End of the year thanks and reader celebration

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

So this has been a strange year for us all at Chez Oddbooks. Not bad, not good, just strange. One terrible thing happened, then a wonderful thing followed, then another horrible thing happened, then something fabulous ensued. It really was a bizarre year in that we spent a majority of it reeling from one thing to the next.

So I read fewer books this year than I have any other year in my life and I find myself at a loss to create the “end of the year” list that I generally post. I could come up with only 7 books remarkable enough to note and I have not discussed a single one of them yet. In fact, I have yet to discuss some of the books I mentioned in my end of the year list for 2011.

I wrote far less this year than I intended and there are multiple reasons for this, much of them stemming from neurosis and launching a couple of other projects (need cat toys? I got you covered). Yet, despite having written so much less this year than I had wanted, I somehow managed to gain some new readers and most of my “older” readers stuck around. I find that amazing. I really do.

Continuing in the strange vein of fate punching us in the gut and following it up with a rose bouquet, Mr Oddbooks and I had an unexpected windfall and I decided that since I can’t really prepare a proper end of year list, I’m going to ask you guys to do it for me and share some of my good luck with you.

Tell me the best book you read this year. Or maybe the worst. Or maybe tell me about the best movie you’ve seen this year. I want to hear about the media that affected you, positively or negatively. Starting now, the first comment you leave to this entry telling me about your book/music/film experiences this year will enter you to win one of the following prizes:

A $100 Amazon Gift Certificate
A $50 Amazon Gift Certificate
One of two $25 Amazon Gift Certificates

You can only enter once, though I do hope this entry sparks some lively conversation and you comment often. I will announce the winners during the end of the world, December 21, 2012, which is also my wedding anniversary. I will announce the winners at 6:00 pm, just before Mr Oddbooks and I set out to celebrate the date of our nuptials and, one presumes, the impending Armageddon.

When you comment, please do so with an e-mail address that can receive the gift certificate, as I will be sending them out via e-mail. Please note: I do hope some of my more paranoid readers enter this as well because your e-mail address can be a random free-mail or Hushmail address that in no way betrays your identity to me. If you win the contest and the e-mail with your gift certificate bounces or is rejected, I will run the number generator again and award a new winner.

I will announce this giveaway twice on Twitter, my LJ and my Facebook, but other than those six announcements, I will not be publicizing this. I am not doing this to gain new readers, though if that happens, welcome and stay a while! I am doing this to say thanks for sticking around and reading during my very strange year.

So until 6:00 pm CST, 12/21/12, tell me some things about the media you consumed in 2012. I hope your year wraps up in a pleasant manner and that 2013 holds nothing but amazing things. Much love to you all.

42 thoughts on “End of the year thanks and reader celebration

  1. Some of my favorite books read this year:
    Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Maquez
    The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
    Also lots of Octavia Butler and Neil Gaiman!

    1. I’ve had Magic for Beginners in my bedside table cabinet for two years and I still haven’t read it. I really need to dig it out and have a look. Thanks for your support this year, Heidi!

      1. I LOVED it so hard. I want every one of her books so I can just devour them! Also, I’m excited to go through all these comments for new books to put on my TO READ list! You’re such a wonderful and talented lady. It’s my honor to have you in my life. <3

  2. Hmmm. I feel like 2012 has been a year in which I’ve read a lot of great books… but now that I’m trying to recall then, I’m struggling.

    The three that definitely *do* come to mind are:
    – Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story – a biography of David Foster Wallace by D T Max. DFW is probably my favourite author, and this biography is a fascinating insight into his life, his writing, and his personal demons.
    – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – a scifi novel that has been referred to as this generations Neuromancer.
    – Deadfall Hotel by Steve Resnic Tem – dark yet humourous tale about a strange and haunted hotel and it’s inhabitants.

    The other literary thing of note for me this year is the discovery of the Biblio Curiosa zine (thanks to ireadoddbooks!) and its sister zine Bizarrism. Chris Mikul’s work is amazing and I’ve enjoyed reading his articles more than anything else this year, truth be told. Reading the zines also provided me with the missing jigsaw piece for my own writing which, after grinding to a halt earlier in the year, is now falling nicely into place 🙂

    I’m sure as soon as I post this I’ll think of another half a dozen books that have had an effect on me this year, but the above are the ones that immediately spring to mind and are therefore probably the most relevant.

    Thanks again for a year of exceedingly interesting and entertaining articles and reviews – I sincerely hope you’ll be posting many more in 2013.

    1. I want to read that bio because I like DT Max. I read his The Family That Couldn’t Sleep and discussed it on my now defunct “regular books” site. I am not the DFW fan that many are but his life interests me. Actually, I think the man interests me more than his works, though I really enjoyed his short story called “The Depressed Person.” I think I will pick this up after the holidays.

