The Best Books I Read This Year
Speedboat by Renata Adler
Remember earlier this year when everyone, their mother, and two of their cousins were reading and tweeting about Speedboat? Reprinted by NYRB Classics, Speedboat blew everyone away as easily in 2013 as it did in 1976. I’m not ashamed to have hopped on the Adler bandwagon. This is a stunning, beautiful, and inventive novel that everyone should read.
Parables and Paradoxes by Franz Kafka
Kafka was the author who made me want to be a writer. I reread him every year, and each time I learn something new about the possibilities of fiction.
Ant Comic by Michael DeForge
Michael DeForge is my favorite young comic creator and Ant Comic is my favorite of his works. The strip was serialized on DeForge’s blog between 2012 and 2013. The concept is brillant, the writing is hilarious, and the art is impeccable. You can read the entire thing online here. Drawn and Quarterly is publishing the print edition in 2014.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I have no idea why Shirley Jackson isn’t one of the most widely read American writers. We Have Always Lived in the Castle in particular is a stellar novel that seems due for a revival in an era where everyone raves about darkly humorous novels with young adult narrators and hints of the supernatural. If you’ve only read “The Lottery,” give this novel a try.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
I decided to finally start reading Melville’s classic after the 2012 Moby-Dick Marathon. Like everyone who reads this book, I can’t believe I didn’t read it before. I’m not going to say anything about Moby-Dick that hasn’t been said before, but I was amazed at how much this book contains. Some chapters are among the funniest I’ve read, others rival Blood Meridian in their dark, Biblical lyricism. (It also inspired me to write a long review of Moby-Dick composed of one star Amazon reviews.)
Inter Ice Age 4 by Kobo Abe
This is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. So, of course, it was instantly one of my favorites. The plot is hard to summarize, but it involves corpses hooked to computers and secret underwater aquatic babies. Science fiction by way of Kakfa.
Map of Days by Robert Hunter
I’m listing this as a general shout-out to Nobrow Press. This London comics publisher puts out books that make the ebook vs. print debate seem laughable. Each one is impossibly gorgeous, and they publish some of the greatest illustrators and comic artists around. Robert Hunter’s beautifully illustrated and moving Map of Days is a great example of what they do.
The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte
I love Sam Lipsyte’s novels, but his first collection, Venus Drive, has always been my favorite. I was very excited for his return to the short story form this year, and The Fun Parts doesn’t disappoint. These darkly hilarious stories are written with sentences as razor sharp as ever. (I interviewed Lipsyte about his new collection for Bookforum.)
The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg
The most recently published book I read and loved this year is Laura van den Berg’s second collection, The Isle of Youth. These eight existential and noir-infused stories are simply masterful. They will haunt you. Van den Berg is a writer to watch out for.