A lot of these I blogged about or reviewed but I decided to write little blurbettes about each, which just took a really long time, had I realized I read so much, oh well.
I can't think of which of these are favorites of the year, I read so much that absolutely killed me this year and was fueled by it so much. What you read is just as important to the writing itself as anything else I think, and so in some ways to some extent this list was my year in full, at least in mind. I started to star the ones that really nailed me, but there were so many, and in different ways, that I decided to just go with the list as list, in the order they were read. Ratings are overrated.
A strange year, outside of booklife, the first half mostly sucking dick, the second kind of magic enough to make up for it and more. Thanks to all who have been a part. The internet is my anti-lipid mommy.
2008 Reading List
1. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein: I think I started reading this on New Year's Day as a joke, I think this is the greatest standup routine ever written, it is very funny, I think it was funny on purpose for all reasons, I want to lick Gertrude Stein's nose.
2. Ovenman by Jeff Parker: Fun and funny book, a page turner with poise, and nails a voice that you almost never hear in fiction: the slacker. Fun.
3. Grim Tales by Norman Lock: my review in the Believer
4. Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch: I should have done this on audio book because hearing Lynch talk is hilarious, on the page it is less interesting, but still fun for the tidbits like his comment about the blue box in Mulholland Drive: "I have no idea what that was."
5. St. Lucy’s School for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell: I don't remember finishing this, it was okay.
6. Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead by Alan Deniro: This read like something you find buried in the cookies of an old hard drive, again, a really strange voice and I can't think of many books like it.
7. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson: Most people know this one already, really interesting format for book: prose poetry almost with narrative, good, vivid.
8. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje: like the Carson but of a more collagist ilk, I should probably read more Ondaatje, there are good violences in this bitch
9. Tortoise by James Lewelling: god, weird book, I really like the way he made the paragraphs bleed into one another by using slight repetitions, I think I ripped some of this off in a my PRETEND chapbook, the airplane scenes. Very strange and cool.
10. The Human War by Noah Cicero: I borrowed this from Tao, I don't think I got it.
11. Arkansas by John Brandon: I thought the first chapter of this was great and the rest was all kind of repetitive and went nowhere, don't really understand the hype. But the opening is rad.
12. Clown Girl by Monica Drake: Another strong sentenced page-turner, like Ovenman in that way of strange voice and can't stop reading, plus a great premise with execution.
13. Dear Mr. Capote by Gordon Lish: Not my favorite Lish by any stretch, I think I actually stopped reading it halfway through and came back later in the year, it works less than his other books to me.
14. Creation Myths by Mathias Svalina: I'm not a big fan of chapbooks usually but this one really works, great imagery and concept, funny and sticks in your teeth, probably my favorite words I've read by Svalina.
15. Bad Bad by Chelsey Minnis: Certain poems in here killed me, some of the------- stuff I wasn't as into, but that earrings poem and a few others that were more with words are worth the price of the book alone. What a freak :)
16. Seaview by Toby Olsen: I loved the shit out of this book, anyone that can write about golf and make it seem magic is a master, wrote about it here
17. A Green Light by Matthew Rohrer: This is a really fun and uniquely voiced book, I pick it up and look at random pages a lot.
18. The Stupefying Flashbulbs by Daniel Brenner: I read this several times in a row in a few days, it has some incredible cubist-like, data-imagery, I can't think of many books like it, I think he wrote it in a week or two or something, not enough people talked about this book, it has a presence like the Mulholland Drive cube to me.
19. Pilot by Johannes Goransson: I read this on a treadmill and it made me dizzy, Johannes is doing some of my favorite work in brutal and new phrased words right now, really awesome, more lineated than his 2 other books from this year.
20. Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus: unlike any other book this year, I reviewed it here
21. Remainder by Tom McCarthy: Another book I did not understand the hype of: all premise, stuck in its own execution. Not 'that bad' but not a big deal either
22. Bear Stories by J’Lyn Chapman: This is a beautiful taste treat, I interviewed J'Lyn about it here
23. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola: among my favorites of the year and 'why the hell had I not read this,' I think it influenced EVER a lot and did a lot for my thinking of the way narrative can move in ways outside A to B without being pure ridiculousness, a must read for most
24. Motorman by David Ohle (2nd time): hadn't read this in years since I first bought it, does a lot of things no other book I can think of does, again weird vaguely scientific logic, post-Burroughs in the way that reinvents the genre
25. Carrying the Body by Dawn Raffel: a creepy and almost breathless book, maybe made me want to really focus on writing about destroying children, this is like Edward Gorey on brain destructing downers, awesome poise
26. Actual Air by David Berman: hilarious and weird, most would say a classic, great
27. Flet by Joyelle McSweeney: god, Joyelle is really doing some new things with narrative, making this hyper-worlds out of style and language that really get my brain jarred and apt for making )*(&*#&$ come out of my eyes: some of her passages are just so new its like you are not reading and instead are in a very fucked video game made of deleted language, I read this on a mountain
28. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link: I love the shit out of Kelly Link, you have to
29. A New Quarantine Will Take My Place by Johannes Goransson: probably my favorite of Johannes's 3 books this year (not counting his translations), this is one of those they'll be realizing what happened in it years from now: a new genre I think, names are a waste of time.
30. Kissed By by Alexandra Chasin: certain stories in here nailed me, others left me a little cold, though I read most of it on a plane and I hate planes, she is 'breaking rules'
31. Oh Baby by Kim Chinquee: Kim can pack more into a paragraph than a lot of people, using words you have heard but not that way before, a very smart book that weighs much more than it feels in hand, magic
32. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by Tao Lin: I wrote about this book and interviewed Tao here
33. The Changeling by Joy Williams: an amazing book that makes you feel like you have a fever and are at the people zoo, this is by far the best Joy Williams book I have read, massive sentences and amazing ideas: best rerelease of the year by far, wrote about it more here
34. Yes, Master by Michael Earl Craig: I like the strange imagery here, and the jokes, it is funny
35. How Much of Us There Was by Michael Kimball: second time reading this book, crippled me some, wrote about it more here
36. In the Blind by Eugene Marten: top 5 older of the year for me for sure, kind of mind blowing, wrote about this more here
37. Grim Tales by Norman Lock (2nd time): reread again for review purposes, and for brilliance
38. Speedboat by Renata Adler: I read this from having bought it because it was taught by DFW, it is clear why, a totally brilliant and hardcore book, maybe the most packed paragraphs ever
39. Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball: one of the best of the year, and new, I reviewed this here
40. The Levitationist by Brandon Hobson: god, such a brain eater of a book, dream imagery perfected, an example of the best ways fiction can be imagistic and mindbending, an important book
41. Minor Robberies by Deb Olin Unferth: One of my favorite shorts of the year was in here, I can't remember the name of it off the top of my head but really a cool and bizarre collection
42. Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen: stilted some but had its moments, i felt bored most of the time reading it, but got to end, the final chapter was excellent and made me wish the rest of the book had been as such
43. It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature by Diane Williams: reading Diane Williams makes me want to write almost every single time, no one really writes like this, such weird twists
44. The Spectacle of the Body by Noy Holland: worth it for 'Orbit' alone, which is one of the greatest stories of the past 10 years, if I had to teach voice to writing students I would use this book
45. Marsupial by Derek White: I think this is a branch of a new genre, for real, I wrote about it at length here
46. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (reread): hadn't read since 10th grade or something, great sentences, duh
