If you follow me on Goodreads or spy on me when I ride the Max to work, you know that I read a lot. Instead of doing an ordinary top ten kind of deal, I’ll pretend to give out some awards. Imagine it’s a foot tall, shiny gold, statue of me in a rocking chair with a book in one hand and a container of maple yogurt (with peanut butter M&Ms in it) in the other hand. And maybe I’m wearing a fuzzy cardigan or something. Kind of like this…
Also: replace racing form with The Listeners by Leni Zumas or something.
I’m linking my Goodreads reviews on some of these babies.
Crazy Poetry Is the Best Poetry Award: I read a lot of poetry in 2012. And lots of it was cray cray. From youngsters like Jenny Zhang and Gregory Sherl to a ton of old Russell Edson books I scored at work (it was a good year for finding used Edson rarities at Powell’s), poetry inspired me probably more than any kind of writing this year (besides of course, the creative nonfiction of Future Tense writers Shane Allison and Chloe Caldwell). But the most crazy goodness was found in Dan Magers’s Party Knife. Seeing him read at Bad Blood was also one of the highlights of the year. (Correction: I saw Dan at If Not For Kidnap. Geez, how many reading series can Portland have anyway!?)
The Great Discovery Award: Recently my sharp eyes spotted a random late 80s-looking Knopf title while shelving lit books and I had the sneaking feeling that it was maybe something rare and cool. It was Campfires of the Dead, a short story collection by Peter Christopher. I did a quick Google search and found that he was an ex-Lish student. A quick read of some of the stories revealed some great sentences, so I snagged it! Looking forward to reading more of it. Unfortunately, Christopher died in 2008 of liver cancer and this was his only book.
The New Obsession Award: The year before last I discovered Leonard Michaels and got all lovestruck with his works. This year, it was the poet Sharon Olds. I had no idea how great and intense (and sometimes explicit) her work is, but now I’m a superfan. Start off with The Gold Cell like I did. I read five of her books in 2012 and will probably read five more this year.
Worship the Sharon!
The Book I Wasn’t Sure About at First But Really Appreciate Now: I think while I was reading Zachary Schomburg’s latest, Fjords, I kept wanting it to get more sad or something, but Fjords has something else in mind. It has less interest in dwelling on matters of the heart and more gumption to just soak in a world of weirdness. I sort of held that against the book for some reason. But now I see that Schomburg (love the guy like a brother) was just stretching into a new direction and it’s just as amazing as anything he’s done. And it does have a lot of heart too.
Best Odd Detour From What I Usually Read Award: I wanted to read a good coming-of-age novel and Chloe Caldwell convinced me to try Elizabeth Berg’s Joy School (from 1997). Apparently, she had read it when she was a teenager and was really into it. So I gave it a try and really liked it too. It has a funny voice and a quirky charm, not to mention an underlying sadness and a nice easy tone that anyone could love. I guess that’s why Elizabeth Berg is a bestselling author.
The Lost in the Local Shuffle Award: Portland poet Leanne Grabel’s memoir, Brontosaurus, was overshadowed by the intensity of Lidia Yuknavitch’s Chronology of Water and the awesomeness of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, but damn–there’s some ultra-naked bravery going on in that book. The book has only been rated nine time on Goodreads? WTF!
The Dusty Dust Jacket Awards: Of course, I didn’t get to read ALL the books I thought I would. You should see the stacks around this place! Some of the books I was really excited to get but still haven’t read much of yet: House of Holes by Nicholson Baker, The Sugar-Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner, The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, and Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.
Books I’m looking forward to reading in 2013: The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte, Wedlocked by Jay Ponteri, The Reenactments by Nick Flynn, Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan, and How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Oh–and hey: I’m reading at this cool event on January 12th. Come out and say hey!