Top 10 of 2009
I don't have much of an intro, but 2009 was a good year for reading. No trouble reaching 50 and I discovered a couple authors I loved, in addition to a couple to avoid. And who knows, maybe next year, I'll review them all too. So, without further fanfare:
10. Miracleman by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman
I read quite a few comics this year, the majority of which were written by Alan Moore. Miracleman isn't actually the best--that would be Watchmen--but it functions as a deconstruction of the superhero mythos, a religious treatise, and a meditation on humanity. Plus, head-smashing.
Alternate title: What If God Were One of Us?
9. The Counterlife by Philip Roth
My second-longest review of the year belonged to one of the most perplexing books I read. The Counterlife tells four parallel stories of the same man in different circumstances, ties them together in the most pretentious way imaginable, and somehow makes it work.
Alternate Title: Paperback Writer
8. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian is a cold, uninviting piece of literature. Dense with allegory, symbolism, and description, it was a tough read that tripped me up on my reviews simply because I didn't know what to say about it. The Old West will never look the same again.
Alternate Title: I Like Westerns
7. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
John Updike's reputation as a master prose stylist is well-justified by this, his most famous novel. Following perhaps the least sympathetic protagonist I read about this year, Updike manages to make the story of a misanthropic, washed-up small-town boy resonant and heartbreaking.
Alternate Title: Jack and Diane Redux
6. Libra by Don DeLillo
Digging into the psyche of Lee Harvey Oswald and the men in orbit around him, DeLillo turns one of America's villains into a pawn of forces beyond his control.
Alternate Title: Sympathy for the Devil
5. Kilbrack by Jamie O'Neill
Maybe the most enjoyable read of the year, Kilbrack's amnesiac author protagonist tours the tiny town of Kilbrack in search of his past, armed with only a memoir and some sort of mental disorder. Along the way he meets colorful characters and learns some lessons. But mostly, it's hilarious.
Alternate Title: That laughing version of Jingle Bells
4. Ulysses by James Joyce
Ulysses lives up to its reputation: dense, complicated, sometimes boring, but Joyce kept my interest with his writing and wordplay. I even enjoyed The Oxen of the Sun. Also notable: one of the best twists of all time in one of the most beautiful pieces of prose ever written.
Alternate Title: Baby, What a Big Surprise
3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Nothing I read this year gave me same visceral thrill as the first section of The Sound and the Fury, where Benjy narrates without regard for time or place, for nearly 100 pages. A perfect example of how brilliant writing can carry even the most complex conceits.
Alternate Title: I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow
2. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter by J. D. Salinger
Blurbing Raise High without the other Salingers I read this year seems strange. Just know that if you haven't read any Salinger besides Catcher in the Rye, you're missing out. Learn about Seymour, the real man without a country.
Alternate Title: I Guess I Just Wasn't Made for These Times
1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I wrote plenty about this when I reviewed it, but this was one of the most hilarious, brilliant, touching books I've ever read. Don't let its size intimidate you. It's not a difficult read, and you'll like it, even you don't do drugs or like tennis.
The Woman in White - The gothic mystery novel, perfected.
Watchmen - The graphic novel, perfected.
Neuromancer - Lots of ideas, terrible writing, and what plot?
Go Ask Alice - Drugs will make you stupid.