2010: Books

by wil — Dec 23, 2010
Cloud Atlas
New Cinematographers
The Serpent and the Rainbow
The Wayfinders
House of Leaves
John Dies at the End
ghost
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Buddha
The Stolen Child

I’ve read ~20 books a year for the past four years. This year I only managed 10 11 (6 fiction, 4 5 non-fiction) + parts of several film/video texts and sections of a few novels that didn’t manage to hold my interest to the end.

In order of appearance:

  1. Cloud Atlas: Despite all the critical praise, it left me feeling kind of meh. It just didn’t do it for me. I never felt particularly attached to any of the characters, and instead of being swept away by the story/stories, it felt a bit like reading not a novel, but a novelist’s writing exercise.

  2. New Cinematographers: Six established cinematographers discuss cinematography. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? :-) Not for the casual reader, but if you have an interest in film/cinematography, if you like watching dvd making-of segments, I recommend it. It offers a terrific glimpse into the cinematographer’s process.

  3. The Serpent and the Rainbow: Anthropologist Wade Davis’s first-person investigation into Haitian voodoo and zombie culture. An interesting, entertaining read.

  4. The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (CBC Massey Lecture): More from Wade Davis. A meandering, but passionate call to save/respect/learn from the remaining indigenous cultures before their knowledge and ways of seeing/being are lost forever.

  5. House of Leaves: Weird, wild stuff. Stories within stories. Unreliable narrators. Fun-with-text. A massive appendix. Odd goings-on. A trippy, po-mo read. A slightly longer review »

  6. John Dies at the End: Sort of like Ghostbusters meets Army of Darkness. A funny extra-dimensional adventure. Uneven, occasionally gross, but the funny parts are really funny. I laughed quite a bit while reading this.

  7. Ghost: A quiet character study. David takes a job at a funeral home. He sees something…a ghost? He’s not sure what to think; if it “means” something; what effect it might have on his life, his relationships.

  8. We Have Always Lived in the Castle: A gothic novella by Shirley Jackson (probably best known for her short story, “The Lottery”, which I’ve never read). Murder. Arsenic. An isolated estate. Two sisters. A dark little autumnal tale.

  9. Buddha: A short, but solid overview of the Buddha’s life, set within a larger cultural/philosophical/geographical/historical context (5th-6th-century BCE, India/Nepal).

  10. The Stolen Child: A tribe of changelings kidnaps a human boy and places one of their own in his place. The story alternately follows the human-boy-becoming-a-changeling and the changeling-becoming-a-human. I wanted to like it, but the characters feel quite cold/detached, and their motivations are often difficult to discern. A bit of a disappointment.

  11. Eating Animals: Oops. I completely forgot about Jonathan Safran Foer’s non-fiction animal ethics treatise. Summary: Maybe don’t eat animals at all. Definitely don’t eat inhumanely raised (i.e., factory-farmed) animals. Not a knock against Eating Animals. It wasn’t forgettable, I just forgot it. My bad.

My favorites?

Gold: House of Leaves
Silver: John Dies at the End
Bronze: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

2 responses to “2010: Books”

  1. Jennifer S. says:

    Felt the same way about Cloud Atlas, but LOVED Ghostwritten. Also loved Serpent and the Rainbow, Wade Davis is one of my heroes. You seen his amazing TED talk?

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS MY FRIEND!!

  2. wil says:

    Hey Jennifer! Happy Holidays! I miss your blog.

    I haven’t seen his TED talk. I’ll have to look it up.