      I am going to disappoint you sincerely when I tell you I didn’t like Deadfall Hotel. I bought it to read for this site but just had to give up right after the cat war scene. I found the narrative muffled and unengaging. I talk about it here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/332534176 I think this is a book people either loved or hated. It’s interesting how that works out – when a book has no middle ground it makes me feel better when I disliked it. Can’t explain why, but there you are.

      Mikul’s got a new edition of Biblio Curiosa available with more about F Gwynplaine Macintyre. I haven’t read it yet because I am saving it as an incentive read when for when I get all my holiday crap done. He also released late this year a book called The Eccentropedia that I hope to get for Yule. I’m a sucker for compendiums like that. He is such a better writer than I am. When I read his work it makes me want to streamline my own long, rambling sentences.

      I am so pleased you had a writing breakthrough, Rich! I hope renewed spirit carries you through 2013.

    2. I’m working my way through the DFW book now, and it perfectly captures what’s great and awful about reading bios of authors you admire. It’s interesting to get the insight into what made DFW tick — what forces drove his work — as well as the gossipy satisfaction of peeking into the private world of someone who fascinates you. The downside of course is seeing things about that person you really wish you hadn’t seen.

  3. Hei Anita,

    Early this year I read the whole of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (Deathbed edition). It took a long time and it was decidedly heavy going at times, but it was worth it. I think living with Whitman for a while opened me up a little. I’ve been trying to find some form of spirituality, and failing as ever, but Leaves of Grass helped me fail better.

    There’s a great short poem hidden somewhere in there in which the poet is standing on the beach and in a few lines he moves from the creatures under the water to us on the land, and then outward to the creatures that must lie beyond the earth. I really think Whitman was standing there on the beach contemplating the existence of aliens in the middle of the 19th Century. It’s georgous and it reminded me of Mac Tonnies, who I read around the same time on your recommendation.

    I also got a lot from reading Hamsun’s Pan, although I didn’t realise it while I was reading it.

    As films go, what I know about Bollywood you could write on your palm, but I fell in love with Devdas, an Indian melodrama and retelling of the Vishnu/Krishna myth with no likable characters (OK, maybe one), a bizarre central performance and the most beautiful set-pieces. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVg6Ehu1VXY)

    Thanks for an interesting year of reading. Have a great Yuletide.


    1. Vince, you are way more intellectual than I am. I am going to reread Whitman and see if I can see the same link to Tonnies you saw. Oh, Mac. Periodically it hits me that he died so young and that I just spent 30 minutes half-watching a Home Movies episode I have seen 20 times. I hate being inspired but Tonnies does make me look harder at my life.

      And poor Hamsun. God, once I know about a person’s life I get sort of cramped emotionally where their work is concerned. After reading Hunger, I want to clear out our spare room, dig up his remains, tuck him in bed and make him some dinner. It will be a while before I can read him again.

      I’ll have to check out the Bollywood film. I’m not a Bollywood fan but I could become one, especially where a film with no redeeming characters is concerned.

      I appreciated all your feedback this year, Vince. I hope 2013 is a great year for you!

      1. God in Heaven, I wouldn’t want to imagine you going through the whole of Leaves of Grass looking for a single mention of aliens! If you do want to check it out though, I went back and found the poem and it’s called The World Below The Brine.

        I enjoyed your discussion of Hunger, by the way. I’ve only read a couple of Hamsun books, but it seems like that issue of “The Protagonist Cannot Act in His Own Best Interests” is an issue in a fair few of them, as it was in his life.

        Have a great 2013! Fuck the ancient Mayans!

  4. I love end of the year lists, because there’s usually something in them that I’ve missed.

    I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to this year. I did really enjoy Olga Slavnikova’s 2017, because it feels like the surreal heir to classic Russian literature. It’s strange that’s for damn sure. The translation is beautifully lyrical. I can see why this book won the Russian Booker prize.

    I’ve been frustrated by Reamde from Neal Stephenson. I want to love it because hey video games and crime and strange events. But for some reason I can’t manage more than a few pages before I put it down. It’s not boring, it’s not bad. I don’t know. I’ve been trying to read it for months now.

    Cloud Atlas was very beautiful and very strange. I still don’t know how I feel about it. I mean, I love stories like that that weave disparate tales on delicate threads.

    1. If you decide you ultimately decide you liked Could Atlas you might also enjoy Mitchell’s first book, Ghostwritten. It’s doesn’t have the formal symmetry or quite the ambition of Cloud Atlas, but it’s another set of linked stories over different genres and some of them are great.

      I feel like everything Mitchell writes is connected by the theme of abuse of power. I don’t know if he would agree, but I think it would actually be quite rewarding to do a study of his work from an anarchist perspective.

    2. I am going to reveal myself as such an asshole, Anton, but I avoided reading Cloud Atlas because I genuinely wondered why the hell I would want to read deep, penetrating fiction from the dude from Peep Show. Several people have told me I need to read this book.

