Books

This list is more for me than anyone else. I read a lot but have a horrible memory, so I wanted to keep track of what I’ve read throughout the year, with the most recent at the top (except graphic novels – grouped at the bottom). If it’s something I would recommend, I’ll bold it. Let me know if you have any trouble getting a hold of a copy of something here you’re wanting to read, as nearly everything I read is a physical book I’ve bought.

2018

  • Halldór Laxness, World Light (This is probably my least favorite of the 5 Laxness books I’ve read so far, but I’m always sad to not have a Laxness book on the go. Though my aim is to read all of the Laxness books that are available in English, this one was on my list after reading the description of Kjartan Sveinsson’s gorgeous opera Der Klang Der Offenbarung Des Göttlichen, which features lyrics taken from the book and translated into German.)
  • Nick Cave, And the Ass Saw the Angel (Though I already had 4 other books on the go, I couldn’t resist starting this once I got my used copy [a reissue by Henry Rollins’ press, 2.13.61] from Powell’s. And once I started, I found it hard to put down, and was thinking about Euchrid, the main character, while I wasn’t reading it. A book hasn’t done that for quite some time, and yet I’m simultaneously sad and relieved to be done it, as it’s a completely engrossing read but also a constant, almost draining struggle between absolutely despising Euchrid and feeling the utmost sympathy for him. Definitely recommend for those up to the challenge.)
  • Sophokles, Antigonick, translated by Anne Carson
  • Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Anne Carson, Float (Carson’s writing is magical and unexplainable, always making me want to write something bizarre and wonderful. And though this technically took me about a year to read, the structure of this ‘book’ – a series of completely separate booklets of various unnumbered lengths in a slipcover meant to be read in any order – means that it can be left and returned to at any point. And indeed, after a long break after my first sitting, I reread what had been and remains my favorite booklet of the bunch, “Wildly Constant”, set in Stykkishólmur, the cute Icelandic town where we took a ferry to the Westfjords after first driving to the end of a road to look at the closed Vatnasafn, or ‘Library of Water’. This poem was commissioned in 2009 by the Vatnasafn’s ‘librarian’, Roni Horn, for a performance accompanied by music by Kjartan Sveinsson [once of Sigur Rós] and Ólöf Arnalds. What I didn’t know before logging this book is that Carson did a residency at Vatnasafn [in 2008], during which she composed the poem “Cage a Swallow Can’t You But You Can’t Swallow a Cage”, which Sveinsson responded to with the musical piece of the same name that I have listened to countless times, performed in NY at that White Light Festival that I will always regret missing. Everything for me lately seems to always return to NY and Iceland…)
  • Denis Johnson, The Laughing Monsters
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, The Fifty Year Sword
  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
  • Ada Palmer, The Will to Battle
  • Michael Chabon, Mysteries of Pittsburgh
  • Reinhard Kleist, Nick Cave: Mercy on me (If you’re a Nick Cave fan, this is an absolute must. Kleist magically weaves a biography on Cave [circa teenage years and The Boys Next Door up to the Bad Seeds’ Push the Sky Away] with characters from Cave’s lyrics, leaving you wondering what is fact and what is fiction, not unlike the film 20,000 Days on Earth. Absolutely brilliant, and definitely one of my favorite graphic novels ever. Kleist also wrote a Johnny Cash graphic novel, which is now on my list…)
  • Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, Monstress (2015-present), issues #13-15 (As stated below, this will likely be my favorite comic ever. It’s like Jessica Jones mixed with Sandman, and art that calls to mind Alexander McQueen. Gorgeous.)
  • Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, Descender (2015-present), issues #1-29
  • Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici, Oblivion Song (2018-present), issues #1-2
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead (2003-present), issues #1-174
  • Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones (2016-2018), issues #15-18 (R.I.P. to this brilliant series. Someone else will continue to be writing Jessica comics, but without the creator of the character who got me interested in comics, I’m not sure I’ll keep reading. All the best at DC, Mr. Bendis!)
  • Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, The Defenders (2017-2018), issues #8-10

