Our favorite books of 2011

We read a lot here at Extended Play HQ and thought we’d recognize some of our favorite reads of this past year.

  1. My fave this year was Kate Beaton’s new anthology Hark! A Vagrant! Drawn and Quarterly’s hardcover is a great hardcover collection of her comics. They’re very nicely reproduced – no small feat considering they were hardly drawn for print – and fully annotated. But then, her comics don’t really need any explaining. Details may come later – I’ve been working on a piece about her cartoons for another publication – but it’s no secret that one doesn’t need to know the history her comics poke fun at –  her humor is a lot more universal. They range from the bittersweet to the bawdy, but all are among the best the internet, and now a bookshelf, has to offer.
  2. Another great read this year was James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’ oral history of ESPN, Those Guys Have All the Fun. Granted, it’s something of a mixed read – it neither dishes the dirt nor seems as brutally candid as their earlier oral history of Saturday Night Live – but it’s still a good story well told: ESPN is one of the great successes of our time, a virtual monopoly that seemed to rise almost overnight. The definitive history of ESPN has yet to be written, but anybody with an interest in sports, and especially in sports media, can’t go wrong with this book.
  3. Technically, this one came out at the tail of last year, but I only read it in paperback this spring so I’ll fudge it a bit: Life, the autobiography of Keith Richards. Again, this one was a bit of a mixed read: I would have loved to hear more about the creative process, about people like Gram Parsons or Rory Gallagher and about the famous bust in Toronto. But still, this was a relentlessly charming read: Richards is something of a disarming memoirist. Yes, he’s one of rock’s great bad boys and was a hell of a junkie for a spell, but he’s not too afraid to address almost everything: getting busted in the States, getting into brawls with people during the Exile on Main Street sessions and the complex relationship between himself and Mick Jagger. There’s been other books about the Stones and they may have more facts in them, but there probably won’t ever be one as much fun to read.
  4.  A few new books in 2011 I didn’t get around too, but mean to read: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides; The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach; The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht; Flip Flop Fly Ball, by Craig Robinson and Rob Neyer; Boomerang, by Michael Lewis. If anybody out there wants to hook me up with a review copy, please feel free to contact me.

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