      I will also have to check out 2017. Strange Russian surrealism? Yes, please.

      I have never really liked Stephenson. Mr. Oddbooks likes him a lot, however.

      We both had weird years, Anton. Here’s hoping that 2013 is marginally less weird for us both.

  5. As many books as I read it’s hard to come up with any sort of favorite book of the year, or even a list of favorite books. I think I might be able to come up with a list of my favorite new books by the genres I read.

    In fantasy, I’d go with Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. I really liked the concept of a form of magic that enables a reader to pull magical/super-sciencey items out of books. Really I think it’s a great story for any book nerd.

    In science fiction, which I don’t read a lot of, I’d pick Hal Spacejock: Baker’s Dough by Simon Haynes. This is the latest volume in a really funny sci-fi/comedy series that I love. There are lots of great laugh-out-loud bits.

    Most of the horror I’ve been reading is older stuff, and since I’m arbitrarily limiting myself to stuff published in 2012, but from what I read, I’d go with Clickers vs. Zombies by J. F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene, I love Keene’s The Rising series and Gonzalez’s Clickers series, so a book combining the two would be high on my list no matter what.

    Much as with horror, most of the bizarro fiction I’ve been reading is older stuff, but I really loved Bradley Sands’ TV Snorted My Brain. It combines the Arthurian legend with television, and a good dose of humor, so it’s pretty much the sort of thing I’m guaranteed to like.

    1. I adore Brian Keene and Bradley Sands. I have the Keene titles you mentioned in my queue to read, but not the Sands. I will be sure to check it out.

      Okay, just added Libriomancer to my wish list. This sounds right up my alley – secret history, magical interaction with books. Though I am sure it is wholly different in world-building, it seems like it may be a bit like Jasper Fforde, at least in terms of creativity of concept.

      I wish I knew why it is that I don’t enjoy science fiction that much. Mr. Oddbooks is a fan, to an extent, but I have never been able to enjoy as a genre, or high fantasy for that matter.

      I really have enjoyed your interactions here and hope you show back up in 2013! I plan to discuss more horror – I’ve got a ton in queue and hope you chime in with your opinions. Have a great holiday and a wonderful 2013!

  6. I discovered this blog this year and I’m glad I did.

    I read a lot of good books this year and it’s hard to pick out just one. So here are some of them.

    – Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka: I’ve read several works by the “god of Comics” and this one is probably my favorite. Tezuka criticizes the medical establishment of Japan and explores themes like faith, insanity and the human condition. All while telling a unique wolfman story. If all you know of Tezuka is Astroboy, do yourself a favor and give this a read.

    – Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino: A beautiful and surreal book where Marco Polo relates to Kublai Kahn the unique cities he’s visited.

    – The Room by Hubert Selby Jr.: I’ve only read two books that I would say genuinely disturbed me on a deep level. This is one of them. It’s a look into the mind of a petty criminal who sits in a holding cell awaiting trial. Man, the places his mind goes.

    – Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German: Ben reads Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German. He likes the book. He can not figure out why he likes the book. Ben decides he probably will never figure out why he likes the book. Ben thinks, “I think tomorrow, I’ll eat Mexican food for dinner.”

    – Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates: Probably the best “hollowness of the American Dream” type books I’ve read so far.

    – Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie: A story about a sympathetic male stalker with a happy ending written in very simple, direct sentences. Somehow, it all comes together.

    – Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim: I’ve heard it said that many beginner pimps use this as a manual. I don’t know why. Reading this and wanting to become a pimp is like reading AMERICAN PSYCHO and wanting to become a yuppie.

    – Big City, Bright Lights by Jay McInerney: I found this book a lot more compelling than I thought I would. Honestly, I think I prefer it over its counterpart, LESS THAN ZERO.

    – The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange): Man, the Bizarro movement is really where it’s at. I hate myself for sleeping on the genre as long as I did. I now have a bunch of Bizarro books on my shelf that I’m looking forward to reading.

    – The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum: The other book that genuinely disturbed me. Based on this and the other Ketchum book I read this year (OFF SEASON), I can safely say that Ketchum excels at creating likable characters and then doing terrible, terrible things to them.

    Thanks Anita for the great discussions and for the link to my blog. I hope you have a good Christmas and that 2013 will be a better year for you.

    1. Ben, I just added a bunch of books to my wish list based on this comment! I think you and I have very similar tastes in books. I am especially interested in Chilly Scenes of Winter. The Iceberg Slim book also sounds particularly interesting. I have this tingle in the back of my brain wherein I am almost certain I saw a documentary about Iceberg Slim, or at least a documentary wherein he was featured.

      Hubert Selby… I read Last Exit to Brooklyn before I was even in junior high. My mother got it confused with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and no one stopped me from reading it. I ended up a little… fucked up after reading it. So I sort of twitch at the thought of reading him again but I’m an adult now, technically, and I should give him another go.

