My 2008-09 Faves

September 16, 2009

Okay, so I keep a log of everything I read each year. For 2008-2009, I read exactly 113 books. Here are some of my favourites from the past year:

  • Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the American Empire – graphic non-fiction – He doesn’t “blow my mind” like Good Will Hunting suggested, but he does find new ways to present history in two ways: graphically, of course, and “from below.”
  • Jim Thompson – The Alcoholics, South of Heaven, The Killer Inside Me, etc – crime fiction – he’s gotten more popular over the years, especially after a series of movie adaptations starting with the Grifters. All in all, his first-person voice is note-perfect whether he writing the psychopath, the thief or the alcoholic.
  • Michael Lewis – Moneyball – sport journalism – I’m a tad jealous of this writer because he’s so darn successful, but you can’t deny his wonderful style. Even if you dislike baseball and all corporate cultures, you will find this story of a perpetual underdog competing cleverly with bigger opponents to be an engaging read.
  • Joan Didion – Miami – I don’t always follow her tangents, dut Didion’s clear writing is a joy and wonder to follow from page to page. Her sketches of the Cuban community provide more insight than you might find otherwise on television or in print.
  • Cory Doctorow – Content – internet journalism – this guy is on the cutting edge of the creative commons, etc. His dissection of the futility of digital rights management and “ownership” in the digital age is food for thought.
  • Howard Brenton/David Hare – Pravda – play – I love British drama and I love satire, especially when it turns its attention to the modern media. Great read for a gloomy afternoon!
  • The Bill McKibben Reader – environmental journalism – I was pleasantly surprised with McKibben’s mix of environmental activism and sincere spirituality. It’s a great introduction to his work and far more enjoyable than, say, clunky Paul Hawken.
  • John Steinbeck – The Long Valley and The Grapes of Wrath – fiction – I came back to Steinbeck after a long break and his work holds up over time. In the short story collection, “The Red Pony” will tug at your heart as strongly as “Old Yeller.” The novel will probably make you want to join the communist party.
  • Jock and Andy Diggle – The Losers – graphic novels – this re-vamp of the WWII team is updated for the post-9/11 age. I disliked the conclusion, but the story is a welcome break from the general stupidity of mainstream superhero comics. Note: a film version of this series should be completed next year, directed by Peter Berg and co-starring Idris Elba. It’s going to be great!

Whew! Now, I’m going to have to read through my backlog for 2009-2010. I’ll try to be more regular in my reviews. Smaller is easier than bigger to manage.

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Books of Impact!

August 31, 2009

This is a response to something I did on Facebook. My friend Hume suggested that I (and many others) select fifteen books I’ve read that will always stick with you. Choose the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. In no particular order with further annotations:

  1. The Bible, edited by Jehovah – Okay, I don’t live by it, but I kind of agree with Northrop Frye that it is the template for most of Western Literature.
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis – Too Christian for me now, but I loved these stories at one time.
  3. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner – his crisp prose and mix of fiction and non-fiction showed me a different way of writing.
  4. Memory of Fire by Eduardo Galeano – this is what Pierre Berton could have done if he thought “continental.”
  5. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. leGuin – beautiful story about “making choices.”
  6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick – the basis for Blade Runner.
  7. Class by Paul Fussell – this book made me laugh at myself and secretly hope that I can return to my working-class ancestral roots.
  8. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut – an ode to the art of illustration in a roundabout way.
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – more prescient than 1984, assuming that both books are supposed to be prophecies.
  10. The Star Rover by Jack London – nice reincarnation story.
  11. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow – words to live by: “a educated man with a business is a king.”
  12. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I can’t believe I did it!
  13. East of Eden by John Steinbeck – pretty Biblical in its plot and themes, but makes you want to move to California.
  14. Content by Cory Doctorow – opened my mind to different ways of viewing content “ownership.”
  15. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman – his mass media criticsm may seem quaint now, but he still makes some good points.

One person listed a series of magazines as one their “influential books.” This is a good line of thought to pursue. Why shouldn’t periodicals have as much influence on us as a book?