Before I say anything, there is one thing that you should know about me. It is that I am a complete control freak, thus I categorize, categorize and categorize. Categorizing is basically what I do for living. So be aware of highly incessant categorizing ahead! #lol
I read 39 books last year, 12 of them are exceptional, 10 of them are less exceptional, and the rest of them (17, to be precise) are downright fun. And for obvious reasons, I want to blog about the 12 exceptional books first. I’ll cover the second and the third category in separate posts.
And one more thing, please pardon me for this interminable commentary.
I divided my recommendation into three sections: Must-read which is pretty much self-explanatory; Recommended books which are the books that I think will provide meaningful reads; and Personal Favorites which are my own…
I wanted to write one last blog before the end of the year, so in the spirit of our shrinking 2018 timeline, I’ll make it a quickie.
First, for those of you who love short fiction as much as I do, my last literary journey of the year is Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World. It’s a fabulous short story collection filled with quirky characters in search of their own perfect worlds. The stories are often as odd as the people who inhabit them. I love how creepy the author makes me feel inside my own skin as she explores the inner workings, troubled minds, and secret longings of her characters. Fans of the bizarre hiding inside realism will quiver with joy.
This month, I invite you to celebrate your sense of wonder with one of the best books I’ve read all year, Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. In fact, it took me all year to read it. Not because it wasn’t wonderful. It was! But rather, it’s one of those books that taps so deeply into the creative process you’ll want to read it slowly, in bits and pieces, and not necessarily in chapter order. This book is far more than an instructional manual for writers. Its highly visual presentation celebrates the writer’s wandering and wild mind and our need, as imaginative thinkers, to be both artistically free and disciplined. In keeping with the holiday season, I’ll call it a nutcracker for the analytical brain. A great Christmas gift for yourself or the creative writer in your family. Or me, for that matter, since I borrowed it from a friend, and now I have to return it. Interesting note: By the time I finally finished reading the book, the publisher released a revised and expanded edition.
(Rating: Delightfully Mind-Blowing!)
Upstate NY is a Great Place for Stark Landscapes and Bleak Stories
I oughta know. I grew up there. And Christmas is a fine time of year to perseverate over God, religion, faith, what we believe in, and why we believe it. So, in the spirit of self-examination, I’m recommending a super depressing little indie drama called First Reformed, released earlier this year, starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried. I loved the way the movie began as one thing, stumbled into something weirdly awkward, and then rolled headlong into the entirely unexpected. Hawke plays the reverend Ernst Toller, a deeply troubled man, running away from his tortured past, only to discover that his past and God are both conspiring to destroy him. It takes a perfect storm of inner and outer conflict, and a fair bit of coincidence, to trip this guy’s wire, but it’s a helluva trip. This is not a holiday movie by any means, but I invite you to take a step back from the consumerism of the season and watch this film. Think about where you fall on the spectrum of hope and despair, which I think is what this movie is really all about. You can view it for free on Amazon Prime. Interesting note: Don’t be too disappointed that Hawke’s stylish movie-poster goatee does not appear in the film.
Thanks to my pals in Bee Cave, Texas, just outside Austin, for hosting a weekend write-in. Great friends, food, wine, conversation, time and space to be creative, and several glorious days with nothing to think about but a few of my favorite things in life. Photo snapped at the Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen in nearby Lakeway. Love you guys!
I met my favorite mystery author Lee Child at the Vinoy in downtown St. Pete this past weekend. He was there for the World Mystery Convention, Bouchercon 2018. I wasn’t attending the conference, but I was meeting a couple of my pals for lunch, and I spotted him in the lobby just hanging around. I turned into a total fanboy and told him how much my dad and I loved his books. He was incredibly gracious. He even agreed to this photo. What a great guy! Thank you, Lee Child. : )