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The Year of Reading Communally

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My first "HuffPost Books" piece was posted a year ago this month, and I'd like to use that trivial anniversary to thank commenters for introducing me to many authors and novels I had never read before.

Until last June, I wrote mostly topical humor pieces for this site -- with the occasional foray into other sections such as media, entertainment, and sports. But I had been an avid fiction reader for most of my life, and thought in mid-2011 that maybe I should try a book-related post.

I had just finished a multi-month binge through most of Margaret Atwood's novels, so I chose to focus my first book piece on that great author. Gratifyingly, readers responded to that post with many comments.

So I subsequently wrote other book-related posts, many of which focused on literary themes or genres -- such as unlikable characters, historical fiction, time-travel novels, 19th-century French literature, and cats and dogs in books -- rather than on a specific author or title.

It was and is fun to do those posts, but even more fun to get comments, respond to them, receive responses to the responses, etc. Threads 'R' Us!

One wonderful thing about the comments is that many contained suggestions for authors and books I and visitors to the post should read. I started making a list, which has now reached a lucky 13 pages in a Word file. And I've been slowly working my way through that list, even as it continues to expand.

Though I had read numerous novels prior to last June, there were of course many more I had missed. Thanks to commenters (and friends who emailed or sent Facebook messages after seeing my book posts), I tried titles such as Armadale by Wilkie Collins, Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, Humans by Donald Westlake, Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Plus Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, The Witch of Exmoor by Margaret Drabble, and many more.

In some cases, I had previously read several novels by an author but had missed out on certain titles by that writer. In other cases, I had never read anything at all by the author. And I ended up loving most of the recommended books. Those I didn't love I at least liked.

Commenters also suggested non-novel literature. For instance, several people urged me to read the short stories of Anton Chekhov -- and I'm glad I did! I can't believe I didn't try his superb tales until this month.

What are some of the favorite books you discovered while reading HuffPost comments and posts?

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Dave Astor has written a new book titled Comic (and Column) Confessional (Xenos Press).

The part-humorous memoir is about Dave's 25 years at Editor & Publisher magazine covering, interviewing, and meeting notables such as Arianna Huffington, Heloise, Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Coretta Scott King, Martha Stewart, Paul Krugman, Ann Landers, and Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby"); and notable cartoonists such as Gary Larson ("The Far Side"), Lynn Johnston ("For Better or For Worse"), Mort Walker ("Beetle Bailey"), Charles Schulz ("Peanuts"), Stan Lee ("Spider-Man"), Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes"), Garry Trudeau ("Doonesbury"), Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County"), Scott Adams ("Dilbert"), Jim Davis ("Garfield"), Milton Caniff ("Terry and the Pirates"/"Steve Canyon"), and Herblock. The book also chronicles changes in the media, discusses personal stuff, and more.

Comic (and Column) Confessional will soon be available for online purchase. If you'd like information about ordering a signed copy, contact Dave at dastor@earthlink.net