Could this be the final list of 2011 books?


I was hoping I would get to 100 books this week, but, clearly, I have fallen short yet again. Maybe my shiny new Nook will get me back to that mark next year. Time shall tell.

Also, if I stopped picking up old issues of The New Yorker. That might help the book count.

As if the book count even matters.


Anyway, here are the the final few books of 2011. Unless I surprise myself in the next nine hours.

094) Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce, finished December 26/27 (midnightish)

I have terribly ambivalent feelings about this book. Luisa recommended it to me (reason enough to get it from the library) in part because of the Bay Area connections.

These connections were fun, although I had a hard time reconciling the geography --- I think the Bay Area of the fantastical Califa is somewhat smaller than the Bay Area of the realistical California. But no matter.

What bugged me most about the book was how overly (and cutely) plotted the book was. Constant minicliffhangers, many of which were cheap and unnecessary. (Example: we hear of a character who is Very Dangerous, then it ends up he's probably dead, then he's really strong, then he's really friendly, then he's going to eat our hero, then he's really nice again . . . and so on --- the book's full of little switchbacks like this.)

Which is not to say I did not like it. In fact, I'm going to strongly recommend it to Lady Steed, whose taste, I think, will better appreciate the book.

But I was not enamored of it. I could set it doing in the middle of an Exciting Part and not even think about the characters until I picked it up again. I was never really vested in the characters. Until about the last fifty pages.

That said, what I am enamored of is Wilce's world-building. Clearly, this world is built and built well. I would probably get more enjoyment of a history book of Califa than I did of this novel. I'm as curious about the for-adults short stories set in this world as I am in the further YA adventures of Flora Nemain Fyrdraaca ov Fyrdraaca. I would love to read detailed synopses of these books, but I found them too frustrating to read to want to read all the subsequent volumes.

Other things I liked: The use of eths in the language. The use of a nonce writing system to spell magical words (brilliant, really, when you think about it --- JK Rowling should have thought of this). I loved the apparent etymology of nonce words. I loved the richness of allusion.

In other words, I like the nuts and bolts of the words, but not the plot and characters. A weird thing, when I think of it.

The way the book ended, I do suspect further volumes may get better. I suspect, however, that I will completely forget about book one before I decide whether or not to read book two.

nearly three weeks


093) The Trouble with Igor by Christopher P. Reilly and Gus Fink, finished December 23

A bit like Frank in its surreality but without providing the pleasure Frank gives me. I think because I didn't so much care for the art, which was jerky and sloppy which made characters hard to distinguish from one another.

Not to say I didn't find things to like. The hand-puppet reaper was a fun idea, for instance. But, ultimately, I didn't find much enough to like here.

Anyone want my copy?

two or three days


092) Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide by Grant Hardy, finished December 20

An utterly brilliant book. Buy a copy.

(my motley-vision review)

I also highly recommend his Reader's Edition.

some months

Previously in 2011 . . . . :


091) Fountain City wrecked by Michael Chabon, finished December 20


090) Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker, finished c. December 13
089) The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré, finished December 10
088) Uzumaki, Spiral into Horror by Junji Ito, finished December 9
087) How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, finished December 9
086) Umney's Last Case by Stephen King, finished December 6


085) Room by Emma Donoghue, finished November 30
084) The Armed Garden and other stories by David B. (translated by Kim Thompson), finished November 27
083) The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, finished---was it November 26?


082) Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov, finished November 13
081) Variant by Robison Wells, finished November 12
080) Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain, finished November 10
079) The Devil Colony by James Rollins, finished November 9
078) Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, finished November 7


077) The Best American Comics 2011 edited by Alison Bechdel, finished November 5
076) The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978 by Charles Schulz, finished November 3
075) Ghost Story by Peter Straub, finished October 27


074) Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines, finished October 23
073) Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati, finished October 15
072) No Arm in Left Field by Matt Christopher, finished October 18
071) Hamlet by William Shakespeare, finished October 18


070) The Canterbury Tales adapted by Seymour Chwast, finished October 12


069) A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born by Harry Harrison, finished October 4
068) Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, finished September 27
067) Modern Masters Volume Sixteen: Mike Allred by Eric Nolen-Weathington, finished September 19
066) iZombie: uVampire by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, finished September 15
065) Knight and Squire by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton, finished September 12

064) Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment by Bryan Talbot, finished September 21

063) Blacksad written by Juan Díaz Canales and drawn by Juanjo Guarnido, finished September 5
062) 21 by Wilfred Santiago, finished September 4
061) Bone by Jeff Smith, finished August 29
060) Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley by Flody Gottfredson, finished on a date that's a little hard to identify exactly
059) Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby, finished August 18

