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What I Read in 2011

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Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham -- 4/5

Selected Poems by Paul Verlaine (Martin Sorrell translator) -- 3/5

Weiland by Charles Brocken Brown -- 3.8/5

B.P.R.D: Plague of Frogs by Mignola & Others -- 4/5

Beowulf (Heaney translation) -- 5/5

Grendel by John Gardner 4/5

Selected Poems by Giacomo Leopardi (Eamon Grennan, translator) -- 4/5

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. 3/5

Daytripper -- Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba 4.5/5

Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins. 4/5

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard 3/5.

Democracy in America (volume 1) by Alexis de Tocqueville. 5/5

Clouds by Aristophanes (Meineck Translation). 4/5

Democracy in America (volume 2) by Alexis de Tocqueville. 5/5

The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato. 5/5

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. 3.8/5

JSA: The Golden Age by James Robinson and Paul Smith. 3.5/5

Song of Hiawatha by H.W. Longfellow. 3.5/5

Deliverance by James Dickey. 4/5

The Tree by John Fowles. 4/5

The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. 2/5

The Pensées by Blaise Pascal. 4/5

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. 4/5

Blankets by Craig Thompson. 4.5/5

Petrograd by Philip Gelatt/tyler Crook. 2.5/5

Twenty-five Books that Shaped America by Thomas C. Foster. 3.5/5

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin. 4/5

The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 3/5

Wanted by Mark Millar 2.5/5

Maus by Art Spiegelman. 5/5

Walden by Henry Thoreau. 5/5

Watchmen by Moore/Gibbons. 5/5

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville. 5/5

A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories by Will Eisner. 4/5

The Giver by Lois Lowry. 4/5

Ruth Hall by Fanny Fern. 4/5

Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860 by Jane Tompkins. 4/5

COMICS -- ongoing titles (that I subscribe to): Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Scalped, Hellblazer, and Detective Comics.

Review in Brief of Reading 2011
I was and still am on an American literature faze -- mostly because I'm teaching this subject now, after a long hiatus from it. Of course I have also sprinkled into this list some graphic novels, comics, non-fiction, poetry, plays, etc. . . but on to the awards ceremony:

Best Read of 2011: Democracy in America -- this book of the o'so boring title just brings it, sentence after sentence. De Tocqueville's prose is some of the best I've read; his observations about humanity, societies, religions, and temperament are profound and compelling in every way. And while the book may be of the most interest to the American reader, anyone interested in politics, government, and humanity as a social animal should find this book worth his or her while.

Most Disappointing Read of 2011: The Deerslayer. I wanted to like this book. I really did. It has so much going for it: frontier life, an iconic American literary character (Natty Bumpo/Hawkeye), but. . . .Cooper's writing is insufferable. Twain was right X 2.

Best Comic of 2011: Hellboy. Totally bias pick. I heart all things Hellboy. The story is great as usual, the art is magnificent. The minute an issue arrives in the mail (I live in too rural an area to have a real comics shop), I make up a reason to go to the toilet and read it cover to cover. It's one of those pleasures that required privacy and a room of one's own.

Other notables:
  • Ruth Hall -- a great novel of the American 19th century. It combines elements of sensationalism with revised vision of the Ben Franklin character (from his autobiography).
  • The Song of Hiawatha -- Longfellow gets a bad rap these days. He's as skilled a linguistic poet as any that America produced. And this epic of a Native legend set to a Finnish meter hits me right where I live.
  • Daytripper -- Graphic novel of the year, if you ask me. Set in Brazil, the novel uses a Faulkner-esque plotting technique to highlight how the little moments of life offer us the most profound movements of our character, dreams, and art.

For 2012
American literature and epic poetry: currently reading books Mark Twain and Ovid.
Book Reviews


  1. mtpspur's Avatar
    I had to laugh--The Deerslayer was SO readable --compared to The Pioneers or The Prairie but I read then when I was in my 30s in chroniological order--could NEVER get thru them as a teemager. Your reads are much braoder then mine --as I frtitter it away laltely. Just jumped back into the Homes canon now but still expect to take a cpouiple of years at finishing them off.
  2. LadyLuck's Avatar
    I admire you for making it though Walden. I have tried and failed many times. I so badly want to read and like it, but I just can't seem to do it
  3. qimissung's Avatar
    Both you and DM read Ethan Frome this year. Did you like it?

    I may never read it again, but never will I forget reading it. I was in high school, and I still remember my mother handing it to me with a flourish and saying "THIS is an example of irony."

    It made an indelible impression.

    I've heard "Cakes and Ale" is really good. Did you like it?

    Anyway, it's an impressive list, and I especially enjoyed your comments and catagories. I'm especially impressed with your ability to read nonfiction. If you wrote a comprehensive blog about "Democracy in America" I would read that, but unfortunately I'm not that mature a reader. A kinder way to say it would be to say that my tasts don't lie in that direction.

    So you liked "The Deerslayer," eh, Rich? Would you recommend it?
  4. TheFifthElement's Avatar
    It's an impressive list Comedian, you really do read a range of books. What was your favourite, and do you recommend Walden? I've got it on my shelf but never quite got around to reading it.
  5. Virgil's Avatar
    That's a great endorsement of Tocqueville. I've been hesitant to read it, though I've longed to read it. I see it quoted all the time. I thought it would be a dry read. If it's not, I should at least peruse it. At a 1000 pages, I'm not sure I would have the time for just one work. But you know, that should be in my library. Nice list. Walden is a great classic and I realized as I read Emerson this past year that Thoreau is the superior writer and thinker. I'm surprised you liked Benito Cereno as much as you did. It's not a bad work, but it was a bit tedious for me.