by Greg Akers
Now here, for your ease of browsing, are the books I read in 2011, listed in reverse order they were Tweeted, which is to say chronologically with the last first.
One notable difference between 2010 and 2011 was the number of books I finished. I read 72 in 2010, but only 34 last year. The primary cause was the first book I read when the calendar flipped, the behemoth Infinite Jest. I started it on January 1st and didn't finish until May 22nd. (More Jest stats are listed below, in the book's entry.) I was left with roughly six months and a week of the year, during which I read 33 more things. I'm not a math nerd (I'm a book nerd, clearly), but that seems to be roughly the same rate I read books in 2010. I also had a child in June 2011, so there's that.
Partaking of Infinite Jest made me want to read at least one gargantuan work a year, so I'm implementing that strategy again this year. The first book I'm chewing on is Stephen King's Under the Dome. It is within five pages the same length as Infinite Jest. But 1,000-plus pages in the hands of one writer isn't the same as 1,000-plus in another. King's book flies, and I'll be done with it by the end of the month, probably. Infinite Jest is a labor — exceedingly rewarding, but an effort all the same.
Also on my docket for 2012 are Taylor Branch's Martin Luther King trilogy, lots of crime fiction I'm sure, and maybe even I'll get around to start tackling Proust's Lost Time series. (Or maybe I'll hold that till 2013 or '14, it intimidates me so.)
My favorite book of the year was #16 listed below, with wit, warmth, and humanity that has stayed with me for months. It's kind of like if Lord of the Rings was crossed with Peanuts. I read it in a massive tome that can be found at Randolph Public Library in Memphis. Highly recommended. (What book is it? Read the list!)
A housekeeping note: I've aired out the entries a little since I'm not as limited in space on the blog as I was on Twitter.
34. SPACEMAN by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso. The great team behind the series 100 BULLETS is back. Rejoice. I would read Azzarello and Risso if they wrote and illustrated the phone book. It would be dark as hell and illuminate the shadows in man's soul.
33. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SEASON 9, Issues 1-4. Nerd alert.
32. HELLBOY, vol. 11: THE BRIDE OF HELL by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Kevin Nowlan, & Scott Hampton. Luchadores vampire slayers!
31. DARK RAIN by Mat Johnson & Simon Gane. Excellent Ninth Ward bank heist. Katrina noir: DIG IT. By the way, if you haven't read Johnson's brilliant INCOGNEGRO, do yourself a favor.
30. TRANSMETROPOLITAN, vol. 1: BACK ON THE STREET by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson. Gonzo journalism in the future. Lurid.THE HILLIKER CURSE by James Ellroy. Astonishing no-holds-barred memoir by the king of contemporary crime fiction. For Ellroy fans, THE HILLIKER CURSE is essential reading. It's a true companion piece to his novels. Reading it crushes the idea that Ellroy's books were written in a vacuum. He's always working through his day-to-day baggage in his writing.
28. THE CITY & THE CITY by China Miéville. Amazing sci-fi crime mystery, shades of Iron Curtain Europe.
26. FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King. Four novellas, each worse than the next.
25. FALLING MAN by Don DeLillo. 9/11 book — powerful, but not as much as the pic that inspired it.
24. WHISKEY RIVER by Loren Estleman. Prohibition-era Detroit crime fic. Mildly detached tho.
23. CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT #2-4, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips. The best thing in crime fic today.
22. B.P.R.D., vol. 12: WAR ON FROGS, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, et al. Roger the Homunculus!
21. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, CENTURY: 1969 by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill. Enjoyable but tough when you get about 1/30th of the references.
20. THE RIP-OFF by Jim Thompson. Not great. Released posthumously, possibly written postmortem.
19. DODGEM LOGIC #1, edited by Alan Moore. Underground zine from Northampton, UK. Worth it.
18. NONPLAYER #1 by Nate Simpson. Gorgeous, an exciting debut.
17. I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL, pages 1-56, by Tucker Max. Reprehensible.
16. BONE by Jeff Smith. On my shortlist for best comic series ever. Absolutely epic and deftly elegant.
15. THE DEATH AND LIFE OF BOBBY Z by Don Winslow. Breakneck and fun crime plot but a little sloppy.
14. HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL by Hampton Sides. Brilliantly written devastating acct of James Earl Ray's life and Martin Luther King's death.
13. PLANETARY: CROSSING WORLDS by Warren Ellis, Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway, & John Cassaday. The Batman short story is maybe fave in all of Planetary.CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT #1, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips. Best thing in crime fic today.
10. THE FLANDERS PANEL by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Too tidy wrap-up and my least fave of his, but still decent.
9. JOE THE BARBARIAN by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy. Kind of a comic book-style riff on Mark Haddon's THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME.
8. NEONOMICON, issues 3-4 by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows. Terrifically disturbing but ho-hum wrap-up.
7. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 8, issue 40, by Joss Whedon & others. Finally got around to the coda issue. Last arc felt rushed. (Oh, and nerd alert.)
6. PLANETARY, vol. 4: SPACETIME ARCHAEOLOGY by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday. All-time superb cosmological comic.
5. PLANETARY, vol. 3: LEAVING THE 20TH CENTURY by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen + B.P.R.D. + The Invisibles = YES.PLANETARY, vol. 2: THE FOURTH MAN by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday.
3. PLANETARY vol. 1: ALL OVER THE WORLD by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday.
2. B.P.R.D. vol. 11: THE BLACK GODDESS by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, & Guy Davis. Yeti monks & Hyperboreans!
1. INFINITE JEST by David Foster Wallace. Really, really, really, really, really, really, really —
Infinite Jest stats: 1,079 pages (including endnotes), 141 days = 7.65 pages per day. (Finished May 22.) What's challenging about Infinite Jest isn't its length or its non-chronological unspooling but how it answers questions it hasn't asked yet. The idea that it doesn't have a solution is wrong, I think. It does, you just have to piece it together for yourself with a bit of page 123, some of page 345, 809, etc.