2019 in books

I set out to read 50 books this year and ended up reading 57. I don’t think I’ll set a goal like that for a few years; this was a lot more reading than I’d thought it would be, a lot more time spent reading. Multiple narratives carried in my head at once. Stories layered against one another in strange patterns. But down the line? Would I do it again? Totally. I may try to go for 100 sometime in the future. I’d recommend to anyone the wonderful workout of long-distance reading. It’s a kaleidoscope.

My favorites were: Vineland and Inherent Vice (Pynchon bookends on the year), Sabbath’s TheaterLucky JimTenth of DecemberReplayThe Dog of the SouthHigh Tide in TucsonTrick Mirror, Known and Strange Things and, towering above the year’s pagesUnderworld. DeLillo stands tall on my list this year with a mid-summer binge, and Underworld was just one of those things that shook me up completely during the experience. The structure, the language, the cosmic sense of what a half-century of progress and missteps can mean to a society and to its individuals. The great arc of baseball in our collective consciousness. I ranked Mason & Dixon at the top of last year’s list, and here we’ve got another doorstop titan.

At the end of 2019, A Whale Hunt was the only book that I reread. It’s a delightful book that helped me think about paragraph structure in my journalism a few years back, and, wow, did it ever get me in the mood this season to strike out on some deep-zazen environmental reporting.

 The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

Vineland by Thomas Pynchon

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

How to Listen to Jazz by Ted Gioia

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Good Kids, Bad City by Kyle Swenson

Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Janesville by Amy Goldstein

Draft No. 4 by John McPhee

Furnishing Eternity by David Giffels

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Underworld by Don DeLillo

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Tenth of December by George Saunders

The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo

Americana by Don DeLillo

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Fox 8 by George Saunders

Libra by Don DeLillo

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

Just Kids by Patti Smith

The Hard Way on Purpose by David Giffels

Keep Going by Austin Kleon

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

Working by Robert Caro

Hunter S. Thomson: The Last Interview edited by David Streitfeld

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

Levels of the Game by John McPhee

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib

The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) by Jeff Tweedy

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Leger

Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

Being Here is Everything by Marie Darrieussecq

A Whale Hunt by Robert Sullivan

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

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