Year-end reads

For a variety of reasons (mostly my obsession with technology and my incessant hand-cramps that makes turning pages troublesome) I’ve only read books on my Kindle this year. I’m sure there are those who will disparage me for that, but to quote Davy Crockett, you may all go to hell and I will go to my Kindle.

One of the consequences of only reading things on my Kindle is that it’s easy to review everything I read this year with a single glance. Turns out I read just over 100 books, on top of my periodical periodical reading (which these days is limited mostly to poetry journals, Wired, my beloved New York Review of Books, and (despite my father-in-law’s disdain) the New Yorker). In 2009, I set out to overcome a long-running animosity towards novels and decided to force myself to read more fiction (instead of poetry and history). Although this mission was accomplished, quality control might have been lacking, and unsatisfying variants of zombie science fiction prevailed. (I bet you didn’t even know one could read more than 3 zombie science fiction novels). In my defense, I did read almost the entire Philip K. Dick oeuvre, giving me some serious nerd street cred. Philip K. Dick is dead. Long Live Philip K. Dick.

My goal for this next year is to go back and read a variety of classic 20th century fiction, with Evelyn Waugh at the top of my list, in part since I love Graham Greene so much. I managed to avoid reading Updike’s fiction and I was never fond of his poetry, but all the eulogizing of Updike as a great writer has piqued my interest, although I haven’t started yet. The list of Important Novels I haven’t read is quite long; in 2010, I’m aspiring to be as well-read as my wife (a formidable task I assure you and surely not to be accomplished in a mere 12 months).

In any case, here are my favorite reads this year:

  • I was quite fond his earlier dancer, but this time Colum McCann has written a truly beautiful novel with Let the Great World Spin. It has inspired me to read more of his work — and it also led me to watch the documentary Man On Wire.
  • For some humor, I enjoyed This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, although there are those (mostly women it seems) who disagree with me.
  • David Foster Wallace’s unfortunate suicide late last year led me to return to his writing, which I had last enjoyed ten years ago. I was afraid it would not age well; in fact I found Consider the Lobster and Other Essays to be even better.
  • On the non-fiction front, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin Kelley was so fantastic and provided so much food for thought that I am certain I will be writing about it again on this blog.
  • I hesitate to describe Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery as science fiction; it’s more a portrait of the United States just a few years out. Incredibly, Slattery is an economist who wrote this fantastic and odd novel about the collapse of the US economy just a few months before our own economy hit the skids, making it seem all to close to reality.
  • The two science fiction novels I enjoyed the most this year were Halting State by Charles Stross (with its visions of MMORPGs destroying the geopolitical balance of power) and Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, which was just bad-ass.
  • On the poetry front, I have read and re-read Saving Daylight by Jim Harrison and found it to be excellent. Of course, my taste runs to Jim Harrison anyway and there are those who don’t care for him. Other than that I have found the year to be a bit of a disappointment for me on the poetry front; I keep up with Poetry Magazine and a random assortment of other journals, but it just hasn’t been a year where anything has appealed to me. I have returned after a long hiatus to the Paris Review, and that has been a mighty feast which has slaked my thirst for whatever is that brings me to poetry.

So there you have it: my year in reading.

One Response to “Year-end reads”

  1. nicmele Says:

    Try Iain Banks, who also publishes as Iain M. Banks; Jonathan Lethem; Don DeLillo. The last two each have new novels, Lethem’s is out, DeLillo’s is coming soon. And then there is Richard K. Morgan–if you haven’t, finish reading the Altered Carbon trilogy and then read Thirteen. He has the first volume of a fantasy trilogy out, I’m still trying to decide whether to read it or not since I am not much for fantasy.

    Finally, thanks for pointing me toward the Slattery novel, I’ve put a hold on it at the local library.

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