Two-thousand and eleven gives us this neatly packaged dead week, the last of the year, a Sunday to Sunday, Christmas to New Year’s Day, during which time it seems next to nothing gets done while the things you never seemed able to do are finally accomplished: drawers are lined, the garage is organized but still the tide’s neither out nor coming in and the family wakes later than usual. We build a fire in the morning. We read. The kids play with their new toys, quietly, in corners, or join us under comforters on the couch, their feet freezing. Schedules are obliterated. I call friends I haven’t spoken to in ages. On the radio, television, and internet, everyone’s tallying: Best Books, Best Movies, Biggest Gaffes, Top Stories. The rabbit’s loose somewhere in the house. The Christmas tree is so dry it might spontaneously combust. Our dog, Henry, who we had to put down after 15 years of companionship, haunts our home. In the mornings, all of us sometimes wake to the sound of his high, dusty bark. We’ve reported this to each other individually, corroborated it. My wife speculates it’s because we haven’t buried him yet. We’ve put that off too.
Looking back, it was, more than anything else, a great reading year and, for what it’s worth, I thought I’d share my list, an addendum to the Year in Reading piece I wrote for The Millions (check out that series when you have the chance). I’ll begin with what will probably be the last book I’ll have finished this year, unless I’m somehow fortunate enough to get Alan Heathcock’s much-acclaimed Volt under my belt. That was James Salter’s Light Years, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It astonished and moved me more than any book has in quite some time and is inarguably a masterpiece. If you haven’t discovered Salter, put Light Years or A Sport and a Pastime at the very top of your list for 2012. You won’t be disappointed.
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (I read this twice)
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
The Letters of Saul Bellow edited by Benjamin Taylor
The Oregon Experiment by Keith Scribner
The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes
The Stories of John Cheever
The Journals of John Cheever
Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
On Being Blue by William Gass (a re-reading)
Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Dusk and Other Stories by James Salter
The Curfew by Jesse Ball
Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right by Dominic Sandbrook
What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President? by Kevin Mattson
End Zone by Don DeLillo (a re-reading)
Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley
Project X by Jim Shepard
Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
First Love by Ivan Turgenev (I don’t know, fifth or sixth time reading it)
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (it’s coming out this year and I blurbed it—a total ball)
A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris by Eric Blau
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov (maybe sixth time I’ve read it)
One resolution for 2012: Read more.
Enjoy these last days of 2011.