Too Many Books In The Kitchen

I'm Michael Hingston, books columnist for the Edmonton Journal (new columns every other Friday).

My first novel, The Dilettantes, was just published by Freehand Books. Here's everything you might want to know about it.

Other topics under discussion: podcasts, strange sodas, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Moby-Dick.

Email me, if you like, at hingston [at] gmail [dot] com. I'm available for hire and I like free books.

WRITING

Favourites: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013
What I Read: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 (so far)

All Reviews /
All Interviews /
All Columns

Mark Abley (1)
Henry Adams (1)
Chris Adrian (1)
Charlie Ahearn (1)
César Aira (1) (2) (3)
André Alexis (1)
Rona Altrows (1; interview)
Jonathan Ames (1)
Kingsley Amis (1)
Martin Amis (1) (2) (3)
Karen Armstrong (1)
Margaret Atwood (1)
Jane Austen (1)
Paul Auster (1)
Tash Aw (1)
Todd Babiak (1) (2; interview) (3; interview)
Chris Bachelder (1; Q&A)
Jacqueline Baker (1; interview)
Nicholson Baker (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Rosecrans Baldwin (1)
Jesse Ball (1)
J.G. Ballard (1)
Julian Barnes (1)
Kevin Barry (1)
John Barth (1)
Arjun Basu (1)
Elif Batuman (1)
Samuel Beckett (1)
Robert E. Belknap (1)
Katrina Best (1)
Otto Binder (1)
Laurent Binet (1)
Mike Birbiglia (1)
Heather Birrell (1)
Caroline Blackwood (1)
Andrej Blatnik (1)
Roy Blount Jr. (1)
Boethius (1)
Roberto Bolaño (1) (2)
Mike Boldt (1; interview)
Jacques Bonnet (1)
Jorge Luis Borges (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Grégoire Bouillier (1)
Thea Bowering (1; interview)
Tim Bowling (1)
Stephen R. Bown (1; interview)
C.P. Boyko (1; interview) (2)
Inge Bremer-Trueman (1; interview)
Bertram Brooker (1)
Grant Buday (1)
Nellie Carlson (1)
Raymond Carver (1)
Adolfo Bioy Casares (1)
Michael Chabon (1)
Marty Chan (1; interview)
Dan Charnas (1; interview) (2)
Corinna Chong (1)
Chris Cleave (1)
Lynn Coady (1; interview) (2) (3; interview)
Douglas Coupland (1; interview)
Buffy Cram (1)
Lynn Crosbie (1)
Amanda Cross (1)
Nancy Jo Cullen (1)
John D'Agata (1)
Mark Z. Danielewski (1)
Diana Davidson (1; interview)
Don DeLillo (1) (2)
Charles Demers (1; interview)
Kristen den Hartog (1)
David Denby (1)
Helen DeWitt (1) (2)
Patrick deWitt (1; Q&A) (2; Q&A)
Marcello Di Cintio (1; interview)
Nicolas Dickner (1) (2)
Dave Eggers (1)
Alison Espach (1) (2; Q&A)
Percival Everett (1) (2)
Jim Fingal (1)
Anne Finger (1)
Meags Fitzgerald (1; interview)
Jonathan Safran Foer (1; interview)
Kaitlin Fontana (1; Q&A)
Cheryl Foggo (1)
Mark Frauenfelder (1; interview)
Jim Fricke (1)
Bill Gaston (1)
Marie-Louise Gay (1)
David Gilmour (1)
Malcolm Gladwell (1)
Misha Glouberman (1)
Adam Leith Gollner (1)
Manuel Gonzales (1)
Adam Gopnik (1)
Emily Gould (1)
John Gould (1)
Lee Gowan (1)
Linda Goyette (1)
Gwethalyn Graham (1)
Amelia Gray (1)
Chris Hadfield (1; interview)
Daniel Handler (1; interview)
Adam Haslett (1)
David Hayward (1)
Alan Heathcock (1)
Steve Hely (1)
Aleksandar Hemon (1)
Lee Henderson (1; interview)
Kira Henehan (1)
Lawrence Herzog (1)
Sheila Heti (1) (2; Q&A) (3) (4)
Jessica Hiemstra (1)
Miranda Hill (1)
Nick Hornby (1)
Robert Hough (1)
Sean Howe (1)