058) Take Time for Paradise by A. Bartlett Giamatti, finished August 11

057) The Shining by Stephen King, finished August 9
056) I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells, finished August 6
055) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, finished August 2
054) Moneyball by Michael Lewis, finished July 12
053) Madman New Giant Size Super Ginchy Special by Mike Allred et al, finished approximately July 9

052) The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld, finished July 8
051) Wilson by Daniel Clowes, finished July 6

050) Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut, finished July 1
049) Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby, finished June 25
048) The Light Princess by George Macdonald, finished June 22
047) Half a Life by Darin Strauss, finished June 17
046) Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (siblings), finished June 16

045) Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card, finished June 10
044) Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 by E.B. White (edited by Rebecca M. Dale), finished June 7
043) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished May 31
042) Unnamed book by unnamed client (MS POLICY),
finished May 27

041) Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
040) Scott Pilgrim Versus The Unverse by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
039) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 13
037) The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse, finished May 11
036) Scott Pilgrim Versus The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
035) Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley
034) The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 by Charles M. Schulz, finished May 1
033) Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli finished approximately April 27

032) Golden Gate by Seth Vikram, finished April 20

031) Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope, finished April 18
030) The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, finished April 9
029) iZombie: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, finished April 2
028) A Sense of Order and Other Stories by Jack Harrell, finished April 1
027) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, finished March 30

026) The Black Dogs by Ian McEwan, finished March 21

025) Stitches by David Small, finished March 20
024) Arkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Kieth, finished January 19 or 20
023) Hamlet by William Shakespeare, finished March 18

022) Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred, finished March 10
021) Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker, finished March 10

020) The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill, finished February 28

019) Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew, finished February 21
018) Redcoat by Kohl Glass (MS POLICY), finished February 18

017) Best American Comics 2010 edited by Neil Gaiman, finished February 12
016) Little Bee by Chris Cleave, finished February 10
015) Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, finished February 2
014) Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition Vol. I by Jeremy Bastian, finished January 31

013) Sweet Tooth: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
012) Sweet Tooth: Out of the Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
011) Essex County: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
010) Essex County: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29
009) Essex County: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29

008) Magdalene by Morah Jovan, finished January 27

007) Knightfall Part Two: Who Rules the Night by a slew of DC folk, finished January 23
006) Bayou by Jeremy Love, finished January 17

005) Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, finished January 10
004) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, finished January 6
003) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished January 5
002) Batman - Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, with lettering by the famous Todd Klein; finished January 4
001) Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil et al, finished January 2


This unsettling dream I had last night


[EDIT: This post was written on Dec. 23, though not posted until later.]


I don't know how I ended up at this farmhouse (or something) out in the country far from my family. I don't know who all those people were or why I was with them. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I met a woman. Nothing remarkable about her appearance though she was blonde and I don't think of myself as a blonde-preferer. Anyway, we hit it off---I had never known anyone quite like her before and we fell into a deep friendship, took to hanging out all the time, that sort of thing. Then the dream took a turn for the literary and behaved more like a novel than a movie. One of the snippets announced during this phase of the dream is that we, er, consummated the relationship (though this was merely mentioned and not ever shown), and later I gave her a ring, making her an honest woman and me a polygamist (which, weirdly, felt totally appropriate).

Twenty years of wedded bliss pass and I happen to see Lady Steed at a bus stop. My first reaction is to avoid her, even though I have missed her terribly and still love her and am anxious to know how she and our kids are doing. So we talk. And she is pleased to see me, holds no bitterness, we have a nice chat . . . .

And then the dream changed channels and became about something else entirely.

Here's what's unsettling about this dream:

I would imagine, were we to do an extensive survey, that "normal" adultery dreams involve sex and function primarily out of a pent up bodily need. You know what I mean. This dream was nothing like that. The sex was wholly incidental. Just an obvious fact of a close and loving relationship, and merely implied anyway. This dream was not about physical infidelity. It was about emotional infidelity. And, for those few minutes of REM, I was genuinely in love with two women. Upon waking, this filled me with unease.

What is the lesson here for me?


The best albums of 2011 (sort of) via Spotify




I have fallen in love with Spotify these past few months. Partly because I finally have an affordable way to stay up with new music. To that end, I have a list I keep called "2011 Albums I Like"; some albums have been added later to be kicked off, some are albums I like enough I owned them before I got Spotify, some of the albums on this list are still in danger of getting kicked off, some albums may get added to the 2011 list in years to come. Below is the list of albums, sometimes with comments. Albums that have not yet earned their place on this list and that may yet be kicked off are signified with an *.

