January 1st, 2011 / 8:57 pm

“Kill me outright with looks” : 139 Books I Read in 2010

MacGyver, that sexy-bellied genie show, and the show about California highway cops with the weirdly lowercase i—all of these television shows ran 139 episodes. In 2010, I read 139 books. I mean, I think I did. Most chapbooks I didn’t include in this list, even really good ones, so there’s that. Also there’s always an also, so who knows? Here are 139 books I probably read this year and what I spontaneously remember of them. As a bonus, I am sometimes unexpectedly or tangentially “mean-ish” in my notes, so if you have an idea of me as being “unable to be mean,” maybe this will change your mind (probably not):

1 John Updike – Couples
2 John Updike – Endpoint

Why did I start the year with two John Updike books? Maybe I had a pair of boat shoes whose soles were falling apart and I experienced this as its own brand of melancholy. “Daffodils grow leggy like young girls,” indeed. Couples was about as sexy as a red pug-nose, but it’s undeniable that Updike often has a command of syntactic puffery that I would equate with the word slurry and the way the word slurry manifests in physics.

3 Cormac McCarthy – The Orchard Keeper

Another beautiful Cormac McCarthy book that made me want to be a terrified old man who lives by himself with ghosts and shrewd cooking skills. Also there were some car crashes and whiskey running and a murderer offering dry socks to the son of the man he murdered.

4 William T. Vollmann – Riding Toward Everywhere

Read this on a bus. Flipped around a little looking to see how mentioned were the parts of Northern California I know personally. Got repetitive in its romanticism, but still made me want to be friends with middle-aged men who are train hopping enthusiasts.

5 Rudy Wilson – The Red Truck

Jesus, did I read this or did I take a bunch of weird Southern NyQuil? I can’t remember, and that’s a good thing.

6 Sinclair Lewis – Babbitt

Love Lewis’s eye and the wit of prose that never had to compete with sitcoms, but this wasn’t as much my bag as Main Street was.

7 Jim Harrison – In Search of Small Gods

I liked one or two poems. Made me want to look at frogs and have wise thoughts.

8 Frank Lima – Inventory

Really really enjoyed. Started in 2009, finished in 2010, which I say to explain why I’m just going to quote from a Best of 2009 list I did for Big Other:

Now my third for a holy trinity of Frank poets (the other two being Frank Stanford and Frank O’Hara, with CA Conrad’s hero in the Book of Frank getting a wink), Frank Lima is a woefully underappreciated poet. He’s got Cedar Tavern cred and chops that melt together an urban sizzle-drip, a bird-on-fire flight of Lorca/early Paz surrealism, and a caramel sensitivity and straightforwardness ala Kenneth Koch. Now a teacher at the New York Restaurant School, Lima is the author of a new book of selected poems, Inventory, that shivs me into shivers. I first heard the name Frank Lima in Lisa Jarnot’s poem “Poem Beginning With a Line By Frank Lima,” but it wasn’t until I read one of Lima’s own poems in a collection of work dedicated to John Wieners that I realized I had to rush out and click around until I found this book. Gawk these lines from his poem “My Heart”: “My heart is the shyest object in the world … It blushes when / it dies or becomes a monster when it loves. Imagine / the size of it when you undress. It becomes a periscope / each spring. It would like to be a lighthouse instead of being / in my chest.” Lima’s all mustache and truth.

9 Catherine Wagner – My New Job

I remember liking this and finding it really innovative, but I can’t picture anything specifically besides the cover. I remember a feeling like the feeling of an insanely smart Married With Children.

10 Seth Landman – Parker’s Band

Hot damn is Mr. Landman a smart Melville lover. Sadly unavailable chapbook, but watch out for Landman’s full length, whenever it comes, because his poems keep getting better and thornier and truer and speaking to the blear of today’s logs and log-ons.

11 Kuzahu Manickavel – Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings

I remember some cute sentences. Felt distracted by a lot of this somehow. Can’t remember it very well, seemed to fade into a sort of cutesy indie lit obscurity for me, but that is probably unfair.

12 Josh Bell – No Planets Strike

Read this on an airplane on Sasha Fletcher’s recommendation. Dog-eared a lot of pages. Emotional and contemporary.

13 Selah Satestrom – The Pink Institution

Wow, so good. A mindfuck of traumatized memory. I hear Satestrom’s family wouldn’t speak to her after she wrote this book, which is a standard we should all strive for.

14 Jordaan Mason – Synesthesia or The Power Is Out, Sing

Read this in manuscript form. Actually very similar to The Pink Institution. So dreamy and innovative. For fans of Dennis Cooper via Murakami via a homemade tuba. I hear some indie presses rejected this for not being weird enough, and to that I make a juvenile masturbation motion with my hand.

15 Kristina Born – One Hour Of Television

Red cover, very good, pushing the form, reminded me of Beautiful Losers, but maybe I am just associating Canadians. Read Bryan Coffelt’s review of it here: http://lunchtimeforbears.blogspot.com/2010/04/kristina-borns-one-hour-of-television.html.

16 Shane Jones – The Failure Six

I sent Shane an email about this book: hey dude, just finished failure six. great stuff! some really lingering images and brain fire. your work makes me feel insecure about the entertainment value of realism, ha. kudos on another terrific book. =)

17 Timmy Waldron – World Takes

Not bad. Some of it felt a little contrived or sitcom-ish, but some fine flights of language and event.

18 Ofelia Hunt – Today & Tomorrow

I love this book so much I’m publishing it. When I put my $$ hat on I say this: “A stunning adventure of identity melting, ice skating, memory, and consciousness. Hunt’s inimitable prose splays and pets its way to new skins of expression.”

19 Alton Pryor – Classic Tales in California History

Did you know that gold was discovered in Mrs. Aram’s aprons in the Yuba one whole year before at Sutter? Did you know  Snowshoe Apollo delivered chloroform and mail? Did you know the papers that allowed California into statehood were kept shaded by a silk umbrella?

