(Format shamelessly stolen from Jim Ruland, whose book, Forest of Fortune, is not on this list but will most definitely be near the top of my 2016 reading.)


This year I read 63 books. I read more males than females, but just barely. I probably read about 70 percent of the time in either my bed or the easy chair beneath the good good light. The other 30 percent on the train, in the bathtub, at bars, on beaches, in the backyard next to a campfire that's not quite bright enough to read by, but I keep trying and also refilling my glass of bourbon and then trying some more, almost falling into the fire by bending closer to its light.

Books written by former professors of mine that went on to take the world by storm

Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Books that made me re-think what I'm doing and how I'm doing it

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
The Trip to Echo Springs: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing
One Hour MFA (in fiction) by Michael Kimball
Raymond Carver A Writer's Life by Carol Sklenicka

Books that I kinda hated but finished anyway

Talking Heads Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem
Special Deluxe by Neil Young
After the Tall Timber by Renata Adler (feel like I need to re-read Speedboat to cleanse my palate)

Holy fucking shit, Rudolph Wurlitzer

Nog by Rudolph Wurlitzer (re-read)
Flats by Rudolph Wurlitzer
Quake by Rudolph Wurlitzer
The Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolph Wurlitzer
See also: Walker (1987) dir. by Alex Cox and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) dir. by Monte Hellman

Best book on whose pages the author bled (literally)

Witch Babies by Juliet Escoria

Best books on whose pages the author bled (figuratively)

Black Cloud by Juliet Escoria
Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles
Fast Machine by Elizabeth Ellen (re-read)
The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'J Pancake
The Complete Works, Vol. 1 by Scott McClanahan
Pity the Animal by Chelsea Hodson

Best poetry that's not mentioned elsewhere on this list

OHSO by Mike Bushnell
i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together by Mira Gonzalez
Wastoid by Matthias Svalina (I think this was my favorite poetry book of 2015. So damn good.)
Wild Lives by Sarah Jean Alexander
Plot by Claudia Rankine
Comfort by PJ Goring

Books I eventually decided to friend zone

The Devil's Snake Curve by Josh Ostergaard
I Go to Some Hollow by Amina Cain (I also re-read Creature, which I love. This one just less so.)
Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel
All Our Happy Days are Stupid by Sheila Heti
Eve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz
Of Walking on Ice by Werner Herzog

Two noir books that I read in one sitting but thought about for weeks

Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard
Nobody Move by Denis Johnson (read this tomorrow if you haven't yet.)

Books I re-read because I will always re-read them

Never Die by Barry Hannah (I re-read Barry Hannah constantly, between other books, etc.)
The White Album and Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
The Minus Times Collected edited by Hunter Kennedy
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson (bc what the fuck is going on rn?)

Books I read mostly on the toilet, which does not diminish their brilliance

The Complete Stories by Lydia Davis
1001 Ways to Live Without Working by Tuli Kupferberg
Selected Tweets by Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez

Books for looking at

Songbook by Alec Soth
Tulsa by Larry Clark

Books I really liked that are not mentioned elsewhere

Dogwalker by Arthur Bradford
Turtleface and Beyond by Arthur Bradford
The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy by James Purdy
House of Coates by Brad Zellar
Pee on Water by Rachel B. Glaser
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Normally Special by XTX
Fat City by Leonard Gardner

And, finally, these are the books that were new (or new to me) that I thought of as my 'best of 2015,' whatever the fuck that means

Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison (The whole point of doing 'experimental fiction' is that every once in a while something magnificent happens. Can't believe I hadn't read it until now.)

Haints Stay by Colin Winnette (So. Full disclosure: I read this hoping for it to fail. My first novella, Sunset Riders, is set to come out in 2016 from Revolver and is basically an acid western about a bounty hunter trapped in a video game. As I read more and more about Haints Stay, a bleak and violent western, I kept thinking FUCK! He's cornering my damn market! I saw Colin read from it at AWP, chatted with him. He seemed not an asshole, which pissed me off even more. Finally I read the book. It was... really damn good. So good that I left all my own dumb-ass writer hangups at the gate and simply read it for what it was. I loved it, and can't wait to read more from Winnette.)

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (I've always loved Cormac McCarthy, whose ex-wife pulls guns out of her snatch during arguments about space aliens, but this book in particular slayed me. I finished it slack-jawed, hollowed out, ready to give up on writing altogether, scared and in awe of the human condition, and in need of a cigarette. Unfortunately, I quit smoking this year, so I drank a bourbon and stared into space awhile instead.)

Gutshot by Amelia Gray (I read this thinking My god! Her powers grow stronger by the day!)

Backswing by Aaron Burch (Just a wonderful mix of nostalgia and weirdness, perhaps more weirdness than I expected. A great collection and one for which my appreciation seems to grow over time.)

Cult of Loretta by Kevin Maloney (I read this in one sitting, recommended it to about 20 friends [after it was recommended to me by the aforementioned Aaron Burch], then waited a few days and read it again. My favorite new release of 2015, I think. Go buy it and read it and pass it along. It's really that damn good.)