Matthew’s Top Five Reads of 2011

Matthew is our IT guy. He makes the internet go.

#5 Chronicles: Volume 1 by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is not a prophet. Ignore the blurb on the cover, no one from Rolling Stone read this book, they just immediately wrote rave reviews while listening to Nickelback. Throughout this text Dylan pleads his audience to forget his involuntary role as a “voice of a generation” and to look at the story as it actually unfolded; to see that there were no angels carrying him in his ascent to stardom; to realize that Dylan arrived in New York a naive, wide-eyed boy from Minnesota with meager aspirations – to make a living playing guitar. There’s no questioning the brilliance of his lyricism, but this book is a reminder that all-to-often, to our own injustice, we dream to be someone else when in reality those we idolize are not all too different from ourselves.

#4: Samedi The Deafness by Jesse Ball

This is a weird book. A strange, weird book. I picked it up on a whim one day because the blurb on the back compared it to the result of a hypothetical Hitchcock/Kafka tryst and, as a fan of Kafka’s surrealist prose and Hitchcock’s twisting plots, I was not disappointed. Take your favorite classic suspense movie, put it in a house for pathological liars, and then add a hint of disregard for the rules of reality and you have this…weird book.


#3:  Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

Found this gem in the Bargain Book section here and, from the moment I cracked it, could not put it down. Charming, inspiring, and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is centered around Chance who after being raised in near isolation with only his garden to tend to and a television to learn from, is sent out into the world to fend for himself. You’ll have to get here fast to get it, though, because I’m buying every copy I can find as Christmas gifts.


#2: The Continual Condition by Charles Bukowski

Another Bargain Books find that, since buying, I have read several times through. It’s a collection of the post-beatnik poetry master’s later works and touches on the usual topics that Bukowski is so well known for: drinking, gambling, and women. However, even if the general subjects are the same, the perspective is shifted; he is infamous at the writing of these poems but no more the happier.


#1: The Stranger by Albert Camus

In almost everyone’s list of 100 Best Books of All Time and for good reason. This book is a great introduction to existential literature (start here, not with “Metamorphosis” as is so often suggested), and is as equally enjoyable to the casual reader as to the searching philosopher. Centering on an emotional ticking time bomb under a facade of apathy, Camus draws a portrait of the modern man under extreme circumstance and colors his masterpiece with exquisite use of tone. Beautiful.


Honorable Mentions:

Kleinzeit by Russel Hoban

This is what Samedi The Deafness could have been if Ball had waited to write that delightfully odd book until he had completely nurtured his writing and had blossomed into the insightful, fearless writer Hoban showed himself to be with the release of Kleinzeit. I’m not going to insult this book by trying to paraphrase it, but I will say that I read this book every year, I have ordered bulk copies just to give to people, and everyone I have given a copy to has shared it (I actually was given my first copy by an avid fan). It’s weird and you will love it. It’s also hard to find.

Web Design in a Nutshell by Jennifer Niederst Robbins

Not the most interesting read, but I read it cover to cover and have since designed two websites using only a text editor and this book. In depth and informative, this book covers everything you need to know about HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create great, W3C compliant websites. Check out mine at!

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