Saturday, December 12, 2009

spiff & clunker

Everyone’s starting with year-end booklists, so I’m jumping in. Below are the books I’ve read in 2009. It may seem like a lot, but many are short e-books, or poetry collections I read in a couple days. I’ve starred my favorites in different categories.

The book I’m reading now – The Kindly Ones – may end up nudging The Book of Evidence out of the top spot in fiction, if I finish this year (hope!). But maybe not. Otherwise I struck out on novels this year overall. Too few really good ones, at least compared to last year. I did better with non-fiction. Although I picked Evocative Objects as the best non-fiction for this year, the Helen Vendler book on Wallace Stevens may have been better, and the hilarious memoir Running with Scissors is also worth the time, although I was reluctant to read it.

In poetry I picked New European Poets mostly for the spicy variety. There were terrific poems in there, but also some eye-rollers, as it must be in an anthology. There were some typos in the book, which bugs the crap out of me. So much care is put into it and then, boom, typos. I also liked Heather McHugh’s Hinge and Sign a lot, and Maurice Manning’s unexpectedly wonderful Bucolics.

Clunker of the year was definitely The Jewel of Medina, which was a gift from a well-meaning person (husband). I am lucky he tried the book, too, and had the same opinion I did, i.e. what is this shit? Apparently he thought the book would enrich our understanding of Islam! Instead it read like housewifey marshmallow-soft porn written by a sixth grader.

I’ll add books at the bottom if I manage any more before January.

1. Regarding the Pain of Others – Susan Sontag (Jan/Non-fiction)
2. The Jewel of Medina – Sherry Jones (Jan/Novel)
3. Hikikomori – Tao Lin and Ellen Kennedy (January/poetry ebook)
4. Observations from a Children's Bookstore – Ryan Bradley (Jan/poetry ebook)
5. The Ice Storm – Rick Moody (Jan/Novel)
6. Escapes – Joy Williams (Jan/Stories)
7. The Life and Times of Michael K. – JM Coetzee (Jan/Novel)
8. Wideawake Field – Eliza Griswold (Feb/Poetry)
9. Dirt Music – Tim Winton (Jan/Novel)
10. Caves - Matthew Simmons (Feb/poetry ebook)
11. Souvenirs – Bronwen Tate (poetry ebook)
12. Permanent Record – Ted Greenwald (Feb/poetry ebook)
13. The Voice at 3 am – Charles Simic (Poetry)
14. Poems for the Year – Chantel Guidry (Chapbook)
15. Yesterday I Was Talking to Myself – Ellen Kennedy (May/poetry ebook)
16. Meine Bilder – Francis Bacon (Art)
17. Going Fast – Frederick Seidel (Mar/Poetry)
18. Hinge & Sign – Heather McHugh (Mar/Poetry)
19. Crazed by the Sun - Lynn Strongin, ed. (Poetry)
20. a// long / division – Hanna Andrews (poetry chapbook)
21. The Unconsoled – Kazuo Ishiguro (May/Novel)
22. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen (May/Novel)
**23. The Book of Evidence – John Banville (May/Novel)**
24. The Crimson Petal and the White – Michael Faber (May/Novel)
25. Mandolintires – Philip Nikolayev (June/poetry ebook)
26. Prairies – Natalie Knight (June/poetry ebook)
27. Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell (June/Reportage)
28. Wolf Totem – Jiang Rong (June/Novel)
29. Imitation Animals – Julie Platt (June/Poetry ebook)
30. Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire – Helen Vendler (June/Lit Crit)
31. Rogue Male – Geoffrey Household (June/Novel)
32. Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell (June/Novel)
33. Manhunt – James Swanson (June/Non-fiction)
**34. New European Poets – Kevin Prufer, ed (July/Poetry)**
35. On the Beach – Nevil Shute (July/Novel)
36. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant –Jenni Ferrari-Adler, ed. (July/Essays)
37. Rising – Farrah Field (July/Poetry)
38. Inside Bone There’s Always Marrow – Rachel Mallino (July/Poetry chapbook)
39. Case Histories – Kate Atkinson (Novel)
40. Running with Scissors – Augusten Burroughs (Aug/Memoir)
41. All Shall Be Well, And All Shall Be Well – Tod Wodicka (Aug/Novel)
**42. Evocative Objects – Sherry Turkle, ed. (Aug/Essays)**
**43. Like You’d Understand, Anyway – Jim Shephard (Aug/Stories)**
44. Working in the Birdhouse- Justin Evans (Aug/Chapbook)
45. Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout (Sept/Novel)
46. The Private Life of Chairman Mao – Li Zhisui (Oct/Biography)
47. Butcher’s Crossing – John Williams (Oct/Novel)
48. Night Shift – Stephen King (Oct/Stories)
49. The Stray Dog Cabaret – Paul Schmidt, ed. (Oct/Poetry)
50. Mister Skylight – Ed Skoog (Nov/Poetry)
51. Cabinet – Claire Hero (Nov/Poetry chapbook)
52. Affliction – Russell Banks (Nov/Novel)
53. How to be Perfect – Ron Padgett (Nov/Poetry)
54. The Place You Love is Gone – Melissa Holbrook Pierson (Nov/Non-fiction)
55. Fabulae – Joy Katz (Nov/Poetry)
56. Moth Moon – Matt Jasper (Dec/Poetry)
57. Bucolics – Maurice Manning (Dec/Poetry)
58. Lark Apprentice – Louise Mathias (Dec/Poetry)
59. The Sad Epistles - Emma Bolden (Dec/Poetry chapbook)
60. The Kindly Ones - Jonathan Littell (Dec/Novel)
61. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die - Peter Boxall (Dec/List?)
62. No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy


Jill said...

"housewifey marshmallow-soft porn written by a sixth grader" is one of the funniest lines I've heard in a long, long time! Could be a poem title!

Kass said...

Impressive! The only one of these I've read is Water For Elephants. The title that intrigues me most is The Place You Love Is Gone. I think I'll give it a try. Thanks.

SarahJane said...

Kass, I didn't like "The Place You Love is Gone," although I agree that it sounds like it should be good. I didn't like the writing. The cover, however, was gorgeous.

Jill, it was nice to see you're at GoodReads, too. That Jewel of Medina book was just crap...

Jeff said...

Drat. Another list. I have the one you wrote out last year about this time, printed it, saved it, and swore myself to its completion. But like all things, I fell victim to distraction rather than curiosity and continued to make piles of to-do's throughout my house.

Still have that old list - wrote out some very important thoughts on the back. But like the list itself, some is lost to the creases. The fate of most good ideas.

But I've kept it in any case. Along with this new one. If anything, consider me loyal...

PS - I think I'll skip The Jewel of Medina...if you don't mind...

- J.

SarahJane said...

Thanks, Jeff. Last year I had more luck, I think, although there are some very good books on this list. Still there were a number on the downside - like Jewel of Medina, The Place You Love, a couple of the ebooks, Water for Elephants. I review most of the stuff I read at Good Reads. I'll find the link to my page if anybody's interested.

chocolategirl64 said...

for me 'the book of evidence' was a bit of an anticlimax : kept expecting more :
'burnt shadows' is my book of the year :
currently loving 'jitterbug perfume' for it's madness :
great list :
thank you for sharing ^_^

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