As 2022 winds to a close, I consider the reading I’ve done this year, the reading I missed out on, and the books I hope to read in the new year. I thought it would be fun to write about them as I’ve experienced them and to welcome any conversation, debate, interest, etc. Below is the list in its entirety, and below that, a few classifications.
These Truths by Jill Lepore
Protect Her by Kelly Finley
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
Mother by Maxim Gorky
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression by Christopher Knowlton
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
No Rules: A Memoir by Sharon Dukett
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald
Casino Royal by Ian Fleming
Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America by Gary Wills
American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella
Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Second Read)
Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth
Stalin’s Door by John St. Clair
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (2nd Read)
With a list as eclectic as the one above, close comparison and echelon judgment can be a fool’s errand. This list includes books from legends, talking heads, and author friends of mine alike. Therefore, in my naming just a few favorites from the bunch, I’ve excluded the usual suspects (e.g. Middlemarch, Hamlet, Gravity’s Rainbow).
Mother by Maxim Gorky: Published in English in 1906, Mother is the story of a young revolutionary and his relationship with his passionate mother. There is a spirit to the novel that is moving even through its translation.
No Rules: A Memoir by Sharon Dukett: Full disclosure, I know Sharon through a writers’ support group I’m a part of. Her memoir takes the reader through the trials of a young girl in a changing society in an On The Road-ish personal odyssey that crisscrosses the continent on multiple occasions.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: A touching tale about the passing of Willie Lincoln, and his time spent between this world and the next. The story portrays the thoughts and actions of not only Willie and the other spirits who inhabit “The Bardo” but those of President Lincoln himself.
Though I have no desire to publicly critique books and/or writers, this is a list, and lists, by nature, have bottoms.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill: While I’m sure a twenty-one-year-old version of myself would have found this book very helpful, the twenty-seven-year-old version of me is considerably turned-off by books that offer advice about controlling lower urges and mapping a future, things that ought to be understood somewhere before twenty-five.
Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens: I like the whole Christopher Hitchens thing, but I’m beginning to realize that I may like the thing more than I like the writing. This book is a rambling address to a room of imaginary people. It is too incomplete to begin to address what it means, both morally and psychologically, to consider oneself a contrarian in the twenty-first century.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: I have to pause to consider translation, understanding that so much may be lost between Japanese and American English. However, I found the book’s tone to be cajoling and gamy, with too many unsubtle references to Pop Culture The book’s plot is completely dependent upon the reader’s desire to imagine the characters having sex, and its female characters are only subjects to the main character’s object.
Here, I will not exclude any of the books. If Americans are to continue to read fiction into the future, there has to be an understanding that there IS a difference between liking something and addressing its craft.
Middlemarch by George Eliot: What impressed me the most about this classic during my first read of it was the absolute control that Eliot exhibits throughout the book, and the stamina she must have had to tie a book of that length together after the plot had run its course.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the majority of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die was set in the county I grew up in. Having watched Bond movies and played Bond video games from a young age, I’d never noticed that the book that possibly is the most renowned of the series took place in my own backyard.
Being new to Metafiction, I let John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse sit on my shelf for a long time, intimidated by the reputation that proceeds it. I found it, however, to be far more approachable and manageable than I’d anticipated.
2023 Fiction Plans
The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
Attrib. And Other Stories by Eley Williams
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Deadly Declarations by Landis Wade