Books acquired: “Reading Comics,” Douglas Wolk; “My Ideal Bookshelf,” Thessaly La Force, ed.; “Becoming Ray Bradbury,” Jonathan Eller; “My Bookstore,” Ronald Rice, ed.; “The Onion Book of Known Knowledge”; “Earth (The Book),” the Daily Show staff; “The Rock Snob’s Dictionary,” David Kamp and Steven Daly.
Books read: “Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!,” Sean Howe, ed.; “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,” Sean Howe; “Marvel Comics in the 1970s,” Pierre Comtois.
For December, having read 77 books the previous 11 months, I decided to take it easy and read three, for a nice round total of 80. I wanted to read a history of Marvel Comics that had just been published, and that reminded me that the author had edited a book of essays about comics, which I had received as a gift a year ago and hadn’t read. A third comics-related book had been on my shelves unread for a year. And, as Stan Lee might grandly have titled an issue of the Fantastic Four: “Lo, There Shall Come a Theme!”
“Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics”: Extra credit if you can cite the origin of the title. The writers in question include Jonathan Lethem, Glen David Gold, Aimee Bender and Gary Giddins. There’s some slumming, and some overreaching, but most of these essays convey the writers’ obsession with the comics in question, which is leavened with self-mockery before they plunge back in. Marvel gets more ink than DC, but a few oddball choices sneak in, and it’s refreshing to read real writing about comics.
“Marvel Comics: The Untold Story”: Based on the notes, Sean Howe did a tremendous amount of research, but it never overwhelms the narrative; instead, he pulls choice bits of information from far and wide as he compresses 75 years of Marvel history into 432 pages, striking a balance between artistic triumphs, office politics, business machinations and creative egos, and giving each decade its due. Even for a longtime fan, there are surprises, setbacks and plot twists galore.
“Marvel Comics in the 1970s: An Issue By Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon”: This valentine to notable Marvels of the 1970s ignores the mainstream titles to concentrate on the good, weird stuff: Master of Kung Fu, Conan, Killraven, Deathlok and the like. Comtois is too smitten with Barry Smith and glosses over Steve Englehart’s Captain America, but his taste is pretty good. The mini-essays get repetitive, and no one seems to have edited him. I liked it anyway.
My apologies, by the way, for the poor photo above; it was so cold, my camera (kept in my glove compartment) was fogged over, and I decided it wasn’t worth the time to try again another day.
So, 80 books for 2012. Not bad, and by far the most books I’ve read in a year since childhood. It’s probably downhill from here. For one thing, I stuck mostly to books under 200 pages, with a few exceptions. I have enough short books to do that again, but probably won’t. I’ll write more my year in reading in a column any day now, and will also list here all the books I read.
Currently I’m reading “On the Road.” What else will 2013 bring? I have so many unread books, years and years worth I’m afraid, that I’ve already changed my mind a few times in recent weeks about how I’d like to approach them this year: a lot of short books, or a few long books, or the books I’ve owned the longest, or all my science fiction, or the usual mix-and-match being among the options. Guess I’ll just start reading and see what happens.
What did you read in December, and how was your reading year? Do you have any reading goals for 2013?