66. Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones - An absolutely fantastic book about the power of stories and the people who tell them. Set during the 1990s blockade of Bougainville by New Guinea, the lone white man in the settlement does his best to help the children of a besieged village that there is more to life than what they see around them through the words of Dickens' Great Expectations. This could have been a story that has been told thousands of times before, a teacher broadens horizons and the students go out to a better world, but Mr. Watts isn't that great of a teacher. He is, however, a master story teller who knows when to deviate from his source material when the going gets very tough and very serious. If you've ever caught yourself thinking of how a fictional character would handle a situation you're facing, or wished that you lived in a favorite book rather than the real world, this is a book that will speak to you.
67. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid - What impressed me most about the book was the author's ability with first person narrative. The entire book is a one sided dialog between a young Pakistani man and the possibly American tourist he befriends at a cafe in his recently returned to home town. He tells a story of the American Dream and its hidden costs, along with a verypersonal love story. The story isn't particularly original or surprising, but it is well written.
68. Faith For Beginners by Aaron Hamburger - This novel manages to funny, enlightening and thought provoking in just the right balance. The plot is simple - a mother hoping to salvage her relationship with her just barely adult son books them and her dieing husband on a vacation to that place so well known for peace and tolerance - Jerusalem. They tour the sights, discover what faith and religion are really about, and in the end, discover that families are a lot like the Middle East conflict: getting along comes down to the people, not ideas. This is also a great book about vacations often being more work than what they're supposed to get you away from. I'd recommend this as light reading with a eye opening message.
69. Timeless Classics: Selected Shorts, A Celebration of the Short Story, Volume 19 (Audio Book) - The Selected Shorts series is a recorded version of the many live and radio presentations of great known and undiscovered short stories, read by people with really great story telling voices - sometimes the authors themselves, but more often actors. This collection consisted of: James Thurber's The Night the Ghost Got In read by Isaiah Sheffer -Comic Mayhem is unleashed when a family hears a ghost in the night - and calls in the police; Edith Wharton's Roman Fever read by Maria Tucci -Two women reflect on romance and intrigue, long ago in Rome; Jack London's Make Westing read by Steven Gilborn -Danger, adventure, corruption and secrecy dog a ship as it rounds Cape Horn; D.H. Lawrence's The Rocking Horse Winner read by John Shea -A dark fable of a magical toy helping a little boy cope with family troubles; Shirley Jackson's The Lottery read by Marian Seldes -In Jackson's classic nightmare of society and sacrifice, someone will be the chosen one; Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game read by Charles Keating -A meditation on what it means to be a hunter - or the hunted, this tale unfolds on a remote island full of strange prey; Raymond Carver's Cathedral read by James Naughton -A subtle and intimate portrait of a man during a visit from his wife's blind friend.
The stories I'd read before I discovered things I'd missed, and the new to me stories kept me listening when I was supposed to be doing something else. Thanks to this audio collection, I've discovered that it's only reading Jack London that bores me to tears. Hearing his story is quite another thing altogether. If you're looking to hear some really good stories, you can not go wrong with this collection.
70. Carnival by Elizabeth Bear - I liked the canon that Bear created for this long bit of science fiction, and that's what kept me reading despite the too obvious attempts to write an epic. (When the first line of a writer's bio proclaimed that she shares a birth-date with Sam and Frodo, I smiled and rolled my eyes.) This is the world of New Amazonia, a matriarchal society of unexplained resources that other survivors of Old Earth would like to partner with, if not conquer. Gender roles play an important part when two "gentle" males are sent as diplomats to negotiate some sort of alliance, but their real motivation is something different. The men are long separated lovers that pick up where they left off, when they're not disagreeing with each other. It took me a couple weeks to get through this book because it's so overwritten, but I did always come back to it.