Favorite books, 2011 (reposted from Facebook)
I’ll probably read another book or two before the year’s done, but I need to procrastinate now, not later. So, here are my favorite books I read this year (in the order I read them, not in order of preference):
The Book of Right and Wrong, Matt Debenham – Great story collection. The standout involves a 70s-era elementary school mock-presidental debate gone wrong. Debenham’s also worth following on Twitter.
Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow – I’d been meaning to read one of his novels for some time, and this was the one most recommended. I feel like I lived the first two decades of the 20th century, having read this. Shades of today’s Occupy movement in there, too.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Mohammed Hanif – I don’t think the whole was as great as the parts, but the parts were excellent. Surprisingly funny. It’s no Catch-22, but I get why people make the comparison.
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt – Two years in a row, DeWitt’s on the list, and he only has two books. Of course, my list is THE LIST authors need to be on.
The Corpse Walker, Liao Yiwu – What Doctorow did for my view of early 20th century New York, Liao Yiwu did for my view of modern/contemporary China. This book is a collection of the writing that’s had him on the run from Chinese officials.
How the Dead Dream, Lydia Millet – I thought I’d love Stanley Elkin’s The Franchiser, but I didn’t. This book is all the reasons I thought I would.
Us, Michael Kimball – You can read this one in a single sitting, and you probably will. It’s intensely sad, but not in the way you expect from literary fiction. It’s about an elderly man preparing for his wife’s inevitable death. The writing is astoundingly good.
Life, Inc, Douglas Rushkoff – It’s a bit uneven, but the last few chapters ought to be essential reading if you dislike the amount of corporate interaction in your daily life. His history of currency is fascinating.
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – I didn’t want to admit how much I enjoyed this book, but I’d have to be dead inside not to. Read the description online. If you think it’ll appeal to you, YOU WILL LIKE IT. If you don’t, IT WON’T. It’s exactly the book everybody says it is.
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi – If you like Neal Stephenson or near-future dystopic scifi, this is probably a book you’ll enjoy.
Too Close To Miss, John Perich – My friend John’s first novel. If you’re looking to read a well-paced, true-to-Boston thriller with a great, original character, get the ebook for Kindle, Nook, iPad, or whatever electronic device you use.
A Handbook of American Prayer, Lucius Shepard – This reminded me so much of what I love about Charles Portis, with a little David Lynchian twist in it. It’s a dark, thought-provoking satire of spirituality in America, but it’s a satire that’s character driven, not an idea hammer.