20 Joey Comeau – It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry

Bought this at Reading Frenzy in Portland. I remember finishing it on a Greyhound in Weed, CA. Very emotional and some well done, Etgar Keret-ish premises.

21 Michael Roberts – No More Poems About the Moon

Very David Berman-y. Some good poems. Bought it at Powell’s.

22 Linh Dinh – Some Kind of Cheese Orgy

So smart and radical and good. Has a whole poem about the sociology of commenting on the internet that is way better than that sounds, that transcends the “commentary on commenting” aspect and ventures into indelible human truth. Meant to interview Dinh for HTMLGIANT and totally dropped the ball. I regret that.

23 Amy King – Slaves to Do These Things

Follows logic that melts constructs like gender and narrative into weird bits of scrap metal and makes beautiful animal shapes out of these scraps and doesn’t even let them cool before handing them to you. Meant to write a review of this for a reputable publication and dropped the ball on this too. I suck.

24 Shellie Zacharia – Now Playing

Finished this on the same Greyhound I finished the Comeau book. This list isn’t well-ordered. Oh well. A pretty good story collection with insightful, funny characters.

25 Lewis Nordan – Boy With Loaded Gun

A memoir I read on the recommendation of Kevin Sampsell. Explores feelings not endorsed by contemporary standards of manhood. Pretty good.

26 Ron Padgett – Great Balls of Fire

A funny, awesome, innovative poetry collection with an amazingly ugly cover.

27 Breece D’J Pancake – The Stories Of

Huh? What’s this doing here? I read this book in 2006. Maybe I read it again in 2010. Whatever. He’s so good.

28 Ann Packer – Mendocino and Other Stories

Don’t remember this book at all. Probably didn’t finish it and am cheating to have it on the list.

29 Derrida – The Politics of Friendship

Definitely didn’t finish this and am cheating to put it on this list. But I adored what I did read, O my friends there is no friend, and so in. Made me think a lot about play and unspoken friendship and the unassailable distances between anyone and how we can[‘t] breach those distances by mucking around in between.

30 Larry Brown – Big Bad Love

So good and fine and gritted teeth and hearts beneath the tanktop. After I finished this, I watched a movie about Larry Brown where he locked himself in his room with his typewriter and his wife talked about how she thought he was still a firefighter until he came out with a book.

31 Catie Rosemurgy – The Stranger Manual

Ordered this on the strength of a few poems I read on the internet, but I remember my enthusiasm fading for some reason. Don’t really remember why.

32 Ron Padgett – The Straight Line

Funny and breezy talk on poetry from a straight shooter. Really funny bit about “finding your voice.”

33 Barry Hannah – Bats Out of Hell

Longwinded spurls of a master. Love the “Have You Got A This and a That” story. Justin Taylor does a decent enough job contextualizing this collection, I think, in his NYT reivew of Hannah’s new Selected.

34 Sawako Nakayasu – Texture Notes
35 Travis Nichols – Iowa

Both of these from the new press Letter Machine Editions, both sturdy mindfucks. The Nakayasu was way “funnier” than I thought it would be, and the Nichols was more “experimental teen angst movie” (in a good way) than I thought it would be.

36 Jim Sheppard – Small Town Punk

Not bad, but kind of got stupid after awhile in the way Joe Meno get stupid after awhile.

37 Justin Taylor – Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever

I wrote on Goodreads: “Openhearted like open all night, honest and going for it. Stories of the admittedly carbonated and flavored by corn syrup, but unapologetic and casting for a durable humanity, a huggable faith.” Upon later reflection, I think this book has some strong stories and some stuff I thought was kind of waxy and homiletic in an unearned way, but then again so was that last clause in my Goodreads blurb.

38 Wells Tower – Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Hey man, I really liked this. Great ear.

39 Kevin Sampsell – A Common Pornography

My favorite parts were the ones where things got weirdly condensed. Made me think about life in the context of a year and in the context of many years.

40 Adam Haslett – You Are Not a Stranger Here

Some stuff that made me really emotional, some stuff I thought was treacly.

41 Frederick Barthelme – The Law of Averages

He’s a master of capturing what it means to live next to someone and accidentally reach for the same thing they’re reaching for and then not knowing what to do next except grin in fear.

42 Derrick Jensen – Endgame

This bro says “Duh” a lot. Very canny, interesting to watch his mind work. Bully and a blowhard, but he is a “world changer,” so I guess it comes with the territory. I like the “society as one huge trauma victim” idea.

43 James Purdy – Cabot Wright Begins

Not my favorite Purdy. Kind of slow. As always, of course, some hilarious moments of terrifying manners comedy.

44 Pam Houston – Cowboys Are My Weakness

Hey, me too! I liked this book way more than I would admit if you asked me about it directly and not as part of this huge list.

45 Nicholson Baker – VOX

Gave me a hard on.

46 Gordon Lish, ed – Genesis West v1 n1

I wrote about this for the GIANT. If you’re really interested, just Google “Genesis West” “HTMLGIANT.”

47 Paul Siegell – Wild Life Rifle Fire

It would be fun to have some of the pages as full size prints instead of pages.

48 A.M. Homes – The Safety of Objects

Not bad, but not as good as Things You Should Know. (See #98).

49 Anne Boyer – The Romance of Happy Workers

Bought this from Tin Can Mailman in Arcata, CA. My sister got a shirt for Christmas this year called an origami shirt, and as you move it stretches into different patterns. This is a good analogy for Boyer’s poetry.

50 Ben Lerner – Mean Free Path

Thought this was a let-down until I heard Lerner read out loud from it, then realized he was smart as ever.

51 Dobby Gibson & Matt Hart – Late Makeup Years and Decline

Just a couple of good ole boys having some fun. If they were a band Hart would be the melodramatic screamer (in a good way) and Gibson would be the wizardly keyboardist.