      Oh man, I haven’t read Off Season but I have read its sequel, Offspring. There is a scene that haunts me that I can share without spoiling anything. A captive woman gets suspended by her own hair, just hanging there by her hair, blood streaming from her forehead. I’ve grown my hair superlong and that scene comes to mind periodically as I put my hair in a bun. I just picture how long I could be suspended by my hair until my body weight effectively scalped me. Ugh!

      I also will have to read Osamu Tezuka because it is so far removed from what I normally read. The description on Amazon was very interesting and very startling.

      I was very glad to meet you this year, Ben. I am terrible at leaving comments but need to leave you more over on Drip Drop. You have a great blog! I hope your holidays and your new year are amazing.

    2. The Girl Next Door — a book I’m simultaneously glad I read and wish I could forget having read. I was unaware of the real-life story of Sylvia Likens that the novel is based on, and yes, it’s a heartbreaking, horrifying story, but also just inexpressibly depressing. On the upside, I guess it makes for a pretty good test for people who think they might be sociopaths — if you can read this book and not feel sorrow, pain, and outrage down into the core of your being, then yes, you are dead inside and likely a sociopath. Also, the best writing I’ve read of Ketchum to date.

  7. Ben . – Oh man, Ode to Kirihito is great. I have no idea why it gets called a good Tezuka drama but not a great Tezuka drama. It’s not quite Adolf or Phoenix, but it’s just so damn good.

    The best comic I took in this year was Tezuka’s Black Jack. Absolutely batshit nuts medical dramas. Tezuka was a doctor, so his cute cartoony characters have amazingly detailed and medically accurate organs. On volume five, and every story has just been wonderful. They’re all strange little melodramas with really imaginative ailments and breakneck pacing. You know a book is going to be great when the second tale has the protagonist removing the psychic fetus twin from a celebrity, building it an adorable robot body, and letting it become his cute comic relief sidekick. Like every Tezuka book, it’s got some of the most stunning cartooning you’ll ever see.

    Josh Simmons does really good horror comics. House is a great one-sitting book; it’s completely wordless, about three teens exploring some weird, decaying castle-mansion ruins. There’s a point where this book just snaps. Flips around from a big, open exploration to pure claustrophobia, with this great shift from some Gorey-style obsessive hatching with big panels to black gutters that keep growing, rendering the figures smaller and smaller as they grow more helpless. Lovely, lovely dread. The Furry Trap was even better, a collection of fucked up stories with the best sequencing I’ve ever read in a comic collection, going from fucked up and funny to just plain fucked up. Cockbone ties w/ Suehiro Mauro’s Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freakshow for best display of complete and total terrifying helplessness in comics, Night of the Jibblers is a hideous fable (kinda like Pumpkinhead, but scary and very very nasty), and Demonwood packs all the dread of House in 1/5 the page-count.

    Carlton Mellick’s Apeshit was the most entertaining read I had by far; his characters are always so much fun, especially when they’re really fucked up, and this is easily his most perverse cast. Zombies and Shit was a blast too; it’s Battle Royale + Return of the Living Dead, but I liked it better than both (and I fucking love both!).

    Kathe Koja’s Extremities was just as gorgeous/haunting/kinky/grotesque as anything she’s written. Beautiful, beautiful prose.

    In the middle of The Cleft and Other Odd Tales by Gahan Wilson and extremely happy to know that my favorite cartoonist is also a damn fine writer. Great great stories full of all the wit and grotesquery you’d expect from seeing his cartoons, the best stories packed with the same comic dread of his pictures. The Sea Was Wet As Wet Can Be is spooky as heck (here’s a link to it http://lexal.net/scifi/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/wilson/index.html), and I’d like to call it the best of its genre, but I can’t quite say the genre without spoiling the story. I learned I’ve been a fan of Wilson since 5th grade; I read his story Mister Ice Cold in an R. L. Stine edited anthology but had no idea who the author was until now. It’s just so fucking elating to rediscover a great story. The Wilson-illustrated version of Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary is excellent too.

    For films, I just discovered Pedro Almodovar. All About My Mother, Volver, and The Skin I Live In. All so good. Very silly, very melodramatic, but if you can suspend your disbelief they’re pretty moving too. Definitely the most gorgeous colors I’ve seen in a movie.

    A Tale of Two Sisters really got to me. Could’ve done w/ less shrill Korean girls screaming, but oh my god does this one have one hell of a mood. It’s one of those flicks you can’t take a piss break from, or enjoy some snacks as you watch. It’s an absurdly delicate horror fairy tale, a very traditional folk ghost story that can really creep you out if you let it.

    Thanks for all the great reviews! Hopefully 2013 won’t be so topsy turvy for you.

    1. Between you and Ben, I really will have to check out Tezuka. He sounds delightful and insane. I will also be sure to check out Josh Simmons.

