Thursday, December 28, 2006

Top Ten Books of 2006: Some of Which I Have Actually Read

It's been suggested, even assumed, that I should have an opinion on the top 10 books of the year. Really, though, I mean, obviously my true talents lie in other areas of ranking and filing: e.g., Top Ten Relationships I've had with Animals That Didn't Involve Me Kicking Them in the Face and Top Ten Appearances by Flannel Shirts in Marie's Videos from Middle School. (See the Sunday Top Ten label for a complete archive of all the things I've endorsed thus far).

I mean, I'm obviously really into reading, and I have read about ten million books this year (Actually, 39. I keep track), but most of them weren't published this year, and I think that's part of the whole "Best of 06" thing. Tough break, Mrs. Dalloway.

See, I don't ever buy books in hardcover. (Except for Veronica,1 Fun Home2 and The Year of Magical Thinking3). Why? Because they are : 1. Expensive, 2. Heavy. So if I'm gonna read a new book, it better be: 1. The kind that comes out in paperback only, like the Gossip Girl series or a Vintage Contemporary thing, 2. A proof I somehow get for free. This happens more than you might think.

Anyhow I gave it a shot.


10. THE ROAD, by CORMAC MCCARTHY: I feel like this is the book to pledge support for if you want to sound particularly literary, without rousing opposition from people that are too hip to be hipsters (you know, the anti-Eggers and anti-Safran-Foer boys) and possibly encouraging supportive nods from Smart People. Basically everyone is digging this book. I don't think I'll read it in paperback either though, it sounds like a drag. "In this landscape, an unnamed man and his young son journey down a road to get to the sea." Yawn.

9. I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS, by JOSH KILMER-PURCELL: Those smarties at Harper Perennial know that the readers of memoirs like this one (the story of an ex-drag queen's debauched relationship with large quantities of vodka and his crack-addled manic "escort" boyfriend) did not receive 12.5 bazillion dollar bonuses from Goldman-Sachs this year, and thus, HP released this gem on paperback from the get-go. So yes indeed, I read it!4 JKP is like Jay McInerney if Jay McInerney was a gay drag queen who had written a good book in 2006 (trivia: Bright Lights Big City, one of my favorite books ever, also forewent the hardcover run when it was published in 1984, opting for a straight-to-paperback release that clearly worked out well for everybody, e.g., me), what with "coming to" in his ad agency meetings, gazing with intent confusion at storyboards he can "say with relative confidence" he had something to do with and quipping that "Blackouts can be fun if approached with the right mindset."

Also this is just you know, perfect:

"I've explained this a million times, Ma." I sigh. "I don't want to be a woman. Transsexuals are the ones who feel trapped in someone else's body or whatever. I'm a drag queen. I'm a celebrity trapped in a normal person's body."

He also read at In the Flesh and Lo and I went to see him read at the Astor Place Barnes + Noble, where he was really cute and he made us both laugh and feel happy for a minute.

Obviously I would be ignorant to not include the winner of the 2006 Quill Awards. The Quills, for those of you that missed the grand ceremony this year, is a Barnes + Noble sponsored event, described on their website like this: "The Quills, an initiative launched with the support of Reed Business Information, is designed to be an industry qualified "consumers choice" awards program for books, honoring the current titles readers deem most entertaining and enlightening." Sort of like when Blockbuster started their own award show, and I went in and voted for Leonardo DiCaprio about 10,000 times, 'cause they had this little voting machine right there at the store, and I went to the store every day because I had no friends. 5

7. FUN HOME, by ALISON BECHDEL: She's careful and ghostly and humble and wry and mind-blowingly smart, all about the details and the investigation and the romance and the attention we bring to that back-of-the-head-gut-hurt stuff. Honestly, it's worth way more than $19.95.1 That's so laughably little, I mean, I could get an issue of some faux-European-graphic-arts magazine for more than that, and the pictures wouldn't be one-tenth as perfect.

Everyone else loved it too, which means that not only do I have my finger on the pulse of my body to check for an anxiety attack but I have my finger on the pulse of: 1. our generation, 2. the literati.

6. EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD, by STEPHEN DUNN (poems): There aren't many things in the world that you can count on to be good every time. But Steve-O, I count on you. If this book (which I haven't read...YET) is anything like your other books (and I am guessing that it is), it's probably the most beautiful thing ever. Krista, get this for me, stat. You are the only person I know who not only tracks SD's release dates but then spends the planned release date of every new book scouring every bookstore in the city to procure hardcover copies for everyone you love enough to pass this gift onto them, and you can't do this for me from New Haven. Krista, drop out. Yale Shmale. Get me some poems.

5. THE EMPEROR'S CHILDREN, by CLAIRE MESSUD:. When I was driving to the airport this morning and listening to my mother's Sirius Satellite Radio, Diane Rehm was interviewing this woman Claire Messud on NPR Now, and I was way into it. Also I've done some background research and discovered she's pretty much riding the pre-backlash wave of consensual acclaim right now, though my primo source for literary perspective, bookslut, points out that "If I ever met any of the characters at a dinner party, I would have to get so drunk that my facial muscles were immobilized in order to keep from rolling my eyes at everything they said," which is how I feel about a lot of my friends, who I imagine bear more than a passing similarity to the characters in this book. (Side note: I think it's weird that it's called "Sirius" radio. Mom pronounced it "Serious," which I assumed was the wrong way to pronounce it, but maybe not.

