Here are some books I read this year so as to avoid reading something else. Say, Donald Rumsfeld's memoirs.
Dow, David R. The Autobiography of an Execution. Remember when I read John Grisham's The Confession and made the assumption that this book would have been more worthwhile? I was right. David R. Dow is a Houston-based lawyer who represents people on death-row, which, as one can imagine, keeps him pretty busy. This is the account of a man Dow represented who was falsely found guilty of the murder of his young family and Dow's efforts to exonerate him. This being Texas we're talking about, he fails. And while this is a damn interesting story, I think Dow's is one of the most intriguing voices I've seen since, say, Albert Camus' L'etranger. And before you accuse me of being flip, let's not forget that Camus was also a staunch advocate for the abolition of execution.
Maupassant, Guy de. Huit contes choisis. This is one of those little books we all have lying around that look unappetizing, but which we read anyway out of guilt, thinking "Why buy a new book when I haven't actually read this one?" Let me define unappetizing. Although in the original French, this is actually an American school book published in 1900 by D.C. Heath and Company, and full of notes and vocabulary to aide while simultaneously turning off the reader from wanting to keep going. Good thing there are only eight stories, including some of Maupassant's best. We all know the story of "La parure," about an Emma Bovary-type who loses a borrowed necklace. Hilarity ensues.
Eliot, George. Silas Marner. I believe that George Eliot is like pizza. Even when she's not good, she's still pretty good. Some people would beg to differ. For example, Dad claims to have used Middlemarch as a sleeping drug in law school. Blasphemy! I say. Anyway, Silas Marner is a simple country tale of greed and honor and child-rearing, and I only recommend it to the other Eliot suckers who also liken her to pizza.
McEwan, Ian. Atonement. I know. I know. I'm behind the times. Reading Atonement was in vogue in, like, 2005, and it's already 2011! But I did it anyway. A good yarn. Would it be humiliating to admit that I was a lot like Briony Tallis when I was a lass, except without the authorial talent? And how does McEwan write little girls so well? Are we really so transparent?
Achebe, Chinua. The Education of a British-Protected Child. This was a Christmas gift that I read without having actually read anything else by Achebe. Probably not a good idea. It's been a year since I finished it, but I do remember that, it being a compilation of previously published essays and speeches, there is quite a bit of repetition that I imagine a more masterful editor could have sorted out.
Parker, Dorothy. The Portable Dorothy Parker. I think I've written enough about this one.