“There was always damage”: Books Read in 2011

Though I’m juggling the Marriage Plot, Pulphead, and a reread of All Star Superman over the next few days, now seems as good a time as any to review another year in reading.

Books read in 2011: 103

Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 12

Books of poetry included in reading total: 2

Books reread included in reading total: 5

Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 26

YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 26

A few thoughts and highlights (maybe you wan’t to compare them to 2010 and 2009):

Of the novels I read this year, The Instructions is the one that was least talked about that really deserves to be more widely read. Staggering in ambition, Adam Levin’s debut novel achieves in ways that, I felt, push contemporary fiction forward. (Than again, maybe I just really like books about child prodigies.) I also previously wrote about the fact that The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was so good I bought extra copies to hand out to people (but mention it again in case you are looking for another child prodigy book that is absolutely incredible).

Though I only finished it two nights ago, Miranda July’s It Chooses You is a remarkable tome that documents (among other things): interviews with people selling stuff in the Penny Saver, writer’s block, tadpoles, a talking cat named Paw Paw, how to anger Don Johnson, and an ailing amateur actor with a penchant for writing dirty limericks for his wife. It’s a charming and affecting book that is worth reading regardless of your appreciation for July’s fiction, art, or films.

Not a big year for me for BSRAYDEKWTDWT or for poetry. However, I found Anne Carson’s Nox to be a thoughtful and powerful elegy that plays with form and text in ways that push at the limits of genre.

Though not usually one to read much science fiction, I found that in the second half of the year, I read four different books that deal largely with commerce and capitalism in virtual worlds. The role of gold farming, nostalgia, and free-will seeped in these texts that ranged from geared toward young adults to philosophical examinations of love and freedom within virtual spaces. Similarly, two different books I read dealt thoughtfully with the role of time travel and human connection. (And the way I ended up reading When You Reach Me may or may not have anything to do with time travel and alternate realities, depending on if you ask Ally, Peter, or Anni)

Though I perhaps initially picked it up because it relates to my research purposes (and because Cathy Davidson is an amazing blogger), Now You See It is one of the most fascinating and accessible books I read this year. I hesitate to offer any other description of the book other than to say that it changes the way you think about the way we are changing the way we think.

Summing up a year in pages and texts is a bit terrifying. In counting out each book and categorizing the handful that are willing to be categorized, I essentially trace out my own book-reading mortality. For example, if I average between 80 and 110 books a year from now through the future, I can get a reasonably close approximation of the number of books I’ll be able to read in my life. And when it becomes clear that there are only a finite number of books left for me to have time to read (let’s generously say 4500 books for the sake of argument), it makes choosing each book feel like an ever more precious decision. Do I really want to waste one of my remaining choices with a mass-market paperback? Or even worse, do I dare go back and read an old favorite? In many ways, choosing to be undiscerning and blissfully ignorant of the remaining number of books I’ve left to read is much more comfortable than essentially “measuring out my life in coffee spoons.”

1 thought on ““There was always damage”: Books Read in 2011

  1. Surftorialist

    I only read 15 books. I feel like an underachiever. Maybe if I compile all the New Yorker short stories and podcasts as 1-2 books, that will bring my total up to 16? 17? T.S. Spivet and Miranda July on the list for 2012. thanks for the suggestions

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