Lists. Everyone’s doing them. And based off of Chris’s first line of his first post at this blog, following the pack is an acceptable way to do things. Truly. If my best friend was to jump off of a cliff, would I? Probably. There would evidentially be a valid reason for it.
So, here’s my jump, a few best of 2009 lists. The best books, the best blogs, and the best cigars I happened across in 2009.
Books (buy these):
1. Last Days by Brian Evenson: I’ve been following Evenson’s work since Contagion, and since have read nearly every book he’s written (a hard thing to do considering the many, many projects he’s constantly churning out). I can say with some authority that Last Days could be Evenson’s best. The Wavering Knife may just edge it out (pun intended), but if so, barely.
2. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by Denis Dutton: friends are likely tired of me pushing this book. Everyone should read this, artists and non-artists, both. Dutton makes a compelling case for art having a genetic purpose, above mere aesthetics. This book makes me feel valuable to society.
3. Underworld by Don Delillo: If every Delillo book is this good, I’m angry that I didn’t start him sooner. I have Cosmopolis on my shelf right now. Fingers crossed I didn’t get to Delillo’s best, first.
4. City of Thieves by David Benioff: I want to hate Benioff. He’s a successful screenwriter (Brothers, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Kite Runner, Troy, and 25th Hour), he’s married to Amanda Peet, AND he can write beautiful narrative fiction (his story collection, When the Nine’s Roll Over is also amazing). If I were a hipster, Benioff would be my Pabst Blue Ribbon: I’d pretend he’s my dirty little secret, but truthfully, the world has been taking him in for years.
5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: Who knew Nabokov could be so funny? Seriously, Lolita is, despite the pedophilia, a very funny book.
Blogs (RSS these):
1. The Self-Publishing Review: No matter how much Jane Smith (rightfully) destroys the self-published books sent to her, hopeful authors continue to seek her reviews. She is always sensible in her criticisms, yet the authors more often than not feel compelled to defend their terrible manuscripts. I would hope this blog to be a deterrent for authors who are often simply not ready for publication. I know that there are some great self-published books out there. Fortunately for me, and the other readers of TSPR, those books apparently aren’t sent in for review.
2. Lit Drift: Lit Drift manages to provide great literary content without the pompous attitude of many lit blogs. Here, one can read an article called “Everything I Know About Writing I Learned From The 650-Pound Virgin” right after one called “Dying Is Fun…And Profitable,” and come away from both with a sense of time well-spent.
3. Caustic Cover Critic: I’m a follower of a few cover design blogs. Not that I am professionally involved in any way (though I did lay out David Blaine’s Antisocial and I did the art and design for my chapbook, Charactered Pieces, images of both available here). I simply enjoy the subject. I like Caustic Cover because it isn’t afraid to make subjective judgments. I think more commentary on commercial design should incorporate the subjective with the objective.
4. How Publishing Really Works: A great hub of information about the back-end workings of the publishing industry. Don’t expect any startling revelations here, but do expect a fair amount of news that might otherwise be tough to find.
5. Bukowski's Basement: It’s called Bukowski’s Basement! I don’t love Bukowski’s work, but his persona works for me. Anthony Venutolo has got a pretty nice nook going for him here.
Cigars (smoke these):
NOTE: I’m partial to a certain type of cigar, so I don’t venture too far. You may notice a trend with the five below (hint: Drew Estates). NOTE #2: I am not rich. I save and save to afford a couple cigars every now and then.
1. Drew Estates Natural Irish Hops
2. Drew Estates ACID Toast
3. Drew Estates Natural Pimp Stick (I’m embarrassed by the name. When smoking, I suggest first removing the ring entirely so as to avoid sneers when people try to read the label.)
4. Drew Estates ACID Roam
5. Drew Estates JAVA Wafe: the shape of these (a rectangle profile) is a bit gimmicky; I’ll give you that. I’d prefer a traditional round version. I’d also prefer that Drew Estates cigars didn’t cost so damn much.