Monday, January 5, 2015

In through my eyes ...

So 2015 begins with me being super-psychic linked to my favorite friend I've never met. I had just decided to write one of those My Year In Reading posts, revisiting the what-up-books of last year. First I ducked into my Reader and noticed that Jodi had just posted the very same thing. So that's cool.

Anyway, I had planned on just making like a Top Whatever, but I like this Academy Awards thing she did so I'm following suit. I've linked to the reviews I wrote for Minnesota Reads. (Like Jodi's list, not all of mine are from 2014.)

Most Whoas Used in a Single Review Award
"Untamed State" by Roxane Gay
Whoa. This novel is about the American daughter of one of Haiti's wealthiest men. Mireille, her husband and infant son are visiting her family when she is kidnapped by some high-power gun-wielding thugs as they reverse out of the gated driveway. Well she's tortured in ways that are described quite vivid and practically empathetic fear-vomit inducing, her father refuses to entertain the idea of a ransom. Best novel I read all year, but don't read it. It's a lot to handle. Plus you'll be all, "Best novel you read all year, why you sick jerk" and I'll have to defend myself. Exhausting.

Most Triumphant Return of a Favorite Writer Award
"Unspeakable: And other Subjects of Discussion" by Meghan Daum
What-say 15-ish years after publishing one of my favorite essay collections in the history of essay collections, Meghan Daum returned with an essay collection that I hoped would be slightly north of okay. And it was way north of okay. "Unspeakable" is this excellent collection of essays about stuff they don't talk about on the "Today" show: anticlimactic deaths, being butch and heterosexual, Joni Mitchell. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. (Insert a bunch of thoughts on how MD is sort of the OG of personal blogging, if blogging had only ever existed on paper.)

Huh, I Thought This Would Be Insufferable Award
"10:04" by Ben Lerner
Oh holy night I was prepped to loathe this. (I'm guilty of occasionally hate-reading.) BL has this way of writing characters who look like him and talk like him and wear his coat -- and these characters are sometimes insufferable icks. But then, stuffed into that peacoat is a pretty amazing storyteller who makes you grudgingly say at the end of his book: "Fine, you win again, but this doesn't mean I want to stand next to you at a party." Anyway, the gist of this one is that a writer named Ben has had success with his first book and has gotten a hefty advance for the next one and his good friend wants him to impregnate her.

Most Laughably Disgusting Book (That I Wish Had Just Been a Movie Instead) Award
"Consumed" by David Cronenberg
From the guy who dressed Jeffrey Goldblum in wiry back hair for "The Fly" comes a late-in-life debut novel. "Consumed" is the super yuck story of Philosophy's "it" couple and the did-he, didn't-he story of her death and his maybe cannibalism. Throw in a handful of diseases you don't want to Google Image, a millennial with a wretched set of decision making skills and some tech-heavy descriptions of, like, camera gear. It's worth a read just to see what new and awful ways Cronenberg came make you almost wretch. But this won't be setting any plot records.

Book that Turned Me Into a Mega Fan of the Writer
"An Invisible Sign of My Own" by Aimee Bender
Everything changes for super-runner, numbers girl Mona when her father comes down with some kind of inexplicable illness that is probably more mental than physical. Through a bizarre set of circumstances she lands a gig teaching math at her old elementary school and all sorts of quirky -- the organic kind, not the contrived kind -- stuff goes down. Bender's book is a great reminder that your fiction doesn't have to exist within parameters because it's not real, see, so anything can happen.

Books that I Liked in Varying Degrees, But Don't Feel Like Bleating On and On About (Again) Because In a Few Cases I'm Tainted by Being Fascinated in the Author's Life Awards
"Not that Kind of Girl" by Lena Dunham
"The Vacationers" by Emma Straub
"Friendship" by Emily Gould

Anyway, my 2015 in reading is off to a good start. I've already dished out two high-star ratings: One for "Dept. of Speculation" by Jenny Offill and one for "Rainey Royal" by Dylan Landis.

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