Saturday, December 31, 2011

The year in review: books

I read 52 books this year, which, if you account for the varying lengths and difficulties, is still a lot of reading. Proud of myself. Also aware that it's my job to read. In 2012, I pledge to read more and to be less tempted by the internet and its surface pleasures. Let's do it together!

On with the show! I've considered my grand list, and here are ten top-tier books from 2011. 

David Foster Wallace - Oblivion
Tom Grimes - Mentor
EL Doctorow - Ragtime
Eric Larson - The Devil in the White City
Judy Budnitz - Nice Big American Baby
Randy Shilts - And the Band Played On
JG Ballard - High Rise
Chad Harbach - The Art of Fielding
Dave Zirin - Welcome to the Terrordome
James Michener - Chesapeake

The work of Judy Budnitz endeared itself to me more than the work of any other author in 2011. I came to her like I come to many authors: via a Google search and scouring lists. K and I read Nice Big American Baby on our way home from Canada. Cautionary/ celebratory stories of motherhood, pregnancy, and love in America. Just totally bizarre, hilarious, and deeply sad stories. Flawless collection, the best book I read in 2011. 

Her first collection Flying Leap starts strong and ends poorly---worth a read for completists. In her novel, If I Told You Once, Judy systematically sheds male characters until there are only women left, four generations crammed into a tiny apartment. 

I lament my male-dominated list. Perhaps in 2012, I too will shed men. Nine women to one man. It could happen. Or perhaps, like the characters in If I Told You Once, I'll revert to the old ways, and 2012's list will be the same, except with 9 new guys. What I'm saying is, keep me honest blogspot. Diverse reading habits! What I'm saying is, Nice Big American Baby came out in 2005, and it's about time for some new Budnitz, don't cha think? 

A man can dream in 2011. Tonight, with Biggs Stache (and whatever Marc digs out the cellar) on the cerebellum, I'll dream of a new Judy Budnitz novel, and of all the books I'll read in 2012. If the world ends, my blog will live on in the ether. If the world ends, I will blast our greatest texts into space for our extraterrestrial pals. If the world ends, I'll blog in the afterlife.   

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