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Books Tue Jan 01 2013

Book Club's Best of 2012

Welcome to the Best Books of 2012 according to Book Club staff. About half of these books are Chicago specific, and the other half are the books we happened to read this year that stuck with us, and defined our year in books. We hope you enjoy some of these titles in 2013:

Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men by local feminist sex blogger and activist Clarisse Thorn.

Clarisse Thorn delves into the world of "pickup artists" and "the manosphere." How does a feminist navigate a world where "the F word" is regularly trotted out as a scapegoat for everything wrong with society? She found that, as with many subcultures, the loudest voices tend to be the least reasonable. She does find some bitter, angry guys using "game" to prey on vulnerable women but also a lot of nice, sincere guys who just want a social pointer or two to help them find a girlfriend. Thorn has an infectious curiosity about her subject and the overall tone is skeptical yet sensitive.
—Rebecca Hyland

Yvvette Edwards' A Cupboard Full of Coats is the tale of an unhappy young Caribbean woman named Jinx living in London. Lemon, a man from her past, unexpectedly comes to visit and the two of them spend days untangling the family secrets and heartaches that have shaped their lives. Fascinating and expertly paced, I could easily see this adapted into a play. The vivid details, high drama and Lemon's island patois make this book a delicious stew to dive into (much like the heady Caribbean soup prepared as the story unfolds).
—Rebecca Hyland

Sarah Terez Rosenblum's, Herself When She's Missing.

A seductive debut from Chicago author Rosenblum, Herself When She's Missing is a story about the dysfunctional, obsessive love between two women and its resultant thrill and heartbreak. The non-linear narrative uses lists, 3X5 cards, and bits of a screenplay, but Rosenblum's nuanced sentences alone make this a must read.
—Lara Levitan

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I first picked this up because I thought it was the book Election was based on (sorry, Tom Perrotta), but once I began reading it didn't matter that it wasn't. Sittenfeld's Lee Fiora guides us through her prep school world with so much wit, insight and emotional honesty that I missed her when I finished the book. If you're into stories about rich kids being oblivious jerks and painfully realistic teenage angst, you can't miss Prep.
—Lara Levitan

Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well On Less written by C. Spike Trotman and Drawn By Diana Nock.

A graphic novel that can improve your life? Yes, you read that correctly. Poorcraft is a friendly DIY guide to living well with less, and offers a wide variety of information from cooking tips and making your own cleaning supplies to more complicated and deftly-handled topics like purchasing insurance and paying off credit card debit.
—Jason Prechtel

I bought this on a whim at this year's Printer's Row Lit Fest, and it's honestly the most useful graphic novel (maybe even book) I've read in a long time. Golden: How Rod Blagojecvich Talked Himself Out Of The Governor's Office And Into Prison by Jeff Coen and John Chase.

Written by two Chicago Tribune reporters, Golden is the true and unbelievably absurd life story of the convicted ex-Governor of Illinois. The book not only sheds life into the man's thought process, but explicitly lays out Blagojevich's own spin on the "Chicago Way," reports on never-before--seen aspects of his trials, and in the end, reveals the ripple effects of his career on local, state, and national politics today.
—Jason Prechtel

Tell Everyone I Said Hi by Chad Simpson.

This debut short story collection has been praised for its straightforward Midwestern (read: gloomy, blue-collar) tone, but I think that sells his work short. The eighteen stories in Tell Everyone I Said Hi are memorable not only for the blight their interesting characters find themselves in but also for their humor.
—Kevin Morris

Geoffrey Nunberg's Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years.

World-class linguists aren't expected to write things that read so funny to the layman. Nunberg's exploration of the word's history, usage, and impact on American manners is an exceptional example of what can happen when academics turn it down a notch.
—Kevin Morris

The Brightest Thing in the World: 3 Lectures from The Institute of Failure by SAIC professor Matthew Goulish is not the most easily digestible book. By that, I mean that I would not recommend you read it on the CTA. This book of essays, on grief, audience etiquette and much, more demands quiet and is well worth the extra effort.
—Claire Glass

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel bears the subtitle, A Family Tragicomic most appropriately. The graphic novel tells the particular tragedies of the Bechdel family, and in particular, those regarding the writer's father who she finds she never really knew until after his death. Fun Home is haunting and takes merely the space of an afternoon to read.
—Claire Glass

The Loom Of Ruin by Sam McPheeters is a chaotic ride through LA following a dozen characters whose lives revolve around an insane Vietnamese man who owns a chain of Chevron gas stations. McPheeters' voice for his characters lifts them off of the page and into your subconscious.
—John Wawrzaszek

Captive Audience by Chicago author Dave Reidy is a collection of short fiction that basically touched all of the themes I associate with my mid-twenties: basketball, dive bars, karaoke, stand-up comedy, awkward relationships, and life as a touring musician. Reidy does the short story format justice, creating realistic characters that you remember after the fact.
—John Wawrzaszek

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Clarisse Thorn / January 1, 2013 6:57 PM

Thank you so much for listing me!! :)

Clarisse Thorn / January 1, 2013 7:01 PM

I will say, however, that this is a much better link to my book :)

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