Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

2010 in books

In 2003, I made a list of every book I read that year. I haven’t done this since for a few reasons, although laziness is the biggest one.  Also, I don’t read as much as I should, and these lists are never accurate.  It’s like every top-100 record list by rock snobs that have Captain Beefheart on the list.  I can guarantee you that far more people listen to Boston’s first album than Don Von’s, and but people put him on the list because they want to look superior or act like they have a refined taste.  (For the record, I am listening to “More Than a Feeling” on repeat as I write this, something I do for hours at a time, until I decide to switch to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” or “Freebird”, or the Oakland SWAT team knocks my front door off the hinges because my neighbors have phoned in a potential Waco standoff, because there’s no other possible reason for someone to listen to side 1/track 1 of Boston – Boston 483 times in a row.)

Okay, so here is a partial list of the books I read in 2010 that you should read but probably won’t, because this post itself just broke the 200 word mark, and that’s way too long for anyone not on near-lethal amounts of ADHD medication.  Oh, in no particular order.

  • Loner: Stories by John Sheppard – This is a story collection by my pal John Sheppard that contains three stories previously released in Air in the Paragraph Line, plus a story entitled “Loner” that completely blew me away.  John’s an incredibly underrated writer and the book is worth it for this one story.
  • Meat Won’t Pay My Light Bill by Kurt Eisenlohr – Kurt is better known in these parts as the artist who painted the AITPL 13 cover, but he’s also an awesome writer.  This is a very Bukowskian novel about a punk named Lupus who wants to quit working and spend his time painting, and all hell breaks loose.  If you liked Post Office, this book is totally up your alley.
  • There Are a Million Stories in the Naked City by Fiona Helmsley – This is a cool-sized pocket book that consists of 120 pages of creative non-fiction stories about Fiona’s days world of punks and strippers and heroin and a dirty, pre-Giuliani New York City.
  • Awkward 1 – I first met Awkward Press editor Jeffrey Dinsmore during my brief stint in LA in 2008, which was right before he got Awkward up and running.  They’ve since done a more substantial second issue in 2010, which tells you something about my reading backlog.  This episode has five short stories about awkward occurrences, all of them great.  Each one is pretty innovate in how the story unspools, like Honor Rovai’s “Housesitting”, which starts off as a letter to a housesitter that quickly morphs into a crime confession.
  • The American Book of the Dead by Henry Baum – A high-concept thriller about the end of the world as brought on by a far-right conspiracy by religious fundies in a Cheney-type style.  It’s a good plot that would (or will?) make a great movie, but is also noteworthy in that it was self-published and isn’t just another SKU number regurgitated from the entertainment-industrial complex.
  • Air in the Paragraph Line #13 – I know I published it, and I wrote two of the stories, but I also read a metric fuck-ton of stories before selecting these, and I re-read everything here a million times during the production of the issue.  Todd Taylor’s “Banjo Alien Zen” is one of my favorites in here, as is Rebel Star Hobson’s piece about the insanity of working in a redneck-infested convenience store.

I didn’t buy as much this year because I re-read a lot of old books.  I moved, and in the process of moving, I tried to tightly prune my collection and dump books that had followed me across the country multiple times that I should have read but didn’t.  Also, I tried to nail down what I was supposed to be writing, or what I wanted to write, and a lot of that involved re-reading books important to me.  Here’s a partial list of what I re-read, all books worthy of purchase, if you’ve got that Amazon gift card from xmas burning a hole in your pocket:

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – A panic Kindle purchase when I realized I was on the way to the airport for a cross-country flight and had nothing to read.  I practically inhaled this on the plane ride home, and it was just as good as the first half-dozen times I read it.
  • The Risk Pool by Richard Russo – This is pretty much becoming an annual read.  Nobody paints a picture like this guy.
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick – Alternate reality we-lost-to-the-Nazis fiction at its finest, especially since all alternate reality fiction currently written is some right-wing wonk trying to get across some point about how paving roads is socialism.
  • The Fuck-Up by Arthur Nersesian – One of my favorite books about New York, even if there is a geographical goof about every five pages.

So what should I be reading in 2011?