Looks like I’ll be lingering in 2013 just a bit to jot down a few last book notes. Here are a few of my favorite reads of the year as well as a lazy list of all the other awesome titles I enjoyed.
Blue Pills by Frederik Peeters: A fantastic graphic novel memoir about a relationship between Fred and Cati. As the cover suggests, it is a positive love story with the unique condition that Cati and her son are HIV-positive. I loved the way Frederik Peeters wrote this book. The story is full of affection for Cati and her son but virtually no pity which is refreshing in our modern day and age. The three of them establish a family life that is quite normal and the romance between Fred and Cati is so sweet. I really liked the sensible doctor… and the woolly mammoth. Also, hey! My friend, Eric, interviewed Frederik Peeters for TCJ awhile back. It’s pretty great.
Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas: Piri Thomas’s classic memoir is without question my read of the year; I couldn’t put it down. It follows Thomas from his pre-teens thru early adulthood in Spanish Harlem. He writes so cool and casually, it’s sometimes easy to overlook how brilliant and lyrical his prose is. There are vivid portraits of teenage gangs with actual names written on the jackets, horrible descriptions of eating nothing but pigeon, brothels in the deep south, heroin addiction, and prison life. It’s strange to think how much the world has changed since this novel was originally published in 1967… and sad that many of the issues Thomas faced over 50 years ago (racism, ghetto conditions, etc) persist today.
Lost Cat by Jason: Yessss, another Jason comic. This one is a noir detective story but also a love story… and, I guess, just a weird and surprising story. It opens with a PI who contacts a woman after finding her lost cat. He asks her out and is stood up but holds her in his thoughts as a big chunk of time passes. Jason’s clean, sparse art doesn’t lend itself to many facial expressions but this dog detective definitely looks like a lonely dude. I don’t want to give away any strange twists and turns but the ending is bananas. Loved it.
The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford: ‘Let us part the formaldehyde curtain,’ invites Jessica Mitford in the opening pages. Holy hell. I’m late to the party but this book blew my socks off. I had no clue that open casket services were a fairly recent trend, unique to the United States*, or that funerals could cost so much! The American Way of Death is impressive as a well-researched exposé of the funeral industry but also a delightful read with Mitford’s biting quips. The dirt on things like shameless upselling to grieving widows and weird funeral jargon is just fascinating. Haha, also I will never forget that a carbon monoxide death is favorable to an undertaker for its still rosy complexion. Mitford had such an interesting life herself (and appropriately inexpensive funeral) that I’m curious to read the book of her letters.
Other Books I Read and Loved
The Furry Trap by Josh Simmons
Somewhere Inside by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling
The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
Savage Continent by Keith Lowe
A Drunken Dream by Moto Hagio
Relish by Lucy Knisley
Orc Stain by James Stokoe
The Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Suehiro Maruo
You’ll Never Know, book 3 by Carol Tyler
You’ll Never Know, book 2 by Carol Tyler
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
Wonton Soup by James Stokoe
Also good: a handful of great minis and the first four issues of Young Avengers.
First book post here, second one here
*Edit: Open casket funerals are not unique to the US afterall!
I have no idea what it is, but I’m about to go investigate The Strange Tale of Panorama Island. That one definitely caught my attention.
Highly recommended! It’s a graphic novel (manga) adaptation of a horror story with Maruo Suehiro’s jaw-dropping, gorgeous art. I guess as a warning, there are a lot of explicitly drawn scenes.
Open casket funerals are certainly not unique to the U.S. I have been to at least two in the UK, one of them over twenty years ago.
Just so you know.
Good to know, Dale- I’ll make a note. I should’ve assumed that Mitford’s data could no longer be perfect since her last revision was about 20 years ago as well.