Here is where I admit to being a total failure. I have read seven--count 'em, seven!---of the books on the NYTIMEs notable books for 2011. How ambitious, how naive I was to think that I could read even half the list.
I spent a couple of weeks reading Hillary Mantel's books on Thomas Cromwell because I was convinced that Bring Up the Bodies was on that list. Wrong year, of course; it was published in 2012.
I picked up so many books from that list and failed so many times to finish them. This was, of course, because there was a mistake made in the creation of the list. Many of these books did not count as "notable" at least in my, um, book, because I didn't find them worth the trouble of finishing. Take The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar. I love Hector Tobar. I loved his novel The Tattooed Soldier. I couldn't get through the first chapter of this one. And 11/22/63? Seriously? I loved Stephen King when I was, say twenty or so. I hadn't picked his books up in a long time, but since this made the list, I tried. You know what? It's the same Stephen King. He does what he does well. And he's already done it. A few years back he announced his retirement and made some statement about not cutting down any more trees to feed his habit, but it didn't take. He's still at it, and I didn't have it in me to get past the first 150 pages.
The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen was a lovely novel. Domestic drama, past tragic event, married couple and children lose their way and find it back. Sadly, I can barely recall a word of it, and had to get this much from rereading the book jacket and thumbing through the pages. It was good, though. Really.
A few of the books that I picked up and put down right away included The Tiger's Wife, Swamplandia, My New American Life and Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes. Just couldn't bear any of them. I'm sure it's me.
And then there's Susan Orleans's Rin Tin Tin. I heard Susan Orlean being interviewed about the book and I fell asleep.
What was I thinking when I started this? I really, really want to read Manning Marable's biography of Malcolm X, which made this and every other notable list last year. I've started it a few times now, and haven't made it past chapter two. What's the problem? It sits at my bedside, rebuking me. Then just this week I realized something key: I hate biographies. This is a little weird, since I adore autobiography and memoir and love nothing more than a personal essay. Biography puts me to sleep. I don't like them and never have. I think I will live with that fact for a while and decide if it needs adjustment.
I started 1493 because I do like history if it is well done and I liked 1491 very much, but I pooped out. Same thing with 1861. Good stuff, but apparently I lack the will and the attention right now.
And now, it is 2013. The list of notable books for 2012 is out and I'm already behind. I have a stack I've already finished (The Round House, Dear Life, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Bring up the Bodies, Arcadia-- all fantastic), a stack I've already rejected (Telegraph Avenue, anyone?) and another stack I'm planning on attacking soon. I will fail to make it through, and enjoy every minute of it.