Friday, December 31, 2010

Reading list 2010

Holy crap, I've read a lot of books this year. Forty-four, to be precise, which is a not too insignificant number more than 2007 (34) and 2008 (33), and quite frankly annihilates last year's pitiful 27. Admittedly, looking back over this list there are a fair number of graphic novels, but in my defence some of them were really thick; Luba (number 17 on the list), for example, was over 600 pages thick and kept cutting off the flow of blood to my lower extremities when I read it in bed.

Anyway, let's press on. As usual, I've donned my best stereotypical English Lit teacher tweed jacket (note the leather elbow pads - nice, I think you'll agree), and I'll be grading each book (A+ EXCELLENT, C or below, AVOID). Links to each title will, where possible, take you through to the appropriate Amazon page where you can purchase your own copy and impress all your friends with your startling literary taste. While I'd normally urge you to buy your books in an actual bookshop, I know you interweb kids are all about instant gratification so these links are purely for your convenience. I am, however, urging you to buy your books in an actual bookshop, despite the fact that I failed spectacularly in my 2010 New Year's Resolutions to do just that. Next year, Scout's honour, really.

Moving swiftly on…

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max - True life stories of the author's ongoing debauchery. Tucker Max is a reprehensible human being, but he's also funny as hell and devilishly likeable: B+
02. All and Sundry by Paul Hornschemeier - Wonderful collection of previously uncollected sketches and short stories from one of my favourite graphic novelists: A
03. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks - Comprehensive manual on how to survive an undead uprising: B+
04. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson - Huge collected edition of the BOP comic book showcasing the lives of a group of friends living in 90s New York: A
05. The Troublemakers by Gilbert Hernandez - The second book in Hernandez's 'Fritz B-Movies' series sees a group of con artists trying to get their hands on $200k, whatever the cost may be: A
06. Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin - Exceptional tale of a down-on-his-luck kid who steals an aging racehorse and begins a trek across the U.S. to find his aunt. A brutally wonderful, ultimately uplifting read: A+
07. Love Buzz by Len Wallace - Bittersweet graphic novel telling the story of a guy and a girl who fall in and out of love with each other over a period spanning high school to their early twenties: A
08. Welcome to Oakland - A follow-up to one of my favourite books, East Bay Grease, that picks up on the life of T-Bird Murphy as an adult. It's a good, solid, often grim read, but after a 10 year gap I didn't feel like I connected with the character of T-Bird as I had in the earlier book: B+
09. The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles Schulz - Another cracking collection of Peanuts strips; this one features the brilliant 'Mr Sack' storyline. Loved it: A
10. Star Trek: Spock Reflections by Scott and David Tipton; art by David Messina and Federica Manfredi - Engaging if somewhat slight tale recounting defining moments from Spock's life as he goes about a mission of a most personal nature in the aftermath of the events of the film Star Trek Generations: B+
11. The Wild Things by Dave Eggers - Enjoyable novel based on Maurice Sendak's classic children's book and Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are movie that is sufficiently different to the other versions of the tale to make it a worthwhile read: B+
12. Star Trek: Nero by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones; art by David Messina - Brilliantly told story of what the villain of the latest Star Trek movie did between attacking the U.S.S. Kelvin and destroying the planet Vulcan. Great stuff: A
13. Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by Los Bros Hernandez - The second instalment in Love and Rockets' new annual format is as enjoyable as all Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez's previous work … but the year-long gap between books is almost too much to bear! As always: A
14. Love and Rockets: Penny Century by Jaime Hernandez - The eighth volume in Fantagraphics Books' series of compact editions collecting older stories from Los Bros Hernandez focuses on old favourites Maggie and Hopey and their friend Penny Century, who harbours an ongoing desire to be a superhero. Goes without saying: A
15. Locas II by Jaime Hernandez - The second epic, paving slab-sized hardcover collection of Jaime Hernandez's Maggie and Hopey stories. Magnificent: A+
16. The Call of the Weird by Louis Theroux - Fascinating tales of Theroux's attempts to reconnect with the subjects of his earlier documentaries and discover how their lives have changed: B+
17. Luba by Gilbert Hernandez - Massive collection of over 100 post-Palomar stories featuring Luba and her family and friends. Utterly absorbing: A+
18. The High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez - More stories from 'Beto,' this time focusing on the life and loves of Luba's sister, Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez: A
19. Scott Pilgram's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley - First volume in the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series sees Scott hooking up with Ramona Flowers and fighting the first of her evil ex-boyfriends. Really good fun: A+
20. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley - Scott faces off against the second of Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends in volume 2 of O'Malley's six-part series: A+
21. Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley - Scott fights Ramona's third evil ex-boyfriend Todd, who is a Vegan with telekinetic powers. Compared to previous volumes this one dragged juuuuuust a tiny bit in places; still awesome though: A-
22. Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley - The fourth volume sees Scott battling the fourth of Ramona's evil exes, Roxie (a girl - Ramona had a "sexy phase"): A
23. Scott Pilgrim Vs the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley - Volume five pits Scott against twin brothers Kyle and Ken Katayanagi and their robots, while his relationship with Ramona takes an unexpected turn: A+
