Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's April and You Know What that Means...

A 2011 books read recap!  Am I ridiculously behind? Yes. Is this something I have have time to dwell on? Nope.  So without further ado or explanation I'm going to jump into my top ten favorite books read last year.  In no particular order:

"Survivor" by Chuck Palahnuik
Funny, insightful, horribly crass: this book won my heart for it's shear strangeness and over the top nature.  After having recently read "Fight Club" and really disliking it I wonder if this novel was really as great as I remember but I'm going to go with my gut and say yes.  If you're looking for a weird, interesting, easy read go no further.

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
A classic in both science fiction and the broader world of literature, a lot can be taken from Huxley's dystopian vision.  For those who haven't seen it yet, this comic does a nice job relating this book to our current world.  Social messages aside it's an engaging, well written novel that will leave you thinking.

"Light Boxes" by Shane Jones
Rarely do you encounter a novel that is simultaneously as unambitious in scope and as engagingly written as this slim volume.  It's a pretty straightforward allegory for Seasonal Affective Disorder that due to Jones' mastery of language becomes a beautiful little treat even if you've never heard of SAD before (I read it in March cowering inside trying to escape the 90 degree heat.)

"One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" is a sprawling masterpiece filled with enough magic to make you feel like a child again even as you read through Marquez's complex and entangling sentences.  The cast of characters, both strong and weak, spiteful and noble, genius and ignorant, are some of the best to ever appear in fiction.  I could go on praising it for quite awhile so I'm going to cut myself off and say if you have any interest in literature this is a must read.

"White Noise" by Don DeLillo
Darkly funny social satire, when done right, is probably my favorite type of writing so it's no wonder I liked this book so much.  Of the four DeLillo books I've read this is definitely the best.  It's cynical, humorous, often a bit ridiculous, and definitely not for everyone, but those who'll enjoy it at all will really love it.

"Point Omega" by Don DeLillo
Drastically different than "White Noise" it's often hard to tell this is written by the same person. "Point Omega" is more than a little pretentious but the core part of the novel, set in the desert and full of musings on the nature of time, had more of an effect of me than 99 percent of the books I read.  Its magic is not something I can really explain but I was completely lost within its scant 100 some pages.

"Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges will bend your mind.  His prose (or at least the translation) leaves something to be desired but his ideas more than make up for any shortcomings.  His philosophical ideas masquerading as short stories are easily the most interesting pieces I read all year.

"Eating the Dinosaur" by Chuck Klosterman
I like pop culture and I like to pretend it's important.  I even like to think that maybe it holds some universal truths.  Klosterman seems to be in the same boat.  His essays are interesting quick reads that embrace the trivial while at the same time never shy away from the big picture.

"By Night in Chile" by Roberto Bolano
Bolano is a master of prose and that shines through even in this translation.  I'm sure a lot of this eerie, morally ambiguous story went over my head but it was nonetheless powerful.  I plan to read more Bolano this year so maybe I'll have some better insights soon.  Regardless, this was a great first taste.

"Autobiography of Red" by Anne Carson
It's a poem, it's a novel, it's fantastic.  Carson has a way with words that drives this unconventional "novel in verse" from mythology to homosexuality to Latin America to volcanoes. There's a lot of disparate pieces that come together both beautifully and seamlessly in this vastly under-appreciated book.

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