Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nick's Picks, the 100 Most Notable Books of 2012 - 100, 99, 98

Lists, lists - everyone's on a list, compiling a list, reading a list.  So I've decided to crash that party.  Here is the first annual Nick's Picks for the Most Notable Books of the Year.

And just real quick - Most Notable does not only mean Best.  I might not give a fig about some of these books; they could be here because they made waves.  Others because I deem them worthy.  I'm not bashful - I'll let you know.

If you disagree - feel free to compile your own!

And - Nicks Picks will be fiction heavy because fiction's better than non.  Fiction.

Actually, I just read more fiction than non(fiction) so that's why there'll be more.  Fiction.

If I could cue up a drum roll, I would.  Lacking that, let's begin with--

#100:  Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James. Vintage.  $15.95

No book was bigger this year - or most years.  It's not listed because I like it.  It's terrible.  But leaving it off would've been stupid.  So here it is.

Still - if it's erotica you want, may I suggest Little Birds by Anaïs Nin?

#99:  The Patriarch:  The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, by David Nasaw.  The Penguin Press.  $40.

Was Joseph Kennedy the most interesting, the most intriguing of the Kennedy's - as Nasaw asserts?  No.  No, he wasn't.

#98:  Jack Gilbert:  Collected Poems.  Knopf.  $35.

Yes, you should.  Not because Mr. Gilbert died a few weeks ago, not because he raged against the dying of the light - but because he writes like this:


It waits. While I am walking through the pine trees
along the river, it is waiting. It has waited a long time.
In southern France, in Belgium, and even Alabama.
Now it waits in New England while I say grace over
almost everything: for a possum dead on someone’s lawn,
the single light on a levee while Northampton sleeps,
and because the lanes between houses in Greek hamlets
are exactly the width of a donkey loaded on each side
with barley. Loneliness is the mother’s milk of America.
The heart is a foreign country whose language none
of us is good at.Winter lingers on in the woods,
but already it looks discarded as the birds return
and sing carelessly; as though there never was the power
or size of December. For nine years in me it has waited.
My life is pleasant, as usual. My body is a blessing
and my spirit clear. But the waiting does not let up.

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