Friday, December 22, 2017

Books I Read in 2017

It's possible that I'm doing this to show off, I'll come out with that up front. But if I can try to step back and use myself as an example: as a writer, you should be prepared to read a LOT. Voraciously and omnivorously. Poetry, nonfiction, avant-garde, pulp, scholarship, everything. Read it all and then get back to me if you still want to be a writer.

The reason I am nominally doing this is because I realized I've never done it before on this blog. I keep a paper-based book journal where I write brief impressions of everything I read and I always count up my books at the end of the year, but I've never taken the time to list and organize them. This was a more-than-average year for me as a reader (for half of it I was no longer getting a master's degree for the first time in a few years). Last year I read 72 books; this year it looks like about 120. In 2017, as compared to past years, I read more extremely short books and more poetry, and I audiobooked very efficiently, so that's part of why this list is so long. Another part is how book reviewing kicked me in the flank to read more toward the end of the year.

Here is a list of most of what I read in 2017, alpha by author. The starred ones I read part of and gave up, or didn't read word for word (anthologies or similar). I stopped keeping my journal diligently in August and tried to reconstruct it all in November, but I'm positive I missed a few. 


Abani, Chris - The Secret History of Las Vegas*
barlow, duncan b. - The City, Awake
Bowles, Paul - The Sheltering Sky
Brandeis, Gayle - The Book of Dead Birds
Burnside, Matthew - Postludes
Butler, Octavia - Kindred
Cain, Amina - Creature
Dickens, Charles - Our Mutual Friend
Ferrante, Elena - The Days of Abandonment
Fritz, Marianne - The Weight of Things
Halasa, Malu - Mother of All Pigs
Harrison, A.S.A. - The Silent Wife
Harrison, Kathryn - Thicker than Water
Haskell, John - American Purgatorio
Haskell, John - Out of My Skin
Jones, James - From Here to Eternity
Kang, Han - The Vegetarian
Kasai, Kirsten Imani - The House of Erzulie
Karr, Mary - The Art of Memoir
Kearns, Rosalie Morales - Kingdom of Women
Leddy, Annette - Earth Still
Lee, Mira T. - Everything Here is Beautiful
Mandel, Emily St. John - Station Eleven
McCullers, Carson - The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
Metalious, Grace - Return to Peyton Place
Metalious, Grace - No Adam in Eden
Metalious, Grace - The Tight White Collar
Moshfegh, Ottessa - Eileen
Munro, Alice - Julieta
Rhys, Jean - Good Morning, Midnight
Robbins, Tom - Still Life with Woodpecker*
Ruocco, Joanna - The Week
Ruocco, Joanna - Dan
Schumacher, Julie - Dear Committee Members
Smith, Ali - How to Be Both
Szilágyi, Anca L. - Daughters of the Air
Tiller, Carl Frode - Encircling 1
Williams, John - Stoner
Yuknavitch, Lidia - The Book of Joan


Anderson, Alice - Some Bright Morning, I'll Fly Away
Brandeis, Gayle - Fruitflesh
Brandeis, Gayle - The Art of Misdiagnosis
Brooks, Louise - Lulu in Hollywood
Crawford, Christina - Mommie Dearest
Einstein, Sarah - Mot
Goldsmith, Barbara - Other Powers
Grealy, Lucy - Autobiography of a Face
Hall, Lynn K. - Caged Eyes
Hare, Robert - Without Conscience
Hollars, B.J. - In Defense of Monsters
Jacobson, Mark - The Lampshade
Klebold, Sue - A Mother's Reckoning
Lovell, Mary S. - The Sisters
MacDonald, Helen - H is for Hawk
Peckham, Joel - Body Memory
Roy, Simon - Kubrick Red
Sicherman, Claire - Imprint
Solnit, Rebecca - The Faraway Nearby
Vance, J.D. - Hillbilly Elegy
Washuta, Elissa - My Body Is a Book of Rules
Wunker, Erin - Notes from a Feminist Killjoy
Yuknavitch, Lidia et al. - The Misfit's Manifesto


