cluttering the net since 2001

i love me some tod goldberg listage

Monday, Dec. 20, 2004

Every year that ends brings much to anticipate.The new year, the ending of perhaps some things that you would love to close the book on.It’s a chance to look back, look forward, and to realize that there’s always a clean slate if you view each new day, hour, minute this way.But with the ending of each year there are certain things that I personally look forward to.Of these things, the top 100 songs of all time on VHI is not on my list.However, in the last 4 years I have come to look forward to Tod Goldbergs top 10 books of the year.I cruise thru his lists and check out his recommendations and plan my purchasing and well lets just say it’s better than getting a new magazine in the mail, hell its just one of those moments whenever all is right with the world and you realize another year has ended.Sometimes he has books listed that I own and haven’t read, or books that I have read and can whole heartedly agree.But mostly it is the list itself that I adore.I’m a list person myself and have made lists of books I have read, want to read, want to buy etc.Hell if you’ve ever seen my wish list on amazon (16 pgs long!!!) you’ll know that books, buying them, reading them, investigating them, it’s my biggest passion following my son, my white knuckling of the headboard with the man, and my dog Chloe, yes books fall 4th in line but the list is squished together trust me.There’s barely room for an inhale between my listed items.I have told Tod that I would willingly pay for his list, that I dream of a day when I can be on the pre-ordered mailing list and just receive his top ten books in the mail at the appropriate time.That would be blissful.Perhaps one day.You must realize that I carry his list with me all year.At the end of the year the books I haven’t managed to buy yet sorta get bumped down the list for the new books on the new list.What’s doubly great about his lists are the fact that I can usually find his listed books used, or via ebay.It’s like the search begins the day I get the list.Then I usually go back to the old lists and see how progess has come along with them.I have to say that for some odd reason Tod has a track record for picking well known novels early.Sure sometimes books on his list never become best sellers, but I have yet to read a listed book and say to myself “what the hell was that on that list for..it sucks chicken droppings!!”So without further adieu for those of you who are not so lucky to be on his mailing list and for those of you reading that still are not sold on his list making ability…I give you…the list for 2004 and every other year I have in descending order.I’m going to have to start to have “my very own” list to distribute.But trust me when I say, I don’t think there will ever again be a year in my life that ends feeling complete without the Goldberg Golden List.(my name for it..not his..) For those of you who might be interested you can read his other cool lists here




1. You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon. One of America's finest short story writers is now also one of our most cherished novelists. A powerful, challenging book.

2. Cottonwood by Scott Phillips. A western. A mystery. A gothic horror story. A tour de force by not just the finest crime writer around, but one of the most diverse chroniclers of the human condition I've ever read.

3. Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard. Leonard is as nimble and energetic as he has ever been and Mr. Paradise is one of his finest books, period.

4. And the Dead Shall Rise by Steve Oney. It actually came out in October 2003, but anyone who says they finished this exhaustive 750-page account of the murder of Mary Phagan and the lynching of Leo Frank before the dawn of 2004 lied. Quite simply the best true-crime account ever. Ever.

5. Every Night Is Ladies' Night by Michael Jaime-Becerra. This excellent debut collection of short stories heralds a fantastic new voice capable of making even the most mundane landscape, in this case El Monte, Calif., as vibrant and alive as Paris.

6. Don't Try This At Home by Dave Navarro & Neil Strauss. Not great literature necessarily, but a fascinating insight into what makes Navarro tick, or, perhaps, twitch. (A nice companion is Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis.)

7. Born to Rock by Todd Taylor. This collection of essays and interviews about punk rock serves as a definitive account of what it means to be an outsider while craving to know what the inside looks like, if only to fuck the place up once you get there.

8. Another Bullshit Night in SuckCity: A Memoir by Nick Flynn. The title says it all.

9. War Trash by Ha Jin. A hard look at what it means to survive.

10. Covenants by Lorna Freeman. A rich and energetic debut by a fantasy author who looks to have a bright and prolific future.


1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. The most inventive and ultimately endearing novel in recent memory.

2. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. A novel that heralds Lethem's arrival as one of
America's very best.

3. The
Los Angeles Diaries by James Brown. A tragic and searing memoir of loss, addiction and living (again) by one of the best writers working today.

