Despite my vow (in August, ouch), I’ve done a terrible job keeping the thumbnails and the list up to date with what I’m reading lately. I also may not — sob — make the 75, mostly due to periods of extreme stress and/or upheaval this year, and periods of reading bits and pieces of nonfiction books, which I’m not counting because I did not read from cover to cover. But I’ll get close, because I have eight or so that I must read before the end of the year. These will be the thumbiest of nails, because I don’t have time for more.
44. Firmin, Sam Savage – A lovely book about a rat and reading. You can read all you’d ever want about this one over at the LBC — it was this season’s Read This! pick, and while I preferred Manbug, I’d definitely recommend this too.
45. Sideshow: Stories, Sidney Thompson – Another LBC book, this one wasn’t completely my cup of tea, but it’s worth seeking out if you’re into oddball, Southern fiction (which I sometimes am, and I actually suspect I may have just read this at the wrong time).
46. Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell – It’s the weirdest thing, but my memory of reading this, in a gulp over the course of a day, is of being very cold. But it was still summer when I read it, still hot and humid outside. This is an absolutely chilling, marvelously strange little book that packs a huge amount of weight. If you read it, it’ll be different than anything else you read this year. See also: Sarah’s recommendation.
48. Shriek: An Afterward, Jeff VanderMeer – Tied with Octavian Nothing to be my favorite book of the year. You must, must, must read this. It still hasn’t gotten the attention and discussion it deserves. My full take is here.
49. The Keep, Jennifer Egan – Like everybody else in the world, I tore through this and highly recommend it. The balancing act Egan pulls off with point of view is something to admire. See also: Leila at Bookshelves of Doom’s review.
50. Wide Awake, David Levithan – The best feel-good political novel of the year, bar none. A funny, sharp, and surprisingly touching story about a contentious future election (that of the first gay Jewish president) and two boys in love.
51. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Vol. 1: The Pox Party, M.T. Anderson – I never have figured out quite how to talk about this book. And surely, by now, you’ve heard everything you need to to convince you to read it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise of it for anyone, the revelation. This may well be Anderson’s masterwork and I can’t WAIT for the second volume. I’ll write about both then, instead, maybe. Anyway: READ IT. BOOK OF THE YEAR.
52. The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas – I read this during my trip to Portland and found it absorbing. I do think it’s a bit uneven and didn’t love it as much as others (say, Mark or Maud or Colleen — so, please, do yourself a favor and listen to them instead of me; they’re almost certainly right). That said, it’s definitely a strange, compelling thought puzzle of a novel. I lost patience at times with sections near the end (the earlier ones didn’t bother me) that were almost entirely composed of long philosophical discussions, in much the way Ayn Rand always lost me with that stuff when I was a teenager. The rest, though, is quite fascinating. I don’t think the military research thread ever quite meshes with the rest of the elements, and I would have preferred the Troposphere to be more developed as a world. (With the exception of Apollo Smintheus.) But, yeah, you SF types should read this one. For those of you who loved it without reserve, I recommend seeking out Justina Robson’s Living Next Door to the God of Love, which hangs together a bit better to me but is sympathetic in its concerns and approach.
53. Grey, Jon Armstrong – I’ll have more to say about this one closer to when it comes out in February. For now, I’ll just say that it was an extremely pleasant surprise to read such a strange, elaborately written (but brief) science fiction novel (blurbed by Michael Chabon, no less). I have no idea what Armstrong has published before, but this is definitely a novel that will have people talking next year.
That’s it for now: More soon! No, really, this time. I mean it.