Mary-Beth Hughes (1)
Maude Hutchins (1)
Neamat Imam (1; interview)
Isol (1)
Harry Karlinsky (1) (2)
Esmé Claire Keith (1)
A.L. Kennedy (1) (2)
Etgar Keret (1)
Ross King (1; interview)
Chuck Klosterman (1) (2; interview)
Ryan Knighton (1)
Jane F. Kotapish (1)
Louise Ladouceur (1; interview)
Sarah Lang (1; interview)
Annette Lapointe (1)
Grant Lawrence (1; interview)
Nam Le (1)
Perrine Leblanc (1)
Fran Lebowitz (1; interview)
Shelley A. Leedahl (1)
Alex Leslie (1)
Lawrence Lessig (1)
Jonathan Lethem (1) (2) (3) (4)
Adam Levin (1)
Michael Lewis (1) (2)
Naomi K. Lewis (1; interview) (2; interview)
Tao Lin (1) (2; Q&A) (3)
Ewa Lipska (1)
David Lipsky (1) (2)
Sam Lipsyte (1)
Erlend Loe (1)
Lisa Lutz (1)
Janice MacDonald (1; interview)
Pasha Malla (1; interview)
Ben Marcus (1)
Adam Marek (1)
Clancy Martin (1)
Lisa Martin-DeMoor (1; interview)
Zachary Mason (1; Q&A) (2)
Colin McAdam (1; interview)
Tom McCarthy (1)
Franklin Davey McDowell (1)
Wendy McGrath (1; interview)
Yukari F. Meldrum (1; interview)
Herman Melville (1)
Laurence Miall (1; interview)
Peter Midgley (1; interview)
David Mitchell (1) (2)
Lorrie Moore (1) (2) (3) (4)
Horacio Castellanos Moya (1)
Haruki Murakami (1) (2) (3) (4)
Michael Murphy (1)
Billeh Nickerson (1; interview)
Jason Lee Norman (1; interview) (2; interview)
Dorthe Nors (1)
Benjamin Nugent (1)
Andrew O'Hagan (1)
Michael Ondaatje (1; interview)
Daniel Orozco (1)
John Ortved (1)
Patton Oswalt (1)
Boris Pahor (1)
Chuck Palahniuk (1; interview)
Orhan Pamuk (1)
Amanda Petrusich (1)
DC Pierson (1) (2; Q&A)
Hannah Pittard (1)
Padgett Powell (1)
Thomas Pynchon (1) (2)
Jennifer Quist (1)
François Rabelais (1)
Nathan Rabin (1)
Kadrush Radogoshi (1; interview)
Ross Raisin (1) (2)
Simon Rich (1; interview) (2) (3)
Edward Riche (1)
Ringuet (1)
Santiago Roncagliolo (1)
Adam Ross (1)
Nicholas Ruddock (1)
Salman Rushdie (1)
Karen Russell (1)
Richard Russo (1)
Mike Sacks (1; interview)
Daniel Sada (1)
Laura Salverson (1)
José Saramago (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
George Saunders (1)
Elissa Schappell (1)
Anakana Schofield (1)
Salvatore Scibona (1)
Will Self (1; interview)
Carol Shaben (1)
Leanne Shapton (1)
Mikhail Shishkin (1)
Gary Shteyngart (1; interview)
Norm Sibum (1)
Katherine Silver (1; Q&A) (2; interview)
Zadie Smith (1) (2)
Lemony Snicket (1; interview)
Carrie Snyder (1)
Muriel Spark (1)
Dana Spiotta (1)
Kathleen Steinhauer (1)
Cassie Stocks (1; interview)
Cordelia Strube (1)
Alan Sullivan (1)
J. Courtney Sullivan (1) (2)
John Jeremiah Sullivan (1)
Miguel Syjuco (1)
Justin Taylor (1) (2; Q&A) (3)
Rob Taylor (1; Q&A)
Lysley Tenorio (1)
Lynne Tillman (1)
Ken Tingley (1)
Miriam Toews (1; interview)
Wells Tower (1)
Matthew J. Trafford (1)
Neil Turok (1)
Ellen Ullman (1)
Deb Olin Unferth (1)
Jean-Christophe Valtat (1)
Richard Van Camp (1)
Padma Viswanathan (1; interview)
Jorge Volpi (1)
Sarah Vowell (1)
David Foster Wallace (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Russell Wangersky (1)
Mélanie Watt (1)
Teddy Wayne (1; interview)
Chris F. Westbury (1; interview)
Colson Whitehead (1)
David Whitton (1)
Ian Williams (1)
John Williams (1)
D.W. Wilson (1; interview)
Kevin Wilson (1)
Michael Winter (1)
James Wood (1)
Molly Young (1) (2; Q&A)
Vlado Žabot (1)

