For the third year in a row one of my New Year's Resolutions is to read a book a week this year. They don't actually have to fall within the week itself, but by the end of the year I should have at least 52.
So far, I haven't made it. This saddens me, because I've always thought of myself as a reader. In high school I always had a book in my bag in case I got bored, and it was the same in college. I was always reading books of my own on top of the reading load that an English major carried, but now I feel like I've slowed down. For 2007, my tally was 49 out of 52, and for 2008 I only managed 44. I realize 44 books is still a lot compared to some people I know (and have dated) who proudly boast that they only read magazines, but I feel like I can do better.
In any case, here are the 44 books I read this year, in case anyone cares:
1: James Othmer's The Futurist was funny, but not as funny as the cover said it would be.
2: John Grisham's Playing for Pizza was lighthearted.
3: Douglas Coupland's Generation X was vaguely unfocused and drifting, like the subject matter.
4: Lance Bass' Out of Sync was so laughably terrible that I'm convinced he wrote the entire thing himself. After I finished it, the book spent a year circulating through our department so everyone could read it and laugh at it. Not only was the writing terrible, but the words were so big that I thought I got the large print edition by accident. It looks like he stayed up all night writing a term paper and thinking, "It has to be 180 pages. I know! Triple spaced 16 point font!"
5: Max Brooks' World War Z was pretty entertaining.
6: Todd Gregory's Every Frat Boy Wants It was a gift from a friend who thought it would amuse me, and she was right. It was amusing as hell. Apparently what every frat boy wants is to be behind a closed door in the frat house with another frat boy, pair of frat boys, pledge master, mailman, water polo player, or some combination of the above, so that they can engage in acrobatic, borderline painful-sounding sexual contortions. The worst part of all of this, other than the book itself, was that in April I forgot to send back the response card for my gay book club, and this was the main selection. That means I had it in paperback and hardcover, before both copies took a trip to the used bookstore.
7: Dean Koontz's Brother Odd was pretty entertaining.
8: Alan Weisman's The World Without Us was an entertaining, though provoking exploration of the artifacts humans will leave behind. Mt. Rushmore, which I had a chance to see as a child but did not get to because my parents went to the Cabella's super-store instead, will apparently last forever.
9: Stephen King's Blaze was a shameless attempt at emotional manipulation from an author with all the emotional subtlety of Homer Simpson.
10: James St. James' Freak Show was a decent plot about a gay-bashed teen who fights back by running for homecoming queen that was derailed by an overblown, pretentiously annoying effected writing style.
11: Carol Higgins Clark's Hitched revealed the author coasting on her mother's name even more than usual.
12: Daniel Golden's The Price of Admission kept filling me with rage and making me have to put it down. It's an investigation of how the "ruling class" of America buys their children's way into elite colleges, but it was also a reminder of the moments at my job where I have to skip someone ahead of 300 other students on the waiting list for a certain building because their mom is the alumni association president or we named the street behind the baseball field after their grandfather.
13: Cecily von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl was so vacantly plotless that I can't believe they found enough in it to make such a good TV show.
14: David Hajdu's The Ten Cent Plague was probably the best book I read this year. It was a good, well researched book, but it's always disturbing to read about how the media and the government piled onto a problem and stifled dissent and America's people blindly followed along based on no evidence, because it reminds you that even though this was half a century ago nothing, really, has changed.
15: Lincoln Child's Deep Storm was nicely diverting on my summer vacation.
16: Sam Staggs' All About "All About Eve" was a good book about a movie I love, and makes watching the movie even more fun.
17: Ray Bradbury's Let's All Kill Constance was not his best work.
18: Clive Barker's Mister B. Gone seems widely hated by the Amazon reviewers, but I found it sad and kind of touching despite the flaws. Unrequited love does that to me, I guess.
19: Peter Sagal's The Book of Vice was a good idea that I've seen other authors execute in a more entertaining fashion.
20: Douglas Coupland's JPod was grating and annoying to read.
21: Peter Cameron's Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You was good, but ground to a halt as if he had no ending in mind.
22: Christopher Rice's Blind Fall had a coherent plotline, an actual ending, and appeared to have been edited, so it was a shocking departure from his other work.
23: Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion was good, but I probably think that because I agree with most of it.
24: Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise was a sad, moving book, made more so by the story of the author. I found it really hard to separate my feelings for the book from my feelings for the author's tragedy, knowing that the things she was writing about as fiction were things she was experiencing at the same time around her while she was writing.
25: Kevin Anderson's The Last Days of Krypton added new layers of hubris to a familiar tragic story. It was a little light on actual science, but, you know, it's a novel based on a comic book written in the 1930's, so that could be expected.
26: Timothy Callahan's Teenagers from the Future was awesome, because it was a series of scholarly essays on my favorite comic book, the Legion of Superheroes. There are essays dealing with artistic styles, sexism, homophobia, feminism, drug abuse, racism, morality and ethical decision making, the dangers of technology, post-adolescent rebellion, fashion, and other topics, but it's probably not as accessible or enjoyable for a non-fan.
27: Mark Moran's Weird US The ODDyssey Continues was highly entertaining, and is the book that sent me on the road trip to the Giant Ten Commandments. That, alone, makes it worth it.
28: Gregory Maguire's A Lion Among Men was the second sequel to Wicked, and continues to water down a good book with mediocre followups.
29: Charles Mann's 1491 was a well written, well researched book offering a new look at life in the Americas before Columbus, but was lacking in a few geographical areas. It mainly focuses on South America, with side chapters on New England and the Mississippi delta, but pretty much ignores the American west, northwest, and arctic regions. Weren't those people doing anything interesting before Columbus showed up?
30-36: C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, which, even though I knew it was a Christian allegory, still managed to surprise me at the end. Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled (if anyone is even still reading this list), but at the end of the last book all the kids get to stay in Narnia forever because there is a terrible train accident in London and they all die. And they cheer about this. Aslan is like, "You get to stay in Narnia forever, because you're all dead!" and the kids are all, "YAY!" Seriously, what the hell?
37: Preston and Child's The Wheel of Darkness is another decent thriller starring their superhuman FBI agent. It's time to retire that character.
38: Carol Goodman's The Night Villa was pretty good.
39: Stephen King's Duma Key was long without feeling bloated, but like so much of his recent work seems to be cannibalizing from his older stories. Imagine if Bag of Bones was about a painter instead of an author.
40: Stephenie Meyer's Twilight was pretty bad. It reads like the author's personal platonic love fantasy with the added bonus of having absolutely no action. The whole book builds up to this big fight, and then she doesn't show the fight because the first person narrator gets knocked out! She wakes up, and they're like, "Well, the fight's over. Everything's fine!"
41: John Grisham's The Appeal was pretty standard John Grisham.
42: Rob Rogers' Devil's Cape was entertaining, but starts off slow.
43: John Saul's The Devil's Labyrinth reads like someone gave him a checklist of topics and fun words, and he just shrugged and said, "I'll write a book with that."
44: Jeff Hobbs' The Tourists was a load of overhyped crap. He's trying just as hard to be Brett Easton Ellis as Marisha Pessl was to be Donna Tartt.
Reading this over, I've noticed I use the word "pretty" a lot, and contextually it's kind of useless. I think I'll add a resolution to stop doing that.