47. The Tormented Mirror by Russell Edson: Edson is a nutcase, in a good way, he can 'do anything' and get away with it I think, maybe though I think he is slightly overrated, 'when he is on he is on'
48. The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zach Mason: certain sections of this made me go 'wow,' a really great concept for a book and very smart in execution
49. Remainland by Aase Berg: I had this book open at my desk when I was writing one of the novels I worked on this year, really brutal and juxaposing imagery, fantastic fuel
50. The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars by Joshua Kornreich: this book seriously made me feel dirty in a way unlike any book ever, I don't know why, a student of Peter Markus, it is about a kid whose father's shit seems to have strange properties, really disconcerting in its aura in a way I can't explain, I mean I really felt like the same way I did the first time I saw the film Salo, totally bizarre
51. Dear Ra by Johannes Goransson: I loved this book like Kenneth Anger and wrote about it at length here
52. Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine by Stanley Crawford: I want a passage from this book tattooed on me, I might do it, this book quickly jumped into my top 20 of all time I think, what a brain bruiser, I wrote about this and asked Stanley to be my grandfather here
53. Boring boring boring boring borning boring boring by Zach Plague: best book design of the past 5 years I think, and with a story that meshes so many strands of storytelling, I can think of another book like this in any way
54. Waste by Eugene Marten: Another by Marten that killed me, I loved this and wrote about it a lot here
55. The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You by Frank Stanford: still in the middle of this, and maybe will spend years finishing it, but page for page this book probably has more meat inside it than any other book ever written, no kidding, one page could set you up for weeks, that is not an exaggeration, huge
56. Nylund the Sarcographer by Joyelle McSweeney: Connected to the FLET, another brilliant mashing of language and some genre I can't quite put together, Joyelle I think is doing something with image and language and the surreal that no one has done, I hope she makes more books in this vein
57. The Singing Fish by Peter Markus: reread this also after a while since having done the first time, I don't know how Peter is able to use such spare evocation and make it sing so hard, he is like a tree with blood rings, these images cut
58. Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth: a truly strange mash of things going on in this book, it felt 'all over the place' in a good way, she maybe has one of the strangest tones in books right now
59. Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz (2nd time): I really need to read this at least once a year, a formative book for anyone who touches it, that is not an exaggeration, Lutz is king
60. Hogg by Samuel Delany: yeah, brutal, but in the end it kind of got old, I love brutal violence but this at some point felt routine, still though the images stick in your head regardless of how you want them to, and certain passage like where the guy sticks the nail down his pisshole will keep in your forever likely
61. Changing by Lily Hoang: this book made me gasp when I saw it, she took the I-Ching and turned it on itself in these strangely formatted, textual objects, Joyelle's blurb on this is right on about how it is an impossible thing, a dream object, or however it was put, I have also not seen another book like this ** JUST CAME OUT FROM FAIRY TALE REVIEW PRESS **
62. The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti by Stephen Graham Jones: a very short novel about being inside a video game, I loved the premise and could not stop reading it, the suicide letters that intersperse the other text are black comedy at high mark, SGJ has extreme output
63. Midnight Picnic by Nick Antosca: god, another weird book with tone I can't quite put a finger on, a mix of early McCarthy and those dreams you have after ingesting too much sugar, at some point near the middle I texted Nick and said, dude you did it, or something, thankfully saved by Word Riot Press
64. Fog & Car by Eugene Lim: Ellipsis Press really killed it with the debut this year, both titles being of such high quality, I loved and wrote about this here
65. Slouching in the Path of a Comet by Mike Dockins: Dockins can do the tongue in cheek weirdo monologue like no other, he makes me laugh out loud, no one is writing poems like this but Dockins because only Dockins can, a really strange book of verse and prose poems, Dockins knows lists
