Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's Fundamental

The scene: Late December 2007. I look at the stacks of unread books accumulated from various thrift and secondhand book stores piling up in my apartment. The year's end fast approaching.

The resolution: Perhaps not entirely apt. It was more of a challenge for myself: I will read 52 books in 52 weeks beginning January 1st, 2008 and ending December 31st, 2008.

The rules: More concerned with averaging a book a week rather than a hard-line stance of one book read per week. Books per my rules were anything of at least 75 pages. Yes, graphic novels which exceeded that length, and of which I read two, count. Short story compilations count as one book. Choose Your Own Adventure books would only be allowed if my adventure lasted at least 75 pages. You will notice a complete lack of Choose Your Own Adventure books, whether that's because I did not read any or my adventures were chosen poorly I will leave up to the reader's imagination. What good is life without some mystery?

The reason: The aforementioned stack of unread books. Secondly, admitting that reading has become less of a practiced activity post college; taking weeks to months on end to finish novels I started, often placing them down for days at a time to only have to reread the last 10 pages to get reacquainted with the story since last I left it.

Mission: Accomplished! Where's my banner????

And now, for posterity in the world wide interwebs, here are all 53 (yes, I beat my goal by one!) books I read in 2008, listed in order of completion:

1. Rage-Richard Bachman (nee Stephen King)
2. The Long Walk-Richard Bachman (nee Stephen King)
3. Red Harvest-Dashiell Hammett
4. Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (graphic novel)-Peter Kuper
5. Live From New York-Tom Shales & James Miller
6. Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy
7. Ask the Dust-John Fante
8. Saturday Night: A Backstage History-Doug Hill & Jeff Weingrad
9. Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones-Robert Greenfield

10. The Road-Cormac McCarthy
11. Pure Drivel-Steve Martin
12. Raymond Chandler: A Biography-Tom Hiney
13. Trouble is My Business-Raymond Chandler
14. The Ten Cent Plague-David Hadju
15. Devil in a Blue Dress-Walter Mosley
16. The Old Man and the Sea-Ernest Hemingway
17. The Jaws Log-Carl Gottleib
18. White Teeth-Zadie Smith
19. Rebels on the Backlot-Sharon Waxman
20. The Pigeon-Patrick Suskind

21. The Complete Peanuts 61-62-Charles Schulz
22. Seven Per-Cent Solution-Nicholas Meyer
23. The Thin Man-Dashiell Hammett
24. The Studio-John Gregory Dunne
25. Honeymoon-Patrick Modriano
26. The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale-Michael Bamberger
27. Bringing Down the House-Ben Mezrich
28. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (compilation): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
29. The Tragedy of MacBeth-William Shakespeare
30. Danse Macabre-Stephen King
31. Nightmare of Ectasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr-Rudolph Grey
32. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-Robert Luis Stevenson
33. The Yiddish Policeman's Union-Michael Chabon

34. The Invisible Man-HG Wells
35. The Glass Key-Dashiell Hammett
36. A Red Death-Walter Mosley
37. The Spirit Archives 1-Will Eisner
38. The Sun Also Rises-Ernest Hemingway
39. The Getaway-Jim Thompson
40. The Lives and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini-Ruth Brandon
41. The Ox-Bow Incident-Walter van Tillenburg Clark
42. Cash-Johnny Cash
43. True Confessions-John Gregory Dunne
44. The Year of Magical Thinking-Joan Didion
45. Savage Night-Jim Thompson
46. Somebody Owes Me Money-Donald Westlake
47. How to Talk Dirty and Infulence People-Lenny Bruce
48. The Final Solution-Michael Chabon
49. The Busy Body-Donald Westlake

50. The Maltese Falcon-Dashiell Hammett
51. Roadwork-Richard Bachman (nee Stephen King)
52. Deathbird Stories-Harlan Ellison
53. The Crucible-Arthur Miller

Some stats, since they proved so popular in my year end movie assessment article:

Number of Fiction books read: 40
Number of Non-Fiction books read: 13

Authors read multiple times:

Dashiell Hammett: 4
Stephen King/Richard Bachman: 4--side note: until last year, I hadn't read a Stephen King book since my teenage years (when he was my favorite author), prompted by the release of the film version of The Mist (the novella included in the Skeleton Crew compilation) I decided to re-read it since it was the first novel that I thought I should adapt into a movie (I was 14 years old, and didn't get very far). I read the other stories in Skeleton Crew, rekindling a nostalgic appreciation for King which lead to reading the Night Shift compilation on my honeymoon which...well, you get the idea.
Cormac McCarthy: 2
Walter Mosley: 2
Ernest Hemingway: 2
John Gregory Dunne: 2
Michael Chabon: 2
Jim Thompson: 2
Donald Westlake: 2

Books written by Men: 49
Books written by Women: 4 (sorry, ladies)

By Decade Written:

2000s: 12
1990s: 8
1980s: 5
1970s: 6
1960s: 5
1950s: 4
1940s: 2
1930s: 5
1920s: 2
1890s: 2
1880s: 1
1600s: 1

As far as 2009, I have no plans to replicate this particular goal. Not that I don't plan on continued reading, but there are a good many longer novels and classic literary works that would require a certain amount of attention that could have thrown a wrench in the overall goal. For example, since Christmas 2000 I have owned David Foster Wallace's epic Infinite Jest without cracking more than the first dozen or so pages, his death last year increased my urge to finally delve into it. (Of course you can see by the sidebar that thus far I've read two graphic novels in the first six weeks of the year....)

And now back to reading, somehow that stack of unread books has actually increased.
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