OTHER PIECES

"Comic Sans" (The Incongruous Quarterly)
"'No Fear' T-Shirts Based on Board Games" (McSweeney's)

"The Men in the Mirror"
"Moby-Dick; or, My Favourite Book"
"The Pop-Culture Annotated 'Lord's Prayer'"
"Tumblr Recommends"

Hindsight: What I Read In 2010

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg had a great joke about do-not-disturb signs on hotel room doors, in which he argues that it’s time to change them to “don’t” disturb. “‘Do not’ psyches you out,” Hedberg says. “‘Do’—all right! I get to disturb this guy! ‘Not’—shit! I need to read faster.”

Well, earlier this year—and for completely different reasons—I reached a similar conclusion. I need to read faster. In 2009 I managed an average of about a book a week, which isn’t bad, by any stretch. But fully half of those were for review. I decided that if I was ever going to make a dent in my growing to-read pile, I’d have to drastically step my game up.

By that measure, 2010 was a success. Somehow I cleared 90 books this year (compared to just 53 last year), nearly half of which were for review. I’ve been staying up later, watching fewer movies, and deleting most of my social networking profiles. This is as close to on point as I will probably ever get.

So just like last year, here’s my reading list for 2010. For all my new followers, consider this a crash course in what I’ve been up to for the past 12 months. For everyone who knows me offline, consider this a belated excuse for why I never leave my house.

And, as always, unless otherwise specified, I read everything listed here for the first time.

JANUARY

J. Courtney Sullivan, Commencement (2009)

Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn (1999): A pick for my book club, and a great one. It’s a reflexive, modern-day detective story that manages to nonetheless date itself by how confused all of the characters are by cell phones. Bought from Wee Book Inn on Whyte, at the very tail end of 2009.

Chuck Klosterman, Eating the Dinosaur (2009): There’s some great stuff here, though I get the feeling it’d work better split into individual magazine essays, rather than smooshed together into one amorphous book. Birthday present, 2009.

Nicholas Ruddock, The Parabolist (2010)

FEBRUARY

Molly Young and Chris Luxton, Troubleshooting (2010) [Q&A with Young]

Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives (1998, trans. Natasha Wimmer): I’ve been meaning to read Bolaño for a couple of years now, and once I saw all the nods to this, his North American breakthrough, in The Parabolist, I figured it was as good a time as any to dive in. No surprises here: it’s dizzyingly good. Every single page crackles. From the library.

Justin Taylor, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever (2010) [Q&A with Taylor]

Stephen King, On Writing (2000): You ever hear about this King fella? He’s pretty great. This is a thoroughly winning here’s-how-I-did (versus a how-to). Library.

Zachary Mason, The Lost Books of the Odyssey (2010) [Q&A with Mason]

Elizabeth Hay, A Student of Weather (2000): I was gripped by the first third or so of this prairie lit familial saga, but from there it falls off right quick. Bought from Alhambra Books, for a book club I didn’t end up attending.

MARCH

Don DeLillo, Point Omega (2010)

DC Pierson, The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To (2010) [Q&A with Pierson]

Jane Smiley, Moo (1995): This may be my favourite campus novel yet. Not as funny as Lucky Jim, maybe, but it’s wilder and more sprawling and extremely big-hearted. Also: pretty funny. Old Strathcona Books.

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck, Essential Avengers, Vol. 1 (#1-24) (1963-66): Obviously. Christmas present, 2009.

