Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Read (pronounced "red") in 2014


I still think there should be a new spelling for the past tense of "read." Anyway, here's what I red this year. My total number is deceptively low, because for the past four months a great deal of my reading time has been taken up with Shelby Foote's The Civil War, which is around 3,000 pages long, in three volumes. After four months and roughly 1,600 pages, I'm still in volume two. Add those pages to my total page count for the year, and it's a new record, around 15,000. That's well over 300 pages per book, also a new record.

Category names are self-explanatory. Each list is alphabetical by author.

Number One Top Favorite

Americana — Don DeLillo


Best of the Year

Americana — Don DeLillo
Mao II — Don DeLillo
The Book of Strange New Things — Michel Faber
The Late Parade — Adam Fitzgerald
Neverhome — Laird Hunt
Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan — Phillip Lopate
After Claude — Iris Owens
Burning the Days: Recollection — James Salter
Light Years — James Salter
The American Future: A History — Simon Schama
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular 
          Fall of a Serial Impostor — Mark Seal
Travels with Charley: In Search of America — John Steinbeck
The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt
Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in the Seventies
          James Wolcott


Honorable Mention

Quick Question — John Ashbery
Serenade — James M. Cain
Jamie Is My Heart's Desire — Alfred Chester
Underworld — Don DeLillo
Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud — Martin
          Gayford
Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a 
          Masquerade — Walter Kirn
Madame de Pompadour — Nancy Mitford
Netherland — Joseph O'Neill
Forgetting Elena — Edmund White


Pretty Good

Ancient Light — John Banville
The Stench of Honolulu — Jack Handey
girls: A Paean — Nic Kelman
10:04 — Ben Lerner
Wait for Me! — Deborah Mitford
Vile Bodies — Evelyn Waugh
Somebody Owes Me Money — Donald E. Westlake


Meh, Not Bad

Wolf in White Van — John Darnielle
Nude Men — Amanda Filipacchi
Nightmare Alley — William Lindsay Gresham
The Folded Leaf — William Maxwell
BUtterfield 8 — John O'Hara
Cabot Wright Begins — James Purdy
Sophie's Choice — William Styron
A Game of Hide and Seek — Elizabeth Taylor


Disappointments

One Pill Makes You Smaller — Lisa Dierbeck
The Expendable Man — Dorothy B. Hughes
The Unknowns — Gabriel Roth
Three Bedrooms in Manhattan — Georges Simenon


Severe Disappointments

The Natural — Bernard Malamud


In Progress, Currently Enjoying

Bleak House — Charles Dickens
The Civil War: A Narrative — Shelby Foote
Dancing in the Dark — Janet Hobhouse
Mating — Norman Rush
East of Eden — John Steinbeck

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Five Best Books I've Finished So Far This Year


The five best books I've finished so far this year:

The Goldfinch  Donna Tartt

Burning the Days: Recollection  James Salter

Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in the Seventies  James Wolcott

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor  Mark Seal

The American Future: A History  Simon Schama


My reading list of late is colon-happy. I've always wanted to read more non-fiction, but for some reason I keep putting it off. Which is funny, because I tear through non-fiction books many times faster than I read novels. Knowing that a story really took place (or that something as close to the story as the writer is willing and/or able to put into words took place) motivates me to keep turning the pages in a way that fiction can never quite do (though some, like my favorite book so far this year, come pretty close).

My big project this year is to reduce my "currently reading" pile from dozens to maybe three or five. My new rule is: I won't start a new book until I've finished two that I'm currently reading. My total at the moment is 59. So I finish two and it's down to 57. I start one and it's up to 58, but then I finish two and it's down to 56, and so on. Already this process has helped me stop making so many impulse purchases and borrowings. And I'm starting to feel less cluttered mentally.

The Goldfinch was one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I've had in a long time. According to my records, it's the longest book I've ever finished. (I am, however, currently reading two that are even longer: Bleak House and Underworld.) In January, just as I was getting near the end of the book, I got to see the actual Goldfinch painting during its brief stay at the Frick. I also saw Girl with a Pearl Earring. It's weird seeing a famous painting in person. You keep having to remind yourself you're not looking at a dorm poster, but at the real thing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The 60 Books I Finished in 2013


Happy New Year. Here are my ten favorite books from 2013. Nine of them were published in years other than 2013. I'm still reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It would be #1 if I had finished it by midnight on January 1. Instead it will be on next year's list.

1) Moby-Dick — Herman Melville
2) The Enchantment of Lily Dahl — Siri Hustvedt
3) The Flamethrowers — Rachel Kushner
4) Shadow Train — John Ashbery
5) The French Lieutenant's Woman — John Fowles
6) Turtle Diary — Russell Hoban
7) The Art of Fielding — Chad Harbach
8) The Lichtenberg Figures — Ben Lerner
9) Lightning Field — Dana Spiotta
10) A Long and Happy Life — Reynolds Price


Here are all the books I finished reading in 2013, in the order in which I finished them. Favorites in bold.

Lightning Field — Dana Spiotta
The Lichtenberg Figures — Ben Lerner
The Enchantment of Lily Dahl — Siri Hustvedt
Nervous Device — Catherine Wagner
A Little White Shadow — Mary Ruefle
Stranger in Town — Cedar Sigo
Dayglo — James Meetze
The Mountain Lion — Jean Stafford
Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast — Hannah Gamble
Dear Jenny, We Are All Find — Jenny Zhang
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh — Michael Chabon
Legs Get Led Astray — Chloe Caldwell
And the Heart Says Whatever — Emily Gould
Invisible — Paul Auster
Million Poems Journal — Jordan Davis
Tenth of December — George Saunders
Shadow Train — John Ashbery
Veronica — Mary Gaitskill
Red Lights — Georges Simenon
Alexander's Bridge — Willa Cather
Journey into the Past — Stefan Zweig
The Ballad of the Sad Café — Carson McCullers
The Pumpkin Eater — Penelope Mortimer
How Should a Person Be? — Sheila Heti
The Art of Fielding — Chad Harbach
Wild — Cheryl Strayed
what purpose did i serve in your life — Marie Calloway
Rock Crystal — Adalbert Stifter
Cassandra at the Wedding — Dorothy Baker
Drinking with Men — Rosie Schaap
The Angel Esmeralda — Don DeLillo
Fatale — Jean-Patrick Manchette
Seven Days in the Art World — Sarah Thornton
Taipei — Tao Lin
Here and Now: Letters (2008-2011) — Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee
A Hologram for the King — Dave Eggers
Tampa — Alissa Nutting
Unmastered — Katherine Angel
Life Itself — Roger Ebert
The Constant Heart — Craig Nova
The Pornographer's Poem — Michael Turner
Moby-Dick — Herman Melville
Balloon Pop Outlaw Black — Patricia Lockwood
Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
The House of Mirth — Edith Wharton
Leviathan — Paul Auster
Meat Heart —Melissa Broder
The Deep Whatsis — Peter Mattei
Waiting to Be Heard — Amanda Knox
The Flamethrowers — Rachel Kushner
The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald
All That Is — James Salter
The French Lieutenant's Woman — John Fowles
A Long and Happy Life — Reynolds Price
Last Night — James Salter
Turtle Diary — Russell Hoban
The Cement Garden — Ian McEwan
Deliverance — James Dickey
The Seamstress and the Wind — César Aira
Fun Home — Alison Bechdel