We'll get with the voting in a moment, but first we thought it best to level with those readers who have been so loyal to #1book140 for so long. It's time the truth were known. Nearly two years ago, the ruthless J. Nathan Mathias ousted 1book140's previous management in a boardroom coup. Oh, we wanted to go public with the story, but were told that revenge was a dish best served cold. And so, after carefully plotting my return from an abandoned goat-herder's shack in rural Rhode Island, we gave Nathan payback. No more will 1book140 executives run riot with company proceeds, throwing private parties on secret Caribbean islands. 1book40 has returned to the people!
Okay, not really. The truth is a bit more pedestrian, and will be delivered in due time. As we did last year, December will be devoted to the Also-Rans, those books that came oh-so-close to winning in 2014, but just didn't quite make the cut. The poll will close at 5 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Let's get to the voting:
Foodopoly by Wenonah Hauter
Foodopoly was so close to being selected in the original Food Writing poll. If you’re trying to make up your mind on which book to vote for, you can take the Foodopoly online quiz, which introduces you to key facts about food in American and why you should care. As the San Francisco Gate writes in its review, "Foodopoly is politically brave—not just naming names in the agri-industrial complex, but pushing us to think more deeply about the politics and economics that dictate our diets beyond our own roles as shoppers and eaters.” The book was initially nominated during the Food Writing month.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
This may be one of those cases where choosing a book by its original cover is a brilliant idea. The story of a biohacking family, competing freak shows, and an amputation cult, Geek Love has inspired a cultish devotion for 25 years. Writing of Katherine Dunn's singular style, The Literary Review says, “If Flannery O'Connor [had] consumed vast quantities of LSD, she might have written like this.” From Weird Fiction month.
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Set in 1950s Paris, Giovanni's Room became a classic of queer literature for its sensitive depiction of the relationship between David, an American expat, and Giovanni, an Italian bartender. As the Atlantic wrote in its original review, “[Giovanni's Room] belongs in the top rank of fiction.”
Fun fact: In addition to James Baldwin’s innumerable accomplishments, he is credited with challenging Maya Angelou to write a literary autobiography, which led to the publication of Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. From the LGBTQ book month.
Vilette by Charlotte Brontë
Nathan makes the case better than we ever could for this under-appreciated Brontë in the original late 19th Century Novels post: “[A] recent review by Lucy Hughes-Hallett in the Guardian has piqued my interest. Arguing that Villette is better than Jane Eyre, Lucy makes her case: 'It's an ‘astonishing piece of writing, a book in which phantasmagorical set pieces alternate with passages of minute psychological exploration.’ George Eliot apparently loved the book, writing that it ‘it is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre.’ Virginia Woolf called it Brontë's ‘finest novel.' It's a ‘funny, penetratingly observant realist novel.' A story of romance and adventure, the novel follows 23-year-old Lucy Snowe from England to teach at a girls' school in the fictional French-speaking city of Villette.” From late 19th Century Novels month.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Another worthy contender, We Need New Names tells the story of Darling, a young Zimbabwean girl who emigrates to the United States. Michiko Katutani praises NoViolet Bulawayo’s “gift for pictorial language” and her ability to create “snapshots of Zimbabwe that have the indelible color and intensity of a folk art painting.” Did we mention that it was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013? From African Lit month.
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Who wants to be depressed by the news when you can be depressed by the emotional manipulation of a sappy-yet-engrossing romance? We haven’t read Dear John yet, but maybe this is the time to stop being a judgmental jerk and see what all the fuss is about? Or maybe not. Here’s Roger Ebert’s take on the 2010 film adaptation: “Dear John exists only to coddle the sentiments of undemanding dreamers, and plunge us into a world where the only evil is the interruption of the good.” From the Romance month.