The following is a list of the books I’ve completed this year. I am not a quick reader by any means. I like to end each year having read more books than the previous year.
- The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington. Received this one as a gift, so I probably wouldn’t have read this had it not been given to me. Not bad, but as I watched the TV series it felt like expanding on the points of the show. Not a bad read, got through it pretty quickly.
- The Squared Circle by David Shoemaker. I really enjoyed this, Shoemaker AKA The Masked Man is a fantastic writer and smart rasslin’ fan (commonly known as “smarks”). Goes through wrestling history from basically day one. Shoemaker writes with depth and a great sense of humor.
- John Dies at the End by David Wong. I’m conflicted with this one. I enjoyed it enough I guess, and the fact that I am generally not a fan of the genre yet still managed to glean something from it speaks to how well-written a book it is. I was mesmerized for the first few pages, and felt like I was reading something truly original and vital. Unfortunately though, from there I was kind of bored waiting for the next weird creature to come along and reanimate or do something unusual. It took me ages to get through this, probably six months all told. It was okay but I definitely won’t be reading the sequel.
- Broken Summers by Henry Rollins. I liked this one. Rollins is clearly an articulate, sensitive, intelligent person and can write his ass off. Tales of him trying to drum up support for the West Memphis Three and get Black Flag back together in between touring his own band made for some fascinating encounters. Rollins tends to get a bit preachy and seemingly has no qualms telling everyone how much better he is than them, but his heart is in the right place and he stands by his convictions. An enjoyable book overall and I will seek out more of his stuff down the road.
- This is a Book by Demetri Martin. I didn’t like this much at all. Martin seems to be one of those “cutesy” comedians, all quirk and no real substance.
- Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne. I’m a big Byrne fan from way back. Talking Heads, along with Pavement and Thin Lizzy, might be my favorite band of all time. This book had its moments, but I think the concept was better than the actual output. The notion of a man travelling around different cities on his fold-up bike and experiencing the cultures sounded great…until I read the book. Bicycle Diaries is by no means a bad book, and Byrne offers some thoughtful, eloquent takes on each of his destinations, it just felt a bit labored to me. For a book with the word bicycle in the title, there wasn’t a great deal of bike stories in there.
- Shakespeare Never Did This by Charles Bukowski. Ol’ Buk never lets me down…until now. Bukowski takes his act to Europe, and the place of his birth in Germany. Basically a diary of sorts, with tales of drunkenness and women and fighting. Certainly not his best work – not even close – and the great man would undoubtedly admit as much. To me though, Buk is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good.
- Chronicles, Volume 1 by Bob Dylan. Oh my God. What a book! I can barely recall devouring a book so quickly and satisfyingly as this one. The entire time I’m reading, I’m thinking to myself that Dylan could have very easily made his bones as a writer of prose. His words just leap off the page with life. The whole music thing seems to have worked out just fine for Mr Zimmerman, so what do I know. Chronicles is a fascinating account of a remarkable career and life. Bring on Volume 2.
- Tyson: Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson. Love him or hate him, Iron Mike is unquestionably one of the most interesting figures in popular culture in the past fifty years. I loved this book, and came away with a better understanding of the man and why he did the things he did. He doesn’t ask for or expect forgiveness, and at times he’s almost too hard on himself for his prior misgivings. Before reading this I wasn’t aware his drug problems were so profound. Brilliant book, and up there with one of the best autobiographies I’ve read. Hard to read at times, such is the confronting nature of parts of his experience, but well worth it in the end.
- Whores: Jane’s Addiction/Perry Farrell Oral History by Brendan Mullens. I was a huge Jane’s fans in the mid-90’s. That fandom has since faded, so I read this one more out of trying to put their place in musical history into some kind of context. Having read this book, I’m still not sure where to place them. They really only produced two studio albums in their prime, and even though they are both great records I’m not sure that they have aged very well. Oral histories can be pretty hit and miss affairs. This one slides more into the latter category. A lot of the quotes are cobbled from old magazine articles and interviews, as opposed to the writer himself. This makes for a disjointed book.
- The Art of the Beautiful Game by Chris Ballard. One for the basketball nerd, of which I am one. Loved this book. Ballard clearly has an affinity for the game, and he writes with passion and wit. Highly recommended for those fans that want to know about the behind the scenes aspect of the beautiful game.
- Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus. Wowsers! What a fucking fantastic book! If you can swallow the notion that every single woman Mingus encountered wanted to go to bed with him immediately, then you should love this as much as I did. Reads like B-grade prime Bukowski, which is meant as a compliment.
- Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. Great book. Tense, sparse, atmospheric. Very easy to see why True Detective was such a hit. I rarely say this about a book, but I really didn’t want it to end.