[As each year comes to a close, we ask our contributors to give us their favorite books from the past 12 months---and we let a few older ones slip in, too. You can follow the entries through the rest of the year here, and check out the picks from 2009, 2010, and 2011 while you're at it.]
This fantastic collection of essays pretends to be a book about music but is actually a book about life, and love, and hope. Really it’s about the best parts of being alive, though it does center on Moody’s eclectic musical tastes. And like any good essayist, Moody offers his readers a deeper appreciation of his subject matter—the subject matter on the surface and that underneath.
We all know how this book is going to end. And in many ways, this biography of David Foster Wallace is a road map plotting points to the inevitable tragedy. But because Max is so thorough in his research, his book provides great insight into one of literatures most complicated writers. This is worth reading if you consider yourself a fan of DFW, moreso than if you never understood why he was such a big deal.
I think the best memoirs are comprised of unthinkable circumstances written by extraordinary writers. And above all, I think a memoir needs to be honest. Cheryl Strayed’s memoir meets the first two criteria easily, but ultimately I’m blown away just thinking about the raw and painful honesty of this book.
I can heartily recommend at least the first 332 pages. But I’m sure the rest of it belongs in here as well. And I will finish this book soon. This biography is time consuming, yes, but it is incredibly informative. Do you really need to know this much about one subject? Probably not, but learning things feels good. And Robert A. Caro is a really good teacher.
Salman Rushdie is a pompous dick. If you don’t need your favorite writers to be humble, this book won’t turn you off the way it turned off Zoe Heller. Yeah, the guy is full of himself, and not very self-aware, but his books are good. Craftwise, Joseph Anton is not an exception.