This year I decided to actually write down all the books I read in a calendar year. I read 20, some for book clubs, some for pleasure and some because they were given to me. That number seems pretty low (My New Year’s resolution is to read at least double that for this year). I only read two books that were actually released in 2011 – Matt Johnson’s Pym, an intertext with Edgar Allan Poe’s only Novel and Dani Couture’s Algoma, a novel about a family unravelling after the death of a child. Oddly enough, I discovered both Johnson (@mat_johnson) and Couture (@danicouture) via twitter. It feels a little ridiculous to name those books as my ‘books of the year’ because they are by default, but both are fine novels nonetheless. The list:
Ed Royal – Chris Connelly – Industrial music legend (Ministry, RevCo., KMFDM) turned crooner, turned novelist. A decent effort about growing up in Glasgow in the 70s, but doesn’t come close to his amazing bio – Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible and Fried – My Life as a Revolting Cock.
The Metamorphasis – Franz Kafka – This seemed, to me, to be about a man who woke up one morning and couldn´t face the world. Yeah, he´s a bug. I could be wrong, though, I don´t have one of those fancy lit degrees.
I am a Japanese Writer – Dany Laferriere – I wish more people read this, I want to talk about it with someone.
Call of C’thulu – H.P. Lovecraft – I think I read this about 20 years too late. Wordy and boring but kinda cool.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – Sherman Alexie – Amazing, amazing, amazing, everyone should read this. A young american Indian boy goes to high school off the reserve and becomes the only Indian in the school besides the team mascot. YA book that made me laugh & cry.
The Best Laid Plans – Terry Fallis – hmmm, I agree with what this blogger said.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald – I haven’t read this since high school. I hated it then, but I think it’s hard to appreciate this before legitimately working a day in your life. So sad, so amazing.
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson – It has pirates, what’s not to like?
Thunder God’s Gold – Barry Storm – I read this for research. It’s about prospectors looking for the Lost Dutchman mine. A bit of a mess. They made it into a movie called Lust for Gold in 1949.
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz – My favourite book, ever. I thought I’d re-read it to see if I still loved it. I did.
The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga – A book club choice. A 300 page letter from a working class person in India to a minister in China. I found it difficult to get past the ridiculous narrative structure.
Through Black Spruce – Joseph Boyden – Another book club selection. Not as good as Three Day Road, the model/NY subplot was a bit absurd, but I loved the northern Canada portions.
Pitouie – Derek Winkler – one storyline in northern Canada in the 70’s, one in the South Pacific in present day, connected very cleverly. Plus it has mining scams. A fun read.
The Gurnsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society – A book club selection with an epistolary form. The 3/4 mark, when the protagonist goes to the island to meet all the people she’d been writing to, seemed like the perfect place to stop writing letters. They didn’t.
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell- As a parent I found this fascinating. The theory behind what makes people exceptional. Every parent should read this.
Pym – Matt Johnson – An African-American lit prof. finds evidence the creatures in Edgar Allen Poe’s only novel may have actually been real. The prof. gathers an African-American crew and heads to the south pole to see what’s there.
Bossypants – Tina Fey – More a collection of anecdotes (albeit amusing ones) than a real book, but funny and easy to read.
Death in the Afternoon – Ernest Hemingway – I love Hemingway, he can do no wrong in my eyes. It’s interesting how this seemed to be a throwaway book meant to comment on bullfighting of the day is still being read. The pictures in the middle are awesome.
The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill – This has been on my ‘to read’ list for a long time and my local book club selected it after the book burning controversy. Excellent.
Algoma – Dani Couture – a poets touch put on the grief of a family after a child’s death. Lovely, sad, and well done. It captures the insulation of a small town and the overwhelming hugeness of the big city quite well.
The Tiger – John Valliant – Canada Reads selection about a killer tiger. A bit long on the background information but frightening, sad and cool. Could take the cake.