52 Adam Robinson – Adam Robison And Other Poems

Campy in the classic sense. A good start from a theologian in sweatpants.

53 Roy Parvin – The Loneliest Road in America

Some great sentences. One really good story about baseball in the woods.

54 Christopher Higgs – The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney

Weirdly reminded me of a campier David Mitchell? Does that make sense? This guy’s got a brain the way some people have salsa recipes.

55 Ron Carlson – Five Skies

Got slow, but I do love novels full of well-described manual labor under beautifully-described skies.

56 Bret Anthony Johnston – Corpus Christi

Repetitive in its melodrama, if you ask me.

57 Thom Jones – The Pugilist At Rest

Re-read this book to write about the story “I Want to Live!” for an American Short Fiction blog thing. Is the sure-fired jawbone cant of Thom Jones very underappreciated, or is it just me?

58 Dorothea Lasky – Black Life

O yes. Yes yes yes.

59 Jay Gummerman – We Find Ourselves In Moontown

Some weird obscure 80s realism I bought at a little store in Northampton, MA. Well-wrought in the vein of Rick Barthelme, Mary Robison, etc. Got a good Michiko Kakutani review in 1989 in the NYT. Made me sad to think about how just doing things in a well-crafted, clever way isn’t enough to keep your book from fading away. Was going to write a whole post about this book wherein I thought about “obscure realism,” but all reality is obscure, so I dropped that idea.

60 Kate Greenstreet – The Last Four Things

As wise as a bamboo plant. Definitely check it out.

61 Matthew Pitt – Attention Please Now

Bought it on the strength of a baseball story I read in The Southern Review, but sadly a lot of the book seemed overwritten.

62 Jeff Parker – Ovenman

Boring slacker lit. Sorry. A lot of people I know and like like this book. If I were ten years older, maybe I would “get it.” I mean, I don’t like Pearl Jam either, sorry.

63 Elizabeth Crane – You Must Be This Happy to Enter

Some really funny paragraphs that turned emotional in surprising ways.

64 Kim Chinquee – Oh Baby

She made me pay a lot of attention to people on the bus. She knows what she’s doing and she does it.

65 Anslem Berrigan – Free Cell

Not bad, but not as good as his other stuff? I dunno, I can’t remember this book all that well.

66 Tom Drury – The End of Vandalism

The beginning of a love affair wherein I read all of Tom Drury’s books. I remember walking home one night and seeing a pair of opera glasses hung on a street sign and I was like, cool, I’m in a Tom Drury novel, sweet. This guy needs to blow up so major. I’m afraid he won’t get the recognition he deserves until he dies, which is sad, because from what I know he seems very much alive and in love with life and taking photos of Los Angeles.

67 Joshua Harmon – Scape

Holy shit does this guy know his way around a syllable. I read this on a bus to New York City next to complicated industrial machinery in Connecticut, and that’s about right, even though a lot of this book is about snow and forests.

68 Clarice Lispector – Near to the Wild Heart

Wow, such a beautiful way of sneering and stumbling among the world. Anticipates the work of some of my favorite friends like Rachel B. Glaser.

69 Charles Portis – Norwood

The beginning of a love affair with Charles Portis. This guy is America and then some. The more our world turns into that Old Spice commercial, the more we’ll realize how Portis knows us more than most.

70 The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness

Really smart book about how consciousness arose to account for feelings, which sounds about right to me.

71 Charles Portis – The Dog of the South

Portis’s best, IMO. Mexico, cars, rambling, and a very emotional chaotic scene in a hurricane near the end.

72 Scott Bradfield – The People Who Watched Her Pass By

I wanted to like this, but something about the tone was weird and I couldn’t get into it.

73 Kate Schapira – Town

A cool project. I like how Schapira drew from hometown mythologies her friends fed in.

74 Martin Buber – Between Man and Man

An accurate summation of how I feel about this book would be a book-length quote of this book.

75 Adam Gallari – We Are Never As Beautiful As We Are Now

Lots of baseball. Kind of hit the obvious violin note sometimes, I think, but not bad.

76 Chris Offutt – Kentucky Straight

For some reason I’d never read Offutt. I corrected this. Down in the holler and doing it to it.

77 Sasha Fletcher – When Our Days Are Numbered …

Sasha sent me a lot of versions of this before it came out as a book, so it’s kind of hard for me to contextualize this. Suffice to say very dreamy and with a nice touch of heart twang. If I were a girl version of myself, I would really want to be in a relationship with this book, but I feel like I’d be leery of its potential immaturity as a mate, but I would still probably be in love.

78 Ben Brooks – An Island of Fifty

Didn’t like this at all. Sorry, everybody.

79 Peter Bowerman – The Well-Fed Writer


80 Charles Portis – Gringos

Meandered. Sort of like sitting down with your favorite uncle on an off-day. Still your favorite fucking uncle, yo.

81 Betty A. Toole – Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron’s Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer

I love Ada Lovelace. I have maybe an essay forthcoming about her. We’ll see.

82 Rachel B Glaser – Pee On Water

Glaser is the new Grace Paley, plus she makes guitar shaped pillows.

83 David Foster Wallace – Consider the Lobster

Feel like I’d already read most of these essays uncollected, but so nice to see this mind go. It’s a mind that wants to be a mind with you and doesn’t want to lie, ever, even with an awareness of that aspiration’s impossibility.

84 Colum McCann – Fishing the Sloeblack River

Some overslick cello notes but some really genuine lyrical emotion. Liked this more than I thought I would.

85 Ben Mirov – Ghost Machine

I wrote a review of this book for NOÖ [12]. I liked it!

86 Juan Rulfo – The Burning Plain and Other Stories
87 Juan Rulfo – Pedro Paramo

I taught Pedro Paramo for an online creative writing class this summer. Innovative and dreamy and good. Rhymed with Sasha Fletcher’s book now that I think of it. Rulfo’s stories can be really funny and abrupt in a great way.

