Fall 2012 went from September 22 to December 20, 2012, during that time I feel like I made up for a somewhat lackluster reading period during the summer, where I read some really fine and memorable books like Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, (more from obligation than to my taste) Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama which turned out much better than I figured Clarke to be. Not be outdone, Fall’s reads were surprisingly good. Out of the 19 books I read (that comes out to around 1.5 books a week), I gave seven of them 4/5 stars on goodreads. As predicted in my previous reading list, I read a Stuart Townsend’s Sherwood Anderson biography and Tar by Anderson, as well as Thornton Wilder and Nathanael West off of my “American Authors(early/mid 20th Century)” list. Add to that Flannery O’Conner and some top-notch sci-fi and you have a satisfying season of reading. See for yourself:
Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (au) by Jeremy Scahill
An eye-opening report on the present state of the mercenary-industrial complex and its relation to warmongering in the United States.
Sherwood Anderson: A Biography by Stuart Townsend
The essential biography of Sherwood Anderson. More biographical than Howe’s, more moderately detailed than Rideouts two volumes. Notwithstanding Townsend’s posthumous psychoanalysis of Anderson, this is a must-read for fans of the writer.
Water for Elephants (au) by Sara Gruen
A decent plot hampered by a the dead weight of a framing story. If not for the appeal of the setting, the shallow characters would have put me off this book completely.
Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker (au) by Kevin D. Mitnick
The rollicking adventure of the world’s most wanted hacker on the run from the FBI. This book goes from young Mitnick’s entertaining feats to his showdown with the FBI, who finally close in and catch him using their own brand of shrewd ethics.
Tar: A Midwest Childhood by Sherwood Anderson
If anyone considers Sherwood Anderson a one-hit wonder, they should read the wonderful episodes in this book. Everything that’s beautiful about Winesburg, Ohio is here as well.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (au) by David Sedaris
Sure it’s funny, but in a way that makes a well-adjusted person uncomfortable. The humor is raw and mean; these animals would give Beatrix Potter a heart attack.
Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter by Ed Lawler
Not a customer service classic, but definitely a worthwhile read for anyone in a public facing role. Talented customer service folks will read this book and nod at every page.
Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Its an achievement on the part of Nathanael West that he captured the denizens of Hollywood then and now so well. If only they weren’t so pathetic!
Voices (au) by Ursula K. Le Guin
This book had a few positives that got lost in a plot that didn’t know what to do with itself set in an inconsistent world.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle
Not only did I learn a lot from this book, it was also a head above Delisle’s book about North Korea because there were also plenty of interesting little mini-plots.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Though there’s some high-quality descriptive writing here, I was underwhelmed by Wilder’s slow plot and unremarkable characters. Yes, there’s plenty to analyze here, but in my case I was mostly just glad to cross it off my list.
Darkness at Noon (au) by Arthur Koestler
A well-crafted character portrait under the guise of the interrogation and conviction of a Communist party operative. Theoretical and psychological – Koestler handled the plot beautifully.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (au) by Flannery O’Conner
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories is not a book readers who dislike being slammed in the face with difficult plots. More specifically, happy endings. It’s depressing stuff. Flannery O’Connor is certainly an essential regional author if not more.
Inferno by Eileen Myles
A heartfelt bildungsroman written in an occasionally annoying stream-of-consciousness style that picked up and dropped narratives at will. That said, Myles purpose with this book was clear and she achieved it admirably.
Childhood’s End (au) by Arthur C. Clarke
One of the best science fiction books ever published with a plot that gripped me and ideas that are instructive as well as entertaining.
The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin
Class Jewish tales adapted to the wild west and drawn so the reader can be sympathetic to all the characters, even the baddies. Too bad its less than thirty minutes of reading.
Pirate Cinema (au) by Cory Doctorow
For a book that has many of the appeals of Doctorow’s earlier Little Brother this one lacks the taut plot so essential to make books written for young adults go.
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Intricate and precise, combining narratives both big and small, Stephenson creates a world and launches it like a piece of software. This book is an achievement for fans of dense sci-fi/literary fiction if not others.
Hector and the Search for Happiness (au) by François Lelord
I would dislike this book intensely if I didn’t expect the story to be shallow and the characters exceedingly flat. But hey, it’s nice little foam of inspiration, so why not?
It is towards the end of January, about halfway through the winter season which ends in the middle of March and so making big plans for these next two months may be going overboard. Still, a little forward thinking won’t hurt anything (my thoughts could use the organization). I think, with some effort I can continue making headway into my American Authors list by listening to an audiobook of Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (already ordered from Los Angeles Public), and finally give James Dickey a try – Deliverance is sitting on the shelf of my library waiting for me to snatch and read. Will see about finally reading Irving Howe’s Sherwood Anderson biography and maybe another book by the master himself. If anything, A Storyteller’s Story shall be next. I scooped up a first edition of it at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood (the 2nd Anderson 1st I found at that magnificent establishment). Probably many more in addition to the above will be read by the time March rolls around. A reading life is a good life.