CRITICAL HIT AWARDS: December 2011

Welcome back to the Critical Hit Awards for book reviews. This is a round-up, a recommended reading list, and — why not? — a terribly prestigious and coveted prize. Nominate your favorite review of the month by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit.

In an award-winning review this month, John Lanchester says: “It’s a sad story; Boomerang is a sad book, as well as a vivid and funny and enlightening one.” Sadness is probably not the first emotion we associate with the global financial crisis, which Boomerang is about. Instead we talk about anger, disgust, or dread. Lanchester’s remark is a reminder of how rarely we discuss current events in terms of personal sadness, and how a good book can speak to that sadness in a way that ultimately fortifies us. This month’s award winners are all fortifying in their own ways.

Thanks to @TradePaperbacks, @MattTanner, @jonathanscrowe and @CamTerwilliger for nominating book reviews this month!

Best Field Guide

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Reviewed by Dennis Lim in Bookforum

A vast novel like 1Q84 requires more than a few inches of coverage and a perfunctory thumbs up or down. Dennis Lim maps out Murakami’s major themes, notes the arguments of his detractors, and patiently insists that 1Q84 is worth the hype. His review is an ideal warm-up for embarking on Murakami’s 900-page magnum opus.

Best Icebreaker

Parallel Stories by Peter Nádas
Reviewed by Morgan Meis at Slate

“Be careful,” says Morgan Meis. “It is getting less and less respectable not to know about [Peter] Nádas.” If you don’t know him, it may be because his jarring combination of bodily functions and epic narrative has no obvious parallel in contemporary literature. If you want to know him, this lively review is the place to start.

Best Reality Check

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
Reviewed by John Lanchester in the New York Review of Books

Persuasive works of nonfiction are often heavy on persuasion, light on nonfiction. (See Lewis’s Moneyball and anything by Malcolm Gladwell.) To understand a sweeping event like the global financial crisis we need charismatic explanations like Boomerang, as well as reliable doubters like John Lanchester, whose experience mirrors and (for the most part) validates Lewis’s book.

Read a good review lately? Nominate it for a Critical Hit Award by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit or cast your vote in the comments section below.

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— Brian Hurley is over here.

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