1. My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard – I must be the last person to try and read this thick Scandinavian diary by the guy with the hair who smokes a lot. That’s a dumb sentence. Let me emphasis one word from it. Try. Because no matter how reassuring it is that publishing houses are printing six volume literary “fiction” epics on real paper, they are printing six volume literary “fiction” epics about an asshole describing his asshole life. I don’t mean to sound disparaging from the start. I do hope the guy describes his train wreck of a life poetically and engagingly, because then I’ll at least want to read what he wrote. Though if he’s unable, if the book is long AND boring – and if it is not the Book of Love – I think we can all agree we just wasted a lot of trees over a Norwegian’s ego the size of, coincidentally enough, Norway.
2. Friendship by Emily Gould – Somebody, somewhere, must agree with me. I just can’t be the only one who thinks Emily Gould is a dead ringer for Macaulay Culkin. I cannot be the only one. Anyway, it’s a fact – which no one cares about – that I grew a fondness for Gould after reading her essay in N+1’s MFA vs NYC. Even though her struggle, much like Knausgaard, is a bit nauseating, she was able to paint hers with appealing colors, much more so than she did in her book of essays, which was not so good. I’m guessing her novel will be an extension of her MFA vs NYC essay. Basically, a fictionalization of a young woman’s time in Brooklyn as a twenty-something blogger after her book of essays flops. Call me a literary schadenfreudist, but I like books about writers who fail at life.
3. Father and Son by Edmund Gosse – I don’t know a whole lot about this one, but I read the first page using the Amazon preview and really enjoyed it. I go to Amazon so much in the hopes I’ll like the first page of a book someone has recommended. So often, that doesn’t happen. It’s nice to see when it does.
4. Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton – Maybe the best-known novel from one of the most underrated novelists of the 20th century. Perhaps this man is Britain’s answer to Richard Yates. If not in substance and style, at least in depressing obscurity.
5. Smile, Please by Jean Rhys – This one was recommended by Emily Gould. And by the way she described it – not just to me – and by the fact that the novel is out of print, it makes me think it will be good. But I’ve been fooled by Rhys before. I don’t mean to denigrate anyone’s favorite writer, which I am sure Rhys is for some, it’s just I am dense and have tried reading her work and nothing has ever stuck. Maybe this time.
6. Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter – This is another one of those gems brought to my attention by the esteemable New York Review of Books, the same people who tipped me to other greats like Stoner and The Mangan Inheritance. By reading the description, this seems like a book I should have read a long time ago.
7. California by Edan Lepucki – I guess it can’t hurt too much to read a “buzzbook.” Though honestly, after checking out the blurbs on the back of this one in the bookstore, I am expecting it to be better than the Bible, The Easter Parade and Lolita combined.
8. An Exact Replica Of A Figment Of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken – This was recommended by Nick Hornby in one of this essays from his excellent collection of essays about what he’s been reading for the past 10 years, 10 Years In The Tub. Hornby is smart and engaging and funny and he writes that he managed to omit all of Loorie Moorie’s and McCracken’s work, both of whom were two of his favorite writers from the last decade. I’m looking forward to this. Especially so because of the title.
9. God Knows by Joseph Heller – It may sound circuitous, but I found out about this one while reading an interview with Rick Springfield, who I guess wrote a novel? Anyway, Springfield not so humbly mentions his novel has been compared to Heller’s, which is apparently David, The King of Israel, writing his memoirs from his deathbed. So yes, the guy who wrote Psalms and got it on with Bathsheba and was loved by God than any other, I’d like to know what his last thoughts are as imagined by Joseph Heller.
10. Pauline Kael: A Life In The Dark by Brian Kellow – I simply don’t know enough about one of the most important writers and critics of the 20th Century. This will remedy that problem.