Adam Haslett, Union Atlantic (2010)

Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? (2009)

Andrew Kaufman, All My Friends Are Superheroes (2003): I read this novel (which is really a novella [which is really a medium-sized short story]) in about an hour, on a whim. It was clever enough, though I liked the premise more than the logic of the follow-through. Library.

George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone (2007): It’s no coincidence that one of these essays is about Mark Twain. Saunders has what is, to me, the quintessential modern American voice: spry, witty, curious, and laser-precise. Bought from Wee Book Inn.

Patrick deWitt, Ablutions: Notes for a Novel (2009) [Q&A with deWitt]

APRIL

Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (2009): Is it sacrilege to say that I found most of this book super boring? It’s like an impeccably well-mannered museum tour: no tension in sight. Book club.

David Lipsky, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace (2010)

P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Impending Doom (Penguin 70s) (1930): My first two Wodehouse stories, and yikes, are they sharp. Guy’s got jokes for days. Bought off Amazon sometime last year.

Anne Finger, Call Me Ahab (2009)

MAY

Jorge Volpi, In Search of Klingsor (1999, trans. Kristina Cordero): For all those who wish their literary Nazi spy thrillers came with crash courses in quantum mechanics and old German mythology. That is to say, for me. I want that. Bought from my favourite used bookstore in Vancouver, the tragically now-defunct Bibliophile, in ~2006.

David Berry and Josh J. Holinaty, We Hate This Place Here; It’s Our Home (Vol. 2) (2010): Two local guys’ graphic-novel tribute to an Edmonton populated by talking, alienated bison instead of people. I missed the first installment, but will definitely be back for number three. Bought from the Royal Bison Craft and Art Fair.

Sam Lipsyte, The Ask (2010)

José Saramago, In Search of the Unknown Island (1997, trans. Margaret Jull Costa): A lovely parable about two people who go off in search of an island that might not exist at all. Spend six grueling seasons with Lost or a sunny half-hour with a Nobel laureate—your call. Library.

Russell Wangersky, The Glass Harmonica (2010)

José Saramago, The Notebook (2010, trans. Amanda Hopkinson and Daniel Hahn)

Teddy Wayne, Kapitoil (2010)

Martin Amis, Einstein’s Monsters (1987): Five short stories and one polemical essay about how nuclear weapons are slowly sapping our humanity. Plus a character named Keithette! Bought from the Vancouver Public Library’s annual sale in 2006.

JUNE

Jorge Volpi, Season of Ash (2006, trans. Alfred Mac Adam)

Simon Rich, Elliot Allagash (2010)

Simon Rich, Ant Farm (2007): This was a re-read that happened almost by accident, while looking up a quote from “Sultan of Brunei” for the Elliot Allagash review.

Barbara Pym, No Fond Return of Love (1961): Frivolous and marriage-crazy, sure. But man, do I love a high-mannered British farce. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that continually burns a character by referring to her “sensible shoes.” Library.

Martin Amis, The Pregnant Widow (2010)

Nicholson Baker, Vox (1992): Bought and read in a single sitting—a sorely needed distraction from the book that appears just below. It’ll get you hot and/or bothered and/or more. Old Strathcona Books.

Mary-Beth Hughes, Double Happiness (2010)

David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010)

Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage (1993): I spent years of my youth trying to track down all 14 chapters of this thing in dusty churches and garage sales. Then, five minutes and five dollars on eBay later, boom.

Michael Chabon, The Final Solution (2004): See? I told you 2010 would be The Year I Finally Read Something By Michael Chabon. Novellas count. Bought from the remainder store on Jasper (which has since gone way out of business) in 2008.

JULY

Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird (1994): This is another (along with the King above) of those highly touted books about writing. I liked it quite a bit, but the actual writing advice is as shaky and contradictory as ever; stick to the technical memoir, and let us decide what to internalize. Library.

Kira Henehan, Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles (2010)

Katrina Best, Bird Eat Bird (2010)

Adam Ross, Mr. Peanut (2010)

Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970): My daughter is now old enough to be read chapter books before bed, which is good news indeed. This is where we started. Library.

Graham Greene, Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party (1980): This book basically exists for its final scene (the titular bomb party), but I don’t hold that against it. At least the build-up is pleasant and short. Bought, with some sleuthing, from a home-based online store in St. Albert for book club.

