A Year of Sinister Reading (v. 2011)

Well it’s the final week of December 2011.  Time for a year in review of some sort.  Well why not go with the obvious A Year of Sinister Reading In Review.  It’s been a banner year of reading for The Sinister Mister E.   This year marks the first year I  set a reading goal for myself.  The year also brought heavy reading of an author I discovered late last year as well as a potential new author who rates in the upper echelons of Sinister Reading.  There was a new genre and a new podcast that also influenced my reading choices this year.

Late last year I was introduced to the writer Brian Keene.  The story DARK HALLOW enraptured me.  Not only was it a great story but reading it harkened me to the way I feel when I read Stephen King.  After being blown away by that book, I mentioned it to a great friend and fellow reader who immediately exclaimed his love for Keene.  Upon pursuing further books by the author I learned he was in the midst of battle with his then publisher and was in the process of changing publishers.  My loyalty to my new writer-crush was strong and I held out on reading further books by him until his new publisher started printing reissues early in 2011.  And read Brian Keene I did.  Of the 40 books I read this year, six of those were his.  The most by any single author this year.

Speaking of which, 2011 is also the first year I set a personal reading goal for myself.   Based upon my reading levels of years past I set a rather high bar for myself at 50 books.  On average I have read 30-35 book a year previous.  I figured if I made a mental note of a goal I might push my count higher.  And I did.  Just not to 50.  My final count of completed reads for 2011 is 40 books.  Not too shabby.  I really didn’t believe I could attain 50 book when I set the goal nor did I feel the goal was unattainable at the same time.  I may have pushed it to 42 or 43 tops.  Truth be told my late year tackling of THE PASSAGE really crippled my climb.  I am not disappointed however at 40 is the most books I have put away in any given year in my life.  Who can complain?

The year 2011 also brought with it new great reads, new great writers I discovered, new genres and an awesome new podcast that has led me down reading paths I would never have discovered otherwise.   On the recommendation of  a trusted friend and fellow reader I was introduced to A Lee Martinez who writes within the scope of Fantasy.  Though not an avid fantasy/sci-fi reading, Martinez wrote from a unique perspective in the genre with a seamless style that just fit like a glove.  Additionally I delved into the Bizarro genre when the aforementioned Brian Keene signed a new publishing deal with Deadite Press, an imprint of Eraserhead Press both of whom publish Bizarro fiction, the latter more so then the former.  Bizarro is a very unique and rising force in literature, be sure to read a Bizarro novel for yourself this year.

Of  note outside of the act of reading itself, is a great new podcast I discovered called BOOKED.  Not only are the hosts of BOOKED very well-informed and by and large entertaining, they also have a knack for sniffing out great reads in the dark corners of publishing.  I discovered BOOKED on the Stitcher app while looking for podcasts dealing with book reviews and/or reading in general.  BOOKED immediately  grabbed me by the collar and screamed LISTEN TO ME!  The podcast is very down to earth and small-scale but they commit to performing and reporting with the utmost professionalism.  This result is the perfect balance of professional quality reviews with sitting around BSing with your reader friends.  I got some GREAT recommendations for stuff I never would have read (including  what will be my first read of 2012 that could easily shape up to be the best read of the year off the bat).  They tend to read on their eReaders as well (Kindle being their weapon of choice) which really lends to the wide open nature of the material they review.  Even when they review material I don’t necessarily want to read I’m still enraptured by their podcasting charms.  If I can suggest nothing else to a reader this year, it is to download and listen to BOOKED podcast.

Honorable mention must also be given to GoodReads.  Until this year I had been keeping track of my reading history via VirtualBookShelf on Facebook and Shelfari.com  VirtualBookshelf was my main depository of my reading history but they closed up shop this year and recommended all their account to GoodReads which is by far a more superior resource then either VBS or Shelfari.  I now religiously keep my reading history as well as reviews of everything I read on GoodReads.  It’s the premier Social Reading app and I highly recommend everyone who reads to join and follow me and everyone else you know there.  It’s wonderfully compatible with Facebook as well so you can publish your activity at will on Facebook through GoodReads.

