp fritters, fat green beans with garlic confit, roasted cod zapped with hot garlic and chile dressing and cheesecake with a caramelized top. (review by Florence Fabricant, NYT)

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SEOULTOWN KITCHEN: KOREAN PUB GRUB TO SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
by Debbie Lee
(Debbie Lee’s new book)isn’t a comprehensive guide to the cuisine, but her beer-friendly recipes are an easy way in. And once you make the pimento-scallion glaze — part of several dishes and delicious alone on burgers, cold shrimp, eggs — it won’t seem an inconvenience to go to a Korean store for the thick crimson gochujang chile paste you’ll need. While you’re there, you can pick up magnolia berry syrup for Ms. Lee’s chicken meatballs, soju for her chile chicken wings and sweet rice flour for her jeon-style shrimp cake.  (review by Nick Fox, NYT)

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THE SWEETS OF ARABY
by Leila Salloum Elias and Muna Salloum
The authors of this intriguing cookbook are sisters of Syrian ancestry who plumbed the text of the “Tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights” for food references, then adapted recipes from medieval manuscripts to accompany 25 of Scheherazade’s stories. Most of the confections, made with nuts, phyllo, dates, saffron, honey and sesame oil, will be discoveries for those who know only baklava: many are fried, and even the halvah, perfumed with rose water, is unusual — a firm pistachio jelly. (review by Florence Fabricant, NYT)

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TRULY MEXICAN
by Roberto Santibañez with J. J. Goode and Shelley Wiseman
[Santibañez's new book] focuses on sauces, with chapters on salsas, guacamoles, adobos and moles. So rather than create composed dishes, you can use his unusual red peanut sauce or deep, rich adobo D. F., made with chiles and Mexican chocolate, to dress rotisserie chicken. Try a few more recipes from Mr. Santibañez — Rosa Mexicano’s culinary director before he opened Fonda in Brooklyn — and anchos, pasillas and guajillos could become regulars in your cupboard. (review by Nick Fox, NYT)

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