All the Books I Read in 2012

By Blake Butler

I hate end-of-the-year best-of lists. They are short-sighted and usually hive-mindish. They feel counter-productive or something, like they are trying to trick you. Instead, here’s a list of everything I read this year, 135 books, in order. This doesn’t include chapbooks or magazines or online things, not to mention the ridiculous piles of new stuff by excellent people stacked inside my house. Of these, I have highlighted the ones I remember most (which turned out for the most part to be stuff that came out way before 2012, but years are stupid so you should still consider them as part of now). Usually, though, I feel I have a pretty good filter for knowing what I’ll enjoy before I pick it up, and if I don’t like something I stop reading it like I did with Jonathan Lethem’s awful Fear of Music. So, other than that one, the books below might be worth you looking into in 2013.

One DOA, One on the Way by Mary Robison

Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot

Sister Stop Breathing by Chiara Barzini



Autoportrait by Édouard Levé: A sublime list of personal projections—“I find myself uglier in profile than straight on,” and “Art that unfolds over time gives me less pleasure than art that stops it”—by a guy who would later kill himself. Feels kind of like reading text carved on a tall dark marble wall. I don’t think anyone could write this book in this way now that the internet exists, and that makes it a little hole in the air.

These Dreams of You by Steve Erickson

Vicky Swanky is a Beauty by Diane Williams

HHhH by Laurent Binet

Impressions of Africa by Raymond Roussel

Helsinki by Peter Richards

The Secret of Evil by Roberto Bolaño

Vertigo by W.G. Sebald

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound by Jeff Alessandrelli

Transfer Fat by Aase Berg (x2)

The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago

To Hell With Sleep by Anselm Berrigan

Where Art Belongs by Chris Kraus



The Journalist by Harry Mathews: An insane practice in journal writing where the titular journalist gets more and more obsessive and specific about recording everything that happens to him daily while also trying to classify all the information more and more ornately. I loved how it mixed uncontrollable thought with objective everyday behaviors more and more intensely until the novel itself seemed to be collapsing on itself, without making the reader feel like collapsing. Easily my favorite Mathews, and one of the most satisfying books I’ve read from the Ouilipo.   



Triptych by Claude Simon: This book kind of works like a text-film spliced from three different tapes, switching back and forth without letting you know when and building these fucked up image-graphs that keep spooling into darkness. Kind of like Burroughs but French and somehow more flat and eerie architecture.

Skin Horse by Olivia Cronk

The Other Poems by Paul Legault

A Map Predetermined and Chance by Laura Wetherington

Crunk Juice by Steve Roggenbuck

No, Not Today by Jordan Stempleman

Party Knife by Dan Magers

My Life in CIA by Harry Mathews

Life Is With People by Atticus Lish

The No Hellos Diet by Sam Pink

Percussion Grenade by Joyelle McSweeney

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

Meat Heart by Melissa Broder

Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith by Joanna Ruocco

Divorcer by Gary Lutz

Xorandor by Christine Brooks-Rose

The Malady of the Century by Jon Leon

Cunt-Ups by Dodie Bellamy

On the Tracks of Wild Game by Tomaž Šalamun

Antigonick by Anne Carson

Magic Hours by Tom Bissell

Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins

Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake by Heidi Lynn Staples

This Bright River by Patrick Somerville

Windeye by Brian Evenson (reread): I always look forward to new Brian Evenson and this is one of his best. He writes mental terror better than pretty much anyone, full of bizarre structures and thought-labyrinths like Deleuze cooked into Hitchcock. I like how he makes a story collection feel like a novel, in a hypnotizing kind of way.

Duties of an English Foreign Secretary by Macgregor Card

Inverted World by Christopher Priest

The World Will Deny It For You by Janaka Stucky

Short Talks by Anne Carson

Immobility by Brian Evenson

I am a Very Productive Entrepreneur by Mathias Svalina

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

Drought by Debra diBlasi

How I Became a Nun by César Aira

Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen

The Recognitions by William Gaddis: I’d had this on the floor beside my bed for several years now trying to will myself to finally get around to reading it and I finally did. Probably one of the best reading experiences for me in a long time; felt inspired by the breadth and scope of each paragraph in a way I’d almost forgotten. Felt rich and lyrical while also modern and immediate despite the fact that so little seems to physically happen. A rare book deserving of its stature.

Butcher’s Tree by Feng Sun Chen

Independence by Pierre Guyotat

Mankind by Jon Leon

Open City by Teju Cole

J R by William Gaddis: Much more streamlined than The Recognitions, built mostly out of dialogue that feels unhinged from the beautiful weird little paragraphs that build its backbone. Really feel like Gaddis was angry at the novel and at people so he made this insane thing that kind of just keeps spinning and shitting but that is so singular in how it does that; I can’t think of any other book that works the way this seems to.

