Thursday, December 25, 2008

What I Read in 2008

I read a lot this year. 84 books by the list I keep (and including the 'La Medusa' I am currently in the middle of), though sometimes I forget to mark them down, and mostly not including chapbooks or magazines or manuscripts, etc., and also not including those I gave up on in the middle (except one, which I almost finished, and still really liked certain things about what I did read mostly).

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


Matt DeBenedictis said...

Hot turtle dung. It's going to take me some time to ingest this huge list. I must say I have revisited those airplane parts in Tortoise. The tone and rhythm is so odd, but once you get it, it makes sense and is quite fun.


i agree, i think i like that book more each time i look at it, it's a freak.

we should get a beer sometime in atlanta n shit

James said...

battlefield is awesome. i'm less than halfway but i would definitely agree with what you said. that part about swimming with his teacher, that other part about riding around in the car and looking at the black people. stanford is gas.

Ken Baumann said...

Great, massive list. Just when I think I'm making a dent...

God, someone just take my money now, for me, it's going to happen.

And a Happy New Year.


james, gas indeed

ken, i enoasdjfla laksjd flaisjdl iausdo faoeur au9u u ij i lou fials

Ken Baumann said...

blake, you also read my novel, and for that i am thankful

Mike Young said...

thanks for the shoutout dude!

it sounds kind of like ALREADY DEAD, which means i'm excited

merry 2009

we're gonna kick ass and then lick it; a charming and life affirming lick

Matt DeBenedictis said...

Blake, we should. I like beer. I like enjoying it not alone. Less eyes bathe you when you are in company.

Keith N B said...

thanks blake. my syllabus for the emergence.


lick it before we kick it

yeah it's semi already deadish, though more fc2 style

lets get em

Matthew said...

You're killing me. This is fantastic shit.


thank you matt, glad to hear

Lily Hoang said...

you're seriously my hero, blake. thanks for reading my books, but even if you hadn't, i'd kill some rock stars to have read all those books this past year.

jereme said...

one of the 85 entries made me laugh hard.

you are epic like stranger pregnant sex

rare and special

matthew savoca said...

i think you could have read maybe 2 more books in the time it took you to make this post.... am i right or am i right, right, roight


which one jereme

yeah matthew i could have reread the tunnel probably, the fat tunnel not edson

jereme said...



you mr. son of bitch


jereme said...

where are your wurds now mister mfa

actually i was illustrating a previous point

that jumble has meaning same as 'the brown dog walked quietly'

i lost my shirt at the horsetrack/card rooms yesterday.

i had quite the adventure.

the anger lingers


i agree, they are brethren, math and words, though through slightly different doors. i was a cs major at ga tech for years before i started writing. i am sad i can not remember much of math at all now despite my many years of calculus

jereme said...

the answer is a decade


heh, no, yeah, i can remember enough at least to solve that'n. funny

jereme said...

i want to remove your brain and transplant it into a chimpanzee body and see what you create

i think it would be paramount

jereme said...


(the phrase keeps popping into my mind)


i would be allowed to make a lot more feces

mmm grayskull

Unknown said...

Yes! Speedboat is great. Awesome list.

Anonymous said...

great list blake. i've read a little more than half of those but now i've got 3-4 on order. is kevin s. really as good as lipsyte when lipsyte's on? because to me lipsyte is always on and i've read mixed reviews of kevin s.'s work. like not only content-wise but also sentence-wise. have you read venus drive? shit is bananas. anyway, i'll give it a shot. creamy bullets it is.


kevin does some magic for certain. i think lipsyte is mostly on (i love venus drive and homeland, but i put the subject steve down halfway through as it felt stilted (though this was 5 years ago at least, i should probably reread it)). creamy bullets is def worth your buckx, sentences et al.

Hillary said...

Oh man, what a great list. You've got a few of my favourites on here (
("Actual Air" is still one of my most favourite books, Faulkner's Faulkner), as well as a few I've been meaning to read (Ohle, Rohrer). Thanks for putting this together, it'll send me a lot of awkward bookstore loitering.


hi hillary. bookstore loiter is the good loiter.

colin bassett said...

i like your booklists

Ophelia Mourne said...

I read alot of books
and like you not including magazine articles, any newspaper I get my hands on, and so on...

You've inspired me to do yet another healthy thing this new year, as a birthday gift to myself.

Im going to actually do reviews of my books this time around, and just to see how many I do read, also what kind of creativity comes from it.

Thanks :o)


hi colin and ophelia, i am glad

BlogSloth said...

Jesus Christ.

Aging Yuppie Grappler said...

Stellar list.

I love: Hogg, Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, Stories in the Worst Way

How did you manage to read the new Evenson book? I thought it wasn't out yet.


hi carnal, yes, it comes out very soon, i got a galley for review... underland press website should have official date on it, soon

Aging Yuppie Grappler said...

How different is it from Brotherhood of Mutilation? I have heard it variously described as a sequel, a rewriting, and an expansion.


the brotherhood is same as it was in chapbook form as far as i can tell. there are no major changes. the chapbook version is part one of the book. then part 2 follows from there. it is a really fantastic extension, and opens up the beginning into even more magic. be excited.

Anonymous said...

Alexandra Chasin had a short story in Agni that blew my MIND. I am delicate about what sort of experimental work works for me, but that story really did.

Super impressive list. I like how narrowly focussed your taste is for the most part- I mean that. The idea of depth over breadth that Justin mentioned in a post. To truly deeply know a certain school of writing is fantastic.

I'm looking forward to Ever, Blake. Happy New Year.


thanks pr. its funny on that narrow focus: anytime i try to get out of it i get bored. picky bitchez unite

i will check out her story on agni, she has powers for sure

Anonymous said...

the Chasin story was in their "print" journal- i subscribed for awhile.

anywho- great great list. i am going to keep a list this year, inspired by you. my list will also include short fiction i read in magazines because otherwise, it'll be too small.

Pet & Gone said...

i just ordered some of those, really just the ones that struck my fancy. my fancy changes a lot.


i hope you enjoy the ones you got Brandi, i would enjoy hearing your thoughts on them when you read