06 January 2011


Usually I would rattle off a number of how many novels, memoirs, etc; I read over the past year, but as I examine my list, I'm seeing more than a few books falling into (or inbetween) multiple categories. Anyway, here's five that I really enjoyed:

Robert Altman: An Oral Biography - Mitchell Zuckoff (ed.)
Of course Altman's biography should be orally told--what better way to approach the effect of his films' deliberately messy, overlapping dialogue? With everyone from Julie Christie to Cher contributing, it's obviously entertaining but also resonant with echoes and contradictions, just like the omnipresent mirrors in The Long Goodbye.

Party Animals - Robert Hofler
A biography of Allan Carr, the larger-than-life caftan-enthusiast who found fame producing the film version of Grease and greater infamy for most of his following projects (including the Village People musical Can't Stop the Music). A frivolously fun must-read for aficionados of artistic folly, camp and 1970s/80s excess.

Zeitoun - Dave Eggers
Eggers' account of a Muslim family enduring Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath has all the richly-drawn characters and stop-at-a-dime plot twists of a great novel, even though it's a nonfiction work--perhaps the most damning and artful documentation of that disaster to date.

I Know I Am, But What Are You? - Samantha Bee
The Daily Show correspondent Bee's collection of scathingly funny essays presents a winning, bold but self-deprecating persona: she comes off like a friendly neighbor who seems perfectly normal at first glance until she relates to you the time she spent performing in a travelling live version of a Brazilian kids TV show. In other words, the closest female equivalent to David Sedaris I've yet read.

Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
One expected an ambitious, sprawling doorstop of a novel from Franzen, but never did I anticipate that it would surpass The Corrections. Once again, Franzen shows an innate knack for grabbing the reader's attention from the very first page and sustaining it; he also manages to somehow masterfully sum up the preceding decade's culture and attitude through a tale of one incredibly, touchingly flawed family.

My 2010 Booklist:

1. Eating the Dinosaur - Chuck Klosterman
2. Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut
3. I Shudder - Paul Rudnick
4. Hitchcock/Truffaut - Francois Truffaut
5. But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz - Geoff Dyer
6. Robert Altman: An Oral Biography - Mitchell Zuckoff (ed.)
7. Worst Song on Played Ugliest Guitar (Achewood Vol. 2) - Chris Onstad
8. On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno - David Sheppard
9. 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About - Joshua Clover
10. Chicago - Alaa Al Aswamy
11. Radio On - Sarah Vowell*
12. Dusty in Memphis (33 1/3 series) - Warren Zanes
13. Ripped - Greg Kot
14. The Living End - Stanley Elkin
15. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History - John Ortved
16. Last Words - George Carlin with Tony Hendra
17. Pure Drivel - Steve Martin*
18. Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates - Tom Robbins*
19. Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life - Steve Almond
20. Girls Like Us - Sheila Weller
21. Chronic City - Jonathan Lethem
22. Party Animals - Robert Hofler
23. Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris*
24. Girlfriend In a Coma - Douglas Coupland
25. The Discomfort Zone - Jonathan Franzen
26. Court and Spark (33 1/3 series) - Sean Nelson
27. Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs - Cheryl Peck
28. Trout Fishing in America - Richard Brautigan
29. The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
30. Role Models - John Waters
31. Zeitoun - Dave Eggers
32. Collected Stories - Carson McCullers*
33. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran - Rob Sheffield
34. I Was Told There'd Be Cake - Sloane Crosley
35. The Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolano
36. I Know I Am, But What Are You? - Samantha Bee
37. A Year at the Movies - Kevin Murphy*
38. Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950 - Mo Lotkin
39. Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist
40. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
41. My Year of Flops - Nathan Rabin
42. White Noise - Don DeLillo
43. One Day - David Nicholls
44. Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia - Jonathan Rosenbaum
45. Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? - Jancee Dunn
46. Too Much Happiness - Alice Munro

* re-read

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