Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Readings, 2012 Goals

Right after I shared Jeremy's write-ups on Instafiction's best stories of 2011, he posted a list of the books he read in 2011. I had posted a quick summary of my own readings on Facebook, but when I saw Jeremy's classifications, I felt moved to provide my own list here. Jeremy provided some tiered categories for his own readings: 'Masterpiece,' 'Great,' 'Very Good,' and 'Good With Reservations.' I'm going to copy those designations, but with a small caveat: I'm going by my feelings at this very moment, so a given classification may or may not match with the critical emotions of my previous reviews. I read 21 books this year, which is down from my total of 31 in 2010. If I can bump my total up to 25 or so this year, I'll be pleased. I'm not sure why there was such a drastic drop, but some of the books were very time consuming (in a good way), and I'm still fighting a never-ending battle with my filing cabinet of New Yorker back issues. Here goes:

MASTERPIECE:

The Recognitions by William Gaddis

GREAT:

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke

John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead

VERY GOOD:

Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Caclida Jetha

Ararat By Louise Glück

As She Climbed Across the Table and The Ecstasy Of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

Tin House #37: The Political Future (various contributors)

Collected Poems by Paul Auster

Hermit In Paris by Italo Calvino

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Roberto Bolano: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

GOOD WITH RESERVATIONS:

My Life As An Experiment by A.J. Jacobs

03 by Jean-Christophe Valtat

Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan

Smoking Typewriters by John McMillian

Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

There Is No Year by Blake Butler

My goals for 2012 are pretty modest. There are a lot of 2011 books that I want to finish early in the year (I'm just about to begin Chad Harbach's The Art Of Fielding), including Ready, Player One, Zone One, The Marriage Plot, and Open City. I also want to squeeze in more nonfiction, especially world history, contemporary politics, and writings by black and female artists. My November publication in The Chicago Reader has sparked a desire to increase my freelance work, and if I can do so and help Instafiction at the same time, so much the better. As for my own fiction, I have a lot of ideas and half-sketched stories that need attention. That is all I'm going to say about my creative endeavors, since my history has been one of talking a lot about it, but without actually having much to show for it.

Are you a reader or an artist? Do you have a reading list from 2011, or a list of resolutions and creative goals? I'd love to read your notes. Comment away.

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