Here’s my five favorite books that I read this year. I read about 20 books in total this year which is pretty good, although I definitely went through some long stretches where I wasn’t reading anything. Tomorrow I’ll have some books that I have my eye on for the next year.
- 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
I wrote this when I finished the epic 2666. Having had some time to reflect and absorb it, I really enjoyed reading (and being challenged by) this book. Generally, these types of books are the ones that I really enjoy; those that are dense, intelligent, and challenging. You’ll probably see that reflected in a lot of these choices.
- The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
The story of a child genius who undertakes a cross-country trek on his own, while trying to understand the family dynamic he’s running from. The book is illustrated with T. S.’s drawings and kept me entertained throughout.
- The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
Steampunk novel in which an automaton making her own living as an alchemist attempts to win her independence from her creator in the midst of a political uprising. This was an excellent book, one that I loved as I was reading it, and one that I didn’t have to think twice about including on this list.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Very good book. Don’t read the last few chapters anywhere someone might look askance at tears running down your face. One of the reviews on the back mentions Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and this did remind me a bit of that. But where Slaughterhouse Five has a bit of a “cracked” look at WWII, The Book Thief plays it straight for the most part. Similar to Vonnegut’s famous “So it goes.” to mark the passing of the countless dead in World War II, the narrator, Death itself, unrelentingly reminds us of how overworked it became in those times. The story is fantastic, with enough dark/dry humor to make the inevitable tragedies of war bearable.
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
So, remember when I mentioned “dense, intelligent, and challenging”, this book pretty much embodies all of those things. Pynchon is legendarily difficult, but this one was short enough that it didn’t get overwhelming. I remember starting Gravity’s Rainbow a couple years ago and giving up a couple chapters in, but I’m glad I came back to this author.
Some other books I read this year are listed below, most of these I liked – but there are a couple on here that I wouldn’t recommend (Drood and Outliers). Just about everything I read are novels, with a volume or two of poetry thrown in every now and then, but if there’s anything spectacular that you read this year, drop it in the comments.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
- Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
- Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
- Drood by Dan Simmons
- Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
- Blindness by Jose Saramago
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Praise by Robert Hass
- My Alexandria by Mark Doty
- Watchmen by Alan Moore
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
- The Ancient Book of Sex and Science by Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank, and Nate Wragg