They Might Be Giants
---->Join Us (Spotify) (Amazon)
---->Album Raises New and Troubling Questions (Spotify) (Amazon)
Any new TMBG album is reason to pay attention, but a new album and a new "album" (like untoish Severe Tire Damage)? A very good year indeed. With lots of great, classic TMBG material on both
The Dø
---->Both Ways Open Jaws (Spotify) (Amazon)
Some new Europop with a new sensibility to match.
---->C'mon (Spotify) (Amazon)
I really just discovered Low this year (though I've known of them for some time). You can read about initial impressions here, but I have really come to love this album.
Florence + The Machine
---->Ceremonials (Spotify) (Amazon)

Tegan And Sara
---->Get Along (Spotify) (Amazon)

Barnaby Bright
---->Gravity* (Spotify) (Amazon)

Jeff Bridges
---->Jeff Bridges (Spotify) (Amazon)
Unquestionably my favorite new country music of the year. Who would have guessed?
The Decemberists
---->The King Is Dead (Spotify) (Amazon)
Anyone arguing that this is the best album of the year I'm willing to listen to.
PJ Harvey
---->Let England Shake (Spotify) (Amazon)
I still haven't gotten over the weirdness of this album.
Julianna Barwick
---->The Magic Place (Spotify) (Amazon)

---->Metals (Spotify) (Amazon)

Dad Rocks!
---->Mount Modern* (Spotify) (Amazon)
I really can't decide if I like his hyperironic rock music for parents or not.....
---->Muppets: The Green Album (Spotify) (Amazon)
---->Rave on Buddy Holly* (Spotify) (Amazon)
Not all the tracks are equally great, but listen to The Green Album. Honestly, the OK Go version of the "Muppet Show"'s theme song is now the one I play in my internal jukebox.
Tori Amos
----Night of Hunters (Spotify) (Amazon)
Both the regular and instrumental versions.
Dan Mangan
---->Oh Fortune* (Spotify) (Amazon)
I'm a big fan of an EP of his, but I haven't really listened to this album yet.
Dia Frampton
---->Red* (Spotify) (Amazon)

Meg & Dia
---->Cocoon* (Spotify) (Amazon)
Apparently Dia did well on one of those tv singing-contest shows. I can't decide if I like either her album or the one with her sister yet. They're nice, but kind of poppy and packaged. Time will tell.
---->The Rip Tide* (Spotify) (Amazon)
Considering how long I've been listening to this ablum, I'm not sure what to make of the fact that I'm still *ing it.
Amy LaVere
---->Stranger Me (Spotify) (Amazon)
My choice for best album of 2011. Terrific stuff.
Arcade Fire
---->The Suburbs (Spotify) (Amazon)
Took me a while to warm up to it, but really, it is as good as critics say.
---->W H O K I L L (Spotify) (Amazon)
Weirdest good album of the year.
The Civil Wars
---->Barton Hollow (Spotify) (Amazon)
Haven't actually listened to this yet---I only thought to add it to the list today---but I have heard several tracks which were good if over mellow. I'm excited to give it some turns, though.
Pistol Annies
---->Hell on Heels* (Spotify) (Amazon)
Just added (I'm giving it a first listen now, as I type). Not sure what I think yet. (This is not the only album on this list thanks to NPR.)


Something you may notice is that this list is, really, rather short. So yes: I am open to your suggestions. Please dish.


A [presumably] Mormon Writer for the Winter Solstice


I was just at a friend's house for a solstice meal and was thumbing through her new issue of Dialogue and saw a short story from a writer I am not familiar with. The bio suggested she is English (gasp! a Mormon writer who isn't an American! take a cutting! maybe we can grow more!) and I came straight home to read the story only learn that my online subscription has lapsed. Curses.

Instead I ran down her blog and found the list of her publications and read a few of them. Curiously, my favorite begins with the line, "It was Winter Solstice in the North Country and a day as dark as the inside of an eyelid had imperceptibly stretched into night."

Winter Solstice!

It's a good story.

I wasn't as taken with all the stories I read, but so it goes. "The Ice Baby" is good though. Read it for the solstice. (Be warned, however, that the site's formatting is rather annoying.) Then come back and tell me what you think about the ending.

Free Bonus: hear her voice here.


