^ loved reading
# did not like
The Great Gatsby ^
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
by Marcel Proust
Game of Thrones ^, Clash of Kings, Storm of Swords ^,
Feast for Crows, Dance of Dragons #
by George R.R. Martin
The True Deceiver
by Tove Jansson
The Pale King ^
by David Foster Wallace
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives #
by David Eagleman
The Metamorphosis and other stories
by Franz Kafka
(Sammy Harkham edition)
The Looking Glass Book of Stories ^#
by Various, ed. Hart Day Leavitt
Also: New Yorker stories, and misc. short stories in collections which I didn’t finish.
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt
Obviously the list is short this year because George RR Martin dominated with 5 giant books. I’ll admit that I loved escaping into the unpredictable and empty plotlines, but I wish I had spent a lot of that reading time on better, meatier stuff. They’re candy. But it was easier to read these books while I was in the middle of Ganges #4 and in the hangover period after than to read more demanding books; it can be dangerous letting something rewire your brain in the middle of a big project. That’s what I told myself. Still, I wish I had read more Proust or Kafka instead. (Did not like the show.) Sisters Brothers is a weird western -- very fun to read, you'd like it.
by Steven Johnson
by John Jeremiah Sullivan
Moonwalking with Einstein
by Joshua Foer
The Memory Chalet ^
by Tony Judt
by Donovan Hohn
Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline ^
by Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton
All of the books in the nonfiction category are more or less recommended. (Lousy abandoned books are not listed.) I learned a lot. I finally Moonwalking this after an article by Foer first introduced me to the idea of memory palaces in an article back in 2007. I've been obsessed with the idea and the meta-idea ever since. Memory palaces was a theme this year: Tony Judt used memory palaces to help him compose the essays in The Memory Chalet, which are wise and moving. This may be the first year in a while that I didn’t read anything about climate change — a conscious choice -- though Moby Duck was somewhat eco-apocalyptic. Cartographies of Time is great. I knew when I saw Saul Steinberg in the first few pages that it was going to be great. I can't recommend it highly enough, if you're interested in that kind of thing.
The Creative Habit
by Twyla Tharp
Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection ^
by John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick
Find Your Focus Zone #
by Lucy Jo Palladino
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey ^
by Jill Bolte Taylor
Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware
by Andy Hunt
The self-help category is comprised of books I found at the library when I’d wander around on a break from writing or drawing. The self-help section at this library is huge, many times the size of, say, the painting section. I got a lot of help from Loneliness — one of the most significant books of the year for me. My Stroke of Insight taught me (finally) to understand and begin thinking in the right/left brain model. Creative Habit and Pragmatic Thinking also both have a lot of good stuff in them. There were some lousy books too, but those aren’t listed here because I barely read them. You can tell pretty quick with this type of book whether it's going to be good or not. Focus Zone is listed because I actually read it, and it was somewhat helpful, even though it wasn't very special.
What Do Pictures Want? ^
by WJT Mitchell
On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion ^
by Gabriel Josipovici
The Book of God: A Response to the Bible ^
by Gabriel Josipovici
Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? #
by Leszek Kolakowski
The Grand Design #
by Stephen Hawking and Leon Mlodinow
What Technology Wants
by Kevin Kelley
This blog post here got me to read two books by Gabriel Josipovici, for which I’m very grateful. They’ll be with me for a long time. I had read WJT Mitchell’s other books in college (I have re-read Iconology, though — 3 or 4 times!) and one day I was like, “oh yeah...what is he up to?” I really enjoyed the riffing and thinking in What Pictures Want (2004), and recommend his work to any intelligent comics reader who likes thinking about the nuts and bolts of these things, or really anyone who likes thinking and reading. What Technology Wants was a good sprint through a generally optimistic argument about technology, and humanity, but it was maybe too optimistic for me. A lot to chew on. I'm going to have to think more about it before I figure out what I think. The Grand Design didn't really grab me, and Why Is There Something was an unremarkable intro to philosophy.
* * *
In terms of pure reading enjoyment, for me The Great Gatsby was #1, followed by Josipovici, then WJT Mitchell. Proust and Kafka are in their own category of, I don’t know, “the sublime” or something. Other books, like Loneliness or My Stroke weren’t masterpieces but did teach me big ideas that will probably stick with me and improve my life (“technologies!”). I liked Cartographies and Book of God so much that I bought them after reading library copies.
Many of these books were found at the library, either on the book sale shelf, or just browsing around.
I started a few other books that I never finished -- you know how it is. Maybe next year. I'm not listing comics or graphic novels because they should get their own post, as should Internet reading. (Also, for the record, I'm not listing the research reading I did for various projects.)
UPDATE 1/1/12: It just occurred to me that the title What do Pictures Want? contains a play on the word "want" (desire/lack -- Mitchell points this out himself several times), but What Technology Wants does not contain this double meaning, and reading that book you can see how it couldn't. I'd love to see Mitchell review and play with the ideas and ideology of Kelley's book.