88 Grace Paley – Enormous Changes At the Last Minute

I want to sit next to Grace Paley on the bus of forever.

89 Eugene Marten – Firework

Slow start but so fucking good. This book is the new standard of American roadtrip novels.

90 Geoffery Nutter – Christopher Sunset

I swear I read this but I don’t remember it at all.

91 Jordan Stempleman – Doubled Over

I wrote about this for the GIANT. I liked it!

92 Chelsea Martin – The Really Funny Thing About Apathy

Liked it, but why was it so short?

93 John Jodzio – If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home

This book was trail mix. Thumbs up in an overall sense.

94 Nic Brown – Floodmarkers

There was a good story about a hot dog factory. Overall I had not a bad time. Sometimes hit some obvious notes or tried to hard to know what it was about. Bought on the strength of a really lovely and strange novel excerpt with hitchhikers that I read in the Washington Square Review.

95 Graham Foust – To Anacreon In Heaven

Absolutely. Fucking. Stunning. Foust’s brain is a brain among brains. Want to quote the entire book. Almost cripplingly brilliant. I read this book while waiting to get my ears cleaned, and if life would’ve conceived a more cornily apropos analogy for the experience of reading this little book, I probably would’ve shot life in the balls.

96 Farrah Field – Rising

So sad and wise. A fine book of poems.

97 Paul Hemphill – The Nashville Sound

Winds rise cold off the Cumberland and once upon a time people came from all over to sing and sleep with cans of corn beef hash for pillows and go for it in one of America’s more satisfying mythologies.

98 AM Homes – Things You Should Know

Um, so smart and good. There’s a story about Nancy Reagen and stories with amazing endings. I didn’t know Homes was so good, and now I do.

99 JG Ballard – The Day of Creation

Read this in Union Square. Ballard makes sentences straight out of a 70s sci-fi gameshow with the stakes of life and death, which you don’t realize are the stakes until the bonus round.

100 Gary Shteyngart – Super Sad True Love Story

Hated this book. Worked for a while on an HTMLGIANT post about contemporary satire, schmuckiness, and why I hated this book so much, but I got tired and discouraged by my own negativity. I think the best word I could use for this book would be pathetic, and what’s worse is that it seems to court that patheticness. No one with time in their bones for the world should bother with this bullshit.

101 Ben Spivey – Flowing In the Gossamer Fold

Not bad, pretty Lutz-y. Sort of strkes a pose sometimes when I’d rather it keep pumping, but not bad.

102 Julia Slavin – Carnivore Diet

Cheating to put this on here; didn’t finish it. Just can’t get into it for some reason; seems like I should like it, but I get a jokey whiff that slows me down.

103 Walker Percy – The Moviegoer

Definitely of its time. I see why people thought was so good.

104 Julie Doxsee – Objects For a Fog Death

Rhymes with the Harmon book for me, or the work of Joshua Marie Wilkinson. Really makes me consider how dizzying all our shapes are.

105 Donald Barthelme – The Dead Father

Ha, so good! Probably my favorite Donald Barthelme for some reason. I think I was in a jolly mood the whole time I read this. Reminded me of Beckett plus Monty Python plus the talking head from Legends of a Hidden Temple.

106 Grace Krilanovich – The Orange Eats Creeps

Texted a lot of people from a Laundromat about how amazing this book is.

107 Tom Drury – The Black Brook

Drury’s most ambitious.

108 James Robison – The Illustrator

So hip (in a good way). Gabe Durham wrote about this book for the NOÖ blog.

109 Tom Drury – Hunts In Dreams
110 Tom Drury – The Driftless Area

Both minor Drury but still good.

111 Timothy Donnelly – The Cloud Corporation

It doesn’t need my plug after it got Danny C’s over at The New Yorker, but still I want to say this book is a feat of control and striving toward what it means to replace faith.

112 Matthew Zapruder – Come On All You Ghosts

Kind of thought I would hate this and ended up really liking it. Svelte and wise and frank about its I-ness.

113 Barry Hannah – Boomerang

Not his best. Sort of your other favorite uncle too sober at lunch. But hell, he’s still Barry Hannah.

114 Richard Powers – The Echo Maker

This book was weird for me. In some basic ways, it was simply terrible. Terrible character development, often awful prose. Melodrama cranked to a putrid shade.  And yet I read the whole thing. I guess I really like to read about neuroscience, even in soap opera form. And some actually kind of vibrant lyrical passages of short-circuited brainwork.

115 Dennis Cooper – Smothered In Hugs

DC knows what he’s fucking talking about, and in this book he talks about the late culture of the 20th century.

116 Danielle Dutton – Sprawl

A really great mosaic that reminds me of everything from Virginia Woolf to Mary Robison. I would at times put down this book and shudder with how smart it was. I have a review forthcoming in Jacket, I think?

117 Eileen Myles – Inferno: A Poet’s Novel

Enjoyed hearing her read from this more than reading it, but still.

118 Mark Halliday – Selfwolf

Some poems were really good and some were as obnoxious as the cover photo of Halliday in a phonebooth with a binder of unfinished poems. Actually as I type that I feel sort of a tenderness toward how silly that photo concept is in its obnoxiousness, and I guess that’s the same tenderness I feel toward this book.

119 Eudora Welty – The Optimist’s Daughter

I feel like people such as James Purdy and Eudora Welty were unconcerned with being show-offy Writer writers and more concerned with the sort of small blow insanity and bewilderment of the world, and for this I keep them tucked close to my heart.

120 Alex Phillips – Crash Dome

A fine meditation on contemporary belief systems. Rhymed with The Cloud Corporation in a way. Was it just me, or was 2010 the Year of Belief Trials in contemporary American poetry?

121 John Brandon – Citrus County

A sort of more immature Tom Drury. Dragged plot-wise, but I liked a lot of the set pieces.