Anderson, Alice - The Watermark
Benavides, Denise - Split
Berdeshevsky, Margo - Before the Drought
Božičević, Ana - Joy of Missing Out
Brandeis, Gayle - The Selfless Bliss of the Body
Campbell, Erik - The Corpse Pose
Carson, Anne - If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
Choi, Chiwan - The Yellow House
Firestone, Jennifer - Gates & Fields*
Forché, Carolyn - Blue Hour
Glück, Louise - A Village Life*
Hancock, Jennifer Rane - Between Hurricanes
Kaplan, Genevieve - In the ice house
Knorr, Alyse - Copper Mother
Knorr, Alyse - Annotated Glass
Lewis, Robin Coste - Voyage of the Sable Venus
Molotkov, A. - The Catalog of Broken Things
Morgan, Bill - The Art of Salvage
Myles, Eileen - I Must Be Living Twice*
Novo, Salvador - Confetti Ash
Pessin, S.E. - Thank You for Listening
Piazza, Jessica - Interrobang
Rebele-Henry, Brynne - Fleshgraphs
Savage, Claudia T. - Bruising Continents
Vuong, Ocean - Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Whittall, Zoe - The Emily Valentine Poems


Ali, Kazim - Bright Felon
Asuncion, Hossannah - Object Permanence
Cusk, Rachel - Outline
Day, Dalton - Exit, Pursued
de Vigan, Delphine - Nothing Holds Back the Night
Dorantes, Dolores - Style
Dworkin, Craig & Kenneth Goldsmith - Against Expression*
Ervick, Kelcey Parker - The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová
Friedlander, Christine - Avant Gauze
Gladman, Renee - Event Factory
Greenberg, Arielle - Locally Made Panties
H.D. - Kora and Ka*
Haake, Katharine - That Water, Those Rocks
Haake, Katharine - Assumptions We Might Make About the Postworld
Haskell, John - The Complete Ballet
Higgs, Christopher - As I Stand Living
Higgs, Christopher - The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney
Higgs, Christopher with Blake Butler & Vanessa Place - One
Ives, Lucy - The Hermit
Léger, Nathalie - Suite for Barbara Loden
Markson, David - Reader's Block
Millman, Debbie - Self-Portrait as Your Traitor
Myles, Eileen - Afterglow
Ortiz, Wendy - Hollywood Notebook
Ortiz, Wendy - Bruja
Rankine, Claudia - Don't Let Me Be Lonely
Warren, Alli - I Love It Though
Whitener, Brian - Face Down
Wright, C.D. - The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All
Zambreno, Kate - Heroines

Books I expect to finish before December 31:

Herbert, Julián - Tomb Song (update: yep)
Sebald, W.G. - The Rings of Saturn (update: yep)
Bernhard, Thomas - Correction (update: nope, it was more complex than its page count)
Fink, Joseph & Jeffrey Cranor - It Devours! (update: yep)
Update: I also finished Coulter, Kristi - Nothing Good Can Come from This and G'Sell, Eileen - Life After Rugby

Some sads: no Georgette Heyer on the list this year, and virtually no sci-fi. No Atwood. Happies: almost as much cross-genre as fiction, which is appropriate since it's what I'm trying to do as a writer. Very few Great White Males: Paul Bowles and James Jones, and Dickens, and I think that's it. (Does Bowles even count?) Jones was my Big Book this year, and I'm really glad I read him.

I plowed through all of Grace Metalious's output, and the only good book was the original Peyton Place (which I read last year). Save your strength and don't bother with the other stuff.

I also read five of Dorothy's 16 books so far. I love so much what they're doing. Their books all have an especial quality that I can't really put my finger on, something slightly alien and aggressive about the language, and it's mesmerizing.

Various people, in various contexts, have said "You must read really fast!" I don't think I do. But I don't watch television, and I commute six hours a week (was 10 hours a week for much of the year). Sinking most of that time into reading/listening instead, I do pretty well. I read about a page a minute on most print layouts, which means a 300-page book, one that really hooks me, takes...what, five hours? Closer to six, probably. That doesn't seem really fast to me.

It amazes me that I failed to finish three books of poetry, when poetry books are usually so short. But the Glück was such a snoozer I couldn't keep at it, the Firestone was doing something I totally didn't understand (but which a friend, a Dickinson expert, loved), and the Myles was a compendium of decades of her work and I was reading it to procrastinate writing a review of her memoir and so I finally gave it up after 170 pages and got down to business.

Favorites? Impossible to say. What you'll like depends on who you are, not who I am, and some of these altered the way I was writing and thinking even though I liked them less than others (Heroines, for example). By that same token, the fact that I read it does not mean I endorse it; many of these I found mediocre and some of them I roundly disliked. But I'd love to talk to you about them, anyway.

TBR shelf (partial) 

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