What I have noticed and have always noticed about my reading tendencies is that it is rare that I read a book that is published within its published year.  This year is no exception.  So the is not a year in review of books so much as a year in review of books I’ve read.  Any book worth its salt is best read when you get to it not as soon as possible.  So without further adieu here is The Top Ten Read of 2011 Sinister Style:

10.  ZEE BEE & BEE by David James Keaton:  This is a novella length story and was the first recommendation by BOOKED I read.  It’s a very unique Zombie story and at  $.99 worth all ninety-nine pennies and then some.  This will be available in print format soon.

9. MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs:  One of the few books published in 2011 that I read this year.  While I didn’t find it lived up to its hype than presentation was one of the most unusual formats I was presented with in a while.  Given the scope and restraints the material put on the story, the result was nothing short of impressive.   Read it because you are not likely to gaze at anything like it anytime soon.

8. SEX ON THE MOON by Ben Mezrich:  Given my penchant for non-fiction of late, this is the only non-fiction work to make the top 10 this year.  Nonetheless it’s a riveting account of a notorious Moon Rock heist that flew largely under the consciousness of the public.  Until now.  Not only a true crime story but one that makes you question if the act (or the perp) was really criminal or not.

7. THE AVERAGE AMERICAN MALE by Chad Kultgen:  I picked up this gem as part of a $.99 eBook sale in the summer.  What a find.  THE AVERAGE AMERICAN MALE presents a very chauvinistic male point of view that may actually make you question the valor of the point of view even if you might be a militant feminist.  A great piece of writing for its simplicity AND its complexity.

6. DIVINE INTERVENTION by A Lee Martinez:  There is no substitute for a great reading recommendation.  DIVINE INTERVENTION was the premier recommendation for me this year.  Not only did I discover a great book but also a great writer and a new appreciation for the fantasy genre.  Look for A Lee Martinez to content with Brian Keene for most read in 2012.

5. TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME by Brian Keene:  Speaking of Brian Keene, I read six of his book this year.  It was very tempting not to place each and every one of them on this list.  I showed restraint however and placed the creme de la creme of what I read by him this year by him.  TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME is horror the way it needs to be, just pure.  This the story of The Rapture as only the twisted head of Keene could tell it.  Couple that with the Rapture hysterics set off by some crazy cult leader advertising on billboards early this year and it’s not hard to see how this book rates high in 2011.  Read Keene Bitches!

4. THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy:  This book was eerie.  This book was vivid.  This book was real, too real.  THE ROAD is a post apocalyptic tale of a father and son making their way simply trying to stay alive.  As if a nuclear holocaust isn’t bad enough, McCarthy reminds you that hell doesn’t truly begin until after you survive the bombs.

3. A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson:  I discussed Books For Guys Who Like Books in a reading forum and Bill Bryson’s books came up often.  Based on that I read A WALK IN THE WOODS and was transformed.  The story of a journey on the Appalachian Trail by a man you would never expect to make that journey.  Bryson brings you so vividly and realistically on his journey that there is no need to make the journey yourself yet he will make you desire to do a snippet of it just to understand a piece of his trials on your own.  A journey I had never considered taking until I read this book and now it haunts me.

2. COWS by Matthew Stokoe:  I stumbled upon this book as it was about to be reissued as an eBook.  Touted as a cult favorite and a book that would test the very limits of your ability to be offended I eagerly picked it up.  The synopsis and reviews were not hyperbole.  This book is EASILY the most vile, contorted and extroverted thing I’ve ever read.  In the end I can’t say I was offended but if anything was truly going to test me on that, it was COWS.  Read it only if you have the cojones!

1. WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks:  This is just one of those one-in-a-lifetime stories that defines a genre or topic.  In this case Zombies.  I suspect that one hundred 

years from now World War Z will be studied as Dracula or Frankenstein is reviews and revered today.  This is a benchmark story by which all other zombie tales will be measured before or after.  A modern-day classic.  What higher praise can be declared?

So that’s the Sinister List for 2011.  Admittedly it may not be the BEST but without question the most notable stories I’ve read for 2011.  Like any good list it should spark strong agreement and stronger debate.  Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.

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