GQ's Punch List: The Year in Reading 2011
GQ's end of the year issue is packed with a lot of cool things including a list of their Book of the Year Club, where they round up their favorite books of 2011, then ask the authors to provide their own favorite book published this year.
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Donal Day Pollock
Devil All the Time: Flannery O'Connor's brutal Wise Blood looks like Sense and Sensibility next to this finely woven, throat-stomping Appalachian crime story.
From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet by Patrick Michael Finn. "Making blue-collar people come alive in a way they probably haven't felt since everything went to hell for the working class."
By Harbach: About the love of baseball, and plain old love. GQ described Harbach's writing as displaying a "tender egoless virtuosity."
Harbach's pick: Fire Season by Philip Connors. "Connors reinvigorates the concept of nature writing. It's poetic and quietly angry at what we're doing to our world, without the sentimental bullshit."
Stories I Only Tell My Friends: Funny and perceptive and contains zero celebrity bathos. And he's really handsome. Bastard.
Seal Team Six: Memoires of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin. "They're even more herois after Bin laden's removal and the team's terrible losses months later."
Devil All the Time: A narrator who roams New York's polyglot streets meeting all kinds of strangers and pondering everything from bedbugs to genocide.
One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binavanga Wainaina. "Glimmering, strobe-lit language and for revealing a complex, cosmopolitan African experience too rarely depicted in books."
Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories: An extremely raw collection of murderous short stories set in a meth-addled rural wasteland.
By Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock. "Carves characters from the grains of the earth. Alan is the next Cormac McCarthy."
The Tiger's Wife: Obreht was only 7 when she left what is now Servia, but you'd never know it from her brilliant, almost fable-ish debut novel, set in war-torn 90's Belgrade.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. "Russel's world-forging gift establishes her as the gatekeeper of the boundary between the incredible and the shockingly real. I would follow her voice into a cesspool."
The Marriage Plot: A gently self-referential take on the question of whether the love novel still works in a postmodern world.
The Empty Family by Colm Toibin. "Utterly captivating, unfussy, and perfectly modulated" short stories about the fragility of relationships, lovers and otherwise.
The Leftovers: Imagine The Stand if Stephen King drank martinis and lived in the burbs- it's that un-put-down-able.
Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman. "L. Ron Hubbard's rise and descent into paranoia is almost too good (and creepy) to be true."
The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe: The dangerous legwork of reporting on an 87 year old dictator's tyrannical regime. A riveting read.
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens. "I was expecting it to be pugnacious, opinionated, and funny, all of which it is. I wasn't expecting, in the personal parts, to be profoundly moved."
Blood, Bones, & Butter: Her memoir, which could be the genre's ideal specimen: balanced flavors; simple, honest ingredient; and just the right touch of bitterness and fire.
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham. "He's the patient, meticulous chronicler of the minute-by-minute internal monologue of simply being alive."
John Jeremiah Sullivan
Pulphead: Essays: These essays have enviable range, from Christian rock in the Ozarks to Real World alumni in North Carolina, all of it filtered through Sullivan's sparky prose and expert nose for stories.
House of Prayer No. 2 by Mark Richards. "His childhod was weird, and not in a quirky 'You should write a book!' way. I used to admire [Richards] for righting the urge to write a memoir. Now that he'd done it, and it's unforgettable, I admire him more."