A year ago, I undertook a challenge: to read one hundred books in a year. As of sometime before midnight last night, I finished. Suck it, jerkballs.
I read a wide range of books - a lot of P.G. Wodehouse, a lot of novels, some crappy pop feminism books, finally finding a streak of good non-fiction at the end (bell hooks, Michele Wallace, Joanna Russ, and Shulamith Firestone). The repeating authors include P.G. Wodehouse (11), Neil Gaiman (6), Margaret Atwood (4), bell hooks, Douglas Adams and Ian McEwan (3 each, and I can’t explain why I read a third McEwan novel after being less than enthralled with the first two), Edith Wharton, Sarah Vowell, George Pelecanos, Paul Auster, Max ‘Zombie’ Brooks and Christopher Buckley (2 each). Oh, and Charlaine Harris, as author of the Sookie Stackhouse (aka True Blood) series, and Harper Connelly mysteries with 13. Shut up!
Also, a whopping 61 of the books were novels!
I loved doing this project, and I am starting again - though this time it is only 52 (good because I got a little too focused on just finishing books! now! towards the end) with the caveat that you have to write a few paragraphs review (bad, I procrastinate and don’t write the reviews, good, thinking about what I’ve read).
Anyway, the biggest point of this post is the following: I have ranked the books I read according to category of goodness, and loosely in order of quality (descending). Please make suggestions based on my (fairly obvious) likes and dislikes as illuminated by this list. Also, please engage with me in conversation about the books. ‘Why is this here?’ and ‘Why did you like x book so much?’ are appropriate and welcome questions; ‘If you don’t like z book you are a stupid turd’ or ‘this book is clearly better than that book’ with no explanation are neither appropriate, nor questions, and will be ignored.
Good reading to all!
My Personal Canon - books I want to re-read again and again, they contain something elusive between the covers that is greater than the sum of the parts. These are books that could largely be considered ‘classics,’ and are also personal favorites.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ
- Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- Right Ho, Jeeves and The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
- ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ and ‘Good Country People’ from A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
- No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe
- The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John LeCarre
The Greats - books that I would wholeheartedly recommend to almost anyone, they are well-crafted but didn’t quite make ‘favoritest ever ever’ status.
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
- Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
- The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks
- the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon
- Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman
- Wodehouse - the Jeeves and Wooster novels (The Inimitable Jeeves, Jeeves in the Offing, Thank You Jeeves, The Catnappers, The Mating Season, Jeeves in the Morning, Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit)
- Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks
- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
- A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
- Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
- Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Pretty Good - check out these books if you are interested in the subject matter or author.
- The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone
- Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman by Michele Wallace
- The Turnaround by George Pelecanos
- The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri
- All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
- Timbuktu by Paul Auster
- Reel to Real: Race, Class and Sex at the Movies by bell hooks
- Naked by David Sedaris
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Sex is Not a Natural Act by Leonore Tiefer
- Boomsday by Christopher Buckley
- No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley
- Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
- The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano
- The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
- The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
- Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
- Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
- The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
- I am America (and So Can You) by Stephen Colbert
- Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
- Healthy at Every Size by Linda Bacon
- Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby
- The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
Not Anything to Write Home About - I don’t regret the time I spent reading these, but they wouldn’t come up in a conversation about books I recommend. There’s a lot of non-fiction in here that is either not that provocative (to me) in subject matter, or not that well written; a lot of the fiction is stuff that other people seem to like a lot more than I do, so there must be something appealing that just isn’t for me.
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman
- Drama City by George Pelecanos
- The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
- Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy
- Scorsese by Ebert by Roger Ebert
- Land of the Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets by Cadillac Man
- Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
- Wodehouse - My Man Jeeves (short stories)
- So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams
- Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
- Faith of My Fathers by John McCain and Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (that’s right, they are tied).
- Grave Sight, Grave Surprise, and An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris (The Harper Connelly mysteries)
- Wild Life by Molly Gloss
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
- Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
- Saturday by Ian McEwan
Meh - only if you are a die-hard fan of the author or obssessed with the subject matter.
- Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
- Weight by Jeanette Winterson
- Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
- On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
- Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond
- A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris
- It’s a Jungle Out There by Amanda Marcotte
- World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- You Unplugged by Scott W. Webb
Avoid at All Costs
- The Female Thing by Laura Kipnis