Notable books I’ve read over the years. I thought this would be a shorter and more focused approach than attempting to record every single book I have read. I’ve been an avid reader for life, but I only have a backlog of these lists for the past couple years.
Early favorites this year include: Robert Putnam‘s Bowling Alone, his study published in 2000 about the decline in American civic participation, which even today seems timely; Proust‘s second in In Search of Lost Time, Within a Budding Grove; and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, an anthropological study of the conflicts that arise from cultural differences between American medical care and Hmong identity.
Spent the year and my long commute working through my to-read list. Went with the flow and finally got around to reading David Mitchell‘s Cloud Atlas after having it on my list for 6 years! (Still haven’t seen the film, but want to.) Other memorable reads were Murakami’s 1Q84 and DFW’s first, The Broom of the System. I dove into a few classics that were free downloads on Kindle – they ended up being very entertaining reads: Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s Crime and Punishment and Voltaire‘s Candide.
Discovered the poetry of Octavio Paz and Nicanor Parra. Happy to be reunited (in a sense) with David Foster Wallace‘s truncated body of work in The Pale King. Some more urban study with Jane Jabobs‘s The Death and Life of Great American Cities - a long overdue read. Kluge by Gary Marcus was a quick one, a good rehash of some basic ideas with some well-selected anecdotes, making psychology accessible to any reader.
Unbeatable start to the year with Kenzaburō Ōe. Also read many Asian-American works, such as Chang-Rae Lee‘s Native Speaker and Korean author Kim Ronyoung‘s Clay Walls. Ended by striking some notes with Martin Amis‘s London Fields and Roberto Bolaño‘s The Savage Detectives (would gladly read more of both).
This year, great poetry discoveries in Rainer Maria Rilke‘s Duino Elegies and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Nonfiction included The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker, essays by David Foster Wallace in Consider the Lobster, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Overall just absolutely immersed in David Foster Wallace – also read his collection of shorts, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and the towering tome, Infinite Jest. Uncategorizable but amazing is Theresa Hak Kyung Cha‘s Dictee. Also really liked Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
A couple of friends and I started a lunchtime book-discussion group in the early part of this year, and we read Ivan Turgenev‘s Fathers and Sons as well as Haruki Murakami‘s Hard-Boiled Wonderland the End of the World.
Looking back, I didn’t record as many of my reads this year, though I was reading like it was going out of style. (Perhaps it is – new media threatens to dominate.) Absolutely loved White Noise by Don DeLillo, Rabbit, Run by John Updike, and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Also liked The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. And not least, plenty of James Joyce and Marcel Proust.
I spent a lot of time reading punk zines this year, especially loving on the stuff by Aaron Cometbus. Some reads by Noam Chomsky, Haruki Murakami, and Bill Bryson. My favorites from this year were The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. For classes I was concentrating on the 18th-Century British authors like Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett. As for poetry, I devoured a fair deal of Walt Whitman, Czeslaw Milosz, Billy Collins, and Samuel Beckett.
Minimalism, nihilism, and trauma memoirs mostly, highlighted here by Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot, Albert Camus‘s The Stranger, and Wally Lamb‘s She’s Come Undone. Then a bit of lighthearted fun to round that out, in Nick Hornby and Dave Eggers. Loved Isabelle Allende‘s House of the Spirits too.
Favorites were Vladimir Nabokov‘s Lolita, Dali‘s The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, Mark Z. Danielewski‘s House of Leaves, Evelyn Waugh‘s The Loved One, Philip K. Dick‘s A Scanner Darkly, and Barbara Kingsolver‘s The Poisonwood Bible. Read several works of each of the following authors this year: Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was really big into the Beat writers for awhile, and also read plenty of Beat poetry by Allen Ginsberg.