122 Trinie Dalton – Wide Eyed

This book was so weird in the way it condensed things. Reminded me of Kevin Sampsell’s A Common Pornography, kind of. This book felt like someone who would tell you bits and pieces of an awesome story with no real reason for including what she included and leaving out what she left out, and then she’d go up about three sentences from the end and have a cigarette and forget she was telling you the story then remember and rush through the end in a totally surprising and weirdly eloquent way, and you would wake up the next week thinking “Do I have a crush on this story or not?” but then you’d forget all about it, which is maybe the flaw.

123 Lillian Ellison (with Larry Platt) – The Fabulous Moolah

My aunt is Johnnie Mae Young, one of the pioneers of “ladies'” professional wrestling. The Faboulous Moolah was her best friend. Learned some cool stuff, like Hank Williams once proposed to her! I know I should say which “her” to make that pronoun more clear, but I think it’s funny to leave it.

124 Mark Anthony Jarman – 19 Knives

This book is so good. Thanks to Gene Kwak for recommending it. I’m working on something about this book for a different list, and here’s what I say: “Stories of woods and hockey and self-destruction and rhapsodic wheeze. All the nouns and verbs have an urge about them. There’s a concern for the word that names rather than refers. And the word that nicknames rather than names, which is even better. Even better—to step away from the clinic of language—I feel in the presence of a great bamboozler, one who dazzles while reaching for pretzels.”

125 Kendra Grant Malone – Everything Is Quiet

I wrote about this book for HTMLGIANT, and some blunderspleens who don’t know how to read gave me shit for it and some other dundersnoozes just wanted to talk about boobs. I guess the world is full of assholes, which is a fact this book knows a thing or two about.

126 Matthew Savoca – long love poem with descriptive title

Relentlessly introspective and self-critical—without not-so-secretly and boringly congratulating itself for simply having a self ala most “MuuMuu House” deadpanning. I recommend this book if you are between the ages of 20-30 and you’ve ever been in what you called a “long term” relationship and you don’t own a time machine.

127 Jennifer L Knox – The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway

Another fine and funny book from Ms. Knox. If you have a stage and a dark room and some beer, you want these poems up there with a mic.

128 Matt Bell – How They Were Found

Lots of arch diction and going-for-it on a conceptual level. Early on I found it a challenge to transition into the right reading mindset for this book, but eventually I got to somewhere that reminded me of enjoying big, arcane fantasy novels as a teenager.

129 Chris Killen – The Bird Room

Actually pretty bored by the way the mundanity of this book took itself seriously, or “observed” itself or something. Sorry everybody. I know and like people who like this, but not my bag.

130 Lindsay Hunter – Daddy’s

Nailed it story after story. Made me cringe in the best ways.

131 Michael Earl Craig – Thin Kimono

His best so far. The poem about coming back from doing work in the garden that starts with a jokey Robot Thor voice turns into something really emotional and wild.

132 Samuel Beckett – Molloy

I’m a nunce because I’d never read the Trilogy before 2010.  Okay, everybody. I see what the fuss is. Holy yes do I ever. “I hear from here the howl resolving all, even if it is not mine.”

133 Tom Franklin – Smonk

Gory and perverted fun. Wish this book had been the plot of Red Dead Redemption.

134 David Ohle – Motorman

Read this on a bus to New York. I’ve had it for awhile without reading it. What the hell, Mike? So good and smart and weird.

135 Cormac McCarthy – Child of God

Kind of too episodic and sketchy for me in the context of all McCarthy, but obviously a triumph.

136 Frank O’Hara – Early Writing

So fun and insightful to read O’Hara being young and anxious. Also a great essay on WWII. Man this guy knew what was up. Relentlessly playful. Play as a moral imperative. Bought this in Chico, CA and read it in the rain at Peet’s Coffee. The workers were making fun of a crazy guy who was protective of his bag, which was full of schedules and almonds. They were being douches, I feel. Frank O’Hara says: “Have you ever thought of how far away we are from each other? All your hair between us, all your flesh / and the whole air.”

137 Walter Kirn – The Unbinding

Bought this on a whim in the same Chico bookstore. Kind of a thin Internet-era Crying of Lot 49. Not bad. Some clunky places where the ideas overtook the story.

138 Gordon Lish – Mourners at the Door

Bought a mint condition hardcover first edition with a dust jacket for $9 at a bookstore in Oroville, CA of all places! Showed the owner how lucky I thought I was and he patted my shoulder and said “I hope I don’t get any mourners at my door.” The first story is as good a story about ambition and death as I’ve ever read. Then there’s some ranting. Then there’s some more good storytelling. Rinse, repeat.

139 Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Chronicles of a Death Foretold

O 2011, if you’re going to kill me, please kill me with the whole town watching.

UPDATE: I forgot Elisa Gabbert’s The French Exit and Chris Tonelli’s The Trees Around, both from awesome new press Birds, LLC. The French Exit made me think of how language gets embodied and how it’s so hard to talk about thinking, but it can often be very clever, but clever can also be a cleaver. The Trees Around made me think of someone in a trench coat sitting next to you on a Ferris Wheel and pointing out very small details in the distance, but not to you, mostly to themselves.



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  2. reynard

      this rules mike

      i’m going to try very hard to make 2011
      the year i finally write down this sort of shit

      see you soon!

  3. Tyler G

      My HTMLGIANT Secret Santa got me to Ben Brooks book. I plan to read it early 2011. Hope I like it more than you did, for Christmas’ sake!

  4. Mark C

      this is overwhelmingly overwhelming. thanks, Mike.

  5. Michael Filippone

      I really seriously love lists like this. Exactly like this.

  6. stephen

      “Twee” doesn’t strike me as a “fair”/”accurate” description of most of the Muumuu stuff I’ve read, imho, Mike. Glass houses, etc., if we’re being mean ;) I would call it minimalist, existentialist, and depressed/casual to varying degrees. I would also take that word “relentless” and apply it to “Richard Yates” instead.

