decemberthirty: (tree swallow)
[personal profile] decemberthirty
Happy New Year, friends! Oh, my year is off to a lovely start. I have come down with a cold, it's true, and I would prefer if I hadn't. But other than that it is lovely. I am settling in to my residency; I am working; I am walking in the woods in the afternoons; I am reading Virginia Woolf; I am watching bluebirds outside the window of my studio. I will have more thoughts to share about the residency soon, but for now it is time to talk about books.

So. here is the list of what I read during the past year. Links go to the post that contains the closest thing to a review of each book that I wrote; my orderly reviewing habits got away from me a bit towards the end of the year, so there are some books without links. Oh well. Some of them I still intend to write about; others will just have to be passed over. Books marked with a "Q" are those that I deem to be, in some way, queer:

1. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet (Q)
2. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (Q)
3. The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi (Q)
4. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
5. The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr
6. As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann (Q)
7. Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf (Q)
8. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
9. Another Country by James Baldwin (Q)
10. The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
11. Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris
12. Am I Blue?, Marion Dane Bauer, ed. (Q)
13. H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
14. The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
15. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
16. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
17. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
18. Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood
19. The Gathering by Anne Enright
20. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
21. A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
22. Now and Then by William Corlett (Q)
23. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
24. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
25. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
26. On the Edges of Vision by Helen McClory
27. The Women by T.C. Boyle
28. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
29. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
30. How Winter Began by Joy Castro
31. The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
32. Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
33. Watchers at the Pond by Franklin Russell
34. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (Q-ish)
35. Sunstroke by Tessa Hadley
36. So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ
37. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
38. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff (Q-ish)

Look at how many Qs there are in the first part of the year, and how few in the second! That's interesting. This is also the third year in a row in which I didn't re-read any books--I'm glad I set myself a goal of doing a bit of re-reading to remind myself that it has real value. Books by women made up 55% of my reading this year, so that's nice and balanced. I only read four works of nonfiction; while that may not be balanced, it is quite typical for me.

Because I always find this a bit interesting, here is the list broken up by

American (15)
Roxane Gay
Anthony Doerr
James Baldwin
Mark Harris
Marion Dane Bauer
Ruth Ozeki
Madeline Miller
Marilynne Robinson
T.C. Boyle
Jesmyn Ward
Joy Castro
Annie Dillard
Franklin Russell
Annie Proulx
David Rakoff

British (13)
Sarah Waters
Hanif Kureishi
Maria McCann
Virginia Woolf
Helen Macdonald
Angela Carter
Graham Greene
J.L. Carr
William Corlett
Penelope Fitzgerald
Ford Madox Ford
Tessa Hadley
D.H. Lawrence

Irish (2)
Colm Tóibín
Anne Enright

Scottish (2)
Josephine Tey
Helen McClory

French (1)
Jean Genet

Russian (1)
Ivan Turgenev

Norwegian (1)
Tarjei Vesaas

Canadian (1)
Margaret Atwood

Sierra Leonean (1)
Ishmael Beah

Senegalese (1)
Mariama Bâ

Books that will stay with me:

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann: I had been searching for over a year for a book that would sweep me off my feet, and this was the one that did it. It is a flawed book, but it tells an all-consuming story. A muscular, immensely powerful, ferocious story. An indelible reading experience.

Another Country by James Baldwin: A big, messy, and stunningly ambitious book about race, sex, identity, and the way those things intersect and merge in New York in the late 1950s. It sprawls, and some parts of it are more successful than others, but it contains fearless metaphors and more than one scene that I know I won't forget.

Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris: This is the sequel to Harris's book The Southpaw, but it far surpasses it in quality. It's the best baseball book I've ever read. Harris touches on deep matters with a light hand, finds humor everywhere, and bundles it all up into a beautifully bittersweet package.

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald: I can't remember the last work of nonfiction that held my attention as effortlessly as this memoir. I love books that are in deep conversation with other books, as this one is with T.H. White's The Goshawk. Smart, thoughtful, and written in straightforwardly beautiful prose.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. This book is a tour de force. On the surface it is about four siblings who survive Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, but it is about so much more than that: family, memory, poverty, community, and so many different forms of love.

Other titles that I recommend include Jacob's Room, The Testament of Mary, The Gathering, A Month in the Country, Lila, The Blue Flower, and Sunstroke.

Happy reading to all in the coming year!

Date: 2016-01-02 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As Meat Loves Salt was an inspiring book, an interesting and well told story - I'm glad I read it. It did have that raw power. The story got a bit fanfic-ish (...not sure how to describe it really) towards the end, though. I liked it anyway.

Date: 2016-01-03 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree about the end of the story--when I say that it's flawed, I'm thinking mainly of the events in the last quarter of the book, or thereabouts. But certainly a powerful story nonetheless.

Date: 2016-01-02 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Happy new year! Thanks for sharing your reading list, I do love seeing what people have been reading.

Date: 2016-01-03 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Happy new year to you too! Glad you like seeing the list--I like seeing everyone's too.

Date: 2016-01-03 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So many of these are already on my to-read list, and a few others were not on my radar before - thank you for posting this! I have read The Buddha of Suburbia - it was back in 2001 when I was doing a semester abroad in London, and someone had left a beautiful hardcover behind. I'd never heard of Kureishi and it blew me away at the time. It was the right book at the right time. I've always had a soft spot for him since then, but his others always seem to start strong and then fizzle somewhere in the middle. Reading your review makes me wonder how Buddha of Suburbia would hold up for me on a reread.

Date: 2016-01-03 02:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love those moments when you find just the right book at the right time. (Also, I did a semester abroad in London in 1999--I must be just a couple of years older than you.)

Anyway, I have a soft spot for Kureishi because he wrote My Beautiful Laundrette, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I'd be interested to hear what you think of The Buddha of Suburbia if you ever do reread it!

Date: 2016-01-03 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Um, I'm an idiot. It was fall semester, 1999 that I was studying in London and found that book! I was there again in 2001, but just working, not studying. We're probably close to the same age then - I'm 36.

I loved My Beautiful Laundrette too, but I didn't come across it until well after I'd read many of his novels.

Date: 2016-01-03 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We were there at the same time--how funny! I can easily imagine how much I might have loved The Buddha of Suburbia if I had read it at that point in time.

Date: 2016-01-03 02:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's so cool! I was just thinking the other day about how times have changed since then - none of us had mobile phones or computers with us, and we'd take a trip once a week to easyEverything to send emails to our friends. Funny story - a few years ago I was chatting with a coworker and it turned out he'd also been on a semester abroad program Fall 99. We started comparing notes about celebrity sightings around London, and he told a story about getting lost in Leicester Square one night and coming across a red carpet and lots of people being held back by the police, waiting for someone to exit a building. He asked a police officer what was going on, and was told that Paul McCartney was having a launch party for a new album, so he waited outside along with the crowd. When Paul came out, he actually got a wink out of him. "No way!" I told him, "I was AT that party!" (Granted, he came closer to Paul than I ever did.) Anyway, small world. I wonder if you and I ever almost ran into each other and never would have known it.

Date: 2016-01-03 04:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's a great list! In looking over it, it surprised me that I've read many of them.

I'm glad you've settled in and are enjoying yourself so far. It should be a fun year!

Date: 2016-01-05 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Were there any that you particularly liked among the ones you've read?

I'm certainly hoping it will be a fun year--and I hope it is for you too!

Date: 2016-01-10 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
This is one that I want to read. I've requested it from the library but who knows when they'll get around to giving it to me. (They got a new computer system last year. It seems to take months to for requests to get filled now.)
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