That can’t be right… can it? That’s back to 2004 levels, when I had a needy one year old around the house. 2009 is a year where the kids would entertain themselves, and I could even sit on the couch and read while they were awake.
What happened this year? I think I’m going to blame it on the Spanish classes. I’ve been taking them for just over a year, and my lunch hours are pretty much dedicated to either taking the classes, or doing homework for them. There’s a lot of reading that I’ve done that doesn’t show up on this list because I haven’t finished. I’m almost through reading a Spanish translation of the Ghost World graphic novel (the slang makes it especially hard to translate), and there are three plays and a book of short stories that I’m working my way through.
In truth, I could also add most of The Magic Tree House books 1 through 36 to this list. But I’m not going to, out of pride.
At any rate, here’s the list…
1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
2. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
Graphic novels of an extensively researched imagined universe where the fictional characters of the Victorian era of our universe are real, e.g. Dr. Jekyl, The Invisible Man, Alice In Wonderland. Great graphic novels.
3. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Fantastic novel. I’m sad it took me this long to read it, but I was turned off by Great Expectations in high school.
4. Cringe edited by Sarah Brown
The Cringe Festival is like a poetry reading, except instead of poetry, you read excerpts of your teenage or younger diary, and cringe at who you used to be in front of other people. This book is a compilation of the most cringe-worthy stuff of past readings. Entertaining.
5. The Best American Essays 2005 edited by Susan Orlean.
As usual, a hit and miss collection of essays. I like essays, but not all essays. There were some good ones, usually from comedic type folks like Jonathan Franzen or David Sedaris.
6. How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen
An okay overview of some modern Popular Delusions. I enjoyed the much older 1841 work Extraordinary Popular Delusions as less stream of consciousness, and more scholarly. This has a bit more partisan than I’m comfortable with.
7. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett (pseudonym of Mark Anthony)
If Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell had a baby, it might be this book. But people would cluck their tongues and say “The talent gene skipped this generation.”
8. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
I had no business reading this, as its target audience is probably teenage girls. Or New Jerseyians. Anyway, not me.
9. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
Several people I know have gushed about this book, citing it as a book they re-read annually. It’s a well-written fantasy/alternate history novel that I was glad I read (some of the sections are outstanding), but probably won’t re-read at any point soon.
10. Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About by Mil Millington
A novel based on a website that probably should have stayed a website, not unlike The Flying Spaghetti Monster book.
11. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
This is the third book about teenage angst I read this year (see #4 and #8), but it is a very good one. Relentlessly annotated with real and made-up references (by relentlessly, I mean every 2-3 sentences have a footnote), it is a very richly detailed story that turns from run-of-the-mill outcast story to something darker.
12. Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans/Marian Evans)
Recommended by Nick Hornby, sort of, this is my first George Eliot novel, and it wasn’t my last, as this list will attest. Very witty, and well written.
13. Silas Marner by George Eliot
A short, simple work, but well-wrtten and enjoyable. Middlemarch was upper classes, Marner is lower.
14. Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
Do you like reading books? Have you read Nick Hornby’s books compiling his articles about reading books? If you answered No to either of those questions, you are dead to me. Resurrect yourself and get one of these from McSweeneys.com. If you answered Yes to both questions, aren’t these books awesome? I thought so. I mean, the man got me reading George Eliot and Charles Dickens for goodness sakes.
15. Adam Bede by George Eliot
Another well-written tale of the lower classes and the upper classes in contrast. The plot is not the point, the way it is told is.
16. Arkansas by John Brandon
A first novel, published by McSweeney’s. I’m not ordinarily a fan of back country drug dealer stories, but I enjoyed this one. A portion of this novel was in the second person, and I thought it worked well.
17. Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju
A very interesting tale of government and community attempts to censor an art form. It’s a good thing this doesn’t happen any more.
18. The Zero by Jess Walter
A really interesting story told through the eyes of a 9/11 worker who experiences long periods of blackouts. We only catches glimpses of his life, but know as much as he does about what he’s doing. Darkly comic in much the same way that Memento is.
19. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
So, this is more or less Adam Bede. The two of them are like Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink. Only no gender switching, and the hero always ends up with Mary Stuart Masterson.
20. The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who Was Born In Newgate, and During a Life of Continu’d Variety For Threescore Years, Besides Her Childhood, Was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife [Whereof Once To Her Own Brother], Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon In Virginia, At Last Grew Rich, Liv’d Honest, and Died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums. by Daniel Defoe
I love super-long titles for books. I liked this book, but it has a feel of a Bunch Of Stuff That Happened instead of a story.
21. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The story is intriguing (though, again, a Bunch of Stuff That Happened), even if the protagonist is flawed by modern measures.
22. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
My first Holmes read since The Hound of the Baskervilles in school. I didn’t like Hound (at least at the time), but I enjoyed these short stories. I’m also seeing reflections of Holmes in many modern characters I’ve loved.