Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012: My year of books and reading.

It is a profound relief that cooler weather has brought with it heightened opportunities to read. The year’s completed book list is offered here, beginning with the most recent one (albeit an ermine still in progress), and including links to reviews and comments I’ve written about particular books at the blog during the preceding year. Works of fiction are marked with *.

*An Ermine in Czernopol, by Gregor von Rezzori

*Radetzky March, by Joseph Roth

*The Man Without Qualities (in two volumes), by Robert Musil

*Mirage, by Naguib Mahfouz

Trotsky, by Robert Service

Polish Cold War Neon: Cold War Typography and Design, by Ilona Karwińska

The Colossus of Maroussi, by Henry Miller

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis

The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siecle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror, by John Merriman

*The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht

*Simple Stories, by Ingo Schulze

*Cosmos, by Witold Gombrowicz

In Search of Lost Meaning: The New Eastern Europe, by Adam Michnik

*The Accident, by Ismail Kadare

Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960, by Kimberly Elman Zarecor

Eight of the fifteen books are works of fiction, and Miller’s travelogue might as well be. This is an abnormally high percentage for me, although they surely do reflect my traditional Euro-bias. Seeing as it was an election year, much reading time was devoted to non-fiction magazine and newspaper pieces. Nate Silver’s prescient blog was a regular, and also Charles Pierce’s hilarious ruminations at Esquire.

The staples of my daily news absorption remain the New York Times; The Economist; NPR and BBC radio; and The Guardian. One salutary effect of the election campaign was to push me further to the left, during the course of which I rediscovered The Nation. During 2012, I selectively perused what little bits of sports writing are tolerable, such as blogs by Billy Reed, essays by various writers at Grantland, and Keith Olbermann’s periodic baseball coverage.

But we really need Olbermann back on the air, doing politics for the rest of us white guys who aren't fascists.

Apart from the physical books, and traditional paper subscriptions to the Sunday NYT and The Economist, what all these sources have in common is electronic access. On a couple of occasions this year, I visited the public library and sat, with an espresso, watching with fascination as the world morphs into something entirely new. There is considerable nostalgia therein, but also excitement in witnessing the transformation of a public space, one that will continue being public, and yet in altered form.

Here are some others books occupying space on a crowded bench, just beyond the on deck circle. They managed to elude my grasp in 2012, but there's always next year.

Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, by Chuck Thompson

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. A Novel in Five Stories, by Gregor von Rezzori
Red Plenty, by Francis Spufford

Goodbye, Darkness, by William Manchester

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples, by David Gilmour

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane, by Andrew Graham-Dixon

Arguably: Essays, by Christopher Hitchens

Adam and Evelyn, by Ingo Schulze

Jerusalem: The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Laura Warholic or, The Sexual Intellectual, by Alexander Theroux

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