“We love to buy books because we think we are buying the time to read them.” —Arthur Schopenhauer
This is the year I finally got on Goodreads (you can add me here.) One year on, my reading has never been so good. Keeping track of what I read has me reading more, holding myself to a book-a-week minimum. And I’m actually spending less on books. Before I started Goodread-ing I would buy just about any book I intended to read someday. My bookshelf was my reading list. Now I keep it in my pocket.
Here are my favorite reads of 2015.
BLOOD MERIDIAN — CORMAC McCARTHY
David Foster Wallace chose McCarthy’s masterpiece as one of the five most ‘direly underaprieciated’ American novels since 1960. In a rare stroke of brevity Wallace kept his notes on the book to just three words:
‘Don’t even ask.’
Blood Meridian follows a group of ex-soldiers paid to collect Apache scalps in the American West. They start by killing warriors, then women and children, and before long, it’s open season on anyone with brown hair. Think Melville meets Milton in the high desert with plenty of antique riflery jargon. Harold Bloom called it ‘the ultimate Western.’
It’s rumored that McCarthy’s research included making homemade gunpowder from urine and naturally occurring sulfur.
UMBRELLA — WILL SELF
A novel that spans a century, told in a madwoman’s stream of consciousness, scrawled in Will Self’s sesquipedalian prose. Don’t ask me how, but it works. Brilliantly. Will Self’s experiment is a continuation of the modernist novel–Joyce and Woolf are all over Umbrella.
In his critical defense of the book, Self argues that modernism isn’t over and that someone living in any of the great ages before us, say the Renaissance, would laugh at the notion that an era in art could last just a couple of years. His exact words were much more sesquipedalian.
FOREST OF FORTUNE — JIM RULAND
Jim Ruland’s debut novel, Forest of Fortune is a new classic of California noir. It’s Raymond Chandler in the age of polyamory, Dashiell Hammett with a novelty coke straw up its nose, or Inherent Vice after the yuppies stormed the beaches and nudged all the freaks east of the 405. The setting, a ‘possibly haunted’ Indian casino, is hysterical, the players are human and heartbreaking.*
*From my interview with Jim Ruland
CRASH — J.G BALLARD
A ghastly exploration of the erotic potential of car crashes. We’re talking classic car crashes, pre-airbags, back when the windscreen and chrome fixtures could flay you alive. If you’re into Fight Club and the lyrics of Joy Division, you’ve come to the right place.
AMERICAN SUBVERSIVE — DAVID GOODWILLIE
The first writer I’ve encountered who uses social media in his fiction in a way that makes any fucking sense. The people in David Goodwillie’s work are people, not paper dolls caught in the updrafts of National debate. This book beats the clever realists, like Roth and Franzen, at their own game.
Political thrillers aren’t my thing, neither are clever books set in New York, but this one blew me away.
KILLING FOR COMPANY — BRIAN MASTERS
The creepiest book I’ve ever read. It might be the creepiest book ever written.
Killing for Company tells the true story of the serial killer, Dennis Neilson, AKA ‘Britain’s Jeffrey Dahmer.’ Brian Masters uses a detailed account of the killer’s entire life and family history to make a monster feel frighteningly familiar.
INDEPENDENT ED — ED BURNS
Indispensable advice from the micro-budget film-maker behind The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One, and Entourage. Comes in handy when you hit that slump in the middle of your passion project.
“Sometimes you’ve got to ignore the money and get back to why you got into this business to begin with. In most cases you got bit after seeing something like Nicholson in Chinatown or Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon. I’ve yet to meet an actor, writer, or director who decided to get into the movie business after hearing how much Schwarzenager got paid to do Kindergarten Cop.”
VAGABONDING — ROLF POTTS
A textbook for extended world travel. If you’re one to say ‘I’ve always wanted to go/do/see ______, Vagabonding might contain the motivation you need to finally take the leap. If you’re already living your adventures, Vagabonding is a refresher on travel basics and a reminder of why you do it.
Justin Alexander, the most interesting man on Instagram, is a big fan.
21 YAKS AND A SPEEDO — LEWIS PUGH
Pure enjoyment when I needed a break from dark, dense, and gruesome titles. 21 Yaks and a Speedo is a collection of life lessons from extreme swimmer and environmental champion Lewis Pugh. The ‘yaks’ are these highly digestible stories that take about five to ten minutes to read. The ‘yaks’ depict the training of a hero and offer inspiration to, as Pugh is so fond of saying, ‘achieve the impossible.’
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What were your good reads in 2015?