1) The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love and The History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean
I had a chemistry phase this year. This was fun. If only my actual chemistry class could have involved just examining the periodic table instead of all those crucibles of participates or whatever.
2) The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein
This kid was fucking INSANE. Also, SHOCKER: he had a girlfriend. Also, I wonder what the hell he's doing now. Or if he's got cancer.
3) How To Make Love To Adrian Colesberry by Adrian Colesberry
This is the funniest fucking sex book I've ever read. And required reading if yr a hetero lady who Does It with guys. Because it's important to recognize that men do not actually care if yr thighs are shaved, smooth, and shiny like a runway model's thighs. That is something I didn't realize for many years. If I had any idea how low the bar is for men's sexual standards! Man! I woulda TORN it up out there as a young hellcat. I mean, I still did okay back then, thanks for asking, but still. Think of the yarns I coulda spun!
4) Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks
I think growing up the Sacks' household, where it was okay for you to have a little alcove full of chemicals that exploded and fizzed and what not would have RULED.
5) The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long As It Takes by Joan Silber
Read this for graduate school. It was good. Good craft book. Not much else to say.
6) This Is Not The Ivy League by Mary Clearman Blew
This is a story of a woman trying to find her place in academia. While having kids. And a husband who thought her writing was foolish. And a family who thought the entire education enterprise was worthless. And it's beautiful and very funny. Okay, maybe not ha-ha-ha funny. But wry. And constructed in such a seamless way for a memoir - shifting back and forth in time but always remaining a pleasureable story.
7) City Boy: My Life in New York in the 1960s and 70s by Edmund White
An odyssey of New York City as it used to be, plus juicy literary tidbits, plus a portrait of gay male life before AIDS.
8) Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max
I should mention first that I cannot stand the photo of David Foster Wallace on the cover. He looks TERRIBLE. Maybe it's the only one that they could dig up that didn't feature him without his trademark bandana? I dunno. Also, please note that I've only read one DFW essay in my life. Never any of the books. I didn't know much about him except that it sucks that he killed himself. Apparently, many DFW fans think this bio is wrong and premature. I can say that his family relationships are notably scant. And Mary Karr also seemed quite coy in what she revealed to the biographer. Didn't know he was such a whore (he fucked his students, ewww!) and got a bit more on his relationship with Jonathan Franzen (also eww). Dunno if I'll ever tackle Infinite Jest. It just seems like such A Boy Book. Like the book version of the Washington Monument.
9) D.H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider by John Worthen
I re-read Lady Chatterley's Lover while writing my grad school thesis and was like, holy shit! I can't believe this dude. Was he really that misogynist and racist and shit? The answer is Kinda. It's sorta fascinating. Also, did you know he was a big ole bearded GINGER? That alone you guys. But then the whole fact that he didn't get laid was really the main impetus for all his beliefs and his fiction. Which is kinda sad. But also good for Literature, I suppose.