OK, I know. This isn't about politics or anything, but I have other things going on in life, and reading is one of them. Plus Hualien is a small county. Not much happens. I need to fill this blog with something else in the interim.
I'm what you might call a disciplined reader. What that means is I carry a book everwhere I go. Shopping malls, class, bathrooms, bars, hiking. People who know me know this. It's usually on the table or in a bag or on the beach somewhere wherever I am. I sometimes forget to carry a cell phone, but I never forget my book.
I read a mandatory 25 pages of book every day. This rule is non-negotiable. It can be more, but never, ever less.
I cannot put a book down, no matter how bad it turns out to be. This rule often sucks (The Shack), but somtimes it has paid off (Cloud Atlas).
I also keep meticulous records of the books I read.
I have been doing this for three years now.
I can't remember why I started doing this.
I can't stop.
This is how it went down in 2010
I read a total of 82 books this year (although 10 of those were a series of graphic novels called The Walking Dead so if you don't count 200 page comic books, I only read 72). I didn't count how many pages I read this year (nor do I care to go back and count that). I tried to difersify my reading this year. I read a lot of things I would probably never have picked up in previous years (graphic novels, books about Mormons, some suspect biographies, grammar and Henry James!?!?!?)
Anyway, here's the good, the bad and the ugly of the list (which appears in its entirety below). Note: In order to complete the unlicensed use of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly I have replaced Ugly with Non-Fiction. Non-Fiction is sort of ugly... right?
Geek Love: Katherine Dunn - The wierdest book I read last year. It's about a family of circus freaks who actively try to spawn more freaks. Kids with flippers. Fetuses in jars. hunchback albinos and more. Makes your family look like the Keatons from Family Ties. Strangest thing about the book? It's awesome.
The Time Traveler's Wife: Audrey Niffenegger - I'm a sucker for non-linear story-telling. It makes for compelling reading. So it's ironic that this ultra-linear book seems so non-linear. Had my brain doing back-flips. And once the back flips ceased, it was still a good book. Don't see the movie. Obviously.
Lamb: Christopher Moore - My good friend Troll recommended Moore last year and I read another book (A Dirty Job) and was sorely disappointed. But in fairness he told me to read this one. So I did, and it's cool. I like books about Jesus. I like alternate histories. I like the idea of a Kung Fu Jesus.
Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell - I remember the first time I saw the movie Baraka. I was forced by a friend to the theater to view it. I asked what it was about and I was told to shut up and simply watch. No prep, no background. Just go in blind and you will not be disappointed. Cloud Atlas is Baraka's literature equivalent.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Series: Steig Larsson - I hope I don't shoot myself in the foot with this pick because it's probably a cliche and renders my other recommendations moot amongst classy readers who roll their eyes ar pulp fiction, but I read an average of 300 pages a day when I was in these books. That's like crack cocaine lit. You simply can't argue against something that starts to encroach on your work and relationships.
Grotesque: Natsuo Kirino - I should learn my lesson about contemporary Japanese writers. If their name isn't Murakami, leave it on the shelf. Shock for the sake of shock. No compelling characters. No compelling story. I couldn't figure out why I continued to turn pages. Probably because I simply will not put a book down. If you don't play by my rules, you'll never get through this one.
The Book Thief: Martin Zuzak - Have read, loved and then re-read I Am The Messenger. While I didn't expect a repeat performance, I also didn't expect to be bored to tears.
Three Junes: Julia Glass - While I have nothing particularly against gay literature, this book is, well, gay.
Nobody's Fool: Richard Russo - Perhaps I went a little overboard on the Russo this year. I read Straight Man and Empire Falls prior to this book (and liked both, although the law of diminishing returns was in effect). Russo has been lauded for his ability to write about small town America is startlingly realistic fashion. This is true. Unfortunately, in Nobody's Fool, said small town is mind-numbingly boring.
Sea of Poppies: Amitav Ghosh - Two rules of writing a trilogy. First, the opening book should suck the reader in a la Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Second, there should be a second book literally in the press when the first one hits the shelves so that people who liked your book will seek out the second before time erases the story from their TV-addled brain. In these two respects, Sea of Poppies fails.