Marie: Is that how you pronounce it? Like "Serious"? Don't you get it confused with like, "serious" the adjective?
Mom: Yeah, that's how you say it, I think. Serious.
Marie: Does "Sirius" mean something?
Lewis: Yeah, it's a Greek God, I think.
Marie: The Greek God of what?
Lewis: The Greek God of Satellite Radio.

(36 hours later)

Mom: Isn't that the name of a constellation? Sirius? Like "Sirius Minor" and "Sirius Major"?)

This book is about three Brown graduates who are all thirty years old and somewhat lost, like "What should I do with my life?" sort of stuff. I mean, hm, usually I prefer books I can relate to like A Very Hungry Caterpillar, or The Illiad, but every now and then I like to know what's going on in the rest of the world, get a glimpse into another culture and way of life. How the kids feel, etc.

4.WHAT IS THE WHAT, by DAVE EGGERS: Look haterhipsters, I fucking love David Eggers. Jake gave me A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius in the summer of '99, before (to the best of my knowledge) it hit the bestseller list. I hadn't heard of it. But Jake knew I'd like it because:
1. It's funny, and I found all that formatting nonsense to be absolutely delightful, really, I thought it was great.
2. It discusses the direct aftermath of the tragic and untimely death of one's parents (and as I had freshly experienced the tragic and untimely death of my parent I therefore found the subject matter quite relevant and touching, etc)
3. It includes a detailed section on auditioning for The Real World, which at the time was def. one of my top five television programs.

Lewis and I saw his reading and we both LOLed. So, whatevs, backlash-mongers. Go drink your Haterade with Ariel Levy.

I probably won't read this book though, I'm not into Sudanese refugees. I tried to read the description of this book and fell asleep somewhere between "Sudan" and "civil war." I'd rather read ex-drag queen memoirs.

3.GOSSIP GIRL 10: WOULD I LIE TO YOU, by "CECILY VON ZIEGESAR" AKA ALLOY, INC.: These books are asinine/amazing. There are so many things wrong with this series, but how can love be wrong when it feels so right? Better than smoking crack and getting a foot rub on a Sunday afternoon. (almost)

Basically everyone who I have any respect for in the universe is saying that this book is good. So, I'm going to plug it as I wait for it's January 27th paperback release date. Also I am resisting the overwhelming urge to put DIRTY BLONDE: THE DIARIES OF COURTNEY LOVE on this list just because I think it would be funny. To me. I actually just LOLed a little in my mouth.

1.THE PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS: The first person to buy me this book gets to marry me. I am a decent cook and I promise to always keep my svelte figure.

The nice thing about this book, besides the graphically pleasing cover art, is that we already know it is good. Because it's "The Paris Review," which like, doesn't even take unsolicited submissions. It's like if "The N" put out a DVD of Degrassi's best moments, you would know it would be good too, because Degrassi Goes There.

FYI: these are the best books I read this year, and, when appropriate, who I owe the endorsement or the physical book itself to....
Shockproof Sydney Skate, by Mary Jane Meeker (cameron!)
Prep, by Curtis Sittinfeld
Soft Maniacs, by Maggie Estep (steph!)
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (krista!)
Surface Tension (essays), ed. by Meg Daley
Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison (lo!)
Wasted, Marya Hornbacher
Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Mary Gaitskill
Things You Should Know, AM Homes
Appetites, Caroline Knapp
Bookmark Now, (essays), ed. Kevin Smokler

1 Not purchased with actual money though, purchased with gift certificate, a blessing bestowed upon those of us with elephantine balances on our Visa cards.
2 Ditto.
3 The Strand--although initially I borrowed it from Krista, who did buy it in hardcover. Then I wanted my own copy and saw it there and snatched it like a hot potato.
4 Honestly, I didn't have to buy this one either; Lo told me to read it and lent me her copy, and then because I wanted my own copy, Cameron gave me one that Jay had got at the Book Fair.
5 Actually, I did, but I just liked movies better.


Anonymous said...

I have (& love) books 5 & 6 from this list. I'll check into the others. Have you ever read Lauren Sanders? I <3 her. Maybe I am the crazy killer chick in With or Without You. And I'm with you on the paperback thing.

Anonymous said...

babe. stop being such a cheap-ass martyr and use the library. free! hardcovers! no buyers remorse when the critically acclaimed stuff actually isn't so great!

marie lyn bernard said...

noxious: did you know about stephen dunn before interlochen? he was the first reader i ever saw there, but i wasn't like, paying attention enough to like, the world then, so i didn't get it. i started to get it senior year and now obvs i can't get enough. good to know the new volume is worth it. wheeeee

"anon": i've told me this before...and i did it ! i went. i was ALL ABOUT the library. Unfortunately, two of the aforementioned fave books (bookmarked and appetites), which i kept a little extra, now leave me indebted to the library in the amount of approximately a million dollars, and by that i mean $40.00!!

dear dear chicago said...

i'm kind of amazed that you managed a $40 fee to the library. that's skill right there, marie.

additionally... i'm not sure if you read the 'a softer world' web comic (if you don't, you need to check it out right now. like seriously NOW - ) but joey comeau, the writer of the comic, put out a book called "lockpick pornography" in early 2006 - and it's amazing. brilliant even. you can read the first seven chapters online at - i highly suggest you check it out.

Weegee said...

Thanks for your kind words about my book. It's super nice of you.

marie lyn bernard said...

ddc--thank you for the check out asap. i know about the 40 bucks. jesus. it's new york for ya. i didn't think it could get that high, i mean, i owed the ann arbor public library like, 3 dollars for a book i had for like, 2 years. but new york new york.

weegee: you're welcome! wheee!!