Post Christmas means it’s time for all the end of the year recaps and lists, lists, lists of Best Movies, Best Books, Biggest News Stories, and my personal favorite: Best Celebrity Humiliations (Who would have ever dreamed that Bill friggin’ Cosby could fall from grace with a larger and more blinding comet trail of fire and destruction than Justin Beiber?)
So, in the spirit of our need to quantify our experiences of the outgoing year, I am making a list of my own. A list called “All The Shit I Read This Year”. The good. The bad. The too confusing to categorize. Here they are: Happy New Year.
January: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Sometimes I want to read a book that is not too complicated or too dark, which is my usual repertoire. Jane is a sure thing for a feel-good book. I know there will be a happy ending before I read the first sentence of the first chapter and there is comfort in that. Like most Austen books, this one is about an unmarried woman and a misunderstanding which gets straightened out and leads to the unmarried woman getting married. A sweet and predictable way to start the year? Sure, why not.
February: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Part 2 of the Lunar Chronicles and current trend of modernizing classic fairy tales. This one centers on Little Red Riding Hood who has been revamped into a sassy French farmer/delivery pilot with a mean tomato pitch if you make her mad. These are fun and cute, but I admit, I don’t read these for myself but rather aloud to my kids who seem to like them. My favorite part of this book was my discovery, or rather re-discovery, of Croque Monsieur sandwiches….mmmm….
March: Moby Dick by Herman Melville. My mentor at the time told me that I couldn’t graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing unless I read Moby Dick. What a weird, long, semi-homo-erotic, wonderful book. Moral of the story: don’t overfish or a huge white sperm whale will kick your blubber-loving ass.
April: Sula by Toni Morrison. I barely remember what this one was about. Something about two girls growing up, one nice, one messed up. Death to various characters happen in horrible ways. Fire, drowning. Bees? Was there death by bees in this one? Or was it an STD? I can’t even remember. All I know is don’t ever befriend someone named Sula or she will screw your husband doggy-style on the floor. That part I do remember.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. A gothic love story with death, revenge, necrophilia and other kinds of sweet nothings. I loved this book. There are about one thousand film adaptations of this book, so I followed it up with the 2009 version starring Tom “Bane” Hardy and Charlotte Riley who were a real life couple at the time. Maybe they still are. I don’t know and don’t care because they smoked on the screen.
Sanctuary by William Faulkner. With all due respect to Mr. Faulkner, this is a seriously messed up book. Haunting and beautifully written of course, but good golly, I will never look at corn cobs the same way again. That’s all I’m going to say.
May: Affliction by Russell Banks. Another awesome installment on the literary bookshelf by one of my favorite (and should be yours too) American authors. A caveat though: there is a movie version and it sucks. I mean, it stars Nick Nolte, so…
June: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks. Another by the good author. I have purposely delayed reading this book since I became aware of it last winter. When I found out that Russell bestsellingauthor Banks wrote a book with a premise that is similar to the novel I’m working on, I wanted to curl into a fetal position (a fetus that clings to a bottle of warm chardonnay, that is) and hide under my covers. I still sort of want to do that, because it’s a really damn good book. Damn damn damn it all to hell. Sigh. But you should read mine too. Mine will be totally different. In a similar way kind of way, but different. Shit.
July: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Try making a reservation at Dorsia’s now you stupid fucking bastard! You all know what it’s about. And I’m ashamed that I came to this particular party decades too late. Let’s just say its bloody and it’s bloody brilliant and it’s probably my new favorite book. Read it if you haven’t yet. And see the movie too. I dare you not to have a dozen or so favorite new catch phrases afterwards.
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. This book is by one of my cool mentors at SNHU. NY Times bestseller, y’all. It’s about a dysfunctional Jewish family, but I think anyone can recognize their own family in these pages regardless of religious affiliation. It’s funny and sad and will make you want to order Chinese food. At least it did for me.
Cress by Marissa Meyer. Book number 3 in the Lunar Chronicles. This one’s about Rapunzel. Except in the future she is trapped in a satellite in space instead of a stone tower in the middle of the woods. Clever and cute.
August: Rabbit is Rich by John Updike. The third book of the Rabbit series and the first of two in the series to win the goddamn Pulitzer. Deservedly. DAMN, I wish I could be John Updike when I grow up.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. This is the book that piqued the interviewer that asked the question that pissed off the author that started the debate in the house that Random built. All writers should be so lucky to have their book cause a near riot amongst New York authors. The debate is about unlikeable protagonists, or more finely, unlikable female protagonists. Discuss and please feel very cultured while you do.
October: Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Who doesn’t love anything by Neil Gaiman, that’s what I would like to know. The man is a genius. And that he’s a British ex-pat living in the United States makes him extra cool by my standards. He’s also a cat person. Double points.
November: The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. I’ve already established that I love John Updike and while this book had the foundation of words that only badass writers like Updike can string together, I don’t really like him writing from the female perspective. It feels off somehow. It’s still good, but not my favorite. Anyway, it spawned a movie with one of the best Jack Nicholson scenes ever.
December: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Holy shit. What a weird ass book. If you are an animal, insect, or children lover, advocate for the mentally ill, or just a normal person, you will probably be offended by this book. It’s super short though, so you won’t be offended for long.
They Call Me Crazy by Kelly Stone Gamble. Debut novel by one of my SNHU alums. It’s fun and funny, just like you would expect from a book about someone getting knocked in the head with a shovel. Check it out.
So what’s that, like eighteen books this year? Not bad. Baby steps compared to some speed demon readers I know, but good enough for me. Happy New Year everybody.
What I’m reading now: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (See? I’m already working on next years reading list).