I have two perennial New Year’s Resolutions. One is to stop embarrassing myself on this ridiculous blog, grow up, and make something of myself. The other is to read fifty books during the calendar year. In 2012, as has previously been the case, I’ve accomplished the latter, egregiously failed the former. To celebrate another twelve months of regression, frivolous diversion, and arrested development, I’ve compiled a list of the fifty books I read in 2012, with accompanying 140-character microreviews for each, respectively.
A handful of the books listed below are of unlawful quality, should be read by you posthaste, by whatever means necessary (I’ll asterisk these*). Another handful are painstakingly bad; should you kindle any future fires, don’t provide them the displeasure of feeding them this cursed handful of books’ pages. Most of the books, though, occupy the uneven landscape between the ludicrously great and the ludicrously not so. That’s what the reviews are for, to differentiate.
In a better, brighter world, a world where I don’t experience existence as a series of potential tweets, a world where I could recall more about a book I’ve read than its title, these reviews would be diligently comprehensive, reflect in my reader’s reception the author’s painstaking dedication, regardless of quality. But I’m in this world, as you are, and these are the cursory reactions to the books I read this year, 2012. Every one of them deserves a less cursory reaction. Maybe if you read one or two, you can do them the honors. Or don’t, and enjoy this picture of me instead.
The 50 Books I Read in 2012, With The 140-Character Microreviews I Hastily Wrote For Each One, Respectively
(Listed Chronologically, In Order of My Reading Them)
1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
- This book’s PECOTA was staggering. Deservedly so. A ‘home run,’ if not an inside-the-parker.
2. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
- Pretty much Django Unchained, more or less.
3. The Great Frustration by Seth Fried
4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- Apt title.
5. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Had as much fun Googling this author’s name as I did reading her novel.
6. The Siege by Helen Dunmore
- Miss the twenty-three years I spent not having read this book, that’s the real siege.
7. The Crazed by Ha Jin
- Alternate Title: The Bored
8. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
- As Jewish as it is intermittently brilliant.
9. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
- The First Few Chapters >. Everything after <.
10. Regeneration by Pat Barker
- I should (see next).
11. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
- Have dropped (see next).
12. The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
- This class (Hashtag: regret).
13. Hot Pink by Adam Levin
- IMAGISTIC METAPHORS HEMORRHAGE ANALOGIES WITHIN THE CLUTCHES OF MY HEAVY HANDS (caps Levin’s).
14. A Journey to the End of the Millenium by A.B. Yehoshua
- I should have dropped that class.
15. The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
- An intense meditation on the erotic power of burgundy bras, as moving as a burgundy bra.
16. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- We are all of us terminally ill video game enthusiasts.
17. Magic Hours by Tom Bissell
- If you do cocaine and play Grand Theft Auto, I will read.
18. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro*
- 140 billion characters could not capture the quality of this book. Asterisks upon asterisks upon asterisks.
19. Tintin and the Secret of Literature by Tom McCarthy
- From what I recall, the Temple of the Sun is God’s Vagina reincarnated as a sepulcher.
20. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
- Being Jewish is to Nathan Englander is what being drunk is to this guy.
21. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers*
- The best book I read this year that was released this year.
22. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
- Liked viewing all those locations from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World from another point of view.
23. Suddenly a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret
- Brilliant here, opposite of brilliant there. Keret has the best Brad Listi Other People podcast, far and away.
24. An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Georges Perec
- Google Image this guy, you’ll get where this book is coming from.
25. How Fiction Works by James Wood
- Alternate Title: Why Your Fiction Continues Not to Work, Carmen
26. Four New Messages by Joshua Cohen
- Two Good Messages.
27. The Oresteia by Aeschylus
- Review pending A Manifesto on Space by Chris Prioleau
28. Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max
- Love Story: DFW composed parts of Infinite Jest while watching a continuous loop of the movie Beethoven.
29. Orientation by David Orozco
- Giving the title story an asterisk*.
30. Zippermouth by Laurie Weeks
- Try to discuss The King of Marvin Gardens with this author, if you can. Riveting.
31. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- Straight Outta Compton.
32. Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann
- Have already psychologically repressed this trauma.
33. King Kong Theorie by Virginie Despentes
- So much rape-gaze.
34. The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing
- Why give Philip Roth the Nobel Prize in Literature when you can give it to this person, right? Right?
35. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
- Excellent way to learn what an amanuensis is.
36. The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
- “The event pool is topographical.”
37. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
- This is how you backhand brag your way to a MacArthur Grant.
38. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
- James Wood likes this book more than I like anything. I see where he’s coming from.
39. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
- Book spoke to me. As a boy, I would regularly mistake strangers for my mother in Wawa.
40. The Death of Ivan Illych by Leo Tolstoy
- Like Chekov, this makes great use of the hysterical existential. Lines like, “Then he screamed in unending anguish for three days.” >.
41. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
- Famous for being great.
42. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
- The Savage Detectives>
43. Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
- Ben Marcus’s take on Donald Barthelme.
44. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
45. Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle
- No book spoke more to the dirty, old man inside me, sitting alone at the end of the bar, ten years from now, than this one.
46. Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace
- Less of a wallet snatch than This is Water, I suppose.
47. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
- This book occupies a special place in my memory palace, right next to Hitler clipping his toenails.
48. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller*
- We are all of us widowed pilots navigating a post-apocalyptic world with dwindling fuel.
49. The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim
- The hundred heart emoticons from me.
50. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- Roy? The babysitter? ROY?
*I did it.