The obligatory 2015 year-end list


Favorite Reading Experiences

I finally read Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow in full in 2015. Then I immediately read it again (which is sort of like really reading it), occasionally dipping into Steven Weisenburger’s A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion. Rewarding, hilarious, challenging, perplexing, Gravity’s Rainbow is too brilliant to look at directly, and is perhaps best approached slantwise, as one Ms. Dickinson of Amherst has advised.

On page 588 of Gravity’s Rainbow, the narrator (?!) suggests that we “Check out Ishmael Reed.” So I did. His novel Mumbo Jumbo is like nothing I’ve ever read before—the reviewer’s crutch “dazzling performance” comes to mind, because Mumbo Jumbo is a performance (jazz, bebop, soft shoe, vaudeville, a hoodoo magic show, an exorcism: performance art), and it does dazzle, overwhelm, energize, haunt, titillate, reverberate, howl…and there are pictures! Reed uses photos in a way that Sebald would a few decades later—documentary evidence of a sort. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Like Reed’s novel, Anne Carson’s novel-poem-myth-book Autobiography of Red is impossible to categorize and extremely difficult to describe. I tried to write about it a few times on this site and failed, which is fine. What matters here is the reading experience: Carson’s book zapped me, gave me tingles, reminded me that what I want to think and feel when I read is, How is this possible? How is this allowed? (Another huge thank you to BLCKDGRD for sending me Autobiography of Red and its sorta-sequel Red Doc>).

Also: Nabokov’s Pale FireTwo Serious Ladies by Jane BowlesHomesick by Lucia Berlin and Evan Dara’s novel Fleewhich I loved reading with Biblioklept contributor Ryan Chang .

And finally, Ursula K. Le Guin, whose so-called Hainish Cycle I read most of this year. I still have to read The Telling, but great stuff, and a full write-up early in the new year.

Favorite Books I Read in 2015 That Were Actually Published in 2015

Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera

Cess, Gordon Lish

The Bus 2, Paul Kirchner

Mislaid, Nell Zink (although I liked The Wallcreeper better, but hey, it was published last year)

Favorite Indie Presses of 2015

You can’t beat Nobrow, Dorothy, OR, and/or And Other Stories.

Favorite Films I Saw in 2015 That Came Out in 2015


I had a relatively contrarian opinion of Fury Road, but I enjoyed it overall, I suppose. The Force Awakens was a better spectacle for my money/nostalgia. Overall, 2015 was kind of a weak year for movies, filled with overrated indies, comic book schlock, and self-serious entertainments that Tried Too Hard. Hard to Be a God was the only thing that really zapped me, although a quick google shows that it was actually released in 2014.

You know, Inherent Vice was released in late 2014 too, but I saw it and loved it and obsessed over it in 2015…so, Inherent Vice, yeah…

I also liked that Scientology documentary, which was full-on Pynchon.

Favorite Television Shows of 2015

I thought the second season of Fargo was near-perfect and found the tawdry spectacle of The Jinx thrilling, but there was no show I enjoyed watching and reading about more than the second season of True Detective

Favorite Albums of 2015

The albums I listened to the most this year were soundtracks that came out before 2015: Inherent Vice and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. But I did like a number of new albums this year, including Joanna Newsom’s Divers, Jim O’Rourke’s Simple Songs, and Destroyer’s Poison Season.

Favorite Books I Didn’t Finish in 2015

I’ve been crawling my way through a full read of Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, but: No end in sight. I also read most of the essays in William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion (check out my interview with the editors). I also read a hefty chunk of the Ben Marcus-edited collection New American Stories. My favorite discursive reading though was dipping into William H. Gass’s nonfiction.

Favorite Rereads

…speaking of Gass—well, I read his essay “Even If, by All the Oxen in the World” in conjunction with a reread of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which turned out to be most rewarding—both the rereading and the reading-in-conjunction. Reading Infinite Jest for the first time since 2001 ended up being a deflating, even depressing experience, but I wouldn’t trade it. I also reread against the second reading of Gravity’s Rainbow. Other rereading highlights included Pynchon, Ursula K. Le Guin, High Rise by J.G. Ballard, and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (which I’ve reread every year since I first read it). But it was McCarthy’s Suttree that I got the most out of rereading this year.


I’ll finish out Le Guin’s Hainish books with The Telling, and then probably crack into William H. Gass’s Eyes. In between I might read Marianne Fritz’s novel The Weight of Things. More Lucia Berlin for sure. Thomas Bernhard if it ever cools down again. (End of December 2015 and it feels like early summer here in Florida). I’d also love to take a shot at William T. Vollmann’s The Dying Grass, but who knows…there are always more pages than hours.

The books I liked the most in 2013



The Obligatory Best of 2011 List(s)

Best Books I Read in 2011 That Were Published in 2011 (Or Close Enough to 2011)

MetaMaus, Art Spiegelman

The Avian Gospels, Adam Novy

Spurious, Lars Iyer

The Third Reich, Roberto Bolaño

Humiliation, Wayne Koestenbaum

The Pale King, David Foster Wallace

Between Parentheses, Roberto Bolaño


Best Books I Read in 2011 That Were Published Before 2011

The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq

Wittgenstein’s Mistress, David Markson

Expelled from Eden: A William Vollmann Reader

Ray, Barry Hannah

Trans-Atlantyk, Witold Gombrowicz

The Garden of Eden, Ernest Hemingway

Light in August, William Faulkner

Hadji Murad, Leo Tolstoy

First Love and Other Sorrows, Harold Brodkey

Airships, Barry Hannah

Speedboat, Renata Adler

Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry

Vertigo, W.G. Sebald


Best Rereading

Candide, Voltaire


Best Audiobook of 2011

The Collected Fictions of Gordon Lish, read by Gordon Lish


Best Film of 2011

The Tree of Life


Most Charming Film of 2011

Midnight in Paris


Most Overhyped Book of 2011

The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach


Best Book Cover of 2011 


Best Book Series Design

Melville House’s Neversink Imprint



Weirdest (Yet Nevertheless Moving) Novel of 2011

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, Chris Boucher


Book I Read in 2011 That Still Confounds and Haunts Me

The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell


Saddest Book I Read in 2011

Tie: Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry; The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, Breece D’J Pancake


Best Essay (Print)

“Some Notes on Translation and on Madame Bovary,” Lydia Davis (The Paris Review)


Best Essay (Online)

“Nude in Your Hot Tub, Facing the Abyss (A Literary Manifesto After the End of Literature and Manifestos),”  Lars Iyer (White Review)


Worst Literary Trend of 2011

Tie: Lame “literary fiction” novels; Articles that link everything to David Foster Wallace


Best Literary Trend of 2011



Most Obvious Disclaimer

I did not read or see or hear every book or essay or audiobook or film or TV show or record or video that came out in 2011. Also, there are some days left in the year. These are all, just like, opinions man.