I rarely read Pitchfork anymore, but I’m glad they’ve persisted despite so much flak. They employ live-and-breathe-music staff who write features and reviews with intelligence. Reading intelligent thought—regardless of how much I myself agree with it, how flashy it is, or how “correct” it may be—is never boring. How you relate to the opinions—submission to anger, championing, frustration, stimulation, confusion—can be metered and mixed to describe, adjust, and/or hone how the piece in question relates to you.
This is not a “Best of 2009” list; rather, it’s a list of my favorite books that I read in 2009. If you and I have discussed literature before and—however faintly—share a similar taste, you may benefit from some of these suggestions. I’m also proffering this list not just as a suggestion, but as a window into my tastes for those that don’t know me that well. Books, by nature, are more of a commitment than an album or a film, and receiving a good recommendation from a friend is a prize that I cherish.
In no particular order:
Watt by Samuel Beckett [Irish]. Thanks to Kristen for recommending this. Beckett’s permutational enumerations can be grudging to get through, yet they may in fact be the least frightening aspect of this confounding and unsettling beast of a novel. Highly recommended for those that wish to be confused about life and art. Try reading it out loud if you don’t “get it.”
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett [Irish]. Technically a play, but still. If you think ten sentences is the bare minimum needed in order to describe a character putting on a piece of clothing, this may be for you. Also: you think God is dead.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami [Japanese]. Thanks Andrew + Michelle. Reading about a character doing their laundry has never been so entertaining as it is here. Also, it’s pretty mysterious.
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger [American]. This was my 2nd time reading this collection. If you list Catcher in the Rye as one of your favorite books, promptly repent by reading any of his other works. You’ll be doing me and Mr. Salinger both a favor (I’ve read that he hates that he’s most known for Catcher). Nine Stories is a good place to start. Read the Glass family quadrilogy next. Franny and Zooey gets more attention, but don’t forget about Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and Seymour: An Introduction.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess [English]. Terrific language. Make sure to grab the edition with the extra final chapter; it’s what the author intended but publishers originally omitted. Gives a different vibe than the (excellent) film version.
In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan [American]. If you’ve ever wanted to live on a commune built on absurdity and love, if you think poetry isn’t dead, or if you’ve ever loved someone who is built from different ions than you, read In Watermelon Sugar.
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien [Irish]. Thanks again to Andrew + Michelle. 2nd time reading this one as well. The best novel about murder and bicycles that I’ve yet read. That said, no synopsis can really prepare you for what lies within the pages here. Marvelous.