Friday, December 31, 2004

The PBB 2004 Reading List

I did this last year, if you recall. Well, here we are again, at the end of another year. And I always think it's interesting to see where I've been literarily (yes, it's a word--i is now, dammit). So, the list, some analysis, and my top five recommendations from last year's reading.

(Note: These are books finished in 2004. The first one was begun last December, but counts for this year. Just as "Mere Christianity", which I'm a short ways from completing, won't count until next year. And an asterisk [*] indicates that I've read it before.)

Jan. 7--Cold Moutain, by Charles Frazier*
Jan. 17--From a Buick 8, by Stephen King
Feb.6--The Running Man, by Stephen King (get used to it, you'll see him a lot)
Feb. 14--Every Man, God's Man, by Steve Arterburn
Feb. 19--McSweeny's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales--various authors
Mar. 9--The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis*
Mar. 15--The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard*
Mar. 23--The Visitation, by Frank Peretti
Apr. 9--Letters to Malcolm, by C. S. Lewis
Apr. 22--I, Robot, by Issac Asimov
June 1--Verses that Hurt, by various poets; M. Trachtenburg (ed.)
June 20--Fight Club, by Chuch Palahniuk
June 28--The Sacred Romance, by John Eldredge
July 7--Band of Brothers, by Stephen Ambrose
July 21ish--Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland
Aug. 8--The Gunslinger, by Stephen King*
Aug. 29--Three, by Ted Dekker
Aug. 31--The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King*
Sept. 12--The Wastlands, by Stephen King*
Sept. 19--Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King*
Sept. 24--Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King
Sept. 27--Song of Susannah, by Stephen King
Oct. 4--The Dark Tower, by Stephen King
Oct. 24--Wicked, by Gregory Macguire
Oct. 31--If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Cambell
Nov. 15--Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge
Dec. 11--Americana, by Don Delillo
Dec. 16--Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

Here's the Breakdown:

Page Count: 10,339 +/- (Interesting, considering last year's was only about 100 pages higher, and I was unemployed for most of 2003. That's right, kids; you gotta make the time.)

Most Read Author: obvious. Stephen King, with an impressive nine entries (which ends up being more than a quarter of the books I read this year). I don't know if that's cool or sad.

Most Disappointing Read: Disappointment is usually the result of high expectations, so my most disappointing read was "Three" by Ted Dekker. All the buzz in Christian fiction is about this guy, like he's the next Frank Peretti or something (don't laugh, he used to be really good). But while the premise was promising, the payoff felt short-changed. (How's that for some bad punning?) It did, though. Felt like a cop-out.

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Reads: "The Running Man," an awesome dime-novel story that was made into a truly horrendous movie. Read the book, forget that Arnold ever was associated with the story. And: "Franny and Zooey", which made me take back some of the curses I cast upon Salinger for writing "Catcher." This was the "where has this book been all my life" moment of the year.

And finally,

Top Five Recommendations from the 2004 Reading List:

5) If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Campbell: Celebrity autobiographies are generally boring. But if you're a fan of any of Bruce Campbell's stellar B-list filmography (the "Evil Dead" movies, Army of Darkness; his work on "Brisco County, Jr.", "Hercules", and "Xena"; or any number of the other crap roles he's had), you will love this book. It's written in typical Bruce-Campbell style, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and tongue-in-cheek. A must-read for Ash-fans, and anyone named Trevor.

4) McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales: The short story is back and better than ever. Okay, that's a cheesy tagline, so we'll try this: I really, really liked it. Almost every single entry was fascinating and well-chosen, and I can't wait to pick up the next on, which was released last month. If you're a fan of well-written short stories, you should check this out.

3) Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier: I can't say enough about this book. The movie, as beautiful as it was, cannot begin to compare to the precision and imagery of Frazier's finely crafted prose. This is the kind of book that makes me happy as a writer; it's eloquent and verbally adept. Just a well-written novel.

2) Wicked, by Gregory Macguire: What a brilliant concept. Like the famous NPR segment, Macguire tells you "the rest of the story" of the Wicked Witch of the West. This fascinating novel explores the question of what society labels as "evil," and wonders if the "evil" ones are just misunderstood. I will never think of "The Wizard of Oz" in the same way again. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

1) The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King: No brainer, right? After thirty years, King finally finishes what he called his "magnum opus." This sprawling epic is the mighty river that almost everything else he's written in the past twenty years feeds into. The story is fresh and familiar at the same time. The character of Roland, a protagonist both iconic and ambiguous, both hero and anti-hero, was originally modelled after Clint Eastwood's famous "Man with No Name" character. But throughout his journey, he changes from a terse gunslinger into something more, something that's equal parts gunslinger, King Arthur, and Odysseus. The ending of the series is shocking and bold, a daring move by King, but a fitting end to this seemingly endless journey.

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