Observations from a year of reading (2015), or a return to blogging?

This blog has been inactive, but I still keep coming back to it.

Last year I did a TinyLetter, which made it possible to write something that went to a lot of people, but was not permanently on the internet, so I could be a bit more personal.

I didn’t do as much reading of books last year; I read a lot of documents for work, and millions of emails (okay, thousands). I didn’t even read on my long holiday in the summer because it was a writing holiday instead. So my list of books read this year is short, and I loved them all:

  • Elena Ferrante (whatever parts of the series I hadn’t read last year at this time, plus Days of Abandonment),
  • H is for Hawk,
  • The Notebook (Agota Kristof, not Nicholas Sparks),
  • Speedboat by Renata Adler (immensely quotable and beautiful but doesn’t have a plot),
  • A huge book of short stories by Grace Paley that I devoured in a gulp in March,
  • Mary Oliver’s new poetry collection Felicity

I think that there will be more, perhaps even books written by men, but I don’t remember.

Oh yes – also:

  • A Brief History of Seven Killings, which is an amazing piece of writing and I can totally support the recognition it has gotten. It’s sort of tough going, though, although it gets amazingly suspenseful at the end.
  • Manuscripts Don’t Burn, which is diaries/manuscripts/letters of Bulgakov – useful for my novel – and also really enchanting.
  • White Guard by Bulgakov, which echoed in my mind when I visited Kyiv in November.
  • Murakami’s The Strange Library, which is like having an elaborate dream during a nap.

I have started and not finished dozens of books, however. Although this is more embarrassing, I think it is a more interesting list:

  • Lots of books about tunnels. I’m sure you know that I would like to write a book about tunnels, and so I have been acquiring and reading parts of them. In fact, a book that belongs on that list above is probably Ernesto Sabato’s book The Tunnel, which is about murder and not really about tunnels, but still pretty good. The other books on this sublist are two books by David L. Pike, who writes about the undergrounds of cities and I think might be my tunnel soulmate.
  • The biography of Tennessee Williams that everyone wrote about in 2014 (by “everyone”, I mean book reviewers in niche publications that I subscribe to).
  • SPQR, which I still believe I will read at some point because Mary Beard is awesome.
  • The Familiar, Vol. 1, by Mark Z. Danielewski. I might be too conservative to read this book, but I will try again sometime. Also it’s really heavy.
  • Multiple – and I mean multiple – books about writing.
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, which I think I can dip in an out of over my life.
  • Slippery Noodles, a history of Chinese food by Hsiang Ju Lin, which is wonderful. I need to read more histories of food. Any suggestions?
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck – didn’t really get into it.
  • Martin Buber’s Between Man and Man – I am always sort of reading this book.
  • Civilizing the Machine, which I have been sort of reading as part of a course syllabus a friend and I are slowly reading through this decade/couple of decades.
  • The Prophets by Heschel.
  • Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit – plan to read this in 2016.
  • The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean Pierre De Caussade, which I heard about on Writer’s Almanac.
  • Shelley’s Frankenstein.
  • Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity.

So, no surprise there – this list is a lot longer. I like it that way.

Do you have any observations on reading from your 2015?


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