01 January 2010


In 2009, I read 22 novels, 11 memoirs, 10 nonfiction books (ranging from a cookbook of sorts to a history of American radio post World War II), 5 books of essays and/or lists, 2 short story collections and 1 graphic novel.

My five favorite books that I read this year:

Pictures at a Revolution - Mark Harris
This account of the five films nominated for Best Picture at the 1967 Academy Awards is, at once, a simple, obvious idea and an ingenuous premise for all of the possible directions it suggests and explores. A rich, highly entertaining narrative that may replace Easy Riders, Raging Bulls as the definitive account of how New Hollywood broke down the studio system.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
A Dickensian doorstop of a book, it feels wrong to call it an epic because of its sheer length. More finely tuned than that, it conjures up (sorry, couldn't resist) an elaborate fictional history of two dueling magicians in early 19th century England. It's compulsively readable precisely because the two leads are so memorably drawn.

The Magic Kingdom - Stanley Elkin
Elkin's inimitably dense, loquacious style kept him from ever becoming a household name. After tackling the brilliant but difficult George Mills last year, this far more accessible work was a pleasant surprise; the reason why it was not a popular success probably has something to do with it being about a man who takes a group of terminally ill children to Disneyworld. Neither depressingly maudlin or pointedly satirical, it's somewhere in between--clearheaded, humane, and at times, even droll.

My Winnipeg - Guy Maddin
I was not aware that Maddin had published a screenplay for his latest film until I found a copy of it in Toronto. And given that the film is a strange docu-fantasy hybrid, it makes perfect sense that Maddin would heavily annotate it. Better than a DVD commentary track, and essential for Maddin fans, including everything from a brief anecdote about Isabella Rossellini's pet pig to an extended account of working with the aptly named Ann Savage.

American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
Don't let the chick-lit friendly cover deter you: Sittenfeld's third novel is an imaginative, audacious, sobering look at a character explicitly based on Laura Bush that works as both a compelling, masterful novel and a fascinating alternate history.

The 2009 booklist (in order of when I finished each book):

1. Absurdistan - Gary Shteyngart
2. Joe College - Tom Perrotta
3. The Ferrari in the Bedroom - Jean Shepherd
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby
5. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick M. Lencioni**
6. The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell
7. Pictures at a Revolution - Mark Harris
8. The Film Club - David Gilmour
9. I Like You - Amy Sedaris
10. The Pitchfork 500 - Eds. Scott Plagenhoef and Ryan Schreiber
11. Microserfs - Douglas Coupland
12. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
13. Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
14. Morvern Callar - Alan Warner
15. Orange Roofs, Golden Arches - Philip Langdon
16. Then We Came to an End - Joshua Ferris
17. B is for Beer - Tom Robbins
18. Candy Freak - Steve Almond*
19. When I Grow Up - Juliana Hatfield
20. Faraway Places - Tom Spanbauer
21. Dance, Dance, Dance - Haruki Murakami
22. The Magic Kingdom - Stanley Elkin
23. Not Becoming My Mother - Ruth Reichl
24. Catherdral - Raymond Carver
25. Killing Yourself to Live - Chuck Klosterman*
26. Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld
27. Something in the Air - Marc Fisher
28. JPod - Douglas Coupland
29. The Great Rewind - Nathan Rabin
30. The White Album - Joan Didion
31. Kiss Me Like a Stranger - Gene Wilder
32. The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon - Tom Spanbauer*
33. Niagara Falls All Over Again - Elizabeth McCracken
34. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
35. Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs - John Lydon
36. Old Friend From Far Away - Natalie Goldberg
37. Runaway - Alice Munro
38. Heavy Rotation - Ed. Peter Terzian
39. My Winnipeg - Guy Maddin
40. Wrack and Ruin - Don Lee
41. Inventory - The Onion A.V. Club
42. Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
43. Dusty! Queen of the Postmods - Annie J. Randall
44. Another Green World (33 1/3) - Geeta Dayal
45. Kicking the Pricks - Derek Jarman*
46. That Old Cape Magic - Richard Russo
47. Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight - Chris Onstad
48. The Fortress of Solitude - Jonathan Lethem*
49. American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
50. You Better Not Cry - Augusten Burroughs
51. The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon

**assigned reading for work!
Maybe 2010 will be the year I finally get around to The Satanic Verses, which I picked up a used copy of for $3 back in 2003; I'd also like to devote a few weeks (months?) to reading an actual Dickens novel (I've only read A Tale of Two Cities--assigned in 7th grade!). Stay tuned...

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