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Justin Hocking’s Favorite Books of 2011

It’s that time of year when Best Books lists abound! Today, Paper Fort steps into the fray, with our annual series on Oregon’s writers and readers favorite books of the year. As most people’s reading material in any one year is not limited to books published in that year, these lists can include, but are not limited to, books published in 2011.

We’ll start with Justin Hocking, Executive Director of the IPRC. Here’s his list of favorites:

A Simple Machine, Like the Lever by Evan P. Schneider. This unforgettable first novel effectively taps into bike culture—but on a deeper level it’s about the emotional and financial deficits faced by our recession-battered generation. The climactic scene at the Oregon Coast is both cathartic and haunting. Published by local press Propeller Books, the physical book itself is beautiful, complete with French flaps. Forget about using them for bookmarks, though—you won’t put this one down.

One More For the People
by Martha Grover. Though this is technically a compilation of Grover’s hilarious and heartbreaking zine Somnambulist, in my opinion it coheres into one of the freshest, most compelling memoirs I’ve ever read. Without the slightest trace of bathos but quite a lot of humor, Grover details her struggle with Cushing’s Disease, whose 81 symptoms include dramatic changes to her appearance, not to mention the dreaded possibility of moving back in with her eccentric family. Published by promising upstart Perfect Day Publishing, and featuring a letterpress-printed cover, this is also hands down the best-looking book of 2011.

A Visit From the Goon Squad (paperback version) by Jennifer Egan. What more needs to be said about a National Book Award-winner? The unconventional form–it’s really a collection of interconnected short stories–renewed my faith in the novel genre. More than anything, this book spoke to me about the ungraspable nature of time–especially as we drift away from the omnipotentiality of youth toward middle age and beyond. Yet, as Egan so beautifully illustrates, while our options may shrink in adulthood, the possibility of redemption never fades.

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