I had a pretty good reading year. When I look back, there was a lot more non-fiction being read compared to past years. These are my favorites.
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami: Two intertwined stories, one involving a runaway boy and the other an aging mentally handicapped man who makes a living by finding lost cats because he can talk to them. Murakami is the most messed up writer I know.
Winning Chess Openings, Yasser Sairawan: I'm bad at chess and this book is way over my head but I still learned a thing or two from it. It's fun to read stuff that makes you realize how little you know about things. Chess, for example.
Hole in My Life, Jose Gantos: Autobiography of a guy who goes to jail. It's better than that . . hard to describe. Actually, it's not hard to describe; I just can't remember it that well. I remember enjoying it is all. It's a short young adult book, so it's a great quick read.
The Outskirts of Troy, Carl Dennis, poems: I love this guy's poems because they are written in common speech about little things. Some people criticize him for not being intellectual enough, but I think it's, I dunno, refreshing or something.
The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy: McCarthy has to be one of my favorite authors. I don't even care what he's writing about as long as he's the one doing it. I will probably always prefer his southern books like Suttree and The Orchard Keeper to the westerns, but these are growing on me. I also read No Country for Old Men this year, but didn't enjoy it as much.
The Cheese Monkeys, Chipp Kidd: This not a well written book at all, but I enjoyed it because I have always wanted to be an artist and this book let me see what it's like to be an art student at an art school. Funny novel about that scene.
Box of Matches, Nicholson Baker: A guy wakes up each morning at, I think, 5AM and lights a fire from a box of matches and writes about whatever comes into his head while the match is burning. When he runs out of matches, the book is over. It makes you want to wake up each morning, at, I think, 5AM and light a match in the darkness and write about whatever comes into your head. It makes you want to be more aware of the thoughts that wander through your head on their way to some other place.
The Sound on the Page, Ben Yagoda: Great survey of style and writing and how to read and boring crap like that.
The Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus: Claims to be a book of stories, but is much closer to prose poetry. Each story is maybe a paragraph in length and I can read each one ten times and get something different out of it every time. Marcus just had a muddled Harper's piece attacking Jonathan Franzen that doesn't even seem to have generated much controversy. I think people were wondering "who is this guy to think we care what he thinnks about the state of contemporary fiction?"
The End of the Affair, Graham Greene: Not my favorite by him, but there is something about the clarity of his prose that knocks me out every time. It's a middle style, but it's better than that, too.
Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote: The last book I read for my book club before it exploded under the pressure of, well, all I know is it had something to do with toilet paper, but I'm not too clear on that. Anyway, this book feels a little dated probably because the Holly Golightly character has been ripped off so often since this was published. I enjoyed his feel for how to show us people, even if he takes a condescending view of those people at the same time.
Late Additions: I hope to finish these two books during winter break, which starts today. I can already tell they both deserve to be on my list of favorites.
The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer: This guy cracks me up, the idea of someone who doesn't own a camera writing a book about his theory and history of photography. It's pretty smart, though.
On Beauty, Zadie Smith: She is just too much. Her books are so funny and smart and, I guess, raw, in a way. This is the first book to be read by my new, secret, splinter-group book club.