Fountain City, a novel, wrecked by Michael Chabon


Although technically too short to qualify for five-books-at-a-time, I'm including it anyway. It's worth talking about and I'm getting pretty close to a hundred books on the year.....

091) Fountain City wrecked by Michael Chabon, finished December 20

If you haven't read about Fountain City, let me give you the basics.

After the success of his first book, Chabon tried and tried and tried to fail this second attempt. He eventually scrapped it (after thousands of pages and dozens of rewrites) and wrote Wonder Boys instead. (Which I have not read.)

This slim volume is the first four chapters of FC, as well as a large number of notes, an intro, a couple appendices. Essentially, it is an autopsy.

In theory, it is an autopsy. In fact, it's just as much a memoir. Which is not a bad thing. Art and life are inextricable, I suppose, and although, yes, occasionally this feels a bit self-indulgent, generally, it's rather heartening?

Why heartening? Because Chabon is one of the contemporary writers I most respect and seeing him spend a hella long time on a pile of crap makes me feel better about my own false starts. Sometimes, I wished he would talk about passages that I thought were particularly bad, but no matter. I enjoyed the trip with him and found it useful.

May I learn from other's mistakes.

Not that anyone ever did.

a couple weeks perhaps



Classic Svithe:
The Jalapeno-v-Grape Svithe


(originally ran may 2010)


Today I heard a simile from Carlos which, he alleges, originates from Richard G. Scott. But I am too lazy just now to confirm.

Here it is:

The Holy Spirit is like a grape, a soft and sweet taste.

In our plugged-in world, with all our zangwow, we are trying to taste the grape while simultaneously eating a jalapeno.

Not easy.

previous svithe




090) Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker, finished c. December 13

Large S has suddenly become a huuuge Missile Mouse fan. I think we may be reading these books on repeat. So I'm not going to keep adding them, but I will direct you back to why you should buy them for your own kids:

Space Opera 101: Jake Parker's Missile Mouse

a couple nonsequential days


089) The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré, finished December 10

I did not know until halfway through the read that a) this book is one of a connected series of books or b) one of them has been adapted to a film set for release this month (starring Gary Oldman, no less, which triples its worth-watching factor).

For those who don't know, Le Carré writes spy novels. Literary spy novels. Spy novels you can tell your lit professor friends you read. Waaaay better written than James Bond books, for instance. And not just flash and fun either --- these books have something to say.

As this one did.

Evidence that this book is not just out for fun is that the book's major twist you know from page one. And the actual twist is merely a reflection of the twist you the reader knew all along. So it's gets to be thriller-clever without making you feel like you're supposed to be solving a puzzle all along.

Coming in from the cold is a metaphor for retiring. Leaving the spy game. Which our hero does in order to get the plot rolling.

For me, the most valuable part of reading this book was learning more about Cold War mentality. The Berlin Wall fell just before I entered high school, so although I remember reading about it (and, later, following the breaking off of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with great interest), I wasn't old enough to have ever really felt the creeping terror of the-world-could-end-tomorrow. It's easy now to be critical of American attitudes like Domino Theory, but I wasn't there.

This book put me there, if only for a moment.

If you like James Bond but wish it were a little meatier, Le Carré is the writer for you.

six calendar days but only five periods of wakefulness


088) Uzumaki, Spiral into Horror by Junji Ito, finished December 9

I haven't read any manga in a while, in part because one book's never enough and getting them all's too big of a hassle. But I picked this one up because it appeared to be a one-shot. Alas, it ended with a to-be-continued. Figures.

But within the books, it's really just a series of short stories. A town is infested with spirals, which causes horror in a variety of unpleasant ways. All of which are ludicrous and absurd and make zero sense, but somehow, all the same, in their nightmare way, become truly horror-ible all the same. In a way I don't think a movie ever could. (See the adaptation's trailer and tell me if you don't agree.)

Here are some images from the book, culled from the internet. Naturally, the web provides moments of climax, so if you don't want to have anything spoiled, just skip down to the next book.

two days


087) How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, finished December 9

I picked this up in the textbook room with the idea of perhaps assigning it to my students. In short? The answer is yes. I'll certainly be using this book in the future. It's basically the layman's guide to all the stuff English majors are supposed to know by the end of 201 as shared by an affable guide. It's a fun read even if you already know most this stuff, and I expect it will be mindblowing to the uninitiated. So. It's a keeper.

some weeks


086) Umney's Last Case by Stephen King, finished December 6

Really, this is just a short story, but I loved that Penguin was publishing 75c books for their 60th anniversary. How cool is that? It fits perfectly into any pocket

a few week though not many minutes