66. Creamy Bullets by Kevin Sampsell: Sampsell is a magician, and reminds me of Sam Lipsyte when Lipsyte is really on, but also can change gears like maybe no other person writing right now, this book spans masses, the story that was in 3rd bed totally kills me as one of the best 'like a dream' narratives I can think of
67. Holy Land by Rauan Klassnik (2x): I read this twice back to back, Ron makes violence do the new, and his brand I think cripples the earlier mentioned 'Hogg' in that he makes the putrid spiritual or at least transcendent, he is important
68. Atlassed by Jane Unrue: Somewhat on the Joyelle McSweeney page maybe, Unrue creates these worlds that exist nowhere but in her books, like little mirrored halls that go on forever, and new new new language mashes, I loved this, 'The Snarl is on the Mask' is one of my new favorite stories
69. Last Days by Brian Evenson: new Brian Evenson is like a party, no one can render hysteria and the tension with such clean sentences and such ouch, this book is a haunter, just like everything this man has ever written, he is an idol
70. Disciplines by Diana George: like walking down a poisoned hallway or something, I don't know how she makes these completely objective massively layered world, another haunter, and in like 30 pages, I need another book from her
71. Parabola by Lily Hoang: this book takes metatext to the next level, Lily seriously pulled out all the stops on this and kind of invented her own genre that still tells a palpable and family centered story line, this is like a magic textbook, but compulsive, she is a powerhouse
72. In the Colorless Round by Joanna Howard: another great chapbook from Noemi Press, Joanna Howard is another I want more of, sentences, sentences
73. Dad Says He Saw You At the Mall by Ken Sparling: another of my new all time favorites, absolutely hilarious and new, Knopf at its best, I wrote about this here
74. The Haunted Hillbilly by Derek McCormack: McCormack has done work with Sparling, and this book is also creepy in a way I can't figure out, who else write books like this, no one, extremely clipped sentences that still evoke a ton and unlike the rest
75. The External Combustion Engine by Michael Ives: in the vein of the Unrue, these are stylistic masterpieces when they are on, this made me want to steal a lot from him, and made me think a lot about form and how it dictates language
76. Stories in Another Language by Yannick Murphy: fucking brilliant collection again from Knopf, maybe one of my favorite collections for how every story pretty much is a gut puncher, and sentences like brick houses made of candy, jesus
77. The Inland Sea by Brandon Shimoda: one of my favorite covers I've seen in a while
78. The High Traverse by Richard Blanchard: had this on my shelf forever, and has a Lish blurb, weird boyish sentences in clipped list-like manners, I can't think how to explain what this book does, if you like Lish you need this
79. The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball: I will be reviewing this for the Believer in April, it is a truly insane feat that he pulled off here, and I think even more electric than Samdedi The Deafness, which is saying a lot, this book is important and post-Calvino, magic
80. Lucky Unlucky Days by Daniel Grandbois: hilariously strange flash fictions that reinvent fairy tales and spin them in ways you would not have expected, new
81. Island People by Coleman Dowell: the first 60 pages of this beat my head in, and I could not stop thinking about it, near the middle it started to sag for me a little and the premise got old and I put it down, it is very heavy and complex, but for the first 60 pages alone this thing is worth checking out, maybe I got impatient too fast, that happens with books I end up loving, jury is out
82. The Tree of No by Sandy Florian: Action books eats my face throbbingly, this book is worth it if for the 'Parables' section alone, a post-Biblical freakshow, awesome
83. Geometric Regional Novel by Gert Jonke: I read straight through this in one sitting and had my head lopped off by it, in the mind of Invisible Cities but even heavier and more inventive, and funny!, and fun to read, this immediately made me start writing in the mind of it, and got me working on a new novel, one of my favorite finds of the last several years, totally in need of more attention, a true hidden gem if there ever was one, god bless Dalkey Archive
84. La Medusa by Vanessa Place: (in progress) Just started this yesterday, the biggest book I've seen out from fc2 (500 pages), a mammoth in size and in concept apparently, so many voices based mostly in California and very sentence-oriented (Mike Young, I think you would eat this for supper), I am loving it so far having read the first 120 pages or so, looking fwd to heading further in
Goal for 2009: read some older shits, some longer shits, and maybe somehow more than 84 shits, if I can maintain the hide