IN AN ATTEMPT TO COMPILE a year-in-reading list that DIDN'T include the words "Freedom by Jonathan Franzen," we asked a handful of local literary types to weigh in on some of the best books they read in the past year. Most of the books were published in 2010; some of 'em weren't. ALISON HALLETT
Proprietress, Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak
Celebrate People's History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution, edited by Josh MacPhee (Feminist Press)−The Celebrate People's History project has been rolling out (and pasting up) posters commemorating important, and mostly forgotten, events and figures in radical history since 1998. Collecting over 100 posters by nearly as many artists, it's a beautiful document of history and hope and a handy primer for young upstarts!
Picture This by Lynda Barry (Drawn and Quarterly)−Humans often neglect their need to create, get stuck, or never get started, and suffer the consequences—and Lynda Barry knows it! Through Picture This, Ms. Barry imparts her wisdom, enthusiasm, empathy, and grace to the reader, all the while gently prodding them to start moving their hands and make something.
MYcellF Prisoner of the Pen by Jason Breedlove (self-published)−MYcellF is a self-published title consisting of bullet-point journal entries, written by an ex-con during his multiple "temporary leave[s] of absence from [his] addictions in an Iowa correctional facility." Not for the faint of heart or easily offended, this book is damn funny and provides a fascinating glimpse inside the life and mind of an incarcerated addict.
Owner, Bridge City Comics, 3725 N Mississippi
Chew by writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, (Image Comics)−A surprisingly original take on a crime book. Detective Tony Chu is one of only three cibopaths in the world. What's a cibopath? Someone with the ability to get psychic impressions from the things he eats. Makes being a homicide detective an... interesting... job, to say the least. And it makes for a great story!
Locke and Key by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing) −After their family is brutally murdered, Kinsey and Tyler Locke move into their ancestral home with their aunt and cousin. The mystery builds as they find magical keys throughout the house that point to a deep, dark family secret. Great, dark story that appears to be building to a strange, supernatural end.
Atomic Robo by writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener (Red 5 Comics)−Atomic Robo, the world's greatest steampunk hero, battles Nazis, giant ants, clockwork mummies, walking pyramids, Mars, cyborgs, and his nemesis Baron von Helsingard. Think of it as a HI-LARIOUS version of the BPRD from the Hellboy universe. Great, sharp-witted writing and beautiful, kinetic artwork combine to put the "fun" back in funny books.
Librarian, Central Library, 801 SW 10th
Chalcot Crescent by Fay Weldon (Europa)−It's 2013; capitalism has collapsed in Europe, and the recession has turned once-prosperous London into an Orwellian dictatorship. Weldon is in sharp form in this mischievous tale—witty, clever, and thought provoking—and makes a heavy subject (the collapse of the social order) palatable.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Random House)−Set in Japan at the turn of the 19th century, this fiercely intelligent novel interweaves clever wordplay and enlightening historical detail. Mitchell writes thrillingly about large-scale events and beautifully captures the details of everyday life. I don't usually buy books, but this is one I had to own.
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin)−Master writer Pynchon's dense, complex, and lengthy novels have always intimidated me. But I couldn't resist the tricked-out 1960s Cadillac with a surfboard on the cover of this−it's part noir, part psychedelic mystery (published in 2009). A bawdy, surreal romp through counterculture Southern California, spiked with profound insights into the end of an era.
Gabe Barber Founder/Publisher, readinglocal.com
Our Portland Story by Melissa Ann Delzio and Sarah Koch (Our Portland Story)−As the descriptor says, Our Portland Story is "part yearbook, part insider's travel guide, and part collected memoirs." But more than that, it's an extreme testament to the creativity and ingenuity of Portlanders. This collaborative book, spearheaded by local freelance designer Melissa Ann Delzio, features the work of 77 Portland authors and 68 Portland designers.
Brew to Bikes: Portland's Artisan Economy by Charles Heying (Ooligan Press)−Maybe when it's all said and done, we will look back on the "Great Recession" as the kick in the pants those with suppressed artistic abilities needed to throw caution to the wind and make a go of it. If you harbor any ambitions of doing the same, pick up Professor Heying's book for an inspiring look at some of your neighbors who've done just that.
Day One by Bill Cameron (Tyrus Books)−Cameron is maybe a book or two away from being on all the bestseller lists. So do yourself a favor and read Day One, his best yet, so you can brag to all of your friends that you and Cameron go way back, when they're just jumping on the bandwagon. This smart, fast-paced thriller will take you from rural Southern Oregon to the top of Mt. Tabor, and will most likely do so in one sitting.
Executive Director, Wordstock Festival
The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (Harper)−Walter might be the funniest writer I've ever read. While I am entirely understanding of the financial mess his protagonist finds himself in, I laughed aloud while reading this book, several times, at the increasingly ridiculous ways he attempts to escape it. Part cautionary tale, part schadenfreude.
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy (Riverhead)−This book of short stories astonished me over and over again. Meloy's gift is for the clinching detail, the unanticipated impulses of her characters, the humanness of the people she creates. Amazing collection.
Owner, Green Bean Books, 1600 NE Alberta
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad)−When Delphine and her two annoying younger sisters visit their estranged mother in Oakland during the summer of 1968, they are plunged into a fascinating world of racial politics and revolution. They spend their days at a Black Panther day camp where they develop a sense of pride and identity that ultimately helps them forge a connection with their mom.
The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez (Enchanted Lion Books)−As sly Fox nabs Hen, Hen's friends, Bear, Rabbit, and Rooster join in a wild chase over hills, through forests and even across oceans to rescue their friend. When they finally catch up, however, they discover a surprise and so will you, in a whimsical, wordless picture book with an unexpected ending.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by writer Philip C. Stead and artist Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook Press)−Every day, gentle zookeeper Amos McGee spends a little bit of time with each of his dear friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, playing chess with the elephant, keeping the shy penguin company, and even lending a handkerchief to the runny-nosed rhinoceros. When Amos falls sick one day, the animals take a bus to his home to take care of their friend just as he has always taken care of them. Sick Day is a charming tale of friendship, delicately illustrated with light pencil strokes atop colorful woodblock prints.