      I haven’t read anything by Kathe Koja in years. I added Extremities to my wish list because it sounds perfect – as I always say, I am a sucker for short story collections. It was also interesting to see that she has been writing Young Adult novels. I have to admit a certain curiosity about how her kink and darkness translate into books for younger readers. I had not thought of her in years. Thanks for jogging my memory.

      Ha! Gahan Wilson drew the cover for a Christmas murder mystery short story collection I am reading. For some reason, The Sea Was As Wet Can Be is ringing a bell. I scanned your link and its not becoming clear to me yet but I know someone either told me about this or I planned to read it. Interesting…

      I didn’t see many films this year and only one in a cinema. I’ve seen A Tale of Two Sisters and it was actually pretty well done. And like in The Sixth Sense, I did not see the twist. Mr. Oddbooks has a ton of Asian Horror to watch – maybe I will have a creepy Christmas.

      Topsy turvy years keep one on one’s toes but I too hope 2013 is a bit smoother. I hope your holidays and new year and the holidays and new year you want!

      1. Kathe Koja! I also haven’t thought of her in a long time, but in the 90s she was one of those writers who, when I saw her name in a short story anthology, I’d go straight to her entry. A very interesting style — reminds me a wee bit of Charlee Jacob, but more controlled and polished.

  8. This was the year I read Atlas Shrugged. I wrote an exhaustive review of the book and the first movie on my blog (http://daydreamingintext.blogspot.com/2012/06/seek-original-atlas-shrugged.html), but now I regret writing a review so quickly after reading it. I didn’t give myself time to take it all in.

    I have numerous problems with the book on both a storytelling level and an idealistic level, but nonetheless it is an eyeopening experience. It made me aware of the central political debates in the USA, and showed me both sides. Before I read this book, all of that was a total mystery. I’ve never read a book more relevant to the real world than Atlas Shrugged.

    I also read Gulliver’s Travels and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Two classic stories everyone knows, but hardly anybody has actually read. Gulliver’s Travels was dripping with sarcasm, and it’s amazing Swift’s critique of British society in the 1700’s is still funny today. So much of it is still true. The Wizard of Oz was a decent read, too.

    For movies, this was the year I saw Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. If only the movie had been made 10 years prior so MST3K could rip it apart. Delightfully bad movie.

    Finally saw The Wizard of Oz movie with Judy Garland. I didn’t like it very much and I don’t understand why it’s one of the best movies ever made. The special effects are impressive, and the sets are gorgeous, but other than that I preferred the book.

    I also saw Ted. Not a bad movie, but had all the typical plot points you’ve seen a hundred times before. Girlfriend/boyfriend break up, then make up. Friends have a falling out, then get back together. Main character dies, but then comes back. Seth Mcfarlane just does his Peter Griffin voice, so it was impossible to see Ted as his own character. In spite of that, it’s still funny.

    A video game had a big impact on me this year, too. “To The Moon” is a 16-bit, RPG-style narrative of a pair of doctors who give old people new memories so they’ll die happy. This is a movie story told in game format, and it’s quite an achievement. http://freebirdgames.com/to_the_moon/

    1. I, like all pretentious young women with a political bent to their characters, read Atlas Shrugged in college. I cannot recall if I finished it or not. My money is on not having finished it. You are clearly a better man than me, James. I’ll be sure to check out your discussion. Ayn Rand always provokes strong opinions, to be sure.

      I’ve been toying with making myself read one classic novel a month. Dickens, Bronte, the various Russians… I have a remarkably undisciplined intellect, so I feel the need to sort of reacquaint myself with more… normal books. I never read books like Swift or Melville. Again, you are a better man than me!

      I am relatively unironic so I cannot watch The Room without dying a thousand deaths. I just… I feel almost the way I do when forced to watch Ed Wood films.

      I only saw one film in the cinema this year and it was the Avengers (unless The Hunger Games movie was this year, and if it was, in that case I saw two films). It’s the drawback to being a complete shut-in and borderline misanthrope. I need to remedy that because I always feel left out when people discuss films they saw recently.

      I am glad I met you through your bizarre horse dildo book, James. I really am! I hope you write more lunatic books in 2013!

      1. I haven’t read nearly as much as I should have this year. I’ve been writing a lot and trying to get it all published. But I like reading the classics on my own, without a teacher there to explain everything to death. There’s quite a few more I have lined up, thanks to the gutenberg project.

        I read Atlas Shrugged because I’d heard so much about it and i wanted to know what the hype was all about. When I see the second movie I’ll probably write a shorter, more concise review. It was a hard book to read; looooooong and painful, like watching a bad movie that lasts for two solid weeks. That was a challenge. I don’t blame you for not finishing it.

        I only saw one movie in theaters, too, and Ted was it. Saw the Hunger Games on DVD, and I was impressed. It’s Running Man, yes, but it took the idea in a different direction and did some great things with it.