The Ugly (Non-Fiction)
Fargo Rock City: Chuck Klosterman - What can I say? I was a head-banger when I was growing up. This book hit close to home. I laughed out loud dozens of times while reading this in public. I was that guy for a couple of days. I also agree with Klosterman about Guns and Roses' song Rocket Queen being the pinnacle of both hair metal and the 1980s.
Blink: Malcolm Gladwell - I challenge anyone to read a Gladwell book and not come away impressed. His research is thorough, his conclusions sound and, most importantly, his writing doesn't suck.
The Greatest Show on Earth: Evidence for Evolution: Richard Dawkins - I'm a sucker for these books. I love it when complicated science is dumbed down enough for me to understand. I also appreciate a scientist who literally leaps out of bed every morning because if his love for his field. The world needs a thousand Richard Dawkins's.
The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band: Motley Crue - Like I said. I'm a recovering metalhead. How would someone like me NOT love this book? I learned that Vince Neil and Tommy Lee are worse people than I first assumed, and Nikki Sixx is an unappreciated genius. I did not learn how these men are still counted among the living.
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything: Christopher Hitchens - This one is obvious. Fuel for my fire.
Here's the entire list:
- Fargo Rock City – Chuck Klosterman
- The Walking Dead Vol. II: Miles Behind Us – Robert Kirkman
- 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
- The Walking Dead Vol. III: Safety Behind Bars – Robert Kirkman
- Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
- The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
- The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
- American Pastoral – Philip Roth
- Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer
- Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
- Waiting for Time – Bernice Morgan
- The Walking Dead Vol. IV: The Heart’s Desire – Robert Kirkman
- Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives – Jim Tucker
- The Walking Dead Vol. V: The Best Defense – Robert Kirkman
- The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 – Pierre Berton
- The Walking Dead Vol. VI: This Sorrowful Life – Robert Kirkman
- The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
- The Walking Dead Vol. VII: The Calm Before – Robert Kirkman
- Grotesque – Natsuo Kirino
- The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks – Max Brooks
- Selkirk’s Island – Diana Souhami
- Mordecai Richler Was Here: Selected Writings – Mordecai Richler
- Fugitives Pieces – Anne Michaels
- The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
- Until You Are Dead: The Book of Executions in America – Frederick Drimmer
- Famous Last Words – Timothy Findley
- The Walking Dead Vol. VIII: Made to Suffer – Robert Kirkman
- Pussy, King of the Pirates – Kathy Acker
- Lamb – Christopher Moore
- The Shack – William P. Young
- Water For Elephants – Sara Gruen
- The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
- Man and Boy – Tony Parsons
- Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
- Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
- Gazza: My Story – Paul Gascoigne
- Straight Man – Richard Russo
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows
- The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
- The Book Thief – Martin Zusak
- The Green Mile – Stephen King
- The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology – Robert Wright
- The Book of Illusions – Paul Auster
- The Walking Dead Vol. IX: Here We Remain - Robert Kirkman
- Three Junes – Julia Glass
- The Walking Dead Vol. X: What We Become - Robert Kirkman
- Wild Ducks Flying Backward – Tom Robbins
- The Walking Dead Vol. XI: Fear the Hunters – Robert Kirkman
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
- Julie of the Wolves – Jean Craighead George
- The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future – Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream – Hunter S. Thompson
- Buttertea at Sunrise: A year in the Bhutan Himalaya – Britta Das
- Empire Falls – Richard Russo
- The Cay – Theodore Taylor
- The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution – Richard Dawkins
- Dos and Don’ts in Taiwan – Steven Crook
- Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – Azar Nafisi
- A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toews
- Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas – Tom Robbins
- Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
- The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band – Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil & Nikki Sixx
- The Tragedy of the Moon – Isaac Asimov
- Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales – Stephen King
- Methuselah’s Children – Robert A. Heinlein
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
- Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation – John Carlin
- Nobody’s Fool – Richard Russo
- The Walking Dead Vol. XII: Life Among Them – Robert Kirkman
- Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
- God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything – Christopher Hitchens
- Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
- Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – Lynne Truss
- Daisy Miller – Henry James
- Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time – Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
- Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh
- Mormon America: The Power and the Promise – Richard Ostling
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson
- Azincourt – Bernard Cornwell
- The Girl Who Played With Fire – Steig Larsson
- The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare – G.K. Chesterton
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest – Steig Larsson