2017

  • Ada Palmer, Seven Surrenders (Still not sure what I think about this series, but I will continue to read them…)
  • Sjón, The Whispering Muse (Well, this book was completely delightful, mixing Greek and Latin mythology with Icelandic/Scandinavian tales, starring a ridiculous main character who is fun to dislike. So my uncertainty about Sjón’s The Blue Fox [see below] isn’t due to his writing, but rather specific to the events of that book, not unlike how I wasn’t sure I liked Jeremy Irons as an actor after The Lion King until I saw Kingdom of Heaven and realized I conflated character and plot with the skill of the person. I have weird hang-ups, what can I say.)
  • Leonora Carrington, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (I had never heard of Leonora Carrington before seeing this collection of short stories recommended by my favorite bookstore, the Strand, I think in a list of must-read female authors. I’m typically not a fan of short stories in general, I think because I love being immersed in a single story for hours/days/months at a time, a story that I can’t wait to get back to once I do all my normal daytime adult things, and short stories are typically one-shot, wham bam thank you ma’am deals. But I had a gift card and felt like I should try something I normally wouldn’t spend my book dollars on, so I got this. And, my goodness, this is a clear winner of book of the year for me, and will quite likely remain my favorite short story collection of all time. As a surrealist painter, it makes sense that her writing is also surreal, and every single story in this collection is a complete delight, and a complete surprise. I will be getting everything I can get my hands on from her next year, no gift card necessary.)
  • Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, The Familiar, Vol. 5 – Redwood (If you haven’t yet heard of this literary experiment, it’s not too late to join the ride. This is only #5 of 20-some planned volumes in a serial novel centered around a girl and her mysterious pet cat that are somehow connected with people from all over the world. While each book is over 800 pages, each is more like 200ish of actual text, the rest consisting of word art, illustrations, and perfectly designed space that suck you into the book’s wide-reaching world.)
  • Nick Cave, The Sick Bag Song (Easily one of my favorite books ever, this part tour diary/part bizarro epic poem makes me feel the teensiest bit better that I inexplicably missed seeing Nick Cave perform in my own city during the tour that is documented, particularly because the chapter on my city is clearly the best one in the whole 117-page book.)
  • John Green, Turtles All the Way Down
  • Denis Johnson, Already Dead: A Californian Gothic (This is unlike any of Denis Johnson’s other works, with very strong Hermann Hesse tones, perfect for reading around Halloween.)
  • Denis Johnson, Angels (R.I.P., one of the greatest modern writers)
  • Sjón, The Blue Fox (I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. It starts off like a screenplay for a Björk music video, which makes sense since the author writes lyrics for Björk, but then it gets like super dark. Which I’m totally fine with [e.g., my new favorite comic, Monstress], but maybe not when it has to do with one of the most magical creatures I’ve ever come across, the blue morph Arctic fox. I’ll reserve judgment until I read another Sjón book…)
  • Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning (I’m also not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I got a copy after reading that the writer had a similar style as Neal Stephenson, but with the ability to actually end a book well. And I can totally see that, but this is the first in a series [trilogy, I think?], so the end is still far off. I’m fascinated by the world that’s been built in the first book and do have some trust in the author since she’s a professor of history, but I’m a bit on edge about where the story is going to end up, based on the themes. Again, I’ll reserve judgment until I read the 2nd in the series…)
  • Oddný Eir, Land of Love and Ruins
  • Mayte Garcia, The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard, Some Rain Must Fall (My Struggle: 5) (Basically a maximalistic autobiography with possibly no/many embellished details and zero plot, this series is unlike any I’ve ever read before. Having randomly picked up the first in the series in my local bookstore, I’ve been tearing through each volume as soon as an English translation comes out. However, 5 books into this extremely voyeuristic series of 6 ‘novels’, I cycle between completely understanding the author and thinking what a pretentious git he [or at least his 20-something self] is. And perhaps exactly that is the appeal. The non-linear timeline from book to book is rather ingenious too, as I have no clue how the series will end, whether it’ll be a portrait of him as no longer a young man, or whether it’ll end Benjamin Button style.)
  • Mark Yarm, Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge (I started this book 2 years ago after I had suddenly discovered so-called ‘grunge’ music…yes, I know I was late to the game, but I had led a very sheltered life until university and am still discovering what should’ve been the music of my childhood…Really only knowing Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains, and then Mad Season, I quickly got distracted looking up bands I wasn’t yet familiar with, like Green River. The day of Chris Cornell’s death, I picked this up again and finally finished it, discovering a whole plethora of new-to-me bands and albums in the process. Even without being from Seattle or even aware of the scene when it was happening, this book has affected me quite a bit, and I can’t help but feel retroactively connected to it all somehow, having just discovered these albums and listening to them non-stop and then reading about the environment that produced them and the too-often tragic ends of the bands. If you have any interest in the Seattle scene at the time, this is a must, with the warning that it’s, obviously, quite intense and hard to read at some times, particularly with Chris Cornell now gone as well.)
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, The Familiar, Vol. 4 – Hades
  • Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game (I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with so-called great Canadian literature, but so far I’m just not getting it. Last year I tried and rather disliked Nicole Brossard’s Mauve Desert, though, granted, much of it was read in waiting rooms while my man was broken and Iceland was pushed 3 months further. I at least thought I’d do better with a novel from a songwriter, but Mr. Cohen was not the answer. Not sure what to try next from my own country, aside from the Anne Carson [Float] I have on the go…)
  • Halldór Laxness, Wayward Heroes
  • Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
  • John Darnielle, Universal Harvester (This is the 2nd most terrifying book I’ve ever read [the 1st being Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves], but the terror largely comes from how the book is crafted rather than what happens, a feat that requires perfect execution and literary command. I highly recommend this book…if you’re willing to be unsettled.)
  • Terry Jones, Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic (Basically Monty Python does Hitchhiker’s Guide – totally delightful.)
  • Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge (I don’t know why I didn’t find this book sooner – Carrie Fisher is a brilliant novelist.)
  • Carrie Fisher, Shockaholic
  • Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking (A must before reading Shockaholic.)
  • Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth
  • Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (This is one of my favorite books ever.)
  • Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening and Volume 2: The Blood (I picked up the first volume randomly at my local comic book store, basically because of the art and Neil Gaiman’s recommendation on the cover. And after blowing through the collection of the first 6 issues in a couple hours, I think this will be my favorite comic ever. It’s like Jessica Jones mixed with Sandman, and art that calls to mind Alexander McQueen. Gorgeous.)
  • Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, The Defenders (2017-present), issues #1-7 (This new series gives more Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, so it’s an obvious must for me. I have no current opinion on Iron Fist or Daredevil though, so this is their chance to convince me…)
  • Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones (2016-present), issues #1-14
  • Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones: Avenger (A must if you’ve read the Jessica Jones: Alias and Jessica Jones: The Pulse issues/collections and want to move onto the new Jessica Jones series.)
Advertisements