Lots of teachers and writers will guilt trip you into thinking that reading automatically makes you a better person. Don't buy it. Ask yourself always: what are they selling? There's a price sticker and barcode on every book. It's called the book business. Lots of writers write thinking about their electric bills and mortgages. And for every writer, there are a hundred others taking a cut off the hog. They say that if you buy their books it will do wonders. I say:
Go outside for a walk. Talk with your friends. Sit and cuddle with your significant other. Cook genuine food. Garden. Knit and sew. Build something at the work bench. Make music. Paint. Get yourself unplugged and get your head out of books and get into the real life of the real world, here and now.
All lies, sorry. I wouldn't follow my own advice even if I believed it. I'd stick my head in a book to avoid the squalor and the stress any day. Escapism, hell yeah. But there's something else in those musty pages, rare flecks of mica or maybe gold. I don't know (care?) about you, but books have made me a better person.
Here are the Best of 2012, it's a short list. So what? It's my list.
A Study in Sherlock, Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger, eds.
A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A Zen Forest: Sayings of the Masters, Soiku Shigematsu
Body Trauma, David W. Page, M.D.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Dr. Dean Edell
Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth
How to Write Poetry, Diane Mehta
My Antonia, Willa Cather
My Cousin the Saint, Justin Catanoso
O Pioneers, Willa Cather
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
Ramona, Helen Hunt Jackson
Snow Falling from a Bamboo Leaf: The Art of Haiku, Hiag Akmakjian
The Adventure of the Stalwart Companions, H. Paul Jeffers
The End of the Road, John Barth
The Floating Opera, John Barth
The Jewel of Seven Stars, Bram Stoker
The Sibling Society, Robert Bly
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon.
Happy trials, Martin
Mutt: Howdy. A pig goes into a bar and orders ten drinks. He finishes them up and the bartender says, "Don't you need to know where the bathroom is?" The pig says, "No, I go wee wee all the way home."
Jeff: Sloppy. A sandwich walks into a bar. The barman says, "Sorry, we don't serve food in here."
Mutt: A skeleton walks into a bar and says, "Gimme a beer and a mop."
Jeff: A snake slithers into a bar and the bartender says, "I'm sorry but I can't serve you." "Why not?" asks the snake. The bartender says, "Because you can't hold your liquor."
Mutt: A termite walks into a bar and says, "Is the bar tender here?"
Jeff: You're gonna hate this one.
Mutt: I already do.
Jeff: A drunk guy is sitting in a bar. There is a very buxom lady a few seats down. A fellow at the end of the bar calls for a beer. The bartender fills the mug and slides it down the bar. It hits the lady's breasts and spills all over them. The bartender goes over, retrieves the glass and licks the beer off of her breasts. This happens a couple more times. The next time, the drunk jumps up and starts to lick her breasts. She decks him. He's laying on the floor and moans, "Why do you let the bartender do it?" "Because he has a liquor license!"
Mutt: I like the word "buxom" though.
Jeff: Me too. Just goes to show: Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
Mutt: How sweet it is!
Jeff: And away we go!