This was a strange year in books for me, I guess. I was off to the races for the first six months of the year, and then the habit petered out amidst certain obligations and work/school stuff. Note the ecocriticism-dense final third: grad school, natch.
And yet, reading, as ever, brought me great solace this year. I like having a book-in-progress near me. I like setting it on the kitchen counter or a side table in the living room and feeling its presence, even when we’re watching Silicon Valley or something. Then, indeed, I like to read it, to sit in the basement or on the back patio and drift. This year, I read some fantastic novels (The Secret History, Mao II, Masters of Atlantis (finishing Charles Portis’s five-book run and loving every second of it), Democracy, Cuyahoga, Angle of Repose) and plenty of great nonfiction (Killers of the Flower Moon, Finite and Infinite Games, The Yellow House, The Inner Game of Golf). My favorite, I think, was Democracy. Joan Didion is simply a master. Her ability to capture the great sweep of history in a more focused narrative is amazing to read on the page. The Year of Magical Thinking, while coming from a totally different angle, achieves a similar trajectory.
Also, now that I’m thinking about it: I really let this place go in the past few months! No doubt, it was a busy fall. I’m running headlong into a few more deadlines between now and March, but my plan is certainly to liven up the ol’ blog in 2022. There are all sorts of cretinous cultural trends to spend time on: Just look outside your window! Everyone’s going fucking nuts! To a degree, I might add, that feels sometimes pointless to address. Maybe that’s the problem (or the inverse of a problem): I’ve turned inward in 2021, repelled at times by this century. I’ve tried to cultivate a home. Writing, meanwhile, is a fucking grind. But I chose this, I suppose!
Books are a great antidote to the madness, however. Books work every time.
I’ve got a few books as-yet-unfinished, positioned strategically around the house. Some more Karl Ove (I’m hooked, I’ll admit), some Michael Pollan (hey, join me!) and Out of Office from Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel, thinking that somehow our society is missing the real opportunity at hand: to rethink our labor norms and place leisure at the center of our lives once again.
Books work every time.
Here’s the list.
The Practice by Seth Goden
Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse
Rust by Eliese Goldbach
You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
Intonations by Zadie Smith
Hiroshima by John Hersey
Cuyahoga by Pete Beatty
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
This Isn’t Happening by Steven Hyden
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Yellow House by Sarah Broom
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
To Show and to Tell by Phillip Lopate
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Fulfillment by Alex MacGillis
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Mao II by Don DeLillo
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
Losing Earth by Nathaniel Rich
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis
Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler
American Rule by Jared Yates Sexton
Salvador by Joan Didion
Democracy by Joan Didion
Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book by Harvey Penick
The Inner Game of Golf by Timothy Gallwey
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Legs by William Kennedy
Lights Out by Ted Koppel
Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game by William Kennedy
The Great Acceleration by J.R. McNeill and Peter Engelke
Being Ecological by Timothy Morton
Break Up the Anthropocene by Steve Mentz
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
Beyond Civilization by Daniel Quinn
As We Have Always Done by Leanne Simpson
Wind from an Enemy Sky by D’Arcy McNickle
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
Thinking Animals by Kari Weil
Flush by Virginia Woolf
Against Football by Steve Almond
Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard
My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard