The first book that I got lost in this year was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. Like practically every other human in America, I couldn't read enough about Boris or antique furniture restoration. But I loved quite a few smaller, quirky novels this year too: Shane Jones' bizarre and transfixing Crystal Eaters. Daniel Seery's oddball novel A Model Partner. The raw and beautiful Green Girl by Kate Zambreno. Sarah Gerard's haunting, scientific Binary Star. I also spent some time in the dark world of The Beat Generation in the late Don Carpenter's Fridays at Enrico's. Tod Goldberg's Gangsterland made me both laugh and contemplate my mortality. And Gina Frangello's gritty, sweeping, sexy tale, A Life in Men, I finished in one big gulp.
I raced through Jenny Offill's Department of Speculation and Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being after seeing both authors at the LA Times Festival of Books. Both works ask questions about what we expect from a story: Offill makes a collage out of disparate parts, while Ozeki changes the game midway through. I listened to Time Being on the train from London to Paris and back. I heard Ozeki read the final lines as I pulled into the tube stop for Heathrow. It was a joy to read something that took me out of myself while I was also displaced from home.
I read more short story collections than ever, and many of them--Beside Myself by Ashley Farmer, How to Catch a Coyote by Christy Crutchfield, Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox and See You in Paradise by J. Robert Lennon, to name a few--were wonderful books that challenged me to read in new and different ways. My eyes really opened this year to how much freedom there is in short fiction. I read some weird stuff this year, man. But so much of it was great, weird stuff.
I reread books for teaching: The Great Gatsby, Anthem, and for my appearance on Literary Disco, Albert Camus' The Stranger.
In an attempt to make myself a better person/artist, I read books like Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and 10% Happier by Dan Harris. In an attempt at escapism, I read Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which was decent, and Amy Poehler's Yes, Please, which was a delight. I also read Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl, but this became a vehement hate-read after only a few pages. (Seriously, don't bother.) I'm ending the year as I began it, walking on the treadmill to a mystery book. (First was Ben H. Williams' Countdown City, then Marisha Pessl's Night Film, and finally the Robert Galbraith--née Rowling--mystery The Cuckoo's Calling.) I like a little crime in the morning.
Two essay collections I loved this year were Megan Daum's The Unspeakable (especially for the opening essay), and Dinah Lenney's fabulous The Object Parade. Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams rocked my world. Somehow, the memoirs I read this year began to coalesce around the idea of faith. I read Sara Miles' City of God, Megan Hustad's More than Conquerors, Diogo Mainardi's The Fall, and Krista Bremer's My Accidental Jihad.
But the best read this year wasn't the best book. I read Sharon Creech's middle grade novel, Walk Two Moons. My daughter read it for seventh grade English class, and she loved it so much that she asked me to read it. She wanted to talk about it. There's no better read for me than a shared one.
What did you read? Let's talk about it.