A couple days ago, I sent out an email asking a fairly large group of writer, editor and publishing friends to send me their nominations for “top 3 books published this year.” I told them to interpret “top” any way they chose to, and to feel no pressure to expound on their choices in any particular way. The plan is to publish a large list of all the Top 3 lists next week (so far I’ve received 20 contributions, and they’re still coming in) but yesterday I kicked off the festivities early by posting one response by Zak Smith in advance of the full list. Today I’m offering up my own selections, prefaced by a short explanation of the way I chose to interpret my own injunction to choose the “top” books of the year.
I spent large swaths of 2009 struggling with fiction, especially novels, while also struggling to write one. (Anyone see a relationship between those two facts? … Didn’t think so.) Here are three novels that challenged and expanded my notion of what a novel could, should, or ought to be, but more important than that: they provided me with enormous entertainment and edification. The three are vastly different, but each is, I think, a work of startling interiority, and this seems to be what I needed in ’09. Each book in its own way offered me succor and deliverance from the confines of myself, by offering up for a getaway space the extraordinary confines of some other self, and I returned from each readerly excursion in better shape than when I left.
Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin.
The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell.
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.
ALSO: A special shout-out to My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, which has a 2008 © in it but didn’t really surface until early ’09. A massively important book and instantly among the most important and treasured Collecteds I own.