My 2011 Reads

This has been one of those rare years where I enjoyed almost every book I read. Here are a few favorites with the shortest summaries I could manage.

Top Three Novels

1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: For some crazy reason, I’d never read Murakami before this year. After finishing a collection of short stories, I borrowed Nate’s copy of Norwegian Wood and loved it. I’d seen the film adaptation already and still couldn’t help but cry a little when I got to the saddest part.
2. The Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks: One of the things I most admire most about Banks is his ability to give you the outsider perspective. This novel takes you to a camp of homeless sex offenders. The Kid is one of the most sympathetic characters in recent fiction and the Professor is one of the strangest.
3. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser: Harry Flashman is a hideous character but his adventures are a lot of fun… I’m dying to sneak 19th century phrases into my next dramatic argument: ‘Thank you and damn your eyes!’

Top Three Comics

1. Love & Rockets: New Stories by the Hernandez brothers: I’ll just say two quick things about #4. First, Gilbert’s ‘King Vampire’ is the best vampire story of the year… at least for someone like me who prefers huge breasts, gore, and goth nerds to humorless teen romance. Second, the ending to Jaime’s ‘The Love Bunglers’ is one of the most satisfying and perfect endings to any story ever.
2. The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross: Tommy Taylor continues to grapple with fame, magic, and literary references. I have no idea where this could go after the belly of a whale (two converging whale stories!) but I will keep reading because this series is like CRACK.
3. Sergio Aragones Funnies by Sergio Aragones: True stories, history lessons, and really hard puzzles from my favorite mustachioed cartoonist. These comics make me smile big time.

Top Three ‘Everything Else’

1. The Camera Never Blinks Twice by Dan ‘The Man’ Rather: A 1994 follow-up to Rather’s autobiography The Camera Never Blinks. What can I say? I love Dan Rather! Whether he’s reporting in Afghanistan or squaring off against George Bush senior, he always has guts.
2. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith: Smith’s writing never fails to impress me. It’s thoughtful and smart, but also accessible. Her love of other books, old movies, etc. is really sweet and her movie reviews are surprisingly funny (she’s the last person I expected to review Get Rich or Die Tryin’– that’s pretty great).
3. Screen Burn by Charlie Brooker: Brooker’s snarky articles on television, peppered nicely with self-loathing. It is thanks to his scathing words that The Guardian has become my default news read.

More Gooduns:
Aldous Huxley, Island
Kieron Gillen, Kano, Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter
George MacDonald Fraser, Royal Flash
Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker, Vol. 1: The Hunter
Haruki Murakami, The Elephant Vanishes
Carol Tyler, You’ll Never Know, Vol. 1: A Good and Decent Man
Brandon Graham, King City issues 1-12
China Miéville, Kraken
Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker, Vol. 2: The Outfit
Paul Tobin and Vicenc Villagrassa, Models, Inc. issues 1-4
Jacques Tardi, Adèle Blanc-Sec: Pterror Over Paris & The Eiffel Tower Demon
Mike Carey, Re-Gifters
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
Yasmine Surovec, Cat Versus Human
Juan Diaz Canales, Blacksad
Richard Sala, The Hidden
Johnny Ryan, Prison Pit Book 3
Stewart Lee, How I Escaped My Certain Fate
Richard Herring, How Not to Grow Up
David B, The Armed Garden

*I have maybe a dozen guilty pleasures in addition to this list. Most of them are comics with good art but just so-so stories (I’m thinking pointedly of the Swamp Thing reboot here). I’ll continue to stick with these too because I’m a loyal fool but, ya know, nothing to blog about.

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