Blog oops Zines Other

2015 By The Books
2016-01-07

I didn't do much blogging in 2015. In part because I was planning a new website. I had visions of flashy Python frameworks. I briefly dated a PyLady. I still have one of the books from her Pybrary even. And that pretty much sums up my love life in 2015.

I did read a bunch of books though. 36 to be precise. 10 were rereads which I won't bother with - Harry Potter and the His Dark Materials trilogy. Neither were as exciting as the last time I read them. Guess I should continue to seek out fresh literature and not recycle old ideas.

Speaking of recycling old ideas, here's a list of the other 26 books I read this year, in order from least enjoyable to fucking fantastic:

26. Fool - Christopher Moore

Honestly I only read about 30 pages of this before donating it to a hostel library in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's a modern King Leer from the fool's perspective. Cocks and cunts and a bunch of over the top vulgarity that didn't do much for me.

25. You're the One Behind the Curtain: OCD Strategies and My Humorous, Obsessive Compulsive Life - Jonathan Davis

Wrong Jonathan Davis apparently. With a title like that, I should have lowered my expectations. Still, I learned a few things about OCD, which I am now putting to use in a vampire role-playing game (my character has OCD).

24. Steppenwolf - Herman Hesse

It's kind of weird, but mostly dull as dirt. In the first 50 pages the main character sees some magic words on a wall and receives a mysterious book. Fifty. Pages. If you can reach the end it does conclude in bizarre and violent fashion.

23. Babel-17 - Samuel R. Delaney

This won the Nebula Award in 1974 and has so many reprints I can't find my copy's cover online. In mine the main character wears a space-age cone bra and not much else. Anyway, Babel-17 is an alien language, and this book has some fun nerdy linguistics in it. The characters are pretty flat though - didn't do too much for me.

22. Still Life With Woodpecker - Tom Robbins

I will begrudgingly admit that this was pretty good. But I detested the narrator - a too cool for school macho man. This was recommended to me by the nurse who saw me when I was diagnosed with scabies. Not really the highlight of my 2015. It's a love story / comedy full of drugs and sex. Which by the way is how you end up with scabies.

21. Fargo Rock City - Chuck Klosterman

A deep exploration of 80s hair metal. Chuck Klosterman is a tad conservative for my taste (explicitly anti-feminist), but I did laugh out loud at parts. After I finished this I had to share something I'd learned the previous week at an organization-wide work meeting. I explained the plot of the Guns N Roses music video trilogy of Don't Cry, November Rain, and Estranged:

  1. Axl and his girlfriend fight
  2. Axl and his girlfriend marry
  3. Slash leaves the wedding and busts into a guitar solo
  4. Axl's wife dies
  5. Axl swims with dolphins

I got two raises and a promotion last year. I'm a professional.

20. Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey

A book that that claims on both covers to be a Space Opera. I guess since it's 600 pages and has a cool plot it's an opera. Takes places in the near future where humans have expanded across the galaxy but not beyond. This is the first book in the Expanse series. I don't think I'll read the rest. Cool enough story, but the characters weren't great and some of the prose was cringe-worthy: The sight of her half nude in the dimly lit room gave him an embarrassingly sudden erection. Naomi panned her gaze up his body, pausing at his midsection, then at the water glass, and said, "Is that for me?" Holden didn't know which thing she was asking about, so he just said, "Yes."

19. Small Gods - Terry Pratchett

The first Discworld book I've ever read. It's pretty funny, pretty clever, and pretty much the same premise as American Gods. Except written 20 years earlier of course. Also Terry Pratchett apparently doesn't believe in chapters. It's one long chapter.

18. Devil in a Blue Dress - Walter Mosley

Solid engaging mystery novel. It's the 1940s, and Easy is a black war vet living in Watts, Los Angeles. He gets offered a job to find - you guessed it - a woman in a blue dress.

17. Both Flesh and Not - David Foster Wallace

I damn near ran out of DFW books to read this year. This one's a posthumously-published collection of pieces he didn't bother to put in books while he was alive. A lot of them are in the vein of literary criticism and bore me to tears. But there are still a few gems - two essays on tennis (Roger Federer is both flesh and not) and an excellent word nerd piece called "Twenty-Four Word Notes."

16. Meaty! - Samantha Irby

A debut collection of essays from the author of bitchesgottaeat.com. Pieces on diarrhea, being black, anal sex, and all kinds of raunchy hilarity. I'm definitely not the target audience.

