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Saturday, January 7, 2012

100 Books: The Conclusion (For Now)

"I read more books in 2011 than this clown and I have a country to run. Wanker."

I set forth as a goal in the beginning of 2011 to read 100 books. I read 48 books.  I'm sure I'm forgetting a book or two, but damn, I didn't even get halfway toward my goal.

So I'll be doing this again in 2012, until I make it.Then it's 100 movies.

Here is a list of the books I read in no particular order, with brief, perhaps meaningless commentary if I felt like providing it while typing.

My Infamous Life by Prodigy of Mobb Deep
Ever talked to someone who's been through a lot, but seems to have learned nothing from all those troubles. Yeah, this book is like that. Entertaining though. Very, very violent. What I learned was that even when the stupidity of Prodigy and his crew cause them to be shot up, Prodigy is a hero. Still one of the greatest rappers on the '90s. Disconcerting to hear some of the actual violence behind the violent lyrics. Makes it less of a fantasy. More menacing and ultimately senseless.

Backsass by Fred Chappell
Owned this book for a long time. Always read the title as Backass.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Brilliant book by a brilliant writer. So much narrative tension. There's a lot to learn in here about the craft (creating sharp characters, plotting) and if you don't want to learn about craft and you just want to keep turning pages, yeah, Ms. Jones Brings it. I gave this as a Christmas gift to my sister-in-law. I hope she's as blown away as I was.

True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
Very short book with a lot of depth. Barely 100 pages, but it took me a while to read. So much to ponder. I read it originally a few years ago before my girlfriend (now wife) and I broke up briefly. We were supposed to read it to understand our relationship. She accused me of taking all the lessons and applying them to my writing life instead of to the relationship and you know what? I was. Never finished it back then. It belonged to her and I left with her. And then we got back together.

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson
What a dick.

Mailer: A Biography* by Hilary Mills
God, another fucking dick.
*I have an asterisk by this one because I couldn't finish it on account of the fact that my copy was defective. Instead of the last 30 or so pages, it just repeats the previous two chapters. Pissed me off.

Quantum Lyrics by A. Van Jordan

Briefs by John Edgar Wideman

Abstraktion Und Einfuhlung by Percival Everett

Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada
I taught this book in English 101. Very insightful. Made me reflect on the violence of my youth. I think the students got a lot out of it.

So You Know It's Me by Brian Oliu

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Kevin Powell
My God these poems are bad. His dialect poems appear to have been ghostwritten by the woman who wrote The Help. If he were white, I would be offended. The rest of the poems are no good either.

Demo vol. 2 by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
Mediocre follow up diminishes the brilliance of Vol. 1

The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
Some ideas here are dated, but a lot to think about as an educator who's trying to teach people to think for themselves instead of parroting. Most kids come in with very low critical thinking skills. I'll probably need to re-read it at some point. I'm trying to do a lot of reading on education to sharpen what at time feels like a losing battle. This was to be the first of a bunch of books on educating the mis-educated, but I lost the thread of that and need to return to it.

Seven Guitars
Two Trains Running
The Piano Lesson
Radio Golf
Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
King Hedley
Gem of the Ocean
All of the above are by my hero August Wilson. It constitutes the most significant works of his oevure. This go-through Wilson's work, I read them in the order they were published (which is not the order above). Great to see his development. I took away a lot about the use of dialogue and how it needs to represent the essence of how we speak, "the sound of it" and not necessarily be exactly how we speak. Beautiful work.

Missing You, Metropolis by Gary Jackson

Ayiti by Roxane Gay
Special book. Special person. Check the last story, "A Cool, Dry Place." Mindblowing. 

B Jenkins by Fred Moten

Grim Tales by Norman Lock

The Glen Rock Book of the Dead by Marion Wink

During my Nervous Breakdown I Want to Have a Biographer Present by Brandon Scott Gorrell
Felt annoyed by the lack of page numbers or interesting imagery. Bored most of the time. Some interesting moments, insights.

Please Don't be Upset by Brandi Wells
A really visceral writer. Though at times it seems forced. Enjoyed it overall.

Donald by Eric Martin and Stephen Elliot
Fuck this book. It made me feel sympathy for a (fictional) Donald Rumsfeld.

Two Minutes of Light by Nancy K. Pearson

Limestone by Anthony Kellman
An uneven epic poem. The opening section is the strongest.

Babyfucker by Urs Allmen
Look past the title. Past the premise (if the premise is even the premise). You'll learn a lot about language. And it's a translation!

Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves us by Laura van den Berg
Amazing set of stories. Seems like a lot of thought went into the order of stories so it pays off as a book, rather than just a grouping of stories. Each story features a women in the midst of some sort of transition. They are all involved in the sciences in some way. The first and last stories are showstoppers. I picked it up just to skim it and in a day or two I was done with it. Nice work.

The Weather Stations by Ryan Call
Another really special set of stories. Many ways to read this. As a collection? Linked stories? A novel? The world these stories take place in is so far from our world, but it the work is all about our world and is very, very urgent. And the guy just won an award for the book!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
I talk about it in this interview. And I make fun of this misguided guy's efforts to sanitize it here. Love it.

God Hates us All
This is the oddest pop culture tie-in I've ever seen. On the show Californication Fox Mulder  David Duchovny plays a sex addicted writer who wrote a classic novel and now goes around having sex with young hot women instead of writing. He fucks up his family and hurts his daughter in his pursuit of P. The novel he wrote is called God Hates us All.  I resolved to stop watching this show many times. In the first season, I said I would stop and then one of the later episodes in the season was one of the best hours of television I've ever seen. Then the show got ridiculous again and I figured I was done and then all the dumb shit he'd done throughout the past couple seasons came back to haunt him and I had to keep watching to see how it would play out and to figure out how I could make my writing life like his. Actually, my wife probably wouldn't let me. Bummer. But then at the end of the season everything was back to normal and the consequences of his thoughtlessness turned out to be not that deep. Anyway, this book is supposedly the "literary classic" the fictional character, Hank Moody, wrote. It's not a classic. It's kind of entertaining. Does not feature any of the characters of the show or nod to any of the plot points. It barely advertises the show on the book cover (just a circle in the top left hand corner and a picture of the characters on the back). You even have to do some digging around to find out who actually wrote it (some guy who wrote some books on poker).  So it fails as a vehicle to promote the show. It just looks like any other book. It fails as a novel. I was mildly entertained, I guess. It's not the classic they speak of on the show. Things like this are best left imaginary. Now every time I watch the show I think, This clown wrote a silly book, why should I care about him? I bought the thing on a whim. The guy behind the counter nearly had a heart attack looking at the title. Then he tried to sell me some atheist books.

An American Requiem by James Carroll
Looks like I read one two memoirs all year. It's a sharp one. It's about a guy who leaves the priesthood to become poet. Some Stephen Daedelus shit. But not only that, his father was a high ranking FBI spook. They clashed over Vietnam. Very poetic and honest. A view on society that you rarely get. The fact that it's good literature is a bonus!

The Science of Forgetting by Bro. Yao

The Daughter's Exchange by Valerie Prince 

Normally Special by xTx

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The Official Catalog of Potential Literature edited by Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager

Bayou Vol 1.
Bayou Vol 2.
by Jeremy Love

Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words edited by Robert Smartwood

Another post coming soon!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I finally read Percival Everett last year. Damn that man is good. 'Erasure' was phenomenal and I need to read more of his stuff ASAP. Graywolf is pubbing some great authors and has a lot of diversity. Hope they get more media attention.