24. The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite - A fascinating look at the art and influence of one half of Los Bros Hernandez. I felt the text was a little slight in places, but glimpses into Jaime's sketchbooks and unpublished works more than made up for it: A-
25. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers - The true story of a man who chooses to remain in new Orleans as hurricane katrina strikes - and the unbelievable events that unfolded in the days that followed. If this were a work of fiction it would be dismissed as outlandish; that these events actually took place is nothing short of scary. Makes you want to scream in frustration at the injustices that occurred: A
26. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I love the title story, but - and I know this is probably sacrilegious - I found the other stories in this collection a bit … well, dull: B-
27. Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German - Sparsely written yet nevertheless enthralling novella following the day-to-day life of a guy named Robert. I really rather enjoyed this: A
28. Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne - my first ebook - or iBook in Apple parlance - is the classic tale of the bear with little brain. Utterly charming: A
29. Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley - The sixth and final installment in the Scott Pilgrim series sees the titular hero face off against the last of Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends. Brilliantly written, wonderfully illustrated, and a fitting conclusion to the series: A+
30. Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne - The hilarious journal of troubled teen Nick Twisp, whose life becomes increasingly more complicated after he falls in love with the girl of his dreams. Skip the disappointing movie version and read this - undoubtedly one of the funniest books I've ever read: A+
31. Revolting Youth by C.D. Payne - Picking straight up after the events of the previous book, Volume 4 of Youth in Revolt (the previous book contained volumes 1-3) charts Nick Twisp's increasingly more complex efforts to win the affections of his love by, among other things, undergoing extreme plastic surgery and adopting a new identity: A+
32. Young and Revolting by C.D. Payne - Volume 5 of the Youth in Revolt series sees Nick - or rather Rick as he's now known - and his new bride Sheeni getting into more trouble after moving to Paris. While this volume isn't quite up to the lofty standards of its predecessors, it's still an enjoyable and witty romp: A-
33. Revoltingly Young by C.D. Payne - The final Youth in Revolt novel sees Nick replaced as the narrator by his younger brother Noel, who attempts to discover exactly what happened to Nick and Sheeni in France years earlier. While I missed Nick's voice in this book, it did serve as a brilliant and fitting conclusion to a wonderful series: A
34. X'ed Out by Charles Burns - Curious tale of a young man who follows his dead cat through a hole in his bedroom wall only to find a mysterious other world. This book has all the usual wonderful hallmarks of Burns, but suffers from ending on a cliffhanger and the knowledge that I'll have to wait well over a year before the second book brings any resolution. Going on Burns' previous form I think I'll probably rate it higher when the story is complete, but for now: B
35. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by Los Bros Hernandez - Latest volume in the L&R annual format and, I think, the best so far; it's worth the asking price alone for Jaime's Browntown story which is brutal, heartbreaking, and utterly brilliant: A+
36. Fade In by Michael Piller - Sneakily-obtained unpublished book (why it was never published I don't know) by former Star Trek writer-producer Michael Piller detailing his experiences writing the ninth Star Trek movie, from initial story concepts to the release of the final film. A fascinatingly honest, and often humourous glimpse into the development of a big-budget motion picture from a supremely talented and sadly missed writer: A
(obviously no link for this because it was never published, but if you Google it I'm sure some enterprising individual has it available on the interwebs somewhere)
The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures by Dave Stevens - Wonderful collection of the comic book stories on which the 1991 movie was based. Thoroughly enjoyable, and a great shame that Stevens is no longer around to tell more tales of his jet-powered hero: A
38. The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse - Wonderful collection of inter-connected short stories that explores how the murder of a three year-old girl impacts on the lives of several seemingly unrelated characters. Absolutely brilliant (and rewards being read quickly so you can keep track of all the characters): A
39. BOP! (More Box Office Poison) by Alex Robinson - Enjoyable collection of short stories that weren't included in the gigantic Box Office Poison collected edition: B+
40. Star Trek: The Official Motion Picture Adaptation by Tim Jones and Mike Johnson; art by David Messina - Faithful and enjoyable, although curiously late, comic book adaptation of the 2009 JJ Abrams Star Trek movie: B+
41. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan - An exhilarating tale revealing how two teenagers meet and fall in love over the course of one night in New York. Vastly different to the movie it inspired, but every bit as enjoyable. It's a quick read - I ploughed through it in one sitting - but a memorable and surprisingly inspiring one: A
42. Wilson by Daniel Clowes - The first original graphic novel from the acclaimed writer/artist of Ghostworld follows the life of a curmudgeonly fellow using the unique format of short, self-contained comic strips on individual pages - a surprisingly effective way of dipping into key events in the titular character's life: A
43. Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4 by Robert Kirkman; art by Ryan Ottley - It's been almost three years since I read the third volume of this immensely enjoyable superhero series, but it remains every bit as enjoyable as I remember it being (even if I did have to Google some of the characters to help pick-up story threads I'd forgotten): A
44. Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5 by Robert Kirkman; art by Ryan Ottley - More of the above; I'd pretty much say this is the best superhero title around these days: A