  7. stephen

      not trying to be a dick, btw. and i enjoyed reading about your reading. and we don’t know each other! whassup??

  8. Mike Young

      Introspectively relentless is how I meant. Self-critical in a legitimate way that isn’t busy congratulating itself for having a self at all. But, sure, I appreciate that you think my own shit is twee and that you call what you call what you want to call it, and sure, your desire to work various “brands” into every comment you make on HTMLGIANT—sure, that’s definitely relentless.

  9. Zepplinspinkpeps

2 – sucked
      Endpoint – sucked
      The Orchard Keeper – sucked
      Riding Toward Everywhere – sucked
      The Red Truck – sucked
      Babbage – sucked
      In Search of Small Gods – sucked
      Inventory – sucked
      My New Job – sucked
      Parker’s Band – sucked
      Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings – sucked
      No Planets Strike – sucked
      The Pink Institution – sucked
      Synesthesia or The Power Is Out, Sing – sucked
      One Hour Of Television – sucked
      The Failure Six – sucked
      World Takes – sucked
      Today & Tomorrow – sucked
      Classic Tales in California History – sucked
      It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry – sucked
      No More Poems About the Moon – sucked
      Some Kind of Cheese Orgy – sucked
      Slaves to Do These Things – sucked
      Boy With Loaded Gun – sucked
      Great Balls of Fire – sucked
      The Stories Of – sucked
      Mendocino and Other Stories – sucked
      The Politics of Friendship – sucked
      Big Bad Love – sucked
      The Stranger Manual – sucked
      The Straight Line – sucked
      Bats Out of Hell – sucked
      Texture Notes – sucked
      Iowa – sucked
      Small Town Punk – sucked
      Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever – FUCKING AMAZING!!!!
      Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – sucked
      A Common Pornography – sucked
      You Are Not a Stranger Here – sucked
      The Law of Averages – sucked
      Endgame – sucked
      Cabot Wright Begins – sucked
      Cowboys Are My Weakness – sucked
      VOX – sucked
      Genesis West v1 n1 – sucked
      Wild Life Rifle Fire – sucked
      The Safety of Objects – sucked
      The Romance of Happy Workers – sucked
      Mean Free Path – sucked
      Late Makeup Years and Decline – sucked
      Adam Robison And Other Poems – sucked
      The Loneliest Road in America – sucked
      The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney – sucked
      Five Skies – sucked
      Corpus Christi – sucked
      The Pugilist At Rest – sucked
      Black Life – sucked
      We Find Ourselves In Moontown – sucked
      The Last Four Things – sucked
      Attention Please Now – sucked
      Ovenman – sucked
      You Must Be This Happy to Enter – sucked
      Oh Baby – sucked
      Free Cell – sucked
      The End of Vandalism – sucked
      Scape – sucked
      Near to the Wild Heart – sucked
      Norwood – sucked
      The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness – sucked
      The Dog of the South – sucked
      The People Who Watched Her Pass By – sucked
      Town – sucked
      Between Man and Man – sucked
      We Are Never As Beautiful As We Are Now – sucked
      Kentucky Straight – sucked
      When Our Days Are Numbered … – sucked
      An Island of Fifty – sucked
      The Well-Fed Writer – sucked
      Gringos – sucked
      Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron’s Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer – sucked
      Pee On Water – sucked
      Consider the Lobster – sucked
      Fishing the Sloeblack River – sucked
      Ghost Machine – sucked
      The Burning Plain and Other Stories – sucked
      Pedro Paramo – sucked
      Enormous Changes At the Last Minute – sucked
      Firework – sucked
      Christopher Sunset – sucked
      Doubled Over – sucked
      The Really Funny Thing About Apathy – sucked
      If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home – sucked
      Floodmarkers – sucked
      To Anacreon In Heaven – sucked
      Rising – sucked
      The Nashville Sound – sucked
      Things You Should Know – sucked
      The Day of Creation – sucked
      Super Sad True Love Story – sucked
      Flowing In the Gossamer Fold – sucked
      Carnivore Diet – sucked
      The Moviegoer – sucked
      Objects For a Fog Death – sucked
      The Dead Father – sucked
      The Orange Eats Creeps – sucked
      The Black Brook – sucked
      The Illustrator – sucked
      Hunts In Dreams – sucked
      The Restless Area – sucked
      The Cloud Corporation – sucked
      Come On All You Ghosts – sucked
      Boomerang – sucked
      The Echo Maker – sucked
      Smothered In Hugs – sucked
      Sprawl – sucked
      Inferno: A Poet’s Novel – sucked
      Selfwolf – sucked
      The Optimist’s Daughter – sucked
      Crash Dome – sucked
      Citrus County – sucked
      Wide Eyed – sucked
      The Fabulous Moolah – sucked
      19 Knives – sucked
      Everything Is Quiet – sucked
      long love poem with descriptive title – sucked
      The Secret of the Hidden Driveway – sucked
      How They Were Found – sucked
      The Bird Room – sucked
      Daddy’s – sucked
      Thin Kimono – never got around to reading it
      Molloy – sucked
      Smonk – sucked
      Motorman – sucked
      Child of God – sucked
      Early Writing – sucked
      The Unbinding – sucked
      Mourners at the Door – sucked
      Chronicles of a Death Foretold – sucked

  10. Trey

      thin kimono has been and continues to be a factor in major life decisions since reading it. awesome book.

