Good Reading 2011
2011 was a slow reading year in terms of quantity - I only finished 19 books, mostly due to it taking me four months to slog through just Great Expectations and Jude the Obscure during my Summer of Classics. But here is my annual list of the best that I did manage to read, several of which were excellent.
1. Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude (Review)
2. Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses (Review)
3. Sholom Aleichem, Selected Stories (Review)
4. Alan Heathcock, Volt (Review)
5. Nelson Algren, Nonconformity: Writing on Writing (Review)
6. Ben Tanzer, You Can Make Him Like You (Review)
7. Ben Katchor, The Cardboard Valise (Review)
8. Isaac Bashevis Singer and Richard Burgin, Conversations with Isaac Bashevis Singer (Review)
9. Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
10. Aharon Appelfeld, The Iron Tracks (Review)
Honorable Mention: Stona Fitch, Senseless; The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers; Jim Thompson, Savage Night
Re-Reading: Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (Review)
+ Oddly enough, my top three books were all translated works. Though I usually read a fair amount of translations, they never sweep the top rankings. And the translations I read usually skew toward Scandinavian, which this year only includes Petterson. So I broadened my reading somewhat this year, with Yiddish (Aleichem), Czech (Hrabal) and Appelfeld (Hebrew).
+ Great year for Structured Reading (with Aleichem, Singer and Appelfeld all making the top ten), but only marginal for Summer of Classics (enjoyed Hardy but only endured Dickens). I've decided to go more modern in my classics next year, with Hemingway, Faulkner, etc.
+ My great friend Ben Tanzer finally cracks my top ten, which had nothing to do with only reading 19 books. I thoroughly enjoyed You Can Make Him Like You, which would have made my list in pretty much any year.
+ Another light year for non-fiction, with Algren, Singer and the Believer book (plus Len O'Connor's autobiography) being the only ones I read. Something I'm looking to rectify in the coming year.