Also, I had somehow forgotten about Cartographies, so I added that.
Forgot Sisters Brothers!
Forgot Sisters Brothers!
So for a while now I've had that link over on the right column that said "Shared Items." This took you to a list of blog posts and images and etc. that I've "shared" using Google Reader. If you ever wondered about my politics or what I thought was funny or interesting you could find it all there. Also, I followed the shared items of people who turned me onto interesting stuff (peacay, Adam Kotsko, Chris Adams, Mark Hensel, etc.), and now this networking feature is gone. Google has changed Reader all around in order to promote the Google Plus. I'm no dummy but I can't figure out how to really work Google Plus, or how it's supposed to replace the subtraction of the sharing features in Google Reader. Blegh. You can read more about this world-historical disaster here.
Still trying to sort through my stack of stuff to sort through. I kind of cheated this time and instead of picking off the top of the stack, I just drew from 3 comics that I already thought were pretty great and wanted to plug. Mascots especially I haven't heard anything about (not that I read everything). I loved it, and if you're the kind of person that this kind of thing might appeal to, I highly recommend it. It lands a tricky acrobatic mix of poetry, graphic design, painting, and general sketchbook goofballery.
by Theo Ellsworth
-"Norman Eight's Left Arm"
by Ray Fenwick
-Great sci-fi story with a long name by Jonas Madden-Connor.
I have piles and piles of books and comics to sort through. It would be nice to make some kind of peaceful and productive project out of this situation. Like maybe I could do a drawing of something from each book, or at least the books I enjoyed and want to plug.
Anyways, these were the top two on the pile. I really enjoyed both.
Inside the Slow Spiral by Jon Allen (the full story is online)
"We've organized a series of art auctions to raise money for Dylan's medical care. The theme is for artists to recreate Philip K Dick book covers. Although you'll see that in some cases publishers have donated some very rare books and other artists have donated other illustrations and sketches to the cause.
100% of the proceeds from these art sales go to Dylan Williams, founder of Sparkplug Comics Books, who was battling a serious case of cancer. Tragically Dylan passed away on 9/10/11 but the fundraisers will continue to help his family with the financial burdens from his medial care."
These are 2 pages I drew for the forthcoming Nobrow #6. The assignment was to do a story on the theme of doppelgangers or doubles. The printed pages will be in "two color" which means they will be in black and white plus one other color. Ganges-style. It may help you to see the way the final pages look after the photoshopping and text edits, and so you can see small versions of those here:
Here are photos of the originals. Click on the images to enlarge them. Direct links to the auctions are below the images.
(You also should check out all the beautiful stuff for sale at the Nobrow site.)
Batteries not included!
This minicomic is 32 pages and contains 4 stories. Two of them are already up at What Things Do (here and here). The strips have been reformatted, and of course they're not in color here but they look pretty good in black and white. And then there's two new stories you haven't seen yet. One of those is another Postcard from Fielder and the other is called First Try and is "weird" and abstract and "interesting." Hand-colored covers!
Collections Four and Five of Amazing Facts and Beyond...with Leon Beyond. As you can see, one has a screen-printed cover, and the other is hand-colored.
I spent a lot of time on this one. It's got gags and some pretty fancy cartooning, and an infinite grid of panels, only some of which you can see and read, but occasionally you catch a glimpse of it fading off into infinity, and also the grid contains itself nested within itself at different levels.
(also see here)
Dylan was very gracious to me and supported me in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s when I was starting out. He wrote me long letters (and later, emails) even analyzing individual panels, which level of interest and attention amazed, inspired, and sustained me—tips and crits about hands and angles (all the while emphasizing that all this is just his subjective opinion), along with a lot of encouragement and kind words. I’m eternally grateful to you for those letters, Dylan. I wish I had said that in the last few weeks but I didn't realize how serious it was this time. Dylan reached out and was a friend to me when I was lonely and full of self-doubt, and over the years I think he did the same for a lot of young cartoonists. We argued a lot about comics and related things over many emails in the early ‘00s, ending in a bewildered but friendly stalemate, and then we just moved on to other things. I’m sorry I let our friendship fade with time and distance. What a terrible thing to be saying. I wish I had told him all these things I'm thinking about now. I wish I had somehow expressed my gratitude for his kindness and help to me when I was starting out in comics, and also my serious respect for the way he lived out his beliefs and gave of himself. He believed in punk and kung fu and comics. He laid aside his own work and built up Sparkplug and published great comics. Before the web he would self-publish thick zines named Eighty-Six (I have around 15) that he would send out for free, anonymously, filled with rare comics he thought people needed to see. He had great taste AND a big heart AND he worked hard to make shit happen. He helped out a lot of people and laughed and smiled easily. What a great way to have lived. There are many wonderful testimonies to his kindness and friendship around the Internet that you should read. I just got home from SPX tonight and I’ve only read a handful. There’s many more, the kind of reading that makes you want to repent your selfish ways. We were lucky to have known you, and we were lucky to get all that mail from you.
If you haven’t already please consider buying some Sparkplug books.