15. The Martian - Andy Weir

I read this because everybody at work was reading it. It's good! Better than the movie, which I saw in 3D at a theater in London after two weeks of working and fucking around all over Western Europe.

14. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

This was the first (but not last!) Margaret Atwood book I ever read. For an old lady, she writes some pretty brutal shit! Jumps back and forth between the post-apocalyptic present, where the narrator lives with genetically engineered humanoid somethings but may be the only remaining human, and the dystopic corporate past, where our narrator loved a former child prostitute. Something like that.

13. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Michael Chabon

After having read The Yiddish Policeman's Union last year, I was surprised to find this novel nothing like it! A coming of age tale about sexually confused punkish types in Pittsburgh. My friends tell me that Chabon writes more for men. Could be. I certainly dig his work.

10-12. The First Law Trilogy - Joe Abercrombie

I tore through The Blade Itself, the first novel in the trilogy. It's adult fantasy - witty, epic, and with fleshed-out awesome characters. I would have placed these higher in my list but by the end of the third book I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. Turns out everybody's a piece of shit. C'est la vie.

9. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A colorful Carribbean tale of unrequited love. The story follows a man who spends his entire life chasing after a woman who left him to marry an older man. A lady I was pretty into for a hot minute gave me this book just before leaving the country to be with an older man. Ba duntz.

8. World War Z - Max Brooks

I finally got around to reading this, and it was awesome! An oral history of the zombie war dedicated to Studs Terkel. It's full of blood-curtling brain-cudgeling prose and radical working class politics. What's not to like?

7. The 13 Clocks - James Thurber

I picked this up at Magers and Quinn on a whim and was not disappointed. It's a dark children's fantasy about a Duke who has killed time and a clever prince who must restart the 13 clocks. Lyrical quotable prose on nearly every page. "The Todal looks like a blob of glup," he said. "It makes a sound like rabbits screaming, and smells of old, unopened rooms." ... The brambles and thorns grew thick and thicker in a ticking thicket of bickering crickets. ... He wore gloves when he was asleep, and he wore gloves when he was awake, which made it difficult for him to pick up pins or coins or the kernels of nuts, or to tear the wings from nightingales.

6. The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan

A collection of essays and stories published after the death of the 22-year-old author and recent Yale Grad. I put off reading this long after I bought it, and when I finally got around to it I was completely blown away. I feel like mathematically I should not say this is better than a lot of the books preceding it on this list. Some of the pieces are stronger than others. But it really got to me, and this is my list, so fuck it. Eventually, we were both shivering and he asked if I wanted to go back to his apartment with him. I did. I'd never wanted anything more. But as I watched him smile back at me and zip his coat, I saw everything in the world build up and then everything in the world fall down again.

3-5. The Southern Reach Trilogy - James Vandermeer

Dark emotional sci-fi with an environmentalist / biology bent. The Southern Reach is a secret research facility established to study an ecological anamoly. The first book follows five women on an expedition into the anamoly. It contains no male characters. The second book follows a man assigned to the Southern Reach to investigate the events of the first book. I'll leave the third book a surprise. These books fucking ruled!

2. Consider the Lobster - David Foster Wallace

For the second year in a row, DFW is a runner up in my best books of the year. This a collection of brilliant insightful hilarious essays. Includes pieces on the Adult Video awards, a conservative talk radio host, John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, and the Maine Lobster Festival. So good! But... I still prefer a good novel.

1. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood

Took me a while to get into this one, but by the time I finished it I knew this was going to be one of my all time favorites. It's the rare novel where after you finish reading it you feel like you've grown or changed somehow. It has an ambitious complicated structure that jumps around the 20th century. The characters are great, the plot is great, and really I can't recommend it enough.


That's all for last year. 2016 has started with a Hunter S. Thompson book. Who knows what the rest of the year will bring. Likely more of me doing it all wrong and getting away with it. Running blackout drunk over a freeway in the middle of the night when my closest friend is 1000 miles away. White-knuckling a rental pickup truck on a southern county road because I slept through my alarm and I'm late for the airport. Loaning hundreds of dollars in gambling money to a wasted guy who I've known for three hours and whose only desire is to place it all on black.

Or maybe I'll do something right this time. I guess anything's possible.

256 characters max