6 responses to “What’s One Book That
Floored You This Year?”

  1. Cheryl McKeon, bookseller

    I am thrilled to be a part of your clever survey — and to have more recommendations on my list, too. It was great to see you!

  2. Lindsey

    You too, Cheryl! Such a wonderful surprise to see you there.

  3. Craig Johannsen

    I read an old book recently that floored me with its cleverness, erudition, and compelling story: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco, published in 1988. It’s a novel about a small group of people who work for a publishing house that decides it is going to publish a series on occult, esoteric topics like Masonry, Rosicrucianism, black magic, etc. After reading a lot of manuscripts and interviewing a lot of authors who seem borderline nutty or just weird, and after some intensive exploration on their own, they decide they have learned a tremendous amount and could put together their own story that is a synthesis or mashup of some significant things they have learned. As part of this, they pretend they have discovered a huge secret. For them, initially, it is just a lark — something fun to do — a joke even. But, when others who are heavily invested in this realm of knowledge find out about this, they take it seriously and things turn very dark after that. People die.

    Having found Foucault’s Pendulum so interesting, I read another of Eco’s novels, Name of the Rose, published in 1994, which is completely different, but also very good. It’s more of a period piece that takes place in the 1300s, when the Inquisition was in full swing. The main characters, Adso of Melk and William of Baskerville, are visiting a very wealthy Franciscan abbey in northern Italy on a political mission for the Holy Roman Emperor, but they soon find that some kind of struggle is going on within the Abbey as several monks are found murdered in mysterious circumstances, all of it somehow related to a secret stored in the abbey’s tightly controlled library. The head of the abbey asks William to investigate, since he is a former inquisitioner well known for his expertise at carrying out investigations. Though the story takes a very long time setting up the background of the story, it is well worth sticking with it. William turns out to be as clever as Sherlock Holmes (hinted at in the “Baskerville” part of his name?) and Adso to be the analogue of Dr. Watson. All in all, it’s a lot of fun and can be read on many levels, from political satire to a commentary on the illusive nature of truth. As well, one gets a very strong sense of what life might have been like in the Dark Ages.

  4. Lindsey

    Hi Craig. Don’t you love when a book by an author leads you down the rabbit hole of other books by that author? That happened to me with Tom Robbins and Douglas Coupland.

    Years ago I got to hear Umberto Eco speak. He was so incredibly charming in that grandfatherly sort of way. What a joy it was to experience that. Thanks so much for sharing your stories!

  5. Mark Holtzen

    I agree on The Age of Miracles. It wasn’t so much the scenes or the characters, but the way the whole concept got into my head. I thanked the author at the Elliott Bay sponsored reading (at a library near me due to the Capital Hill block party) that I appreciated her work for doing just that. For a couple weeks I noticed that as I walked down the street I looked at things a little differently–it was unsettling, but beautiful, too. That doesn’t happen very often (with any art form) so it was impressive to me that a book could still effect me that way.

  6. Lindsey

    I agree, Mark. Karen Thompson Walker did an incredible job of writing a super-creepy novel by keeping an apocalyptic premise in the background, rather than shoving it in the faces of the readers. It’s like watching a horror movie, and nearly having a panic attack every time a door opens, because you know the killer is lurking somewhere…waiting….

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