I’m horrible about reading, by which I mean that I read about .000001% of the number of books I’d like to. And I can’t really blame it on my work schedule. My friend Melissa de la Cruz, who literally pumps out something like 10 books a year (not to mention, recently, a baby, and, um, milk) is a treasure trove of knowledge on current books. Ask her what she’s reading and she’ll mention three recently released titles before giving brief summaries of the 12 she read last month.
All of this is, I guess, the preamble to the statement that I can’t name my favorite book of 2006. I’m at about 2004, books-wise, and the idea of actually having read everything I want so that I can actually peruse a new — or semi-new — release is nearly unfathomable.
Which is, I guess, the preamble to the statement that I’m going to instead tell you about the books I read in 2006 that surprised me the most.
Portnoy’s Complaint (Philip Roth) — Okay, I was late on this one (by something like 30 years) but having only been exposed to tortured, angsty Roth, I just loved how hilarious — not to mention semi-plotless — this was. And the insight into male sexuality? Fascinating — and a bit scary.
The Game (Neil Strauss) — I expected it to be the nerdy guys equivalent of The Rules and instead discovered a poignant coming-of-age story of a guy who realizes that having what every formerly lovelorn man supposedly wants — a slew of beautiful women at his disposal — doesn’t compare to having one who really matters. (Call me a sap, I don’t care.)
Wake Up, Sir! (Jonathan Ames) — I had been scared of Ames, a guy who I’d heard wrote obsessively about going bald, his affairs with transsexuals and a friend who was famous for having a “Mangina.” But I have to say that while many books about alcoholism and addiction are amusing — Permanent Midnight and Rachel’s Holiday both make me laugh out loud at times and I don’t LOL (that might, in fact, be the first time I actually wrote it) — there simply isn’t as side-splittingly hilarious a story about a drunk as this one.
I realize there are no women on my list, but honestly, I’ve always gravitated toward male writers. In college, I went around calling Catcher in the Rye and Clockwork Orange my favorite books and wrote all my short stories from a male perspective. But I swear that if I catch up on my reading to the point where I’m actually reading books released in the year we’re in, I’ll manage to work some more ladies in there.