[Avid readers may remember that I had planned to read ten books in ten months, with one book per category per month. There has been a small change of plans: I still plan to read a book from each category, but I've decided I can do them in whatever order I want, since I am the boss of me, na na nanana, etc.]
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (category: first novel)
So, I'm fudging the rules a bit with this one, since technically I started reading it in December 2010. But because I read the majority of the book in January, I'm going to go ahead and count it.
I loved this book. I actually bought it a long time ago but somehow never got around to reading it until this month, and I am really happy I did. A multigenerational tale of immigration, assimilation, and identity, this book transitions flawlessly from sharp, insightful humour to touching drama. Samad, a Bengali man with a flair for language but, unfortunately, the wrong-colour skin for 1975 London, struggles to find glory in his ho-hum job as a waiter in his cousin's Indian restaurant. His only friend, Archie, starts the book off with a suicide attempt that is, darkly, hilarious, and almost immediately regains his zeal for life via the cure-all of a willing, attractive, younger sexual partner. The book follows the men as they marry much younger women, have children, and spend their days reminiscing about the past and, in Samad's case, actively fighting the future.
I won't say too much more, but I highly recommend this book. It is unbelievable that this is Smith's first novel; her talent is remarkable.
One down, nine to go!