Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What have you been reading?

It's well known that I enjoy lists (though I'm troubled by the revised and updated edition of "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"--I already have 755 to go without them adding titles)

Anyway, tell me this:

1. What were the most compelling books you read this year (published any year)?

2. What do you think I should read (and blog about) next year?


A.J. Ferguson said...

(1) _Blood Meridian_ by Cormac Mcarthy left a lasting impression upon me. I won’t bother giving you the others, as you recommended them.

(2) I would be interested in reading your evaluation of a series of books. Specifically, what your impressions of what the author accomplishes or fails to accomplish throughout a number of books with reoccurring characters.

Also, I know you tend to blog about books you like, but I would be interested in reading about books you felt could have been but ultimately were not good. I would like to know where you thought the author went wrong.

Ayse Papatya Bucak said...

AJ--Of course I see the value, especially for students, in discussing why things don't work, but I stopped blogging about books that didn't work for me simply because I found too many authors were out there Google-ing (Googling?) themselves. And who needs the negative energy--not me, not them.

Bradley said...

Far and away, the best book I read this year was Dinty Moore's The Accidental Buddhist. Over on my blog, I compared reading that book to reading The Catcher in the Rye when I was 18, in the sense that it spoke so eloquently to me as I exist right now. The Catcher in the Rye was perfect for me when I was a disaffected and angry adolescent; The Accidental Buddhist was perfect for me now that I'm... well, a bit more "affected", still occasionally angry guy in my thirties.

Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic was a delightful way to spend a couple of afternoons. Not his most ambitious or accomplished work, but I'd be interested in reading what you thought of it.

Though I didn't read it this year, David Shield's The Thing About Life is One Day You'll Be Dead was absolutely fantastic.

I'd be interested in reading your thoughts on any of these.

If you ever decide you want to write about terrible books again, I can double-plus-unrecommend Tuesdays With Morrie, which I also read this year, I'm afraid...

Rachael said...


Thought I'd throw this out there. Most of what I've been reading lately are essays. I haven't got to David Shields' "The Thing About Life..." yet, but he's made a course packet of his favorite essays for us to read and discuss in class. I think the ones that have affected me most are by Leonard Michaels, especially "Journal" and "Sylvia". And I remember having no interest in Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica" when I started it a couple of years ago, but I read her essay "Lost Cat" recently and it tore my heart all up (also cool the idea of playing the 'loser' too aggressively that she somehow works in, and her relationship to some Fresh Air kids).. Liked "My Heroin Christmas" by Terry Castle and the David Foster Wallace essays. Bought a hardcover copy of "Already Dead" by Denis Johnson today, which I'm still smitten with. Some of the authors your blog has led to me to: Steven Millhauser (extremely thankful for), Miranda July (also very thankful), Angela Carter (indirectly), Marilynn Robinson, I think Ondaatje too. And from these influences my writing has sometimes tended towards magical-realism of late. I appreciate the variety of works here, and I like reading through how something affected you or how it fell a little short.


tim said...

My favorite book from this past year was Frank Conroy's Stop-Time. It's almost a text book study in the things you're not supposed to be able to do--abruptly switching from present tense to past tense and back, a non-heroic coming of age story where the narrator whines about the decisions his mother makes about his trust(!), mundane subject matter (he devotes an entire chapter to mastering the yo-yo)--and yet--somehow, it all comes together just right. You'd think you have to be raised by wolves or dirt poor to write a compelling coming of age story, but this book proves that's just not true.

I think you're wise to avoid the books you don't care for. I mostly do the same without even realizing it, and now you've articulated the reason why. Bad vibes, indeed.

Rachael said...

Also Ali Smith

Andres Castellanos said...

Best books I've read this year (in the order in which I read them)

1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
2. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
3. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
4. The Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

If I had to recommend only one of these books to my friends it would be Poisonwood. Some nights I couldn't sleep for thinking of the Congo.

I've also started The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk and after that I want to try out Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Abbe said...

I just finished Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply, which I enjoyed very much. Also, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (memoir) and April and Oliver by Tess Callahan were very good. The All-Star team for this year, however, is comprised of three books I should have read long ago: (1) Rebecca--Daphne DuMaurier (2) Life of Pi--Yann Martel (3) Pale Fire--Nabokov.

Other notable reads: The Humbling (first Philip Roth book I didn't hate since The Human Stain); Dear American Airlines (sweet story/great voice); Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (a scientific text--utterly terrifying); The White Tiger (great book all around); Her Last Death (extraordinary memoir)

Worst of the year were Twilight (almost unreadable) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (cloyingly cutesy). Then again, I haven't read Tuesdays with Morrie...