4. Moneyball by Michael Lewis. An inside look at how the
Oakland A's have changed the face of baseball.

5. The Laws of Evening by Mary Yukari Waters. An elegant and moving collection of short fiction.

6. I Am Not Jackson Pollock by John Haskell. Is it fact? Is it fiction? Is it both? A bizarre and brilliant work.

7. Stiff by Mary Roach. Being dead never seemed so cool.

8. The Lucky by H. Lee Barnes.
Las Vegas already knows about H. Lee Barnes. It's time the rest of the country figured it out.

9. Safe in Heaven Dead by Samuel Ligon. The best crime novel you didn't read this year.

10. In My Mother's House by Margaret McMullan. A tragic novel of obsession and memory centering on one family's life during World War II.


1. Atonement by Ian McEwan. A stylistic tour-de-force reminiscent of Virginia Woolf, Atonement is Ian McEwan's masterwork about the complexity of families, the nature of secrets and the startling way we all choose to remember our lives. Where last year's sensation The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen was hailed as the standard bearer for the new American novel, Atonement may well be the announcement that the British are coming and that they intend to stay--a simply remarkable novel by a writer who continues to amaze.

2. The Walkaway by Scott Phillips. Both sequel and prequel to his award-winning debut The Ice Harvest, Phillips' second novel is a challenging look at a man lost between eras. When Gunther Fahnstiel walks out of a nursing home in search of the money he found at the conclusion of The Ice Harvest, his mind becomes caught in both 1952 and present-day 1989. Rather than using typical flashback for the scenes in 1952, Phillips instead creates a novella within the novel--a pitch-perfect Gold Medal paperback, really--that serves as the voice of memory. Both a crime novel and an unflinching look at the price we ultimately pay to be with the ones we love, The Walkaway is Phillips at his violent and black best.

3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Once you get past the hype, the astonishing sales figures, the media blitz and the inevitable backlash, you're left with...a book unlike any that has come before it. Sebold is a poetic and vicious writer who is able to conjure sheer emotion with the eloquence of a dancer. Though it is now nearly impossible to consider this work without also considering Sebold's awful personal history of rape and its chemical and mental consequences, The Lovely Bones remains a powerful work of fiction that will likely be read alongside The Bell Jar for many years to come.

4. A Multitude of Sins by Richard Ford. With 10 stories that span the depths of love and distance, Ford does for adultery what he once did for the American West in
Rock Springs: He puts a face on despair and longing and lets us know we are certainly not alone in our errors. More about what makes people stay together than what drives them apart; these thematically linked stories show a writer in complete control of his talents.

5. Jolie Blon's Bounce by James Lee Burke. In a Southern Gothic story that marks the return of lawman Dave Robicheaux, the forces of good and evil do battle in a small bayou town. What transpires is a clash over the past and the present of the South, where sexual sadism and racial injustice open like old scars and bleed like heat lightning.

6. 2182 Khz by David Masiel. A confident and engaging debut, 2182 Khz concerns a man at the end of a line--his wife has left him and his world is literally crap frozen over. When he hears a distress call from a marooned scientist high up in the
Arctic Circle a fantastic journey ensues. Filled with rich characters, complex relationships and spine-tingling action that never becomes campy or overwrought, 2182 is a trip into the cold heart of darkness.

7. Milk Treading by Nick Smith. Already a sensation in
Scotland where it is also a stage play, Milk Treading is equal parts Watership Down, Animal Farm and The Big Sleep. A novel of class struggle, political intrigue and good old-fashioned murder and intrigue. And, oh yeah, all the characters are either cats or dogs. One of the most inventive novels to come out in years.

8. My Life in Heavy Metal: Stories by Steve Almond. Within his debut collection of stories, Almond spares no expense (or orifice) in detailing the sexual and emotional traumas of people facing the onset of self-realization--also known as the mid-30s--and does so with tremendous wit and surprising tenderness.

9. The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington. Farrington's modern-day love story is a soft and oddly touching novel about a former monk who finds love in the form of a 38-year-old single mother. Back in circulation after a 20-year relationship with God, Michael Christoper is a sweetly troubled character who only yearns to live a new life and Farrington gives him every chance. The Monk Downstairs is the kind of novel that Nick Hornby wishes he could write.

10. Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller. "Only Americans believe in happy endings," Hyun Jin, the narrator of Fox Girl, says and by the conclusion of this harrowing tale of life after the Korean War, you will come to believe that this is true. A difficult and ultimately important book about lost children, sexual violence and the coming of age of both a country and a girl, Fox Girl melds fact and fiction into an uncomfortable and unforgettable pastiche.


1. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Atlantic Monthly, 320 pages, $24). Finally, a much-ballyhooed debut that lives up to its hype. Heartbreaking, magical and oftentimes both tragic and life-affirming in the same sentence, Peace Like a River may center on a violent act (a murder of two bandits harassing a family) but at its core it is a story that celebrates existence. A career-maker if there ever was one.

2. Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell (Putnam, 196 pages, $23.95). Daniel Woodrell's seventh novel and third to take place in the Ozarks centers on young Sweet Mister, an overweight boy named Shug stuck in the worst kind of nightmare. His mother tends to sleep with criminals who tend not to care much for Shug. Woodrell is a lyrical writer who handles this tale of extreme violence and a dimming line of sexual provocation between mother and son with genius. The end is shocking, awful and compassionate.

3. Somehow Form a Family by Tony Earley (Algonquin, 192 pages, $22.95). One of the finest writers working today, Earley's memoir of life in small-town North Carolina is mixed with visions as disparate as his sister dying to his love of all things Brady. A compelling and open look at what it means to go home again--even when home doesn't seem to be where the heart is.

4. The 25th Hour by David Benioff (Carrol & Graf, 182 pages, $24). A dark and funny tale of a man who's screwed his charmed life up to the point that he's only got 24 hours to go before he's incarcerated for seven years. Time enough for one last good time with his friends and a doozy of a twist at the end.

5. Pushcart Prize XXVI: Best of the Small Presses edited by Bill Henderson (Pushcart Press, 619 pages, $30). This yearly anthology of short stories, essays and poems culled from the thousands of literary journals published in the U.S. and Canada represents the very best in contemporary literature (i.e., stuff you don't normally read). The highlights this year include Dan Chaon's remarkable "Seven Types of Ambiguity" and Wole Soyinka's "The Children of This Land."

6. Highwire Moon by Susan Straight (Houghton Mifflin, 320 pages, $24). A novel of separation and endurance, Highwire Moon was a finalist for the National Book Award ultimately won by The Corrections. What works here is Straight's ability to conjure hope out of the most desolate landscape: the fictional town of Rio Seco, deep in the heart of Southern California's Inland Empire and deeper still into the heart of the migrant farm workers who people the area. A considerate and often tearful read, Highwire Moon marks Susan Straight's finest hour.

7. Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (Hyperion, 483 pages, $24.95). Another sparkling debut in a year filled with them, Carter Beats the Devil may be the most engaging and sweeping historical novel since Robertson Davies' Fifth Business. This fictional retelling of master magician Charles Carter's life is so filled with twists and turns and sleights of hand that you may find yourself reading it over and over again.

8. Senseless by Stona Fitch (Soho Press, 160 pages, $22). It took nearly 10 years for Stona Fitch to produce a follow-up to his boffo post-Yuppie angst novel Strategies for Success and it was worth the wait. When American trade representative Eliot Gast is abducted by terrorists in Brussels and subsequently deprived of his senses in torturous ways, the world is allowed to view the violence via the Internet. If enough ransom money is raised via online donations, Gast goes free. Dense and timely, this is a novel that captures both the age of the Internet and our new culture of fear.

9. Escape from Houdini Mountain by Pleasant Gehman (Manic D Press, 141 pages, $13.95). From the Queen of Hollywood and former Ringling Sister comes this wild collection of stories that is both a loving paean to '80s underground L.A. and a primer on how to search for love in all the wrong places. A must-have for those, like me, who miss their beer-drenched youth.

10. The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things by J.T. Leroy (Bloomsbury, 224 pages, $23.95). Twenty-year-old Leroy's disturbing volume of autobiographical short stories is beautifully written, plainly told and often difficult to read, until you remember that the author is still alive. Stark, honest and, frankly, amazing.

8:14 p.m. ::
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