There you go then - 44 books, and nothing that received a grade below a B-. I'm either really easily pleased, or I've had amazing taste in books this year. Either way, you should definitely take note of my recommendations and pick up at least a couple of these titles. Go on, I dare you.

Right. That's yer lot for this year. Have a very happy, healthy, and wonderful New Year! *doffs cap, exits stage left*


CyberPete said...

That's a lot of books! That's impressive.

I don't seem to be able to get into a rhythm of reading, mostly because I've got two massive files of the ringbinder format about real-estate law just waiting for me. Mocking me for not finishing them.

Happy new year Tim! Have a great one tonight!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Happy New Year!

Wow! 44 books read. Now I don't feel so good about managing to read 33.

Oh, well.

I have read one of those, Nero, but I'm curious about Wilson and Invincible, so maybe they'll be the couple I read based on your recommendations?

Princess said...

Happy New Year Tim!

I sat on santas lap for an hour and playing "nick nack paddy whack" and I still didn't get an "iTim". I still don't know what Mr De Vice did to get one off the old coot!

You are a prolific reader... Do you ever go out? just asking...

Oh hai Petra, Mr De Vice...
Nice to see you both...

Tim said...

Cyberpete - I KNOW! I surprised myself!! Happy New Year to you too!!

Inexplicable Device - You should definitely give Invincible a go - if you're a bit hesitant about going for the Ultimate Collection hardbacks (they are a bit pricey) there are also smaller paperback collections that contain less issues of the comic. I envy you dipping in to it for the first time!!

Princess - I think IDV has all manner of, um, special tricks up his sleeves (and elsewhere). As for whether I ever go out, well, I try not to but sometimes it just happens.

Tara said...

A coworker loaned me the "Zombie Survival Guide", which will probably save my life if we are ever taken over by the undead. I've got that advice plus the stuff learned from the movies, "Zombieland" and "Shaun of the Dead". I have also had dreams where I have fought off zombies with my bare hands. know, if you want to join my gang at the end of the world, you're totally invited!

Tim said...


Tara said...

That's right! C'mon people!

Zombies hate teamwork. Remember, "there is no 'i' in 'team', but there is and 'i' in 'pie' 'meat pie', and meat is an anagram of team."

Tim said...

You're beginning to sound a bit like the drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket!!

Tara said...

I have never watched that movie! Weird, huh?