        Speaking of ironic, I did read the first two Twilight books this year, too! Saw the first movie, too. The movie was…bleah, but I enjoyed the books for all the wrong reasons.

        And the point of watching a bad movie is to die a thousand deaths! Bad movie pain is fun! Bad book pain… is usually not.

  9. I’m a lurker, but I can’t resist a good contest! Here’s some stuff I read this year (only a couple of which actually came out this year):

    The Weird — a massive compendium of a century’s worth of short stories and novellas exemplifying the genre as selected by the VanderMeers — is pretty fantastic and so huge that it will take me a long time to get through all the stories. But almost by default, it’s one of the best books ever!

    Dadaoism Anthology is chock-full of stories from great and strange writers, but for full disclosure, I have a story in it.

    I read two novels by Evan Dara — The Easy Chain and The Lost Notebook — and they were brilliant for their language and their cascading anger, but they are not fantastical or genre works, just experimental literary works. (You have to suspend your expectations of plot or character and sort of give yourself over to them.) I call them odd because I simply haven’t come across similar books — a unique author who needs to be lauded!

    The Elementary Particles by Michel Houllebecq is both heartbreaking and chilling — and suggests a radical proposal for the future of the human race, which is equally horrific and appealing to me. Very odd book indeed!

    Venusia by Mark von Schlegell is a delightful Phildickian sci-fi romp through strange ideas and constant plot twists.

    So there’s a few … I hope I win your contest, of course, but it was fun checking back on some of this year’s reads!

    1. Yarrow, thanks for the heads up on the Evan Dara books – just ordered both of those on the strength of your comments, and a couple of online reviews – cheers !

    2. Lurkers are readers, Yellow Paisley. I know I have around 620 of you lurkers and you all deserve to potentially be rewarded for sticking around and reading, even if you are silent.

      I am quite glad you decided to unlurk and leave this comment because with the exception of Vandermeer, I have not heard of any of these authors, and in Vandermeer’s case, I was unfamiliar with this particular anthology. I added all of these books to my wish list to remind myself to check them out. The Evan Dara books sound especially wonderful.

      So thanks for leaving this comment! Continue to lurk but unlurk periodically to give excellent book recommendations. Have a great holiday!

  10. Gosh, I wish I had a cool comment about all the books I read this year like some of the readers above. I did WRITE a novel though, a super odd one!

    What I read this year; NYRB issues, books about how to help kids with processing disorders, The Spiritual Brain (meh), Brain Wars (meh+), and some old favorites (Lost Souls, Cider House Rules, The Secret History). I know I picked up some new-to-me fiction but I guess it wasn’t memorable. How shitty.

    I haven’t seen a new movie in a theater in 8 years (wahhhh) but I did watch Take this Waltz the other day on Netflix and I’m pretty sure it came out this year! HA. It was so pretty, I loved it.

  11. I’ve read a ton of books this year (being disabled, I read a lot. A. Lot.) and I’ve been gifted with odd zombie/end of the world books by my equally odd friends.

    From Pride & Prejudice & Zombies to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer to the latest one, George Washington Werewolf, all I have to say is one thing —

    STOP IT. Stop it right this instant.

    I like paranormal books. I like (some of) the classics. The two should not intermingle. I don’t need to think if Honest Abe having a personal vendetta against anyone with an intolerance to the sun. I don’t want to contemplate the first president having his wooden teeth replaced with silver to chew through a lycanthropes chest wall. Mr. Darcy was frightening enough without coming back from the dead a time or two.

    There are good, fun, rollicking paranormal books out there – DD Barant, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, are just a few that I thoroughly enjoy.

    And I have to give a shout-out to a friend who wrote one of my favorite books this year. Libriomancer, by Jim C.Hines. Jim is one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know; whether in his books or his blog (didn’t win that Hugo for being boring, now, did he? His on-going fund raiser with John Scalzi, where they attempt to replicate the outrageous cover poses on books is a sure-fire winner, too.

    Huh. Looks like the path I intended to take on this is way over there. ::shrug:: Oh well… this was fun, too.

  12. Nothing I finish is particularly odd. Oh, I do start some odd books every now and then, but they wind back up at Half Price Books. So, here are my buttoned-down favorites from 2012.

    “Teacher Man” Frank McCourt

    “The Prehistory of the Far Side” Gary Larson (Okay, so it’s a “piture” book. It does contain cartoons, but I was really surprised by this book. It is an autobiography of sorts and is really helpful to read about the embarrassing mistakes and anxieties of an artist whose work I really enjoy. It is a sort of a silly antidote to the pain of perfectionism.)

    “A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy” Thomas Buergenthal

    “Better” Atul Gawande (Also, “Checklist Manifesto” is good, just not quite as good.)

