Recommendations from 2011

Happy New Year! Alright, 2011 is gone, and I wanted to share some of the books and things I discovered throughout it that got me excited.

For me, this was a good year for books. Among the new ones, I enjoyed “The Tragedy of Arthur”, by Arthur Phillips, which presents itself as a newly discovered Shakespeare tragedy, with a long introduction in which Phillips tries to convince the reader that the play that follows is not actually Shakespeare’s, but a forgery made by his father. Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One” is a good zombie novel—like in most zombie stories, the real villain is ourselves, though in this case it’s specifically the bullshitty, bureaucratic, superficial patterns we’ve grown so fond of. Patrick DeWitt’s “The Sisters Brothers” is fun and engaging: a Western that’s both literary and pulpy at the same time.  I also finished (and loved completely) Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”, a novel that explained my own mind and soul to myself like no other book has, and in a way I did not believe was possible.

I also found several great books in Spanish. César Aira’s “Cómo me hice monja” and “Las curas milagrosas del Doctor Aira” are whimsical gems. Enrique Vila-Matas’ “Una casa para siempre” is a fascinating crime and guilt novella in which neither the crime nor the guilt are mentioned nor alluded to in the text whatsoever. On the other extreme, the confessions of the repugnant philosophy professor gone bad in Guillermo Fadanelli’s “Lodo” are told with a dirty, captivating voice, and they are a great read too.

As a new father, it was pretty hard to keep track of new movies in 2011. Val and I watched lots of older stuff though—among them, I liked Broken Flowers and Persona a lot. We’re currently caught up with Breaking Bad, a great TV show about a chemistry professor that is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and becomes a crystal meth manufacturer to leave money to his family. And if it was hard to keep track of new movies, it was practically impossible to try out new boardgames. I’m still playing a lot of Go, though, and I enjoy it even more as I peel out more of its layers.

I’ve been growing tired of most of the webcomics I usually read, but Zach Weiner’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is still frequently brilliant, and Nicholas Gurewitch’s Perry Bible Fellowship is again updated, now and then, with some great strips (Gurewitch’s collection of strips, “The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack”, is wonderful too).

For my computer, I used and liked f5 for transcribing interviews. Backblaze works great for backups; I don’t even need to think about it anymore. On my phone, after Scott Leslie‘s pointer, I’ve lately been using buddhify to help myself learn to meditate, and I’m really enjoying it.

That’s it, I think. Let me know if there’s something you found that I might enjoy, too!

10 thoughts on “Recommendations from 2011

    • I feel inadequate recommending music—behind the times—but this year I discovered and listened a lot: Noah & the Whale’s “Five Years Time” and Herman Düne’s “I Wish that I Could See You Soon” (thanks to Holland), the Duhk’s cover of “Mighty Storm” (thanks to Greg), and Elmer’s cover of “The Gambler” (thanks to This American Life).

  1. I am assuming you read a translation of “In Search of Lost Time.” Which one? Also, I am currently reading “Catch-22” which you probably already read. I can’t stop laughing. If you haven’t read it, I think you should.

  2. Pingback: Recommendations from 2012 « Jorge Aranda's website

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