      I liked your list except for the parts where you apologized for your opinions, but maybe you were apologizing sarcastically or insincerely, which would be better because you don’t have to apologize to people for disagreeing but you probably know that blah blah blah

      liked your list is what I meant

  11. stephen

      ok. but what is legitimate? many writers avoid writing about themselves, perhaps out of fear, or lack of love, or because they buy into this widespread bullshit that the only legitimate introspection is self-lacerating or caustic or brutal. or perhaps because other writers and critics expend so much energy condemning people who write about themselves. furthermore, the only way one can judge another’s treatment of self in writing is by imposing one’s own self onto that writing and that other self. bit of a conundrum

      that’s not quite what i mean about your writing, necessarily, as it’s all relative/subjective, but yeah, i have an unfortunate tendency to want to defend people/call people on things


  12. Mike Young

      yeah, you’re right, i was just apologizing out of some weird sense of “sorry i haven’t mentioned this until now,” but that’s a weak sense

      p.s. definitely 100% insincere about the pearl jam apology!

      p.p.s it would be funny if this entire comment thread turned into a really indignant defense of pearl jam

  13. Mike Young

      okay, yes, i should’ve just said what i said without the word “legitimate,” as yes, that’s an unnecessarily distracting word. and yes, it would be silly for anyone to claim introspection only works when it’s limited in tone to “self-lacerating or caustic or brutal,” and i think of savoca’s book as more “thorough” than any of those things.

  14. stephen

      i am not interested in apologizing for thinking and feeling the same things everyone feels, to some degree; rather, i’d like to present them

      not interested in being a PC writer, nor in following bullshit etiquette/imaginary rules for acceptable writing content/technique/style/public presentation

      not interested in “interesting” prose, or not as interested in it as i used to be

      prefer things that are “poetic” in though/arrangement/gesture moreso than in language (with plenty of exceptions, i guess, probably)

      do not feel compelled to compare myself to various forest animals

      have yet to witness an apocalypse

      don’t enjoy writing/reading about diseases, blood, nasty body shit, but that’s just me

      am a bit of a sponge, and like being influenced and incorporating that into my brand as feels natural (thanks for pointing that out, mikey)

      just my thoughts, people

      not afraid

      hug a hater 2day


  15. stephen

      cool. friendly handshake to you, sir

  16. Zepplinspinkpeps


  17. stephen

      i am giving you a hug right now

  18. reynard seifert

      this rules mike

      i’m going to try very hard to make 2011
      the year i finally write down this sort of shit

      see you soon!

  19. Mike Young

      yeah, i just started a TXT file and added one at a time

      i’m sure i forgot one or two. for instance, i forgot jeff parker’s THE TASTE OF PENNY, which i liked a lot more than his novel

  20. deadgod

      6 Sinclair Lewis Babbage

      A philtrum-depilating tale of the stultifying conventionality inherent in boosting wooden computation-machines.

  21. Tyler G

      My HTMLGIANT Secret Santa got me to Ben Brooks book. I plan to read it early 2011. Hope I like it more than you did, for Christmas’ sake!

  22. alan

      These are really good. Yes on “Dog of the South (“Masters of Atlantis” is up there too), “The Dead Father,” “Day of Creation,” “One Hour of Television.”

  23. Mike Young

      i started Masters of Atlantis, but i think i overdosed on Portis a little bit, reading all of his books in a row; i will go back to it in 2011

  24. Michael Hemmingson

      Some further annotations…

      The Red Truck — I have often wondered what the original manuscript looked like since Wilson claims Lish cut 60%, and why didn’t Wilson reprint the original…I recall long, long ago reading this book on the subway (having gotten it for $2 in a Crown Books remainder bin) and some drunk guy asking me if I understood the philosophy in the book, since to him I was obviously young a dumb to comprehend a novel.

      Boomerang — I think this is Hannah near his best, and it’s not a novel but a memoir of a writer licking alcoholism and re-shaping his life and reconnecting with his past.

      Riding Toward Everywhere — best to read Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, then come to this, as this book doubles as a long personal essays and a critique of Hemingway.

  25. Mark C

      this is overwhelmingly overwhelming. thanks, Mike.

  26. Guest

      Thanks for this, Mike.

  27. RyanPard

      I just started one of these for this year(ish)! I had the idea to do it on the 28th so my 2011 will be a few days longer than it ought, but I’m trying to list each book in a .txt file and then make myself write 500 words on it. I feel like it will be fun to look back at the end of the year and observe the trends in my reading / laugh at the # of whiney memoirs and self-helps books included.

  28. Mike Young

      good luck, ryan! i would probably give up if i tried to write 500 words about each book as i went, but it sounds like a good ambition

  29. Mike Young

      fixed it, thanks for the help

  30. RyanPard

      thanks! I’m not requiring that it be a well-written 500. . . I just feel like while individual books stick with me pretty well, I never have a good sense of the long-term “narrative” behind the experience. I don’t have the guts to read according to a system, so I figured I could just try journaling about it a bit to see if it makes the whole thing feel a little less chaotic / haphazard.

  31. Amber

      Love this! I just finished Pee on Water and I completely and totally agree about Grace Paley. What great goddamn book.

  32. gene

      this is great mike, although it’s jarman, not jarmon. dude is a champ and is rarely read outside of canada. the best was when he told me that to get better at writing dialogue he used to pick up these little cheap bks of plays he’d find at truck stops because he drove trucks for a while. also he’s a big fan of drury and learned under barry. it’s like an awesome motherfucker daisy chain.

  33. gunter voelker

      I was pleased to see Jay Gummerman on your list. He was a random used-bookstore find for me. I thought, “Hmm, Moontown, neat.” Turned out the book was pretty good. Coincidentally I just bought, but have not yet read, his novel, Chez Chance.

  34. Mike Young

      oops, thanks! cheap plays are great for dialogue. i feel like it’s easy to be a good eavesdropper but hearing things is different than seeing them. i think the syntactic distinction of talking versus everything else has to somehow come across visually on the page. i dunno, maybe i have been watching too many cooking shows.

  35. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Buying poetry books’ ‘God you are so random’: 2011′s reading list « FLOTSAM: A blog of poetry and all sorts

      […] Lima: Inventory: Poet and editor of NOÖ journal raved about how underappreciated this poet was in an article on HTMLGIANT. I was […]

  36. Christopher Higgs

      High five, Mike! I love your blurb about Mooney because it confuses me. Perfect! Hope you have a great 2011. Many thanks!

