Noteworthy Books of 2012

A few weeks ago, Scott Esposito (editor of the consistently great Quarterly Conversation) asked me for an annotated list of the five best books I’d read in 2012. After doing so, I started feeling bad about the books I left off the list, so I sat down and compiled a larger one. Below the fold you’ll find that I’ve re-listed a couple of the most noteworthy ones I originally highlighted, and a slew of others. Feel free to provide your own list in the comments.

(1) My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgard — I mentioned this one in my previous list. So ridiculously good. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(2) The Factory Series, by Derek Raymond — I’m only through the first three books of this five-book series. But they are a vicious and fun before-bed read.

(3) The Collected Poems (1912-1944), by H.D. — The doyenne of poetic gnosticism. her work is very special to me.

(4) Minor Angels, by Antoine Volodine — Totally unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Bizarre, but without being self-indulgent.

(5) My Life, by Lyn Hejinian — Mesmerizing. I couldn’t stop Hejinian’s autobiographical verse. The work of Hejinian was a total revelation to me this year. (Thanks, Blckdgrd!)

(6) A Short History of Decay, by Emil Cioran — The title says it all.

(7) The Passion According to G. H., by Clarice Lispector — I’ve already said far too much about this book this year.

(8) Wittgenstein’s Mistress, by David Markson — Unsure how I managed never to have read this until this year.

(9) Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, by Thomas Browne — Nothing else has given me such joy to read this year. The master of English prose at work right here.

(10) Rhetoric and Style, by Thomas de Quincey — Another book I’ve known about for ages but unemployment actually gave me the time to read. Loved it.

(11) Madness, Rack, and Honey, by Mary Ruefle — I would’ve loved sitting in on these lectures given by Ruefle. Tremendous for anybody who writes or reads seriously.

(12) Satantango, by László Krasznahorkai — Deserving of all the praise that has been heaped upon it this year. It makes difficult demands on your attention, and rewards nearly every step of the way.

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Posted in books. 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Noteworthy Books of 2012”

  1. Adam Kotsko Says:

    This list makes me jealous. Outside of classes, I mainly spent 2012 repeatedly rereading Agamben’s The Highest Poverty and Opus Dei. They were both good, but I daresay I wouldn’t have read them so many times over if I weren’t translating them.

  2. Brad Johnson Says:

    The list is a benefit of having lots of time my hands and a very good public library system.

  3. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Brad is right about Raymond’s “Factory” books. I started reading them on his suggestion and they are fabulous. Raymond is well acquainted with how repulsive humans are. (Will finish He Died With His Eyes Open in bed tonight.)

  4. Brad Johnson Says:

    Craig, I still haven’t started I Was Dora Suarez — been trying to finish up w/ some library books now overdue. I hope finally to do so tonight. Glad you’ve enjoyed the series so far.

  5. dan Says:

    Brad’s book recommendations remain one of my favourite things about this blog. You all should pick another work of fiction for folks to read and discuss together.

  6. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Brad, I’ll be including the rest of the series in my next book order. I’ve never understood, though, and this goes for the entirety of the detective genre how the crime is actually resolved. The ending seems to come out of nowhere! How did he know, with about thirty pages left, who was responsible for the crime? (Same goes for Poirot as much as it does for Luther and everyone in between.)

  7. Brad Johnson Says:

    I know what you mean. I don’t read a lot of mysteries, so I can’t speak of the genre, but when it comes to D. Raymond’s the mystery element seems incidental at best. The detective more or less knows who did it 1/4 of the way through, it seems, and just has to get a confession or enough for an arrest. (This is the only way to justify his quite frankly bizarre undercover work in the first book.)


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