Monday, January 6, 2014

End of Year Wrap-Up (2013)

So apparently I only surface on this blog once a year now, and that's to post my "best of" the books I read in the previous year. Well, if I manage to write any new content that isn't related to the novel I have been devoting all my waking hours to, then I will get back here more frequently. If not... wrap-ups once a year it is.

Now on to the list (culled from a measly total of 38 books read in 2013):

1) EVERY DAY by David Levithan -- hands down, one of the best books - YA, Adult or otherwise - I've read in quite a few years. Supple writing, astonishing characters, and a terrific plot with near-perfect pacing.

2) HYPERBOLE AND A HALF: UNFORTUNATE SITUATIONS, FLAWED COPING MECHANISMS, MAYHEM AND OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED by Allie Brosh -- funniest book I’ve read in a long time. The neuroses are firmly in place, the panel cartoons illuminate the anxiety of the narrator perfectly, and I laughed so hard milk spurted out of my nose. More than once.

3) WE LIVE IN WATER by Jess Walter -- a short story collection that treats misfits, the homeless, meth addicts, and people on the fringe of society, with unexpected compassion yet without sentimentality. And it’s funny as hell.

4) THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY by Jean-Dominique Bauby -- I read this ten years ago, and revisited it again last year. A wonderful, small book, by a man somehow larger than life.

5) GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER (or, PEARLS BEFORE SWINE) by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. -- not a perfect book, by any means, but reading even a flawed Vonnegut novel is still a terrific way to spend a few hours.

6) THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE, HOUSEKEEPING VS. THE DIRT and SHAKESPEARE WROTE FOR MONEY by Nick Hornby -- these three collections of columns Hornby wrote for “The Believer” magazine are a reader’s dream. Separately, they’re fantastic, but together they add up to a literary journey that continually whet my appetite to expand my own library.

7) ELSEWHERE, CALIFORNIA by Dana Johnson -- a thoughtful, energetic novel about race, class, loyalty to family, and the desire to understand and appreciate ourselves on a deeper, less stultifying level than the path of discovery that the people in our lives choose and expect for us to follow.

8) TENTH OF DECEMBER by George Saunders -- not exactly the “best” book of the year, as many people had listed early in the year, but some quirky, interesting stories that certainly entertained.

9) PICNIC, LIGHTNING by Billy Collins -- another solid selection of poems by a writer who makes it all seem so effortless, when we know better.

10) WE THE ANIMALS by Justin Torres -- a voice that never rests, unfurling truths and wounds so rapidly that it is like a blur… until it all melds together into a complete picture of childhood sacrificed to madness, with no building blocks created for future nostalgia.

Of course, there were a ton of books I planned to read last year (many of which were on the prior post) that I never got to. So, no more promises here that I am sure to break - which means I'll secretly make plans to read a bunch of specific titles, but will save myself future humiliation by not listing them here.

You'll just have to take a trip back here next year to see what I read and liked in 2014. As always, I appreciate your visits. Thanks for stopping by and have a book-happy new year!