  37. mimi

      No, you are not silly.

  38. deadgod

      Also, [110] Drury’s novel is called The Driftless Area. I found it “minor”, as well, but its quality has made me want to read the rest of his books.

  39. Anonymous

      ack, duh! thanks for your keen sight. the fairy tale/ghost story stuff felt simplistic and a little moralistic to me, especially in light of the way Vandalism and Brook make reality feel like its own ghost story

  40. deadgod

      Yes, the magical resolution, while the story was consistent, seemed needlessly religious to me, too – which made the novel, for me, “minor”, despite being beautifully written. Material reality is its own ghost story. (“Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial.” -Nietzsche) Your phrasing here makes me even more eager to read (first: to find) his other books.

      You still haven’t gotten my ultrahilarious Lewis gag (?). – or maybe I didn’t get your joke (??).

  41. Nick Mamatas

      I am strangely excited about the connection to professional wrestling.

  42. Ken Baumann

      Excellent list. Thank you, sir!

  43. Ben

      have you read masters of atlantis? cuz you’re not allowed to say dog of the south is portis’s best if you haven’t. but if you have, it’s okay.

  44. James

      Cool that you read Harmon’s “Scape.” I had him as a prof, and he’s an awesome guy. He just put out a damn good chapbook, “The Poughkeepsiad,” from Greying Ghost, if you’re interested.

  45. Anonymous

      ha! i just got this. man, i wonder what other stupid goof-ups are on this list. i must’ve been so immersed in ada lovelace/babbage lore that i brainfarted poor george. i liked this book okay, i liked how epic and funny his “arc” was as a person/character, but i think also i just liked carol from main street better than george.

  46. deadgod

      Lewis is an interesting case: a once-celebrated writer whose themes have been white-hot relevant since he became famous (orgasmized religion, ethics in medicine, small-town petri dish), but who has been largely unread (as far as I can tell) for decades. I think the reason is that his prose, sturdy enough, isn’t lyrical enough to inspire enthusiasm. Content needs style.

      I hadn’t realized – until I googled him to see whether there was, in fact, a short story or play called ‘Babbage’ – that all of the four of his novels I’ve read were published before he won The Big Prize. About half his novels he wrote in the 21 years afterwards, and I haven’t read a single ‘late’ Lewis novel – didn’t even recognize any but one of the titles. Maybe they’re good.

  47. Anonymous

      i haven’t dug into Masters of Atlantis fairly yet; overdosed on portis; i will definitely come back to Masters of Atlantis this year!

  48. Anonymous

      i’ve read the Nick Adams stories but don’t remember that connection in Riding Toward Everywhere—i mean, explicitly—implicitly, yeah, i definitely see that, and On the Road etc. as well, along with all that stuff early on about his dad and America, etc.—i will come back to it

  49. deadgod

      By the way, the acronym is California Highway Patrol –> CHiPs. Why do you think the “i” is weirdly lowercase? what would be the rationale for capitalizing it?

  50. Anonymous

      It seems like it would make more sense just to do CHPs. Even if they were hellbent on people pronouncing it like chocolate chips, potato chips, etc, it seems like that would still likely happen without the little i.

  51. deadgod

      Mm. The “i” is there already, though – it’s no stretch.

      There are ‘chaps’, ‘chops’, and ‘cheops’, and the guys are ‘cowboyish’, ‘bikers’, and ‘pharaonic’. (Maybe not so much that last.)

      People do say “see-aitch-pee”.

      After the show debuted, did highway-patrol officers in Cali suffer themselves to be called “CHiPs”?

  52. Anonymous

      yeah, that’s another thing, everybody i know in California says See-Aitch-Pee. i still hold firm that it’s uncomfortably extraneous.

  53. 2dyhg


  54. 2dyhg


  55. Fjhg9


  56. Fjhg9


  57. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      This list is epic. Love. I do think your Kuzhali assessment is a bit unfair, I think her hilarity is very particular and more barbed than cute — often in a very postcolonial feminist-ish way (although I don’t know if she would want to be “slotted” like that) that makes a total mockery of American imperialism and Indian nationalism both — but she is one of my favorites. But I too have forgotten many of the details of her stories (I read it in 2008), but I am also beginning to question the emphasis on memorability as a measure of value, or am maybe thinking it is only one kind of value, I think there are certain kinds of texts that are necessarily momentary.

  58. Mike Young

      yeah, i should probably revisit the kuzhali. i do remember the barbed aspect, but things just stopped and started too much for me in a way that felt flighty or something. but i agree that memorability in terms of being able to recall details of something isn’t a surefire barometer of quality–i do think memory of an experience is important, or being able to remember that something felt momentarily necessary.

  59. Mike Young

      yeah, i should probably revisit the kuzhali. i do remember the barbed aspect, but things just stopped and started too much for me in a way that felt flighty or something. but i agree that memorability in terms of being able to recall details of something isn’t a surefire barometer of quality–i do think memory of an experience is important, or being able to remember that something felt momentarily necessary.

  60. deadgod

      – like these texts right here – at least, mine.

      That’s a great point: every conversation that has an impact in one’s day – that changes one’s day somehow – isn’t the Gettysburg Address. In fact, in conversation, one feels that kind of impact a handful of times in one’s life. Why shouldn’t written/read texts admit of value in ephemerality likewise? – as does a Hegelian-liturgical newspaper.

      Memorability is important – or is surely a sign of importance – , but there’s plenty of room in life for a pretty wide variety of impacts that, say, texts make.

  61. Mike Young

      hey gunter, email me if you like his novel, i’m curious about it

  62. Wrapped Up In Books: 2010 // Kirsty Logan

      […] halfway through five amazing books. Inspired by Mike Young’s exhaustive book blog at HTMLGiant, I decided to tell you all about them. If you can’t be arsed to read the whole thing (and I […]