10. In Delirium's Circle, by Stephen J. Clark - as strange and mysterious as anything I read this past year, In Delirium's Circle still creeps into my thoughts, months after having finished it. In my mind, Heaven is the mystery while Hell is the mystery solved. With that in mind this book certainly represents a personal Heaven.
9. Portraits of Ruin, by Joe Pulver - nobody writes like Pulver. He challenges form and function. He pushes himself. He writes with a harsh grace that is impossible to emulate. His work is lyrical, poetic and powerful and so embossed with honest emotion I cannot help but wonder what Joe has left inside him after he's finished writing. He's a true genius.
8. The Defeat of Grief, by John Howard - much like Clark's novel, Howard's The Defeat of Grief is elegantly mysterious. It remained with me long after I'd read it. There is a certain 'timelessness' in the work - something Howard recreates well in Secret Europe - that adds both the elegance and the mystery to what is essentially a tale of love and loss.
5. The Non-Existent Knight, by Italo Calvino - Calvino came highly recommended by a certain author who strongly admires his work. Having read both The Cosmicomics and The Non-Existent Knight (among others) I can certainly see why this author recommended him. I can also see the influence Calvino has had on this author. Calvino is, as I like to say, a fearless writer. If he uses convention at all, it's because that convention serves a greater purpose.
4. Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut - Vonnegut has long been one of my favorite writers. He saw the world for what it was and never shied away from sharing his thoughts and opinions. Armed with sharp wit and mad wisdom Vonnegut wrote masterpieces like Mother Night to show us the truths he saw. Slaughterhouse Five, Mother Night - more than merely works of fiction, these are works of great and terrible truth that reveal more about the human race than any textbook.
2. Today I Wrote Nothing, by Daniil Kharms - I owe a debt of gratitude to the fellow who introduced me to Kharms (Thanks Rhys). When I read this book I felt a definite kinship with Kharms. Thus inspired I wrote numerous Kharms-style tales, three of which ("An Old Man", "An Unfinished Story", and "Nothing Happened") will be appearing in Sein und Werden this coming January. These stories were based on Kharms' Incidences. Kharms has had a huge influence on my writing recently.
Of the many books I read, there were any number I could (should) have slotted into the top ten. There were so many well crafted tales - stories and books that stood out because they rose above convention or because they held meaning. If my (completely subjective) list contained the top twenty books read in 2012 you would see names like John Barth and Donald Barthelme (whose Forty Stories certainly inspired my own 52 Short Stories), Roberto Bolano, Joyce Carol Oates, Brian Evenson and Simon Strantzas, Raymond Queneau, Robert W. Chambers, Frederick Rolfe and the brilliant Quentin S. Crisp.
In 2013 I intend to read less if only because I need to write more. That being said, there are several books I'm eager to sink my brain into. Anna Tambour's Crandolin, Brendan Connell's Lives of Notorious Cooks, and John Elliott's Human Pages for example. I've also picked up more Daniil Kharms and Georges Perec too.
But it's as a reader that I'd like to express my thanks to all the brilliant writers who made my 2012 reading experience an absolutely brilliant one!
Jason E. Rolfe
December 27, 2012