Sunday, December 25, 2011

Favorite Words and Tunes of 2011

All the cool kids are doing it so I will too. Here are my favorite books and albums from this year's reading and listening.


Conspiracy theories appeal to me for the same reason that NASCAR wrecks appeal to others - there's just something about the lengths to which some people will go to shape an event to fit their own ability to comprehend. JFK's assassination is one of those events around which a cult of conspiracy exists and I've read about a lot of them. This is why former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine's The Kennedy Detail appealed to me - it cleared the conspiratorial fog and set the record straight. (my review)

And then there was Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. I am so glad for having read it but still completely baffled by what the author meant. I just re-read my review of the book and realized just how full of shit I am. Fortunately, lack of understanding was never a barrier to enjoyment. (my review)

While recently listening to the audiobook production of Nelson DeMille's Cathedral I couldn't help but be reminded of how much I've read about church architecture this year. Of course, the standout is Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Follett created characters that were so real and so contemporary that upon completing the book I had to remind myself that Friar Philip died (fictionally) over 800 years ago. When will I invest the time on the sequel, World Without End? (my review)

Unquestionably, Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz was my favorite book of the year. Yes, I've got this thing for post-apocalyptic fiction but this is such a unique take on the subject that Canticle is something I imagine I'll be reading again and again. Mankind is portrayed as resilient which is great because we are tragically doomed to repeat our mistakes. (my review)


I really ought to do a better job of tracking my music or at least as good a job as tracking my books. I think part of the reason for the difference is that I listen to music virtually continuously while reading books is a bit more discrete and easier to track. The other difference is that I get a lot of my reading from the public library whereas I buy all my music (and because I'm cheap I don't buy as much by comparison).

Forever by the trio of Corea, Clarke, and White is excellent. These three founding members of fusion supergroup Return to Forever reunite for a 2 CD set with their takes on jazz standards and remakes of RTF tunes.

Steve Reich's WTC 9/11 is a masterful display of composition in which recorded voices from that fateful day are woven into Reich's signature minimalism. Solemn, not exploitative.

Saving the best for last, Winter Garden by Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie, and Eraldo Bernocchi is an absolutely magnificent ambient soundscape. Winter Garden would have been a perfect soundtrack to this past February's record snowfall in DFW when I was at home on vacation watching from the window of my home office as the flakes accumulated.

I was not compensated by anyone in anyway for these reviews.

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