David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997)

Michael Lewis, The Big Short (2010)

AUGUST

Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado (2010)

Steve Hely, How I Became a Famous Novelist (2009)

Lorrie Moore, Self-Help (1985)

Pasha Malla, The Withdrawal Method (2008)

Electric Literature #3 (Winter 2010)

Roald Dahl, Esio Trot (1990): If only love were as simple as buying a hundred turtles and writing nonsense backwards magic spells for the woman you’re ogling from the upstairs balcony. Sigh. Read to my daughter on the couch one morning; it’s the same copy Katie’s parents read to her as a kid.

Emily Gould, And the Heart Says Whatever (2010)

SEPTEMBER

John Gould, Seven Good Reasons Not To Be Good (2010)

Ryan Knighton, C’mon Papa: Dispatches From a Dad in the Dark (2010)

Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (1938): Another classic kids’ book read as a bedtime story, chapter by chapter. Way less kooky than Dahl, and not nearly as eloquent as Charlotte’s Web. Plus I had to explain to Bridget why radio was considered such a big deal. Library.

José Saramago, The Elephant’s Journey (2008, trans. Margaret Jull Costa)

Richard Russo, Straight Man (1997)

Jean-Christophe Valtat, 03 (2005, trans. Mitzi Angel)

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web (1952): We read this one twice in September alone. Bought from Powell’s while on vacation.

Tom McCarthy, C (2010)

OCTOBER

Andrew O’Hagan, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe (2010)

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers (2008)

Tao Lin, Richard Yates (2010)

Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010)

Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach (1961): This one’s not bad, either. Library.

Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be? (2010) [Q&A with Heti]

Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel (1940, trans. Ruth L. C. Simms)

Andrej Blatnik, You Do Understand (2009, trans. Tamara M. Soban)

NOVEMBER

Vlado Žabot, The Succubus (2003, trans. Rawley Grau and Nikolai Jeffs)

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981)

Boris Pahor, Necropolis (1967, trans. Michael Biggins)

Amanda Cross, Death in a Tenured Position (1981)

Jonathan Lethem, This Shape We’re In (2001)

Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad (2005)

Jonathan Lethem, Men and Cartoons (2004)

Harry Karlinsky, The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857-1879) (2010)

Nicolas Dickner, Nikolski (2005, trans. Lazer Lederhendler)

DECEMBER

Nicolas Dickner, Apocalypse For Beginners (2009, trans. Lazer Lederhendler)

Mike Birbiglia, Sleepwalk With Me (2010)

Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, Marvel: Civil War (2006-7): This isn’t the one where everyone dies! What’s the one where everyone dies?

Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (2010)

Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn (Eds.), Yes Yes Y’all: The Experience Music Project’s Oral History of Hip-Hop’s First Decade (2002)

Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Khoi Pham, and John Romita Jr., Mighty Avengers, Secret Invasion (Book One) (2009): What a horrible way to collect comics together. Four measly issues, and not even a coherent picture of the storyline it’s a small part of. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

A.L. Kennedy, What Becomes (2009)

Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Yu, Secret Invasion (#1-8) (2008-9): Okay, this is pretty cool. Library.

Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, Avengers Disassembled (#500-503, Finale) (2004): Here we go—this is the one where everyone dies. (Hawkeye, anyway.) But can I be a crank for a minute and point out that none of these pencillers can draw a human being to save their life? They don’t draw faces; they draw costumes. Too dark. Too moody. No fun. Library.

François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34, trans. J.M. Cohen)

* * *

STATISTICS

Fiction: 67/91 (74%)

Non-fiction: 15/91 (16%)

Books in translation: 14/91 (15%)

Male authors: 66/91 (73%)

Female authors: 17/91 (19%)

Canadian authors: 15/91 (16%)

Most-read author: Jonathan Lethem; José Saramago (3 each)

Favourite book: Padgett Powell, The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?

Obvious, five-star classics: Gargantua and Pantagruel

PUBLICATION DATES

2010: 34

2000s: 31

1990s: 11

1980s: 5

1970s: 1

1960s: 4

1950s: 1

1940s: 1

1930s: 2

1500s: 1

Dec 29, 2010
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