i just finished reading the excellent empire falls, a novel about small-town maine with a picture of a diner on the cover and also indication that it won the pulitzer prize. too many people i know would sniff at the book for that reason alone because they scorn conventional markers, suspect that they're suspect, right off the bat. no matter how bourgeois it seems, i'm the opposite: i like approval, i like prizes. in my heart of hearts, i agree with my friend yoni, who once said with a shrug and remarkable air of certainty for a high schooler, "cream rises to the top." he now takes pictures for the new york times.
although i've only ever won one prize, it briefly redirected where i thought my life should go. (my life course-corrected itself, like a car driven by satellite.) several times among the many when i've been an also-ran, not winning also made me reconsider my goals. as you may infer, i take these things seriously. so, if a book has a pretty gold seal on it, i'm more likely to pick it up, and over the course of my reading lifetime, i've been rewarded for this impulse every time except once.
empire falls was not only excellent, it was one of the more excellent books i've read this year. i may as well list my other favorites:
jonathan strange and mr. norrellalthough i've read an awful lot this year, my memory is hazy as to what else. i remember enjoying the most recent lemony snicket; i found the da vinci code and native speaker gripping, like everyone else. i made it most of the way through wuthering heights before abandoning it to finish the compleat works of jane austen. i mulled over the memoirs the distant land of my father and carrie fisher's latest life in pink. there was something by fitzgerald too ... what was that early one of his? and lots more i've already forgotten.
life of pi
the patron saint of liars
i feel like i should be assessing this past year in some more meaningful way than just by making lists. but too much happened. it's a comfort that this time last year i was scared shitless of this time this year -- yet here i am, alive, healthy, fine. not too different except that for the first time, i have a net worth. i know i have and i know what it is: someone showed me a piece of paper at work related to my brand-new company issued life insurance policy. the guy who showed it to me seemed faintly embarassed it was so small, and i could tell that moment was supposed to be when i turned into scarlet o'hara and shook my fist at the sky, announcing i'd never be hungry again. actually i didn't care that my life is valued so modestly and i didn't make a vow to increase its value at an exponential yearly rate. the number ran to five whole digits; what more can i ask for?