    “Mountains Beyond Mountains” Tracy Kidder

  13. I’m a massive fan of IROB even though I’m another person who mostly lurks. I’m also not very good at this kind of thing, but I thought I would give it a try. Here are a handful of books that I really loved this year:

    “The Ghost Map” by Steven Johnson. It’s probably the most fascinating book I’ve read this year. It’s about how John Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead traced a cholera outbreak that decimated London’s population in 1854 back to the water supply. Up until then, infectious outbreaks were blamed on miasma and/or things like ‘lack of moral fiber’. It’s incredibly detailed and interesting. It’s also extremely gross.

    I just finished reading “The Family that Couldn’t Sleep” thanks to IROB, and have had the shit thoroughly scared out of me. I’m terrified of prions. I’m lucky that I’ve only ever had to deal with medical instruments contaminated with CJD twice so far at work but…still…fuck that shit.

    I couldn’t resist checking out “Love in the Time of Dinosaurs” after your review, and it was completely awesome. But how could anyone NOT enjoy a book about villainous dinosaurs that are armed with swords and bazookas, I ask you?

    Another favourite was “Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead” by Sara Gran. It’s about an unusual private detective who is investigating the case of a man who vanished during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Claire, who learned her trade from a mysterious book called Détection (an abstract guide of philosophical musings on the nature of mysteries and investigations), gathers her clues from dreams, the I Ching, drug-fueled visions and fateful coincidences. It was a strange and haunting story. I thought it was brilliant.

    I also loved “Barbed Wire Hearts” by Cate Gardner. It’s weird, funny, and very surreal. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Cate Gardner so far, but this novella is amazing. She’s definitely worth checking out.

    My favourite graphic novel was “The Vicar Woman” by Emma Rendel. It’s very short (it literally took me 15 minutes to read one day in the library while I was waiting for my husband to finish work), but it’s unsettling and sinister. It’s about a vicar who is invited to an isolated island where the villagers are far less interested in spiritual matters than they are in assuaging the guilt they collectively feel about their compliance in the disappearance of a teenage girl. There are ghost babies, secret abortions, and homages to The Wicker Man.

  14. I’m enjoying reading these entries — and seriously envying people who’ve managed to finish so many books. I’m skipping between about a half dozen at this point with little hope of finishing anything.

    Sad to say, it’s mostly shorter stuff and lighter reading that I’ve managed to finish reading this year. Most of it has been pretty meh, but I’ll share a couple of things that especially stood out for me:

    The Borderlands horror anthology series from the 1990s, edited by Thomas Monteleone and Elizabeth Monteleone. I believe there were five — maybe six? — collections in all. They were my favorite horror anthologies when they were originally published, and I recently went back and revisited one ones I still own. The mission statement behind these collections was “new” horror, that avoided traditional horror tropes — no zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc. — and expanded the genre into original territory. So, more of an emphasis on psychological horror, surrealism, and formal experimentation. Some fantastic writing, and imagery that has stuck with me for decades.

    Crossed, a comic book series by Garth Ennis and other writers. On the one hand, it’s yet another zombie apocalypse story, and I generally avoid this genre — I’ve just never really been into the zombie thing — but this one employs dark — pitch black — humor and solid writing and characterizations and has totally sucked me in. The premise is that some as-yet unexplained event has caused most of the world’s population to go totally kill-crazy insane — kind of a 28 Days Later riff, but cranked up to 11. The stories jump around and follow different groups of survivors (who typically all end up dead — it’s not an optimistic series). It’s completely over-the-top bonkers in its gleeful wallowing in extreme gross-out imagery. I won’t go into the lurid details, but the Crossed (so called because the infected develop a reddish cross across their faces) are essentially the Reavers from Firefly: “If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing – and if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.”

    On a lighter note, in 2012 I discovered a terrific foodie magazine, Lucky Peach, created by the mad genius David Chang of NYC’s Momofuku, and published quarterly by McSweeney’s. Each issue is built loosely around a single theme — the latest issue is “Chinatown” — and they get contributions from food world luminaries like Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl. Admittedly, it’s very much of a quirky/hipster foodie magazine, about as far from Gourmet or Saveur as you can get. Not really about food porn, pretty geeky, and some really witty writing. It’s a lot of fun if you’re into food and the restaurant world. I believe there are five issues to date, of which I’ve read only four, because the first issue is out of print and selling for $150 and up on Amazon.

    Finally, I think the worst thing I read this year was Scabs by Wrath James White, a horror anthology. Anita, if I had your stamina and talent for takedowns, I’d go off on an extended rant about talented horror writers who churn out lazy, barely edited (if at all) material — for money — that doesn’t just insult my intelligence, but actually makes me feel swindled. I had started on my blog to do some writing about stuff I was reading at the time — just some notes and reactions — and the second book I got to was Scabs. I managed to slog my way through every increasingly sloppy, ridiculous story, but by the end I was so dispirited that I gave up on the whole reading project. Wrath James White, you not only gave me a mediocre reading experience, but reading Scabs actually decreased my quality of life. For that, I condemn you.

