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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Best Books of (My) Year 2012

December has arrived. So, it's time to begin with the best-of-the-year-lists. Songs, albums, concerts, movies will follow, but I'll start with the books today. Here are my favourite 10 reads of this 2012. What a great year of literature (and music) this has been. Hope you like it!

10. Hollywood- Charles Bukowksi
The connection with the "Fantes" (John & Dan) made me come back to Bukowski. What a refreshing re-encounter this proved to be. Focused, fast-paced and amusing, his tale about the miracle that was that "Barfly" became a movie, might be, in my opinion, his best work alongside "Ham On Rye". Crazy, hilarious situations to describe the difficulties of mixing literature with cinema, portraying an industry with little glamour and much to be scared about, full of the strangest people in front of which a mature Hank can only laugh about. You'll do too.

9. Fante: A Family's Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving- Dan Fante
As the prose of both writers, this Fante's memoirs will puzzle you, grab you and shake you as few literature can do. Monstrous, vitriolic reality bites, on which the heroes doesn't look too nice. A double life of self-destruction, one by selling himself, the other by trying to kill himself, that amazingly, were rescued by literature. It hurts, but it also redeems in its own, unique way.
8. I Was Bono's Doppelgänger- Neil McCormick
Watch the movie, but foremost, don't miss the book. Neil McCormick's biography is the story of a recurrent struggle towards an obsession: being a rock star. The failures of his bands, the Dublin and London music scenes, a pretty ugly portray of the music industry merge beautifully with hilarious situations, self-deprecating humour... always with increasing and (amusingly) excruciating shadow of U2. Fun, revealing and a must for the Irish band fans.

7. When the Nines Roll Over and Other Stories- David Benioff
The "emotional point of no return" is a recurrent, central element on literature, but there are few writers who are capable of capturing, dissecting that existential turmoil and bring it to us, readers, in the form of hilarious situations or devastating dramas. Whether the stories are, on the surface, mundane, or on the contrary, thrilling, adventurous, very peculiar, feelings and behaviours of the main characters are very recognisable. Modern adult life, in all its forms. 

6. Dreams from Bunker Hill- John Fante
A masterful writer in one of his finest hours? Indeed folks, this is the great John Fante giving us another dose of the impulsive and passionate alter ego Arturo Bandini, but this time in the form of a joyful satire of Hollywood, where our character involves himself on a never-ending collection of very fun disasters. Add an impossible love story. Add an Italian wrestler. Add the incomparably vital prose of Fante. And add the spectacular love letter to literature that is chapter nine. Precious read.

5. The Gonzo Writer- Hunter S.Thompson
The letters of one of my most beloved literary heroes? Reading was mandatory for me. But I wasn't really expecting such an absorbing reading. A person creating a character of himself while he struggles to make a living as journalist and writer, a creator of a literary style (more consciously than I thought), a father and a husband, and a politically committed person. Bitterness, wild fun, craziness, all together in a vast compendium of correspondency. This book would be topping the list, but it rates lower because Anagrama published just an anthology, a selection from the originals "The Proud Highway" and "Fear and Loathing in America". And that's is not enough for a real Hunter's fan.

4. Knockemstiff- Donald Ray Pollock
Hell on Earth could be in Ohio, specifically in this rural black hole that allows no redemption or mercy. A novel of a very specific place and a time on its own that could be anywhere. "Knockemstiff" is anywhere where there's no future, because there's zero hope for the present. Scary? It is. There are no lessons here, just the cruel and raw "reality". A mind-blowing and painful collection of stories. Read it with care.

3. A Thousand Violins- Kiko Amat
Novel? Biography? Compilation of essays? And much more. It is one of the most engaging love letters music has ever received. If your passion/obsession is music, this book is for you. This is an emotional and personal work, because that's what music is made of and produces on us, and because Amat deconstructs part of his life through songs and groups. So, even if your tastes in music are not very similar to the author's, it will connect with you. A very special one.

2. Everyone Loves You When You're Dead- Neil Strauss
More books about music topping the list. This time with an incredible, gigantic collection of interview snippets with some of the most well-known celebrities on music. Strauss makes art of every interview. "Everyone Loves You..." is not a full of surreal conversations, unbelievable situations, unexpected adventures or grotesque, absurd moments he witnesses or takes part on. Is also an outstanding task on deconstructing the minds of celebrities, showing, with very few exceptions, an amount of traumas, inner conflicts and difficulties of dealing with fame. Must-read for anyone, not just music lovers.

1. Company K- William March
And our number one is a masterpiece about the horror of war, that despite being somewhat neglected when it was originally published, and being written after WWI feels completely modern and fresh. That's because "Company K" is a triumph both in style and content, offering a devastating semi-fictionalized account of a military unit's experiences. Each chapter is a story on its own, very brief snippets of a soldier's life. And together they are the most mesmerizing account of what means being at war.

Want to check last year's books list? Just click here

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