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

The Spokes by Miranda Mellis

Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

A Million Bears by Spencer Madsen

Reader’s Block by David Markson (reread)

Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem (half)

So We Have Been Given Time Or by Sawako Nakayasu

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Água Viva by Clarice Lispector

It by Inger Christensen

Big Ray by Michael Kimball

Event by Philippe Sollers

All the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Kim Hyesoon

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville: Another one I’d been meaning to read forever and finally did and enjoyed it way more than I imagined. The book seems to get a bad rap in that people always talk about how there are all these long extra parts about nothing but I felt the book was really economical and smart in how it circled its subjects and invoked colors and mechanisms instead of just showing scene after scene. It’s also frequently hilarious and approaches death in surprising ways. Melville was real as fuck to have written this beast in the mid-19th century.

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Slow Slidings by M Kitchell

How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

Double or Nothing by Raymond Federman

Replacement by Tor Ulven

Blood on the Dining-Room Floor by Gertrude Stein

History or Messages from History by Gertrude Stein

How Music Works by David Byrne

The Alphabet Man by Richard Grossman

Soulacoaster by R. Kelly

It Then by Danielle Collobert

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

With the Animals by Noëlle Revaz: A fucked up invented form of speaking here, somewhat like brain damaged French ghetto-redneck. The way the narrator speaks is so enchanting in its way that it almost doesn’t matter what happens but the story of a farmer and his suspicion of a new farmhand he hires who seems to be infatuated with his creepy wife is alive with paranoia and anger and weird Beckett-y farm scenes. The shit.

Pure Filth by Jamie Gillis and Peter Sotos

Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max

Strange Landscape by Tony Duvert: Finally got to read this after finding it listed on Dennis Cooper’s 100 favorite novels, despite it being long out of print and pricey (I forgot about libraries!). Weird chopping paragraphs in the nouveau roman style juxtaposing constant strange scenes of boys in captivity doing messed up sex acts for money. A good pairing from Grove with Simon’s Triptych above.

Thunderbird by Dorothea Lasky

Fra Keeler by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

In Time’s Rift by Ernst Meister

Project for a Revolution in New York by Alain Robbe-Grillet: Beautiful reissue of one of R-G’s flat-glassy sex-architecture apparatuses; imagist and chopped-up while objectively descriptive, like wandering around a mostly evacuated city peeking in on shit you weren’t supposed to see.

Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal by Lydia Salvayre

Action, Figure by Frank Hinton

The Map of the System of Human Knowledge by James Tadd Adcox

Three Poems by John Ashbery

Donogoo Tonka, or The Miracles of Science by Jules Romains

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector

City: An Essay by Brian Lennon

Selected Poems by Mary Ruefle

Carnival by Jason Bredle

Normance by Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Pretty much just one 450-page scene set during an air-bombing of France by the Nazis, written in Céline’s trademark angry and immersive prose. It’s incredible in how it draws you through the minute-to-minute with a bizarre intensity that never flags, and goes pretty much anti-sentimental despite the mass carnage; the narrator spares no would-be war victims, pretty much insisting that they are stupid human shit and deserve to die. It’s funnier than it sounds, and weirdly immersive in a rare way.

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector

The Book of Interfering Bodies by Daniel Borzutzky

The Museum of Eterna’s Novel by Macedonio Fernández

Conversations with Professor Y by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Mahu, Or, The Material by Robert Pinget

The Source by Noah Eli Gordon

Mad Science in Imperial City by Shanxing Wang

Promising Young Women by Suzanne Scanlon

Selected Poems: 1951-1977 by A.R. Ammons

Nervous Device by Catherine Wagner

The Bitter Half by Toby Olson

If You Won’t Read, Then Why Should I Write? by Jarrett Kobek

Cure All by Kim Parko

Thinking About Magritte by Kate Sterns

The Memoirs of Jonbenet by Kathy Acker by Michael Du Plessis

Balloon Pop Outlaw Black by Patricia Lockwood

Connecting Bodies by Claude Simon

Light Without Heat by Matthew Kirkpatrick

The Obscene Bird Of Night by José Donoso

Tomorrow In The Battle Think On Me by Javier Marías

Quinnehtukqut by Joshua Harmon

I Love Artists by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut by Takashi Hiraide

The Quantum Manual of Style by Brian Mihok

Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño

Bad Boats by Laura Jensen

Propagation by Laura Elrick

Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace

The Siege in the Room by Miquel Bauçà

I am My Own Betrayal by Guillaume Morissette

Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino: I avoided reading this one for a long time too and now I’m ending the year with it. It’s a hilarious and ridiculous catalog of styles and ideas and satires of itself, with so much stuffed into the place it seems to change every time you think you know what it’s up to. Going into 2013 I’m going to pretend like this book just came out.

Previously by Blake Butler - Verbal Paintings of Cartoon Dogs Sexting

@blakebutler

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