  15. I did a reading challenge with my spouse this year in which we each selected books for the other to read. He selected books for me that were meaningful to him as a younger person, so I read Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit Will Travel,” Frank Herbert’s “God Emperor of Dune,” and The Stand.

    I did a lot of book _listening_ since I like to knit while I listen:

    Great Expectations
    All of Terry Pratchett’s Young Adult stuff
    All the Song of Ice and Fire
    A Casual Vacancy
    The Hunger games series
    In One Person (John Irving)


    1. Don’t count my comment as a contest entry because I didn’t read the instructions carefully! However, to answer it: A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling is the book that stuck with me the most after reading. Even though I found it pretty unpleasant, she created such real characters that I found myself thinking about them for some time. Like, wondering what they’re all doing now and what’s the latest news in the village.

  16. Lurker here. The book that’s sticking with me is the one I finished last night– SKIN by Kathe Koja, funny to see her name in the comments above. How did I miss her in the 90’s?!?! Well the book took me back to that kind of time and place but it’s also more than that, she really goes for broke with language and emotion and I felt wrung out by the end. Also inspired.

    Other books I really liked this year were THE TIGER by John Vaillant, true story of the hunt for a man-eating tiger in Russia that reads like the best adventure porn (and made me look at my cat a little more closely), ART & LIES by Jeannette Winterson–I don’t know what she’s talking about half the time but love the spell she spins, YOUR IS HOUSE ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE by Stefan Kiesby, spare and creepy, and a lovely book called AFTER LIFE by Rhiann Ellis that I just thought was perfect.

    Worst book a toss-up between 50 SHADES OF GREY, which I (kind of) had to read for work, and MICRO by Michael Crichton–I’m phobic of bugs and thought it might give me some cheap thrills but it just sucked, thank God I only paid a dollar for it at a library sale.

    Got some new ones to check out after reading the comments here–thanks IROB!

  17. I feel like its totally lame to say this, but “House of Leaves” by Danielewski was easily the best thing I read all year. Its seems so cliche to talk about that book as a work of insane genius, but I really think that’s what it is. Will probably be thinking about it for years.

    There were plenty of other books that I read this year that i enjoyed, but many were note exactly “good”. Suppose that the 5th Game of Thrones novel might be in second place this year, though its hard to look at any of those books independently of the others in the series and I’m not sure I can be a fair critic of the writing because I love them SO MUCH.

  18. This year has been a year of textbooks, professional development required reading and what I call Brain Candy. Reading some of the other comments I feel guilty for not reading more challenging works.

    One of the books that I read for work was “Teach Like a Champion”, it had a lot of great information.

    Brain Candy included The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Fever Series and Atremis Fowl. The last one I read to see if it was suitable for my nephew. I must admit I also got sucked into the “50 Shades” phenomena as it plays to my own sexual interests. I also revisited “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Maragaret Atwood.

  19. I read “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman. It’s a non-fiction book about a very young Hmong girl with a serious seizure disorder and the conflict of cultures between the American medical system and her Hmong family and community.

    It really struck a chord with me for a variety of reasons. I work in health care, and about 2 years ago (?) we had an elderly Hmong woman as a patient. She had dementia, and didn’t speak a word of English. It was an adventure, to say the least. I remember doing the best I could, trying to be mindful of my eye contact, and of minimizing touching, of being respectful of my elders (i.e. my patient), and trying to educate myself in order to better help my lady.

    This book went into depth about Hmong culture, especially of their beliefs about American medicine. I wish that I had read this a heck of a lot earlier! Overall, I really loved it, and recommend it to everyone!

  20. I spent 2012 filling a gap from my childhood. I started reading the Nancy Drew series. I’m
    in the middle of book 8 with book 9 purchased, ready and waiting. I’m reading them in ebook format because I love the polarity of old fashioned books where the hand held technological device Nancy won’t leave the house without is a flashlight. Though I had tons of books growing up Nancy only appeared as a featured character in a couple of my brother’s Hardy Boy Mysteries. Reading it as an adult I’m surprised at the violence and near murder events Nancy faces in each book, especially when the books (that I’ve completed thus far) were written in the first half of the twentith century. Had I read Nancy Drew as a kid I would have been in tons of trouble. It’s a great series and I love the description of the clothes and food. I’ll confess, now I carry a flashlight.

  21. Best book was Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery by Robin Atkins, only because it really got me excited and inspired to do creative art with beads! She has an excellent view on creating art and her descriptions of different stitches is amazingly easy to understand. I proceeded to buy two more of her books after finishing this one.

    Best movie was a documentary called Waste Land about an artist who created work using Brazilian landfill pickers. It was an amazing and inspirational idea that brings awareness of the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves and makes art at the same time.

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