62 Books

  1. Sinclair Lewis, The Trail of the Hawk (1914)tree_of_knowledge_BW
  2. Sinclair Lewis, Main Street, (1920)
  3. Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1865)
  4. Sinclair Lewis, The Job (1915)
  5. Will Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art (1985)
  6. John Berger, About Looking (1990)
  7. Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935)
  8. Sinclair Lewis, The Innocents (1917)
  9. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
  10. Sinclair Lewis, Free Air (1919)
  11. Margot Livesy, Eva Moves the Furniture (2001)
  12. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
  13. Walter Crane, Line and Form (1900)
  14. Ralph Adams Cram, Toward the Great Peace (1922)
  15. Ken Ilgunas, Walden on Wheels (2013)
  16. Mike Mignola, The Amazing Screw-On Head (2010)
  17. Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy (1992)
  18. Carol Armstrong, Cezanne in the Studio (2004)
  19. Ramiel Nagel, Cure Tooth Decay (2011)
  20. Richard Thomson, Edgard Degas: Waiting (1995)
  21. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1839)
  22. Frederick Buechner, Brendan (1987)
  23. Michel Daguet, Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer (2004)
  24. Barry Unsworth, Morality Play (1995)
  25. Elizabeth Cropper, Pontormo: Portrait of a Halberdier (1997)
  26. Arthur Wesley Dow, Composition (1914)
  27. Masterpieces of the Getty, Illuminated Manuscripts (1997)
  28. Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickelby (1839)
  29. Edmund Sullivan, Line: An Art Study (1922)
  30. Goldner and L. Hendrix, European Drawings 2 (1992)
  31. Bruce Perry, Fitness for Geeks (2012)
  32. M-M Gauthier and G. Francois, Medieval Enamels (1981)
  33. Patricia Anderson, Images of Charity, Conflict and Kingship (1981)
  34. Kristen Kimball, The Dirty Life (2010)
  35. Elizabeth Teviotdale, The Stammheim Missal (2001)
  36. Manga Study Society, How to Draw Manga, Vol. 3 (2000)
  37. J. Holmes, Notes on the Science of Picture-Making (1920)
  38. Charles Maginnis, Pen Drawing: An Illustrated Treatise (1903)
  39. John Crowley, Little, Big (1981)
  40. Andrew Loomis, The Eye of the Painter (1961)
  41. Paul Graham, Hackers and Painters (2004)
  42. Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half (2013)
  43. Arthur Guptill, Why Architects Still Draw (2014)
  44. Paolo Belardi, Lectures on the Science of Human Life (1849)
  45. John Caspar Lavatar, Aphorisms on Man (1724)
  46. Veronika Sekules, Medieval Art (2001)
  47. JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998)
  48. JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999)
  49. Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1993)
  50. R. Poore, Pictorial Composition (1903)
  51. Rudyard Kipling, Stalky & Co. (1899)
  52. JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)
  53. Henry James, Picture and Text (1893)
  54. Henry James, Washington Square (1880)
  55. James Hillman, The Soul’s Code (1996)
  56. Jay McInnerny, A Hedonist in the Cellar (2006)
  57. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential (2000)
  58. MFK Fisher, Musings on Wine and Other Libations (2012)
  59. Kenneth Patchen, But Even So (1968)
  60. Theodule Ribot, Essay of the Creative Imagination (1906)
  61. MFK Fisher, A Cordiall Water (1961)
  62. Auberon Waugh, Will This Do? (1991)

Behold the prodigious reading of the past year… A few of these books I’ve written about already and I’m sure a few themes are obvious….drawing instruction books from the early 1900s… comics… art historical books (long ago college major)…six novels by Sinclair Lewis, five by Dickens…dabbled a bit more with Henry James (his novel What Maisie Knew, 1897, I read last year; it was a favorite)… and toward the end of the year, books on cooking and wine.

Little, Big was a book that came to me as a recommendation. The first part was some of the most pleasurable fiction I’ve ever read, fantastically imaginative in the way the first 200 pages of Helprin’s Winter’s Tale was; the middle painful, poignant, but perfect in its breath-stopping way; but the end was such a disappointment that I can’t in good faith recommend it. When it was right, it was as inevitably perfect as an elegant mathematical equation, but its failures felt like failures of vision, perhaps a desire in Crowley to make an end to the gigantic task he’d set out upon. Yet I will re-read it one day, hoping that the magic at the start is not tainted by my knowledge of the unconvincing end.

My choices were varied this year, drifting back as far as the 18th century and as contemporary as 2013’s Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas and Allie Brosh’s very funny comics on depression Hyperbole and a Half. I truly, deeply loved the Ilgunas book, which would be no surprise to those who know me, fondly I hope, as a bit of a tightwad. Ilgunas was buying freedom with his frugality and so am I. A great read about a very determined (and smart) young man. Brosh is best when she writes about dogs; she also draws them exceptionally well, not so much in a da Vinci sort of way, but more that her pictures capture the souls of dogs. Her style can be pretty goofy, but effective just the same.The other smart man I was excited to discover was  Paul Graham. His essays are profoundly insightful: he has a way of finding a new perspective on controversial ideas and curious phenomena, leading you through his thought process in his lucidly constructed arguments. God, I love smart people! I now read everything he writes as soon as it’s posted.

The “bests” though were the early Sinclair Lewis novels, Trail of the Hawk being the favorite of the ones I read this year (Our Mr Wrenn, another favorite, I read late last year.) There’s something about the sense of life you find in the writing in the early 19th century that I can’t get enough of. It’s a picture of youth and optimism, of chasing dreams and holding onto ideals, and when it’s important, going your own way. Maybe it’s the belief in progress and limitless horizons, a conviction in the goodness of living, that seems so utterly alien to the world we live in now. Reading these books is a refreshing, hip-pocket vacation. But it was apparently no easier for these writers to hold to these values than it is for the rest of us. Past 1920, it’s gone from Lewis: I found Main Street a depressing inversion of his previous values, though oddly, for a dystopian-future novel, It Can’t Happen Here was not so bad. Same goes for James Branch Cabell, another favorite writer, but it took a bit longer for cynicism to overrun his work. I feel I have an essay in me about the writers of this period, but I’m not done ruminating on it yet. Meantime, these books will be part of my regular, re-reading rotation.

Reading is a real adventure for me. I don’t travel much or do much that’s daring, except in my head. I never know where I’ll end up when I start reading or even what sort of thing will appeal, and while I do try to complete certain programs of study, half the joy is the serendipity of finding a kindred spirit in the pages of the book. Some of the best people I’ve known live in them….and always will.

 

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