2017: My Year in Books

I am surrounded by books. There are bookshelves everywhere in my house–my office, my bedroom, the guestroom, the library (natch!), and the hallway between the library and the guestroom. Not to mention the books that are currently on the floor, displaced by other books and probably on their way out of the house. And also not to mention the 22 boxes of literary magazines I am attempting to get rid of (reluctantly, because many are unread) and the boxes of books in my foyer that will soon be donated. Oh, and the books on the credenza behind me and the ones on my desk. And the ones on the table next to my reading chair. You get the idea.

This is all quite normal, as I am in the business of writing books, so I feel it is part of my job to also read them. And I do my best. In 2017, I have read 80 books. (I keep track on Goodreads and also use their “reading challenge” tool to add some incentive to the reading process, I guess.) Goodreads also creates a handy “My Year in Books” page, so if the picture I’ve posted is a little hard to make out, you can get a closeup of the list here. I know some writers who read far more, but many who read far less. I’ve heard some writers say they don’t read in their genre while writing a book, which has a certain logic to it if one wants to avoid undue influences, but when am I not writing a book?

Anyway, I read some books I truly enjoyed this year. The best in the novel category is probably Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Among story collections–although this is arguably also a novel–is Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. I read two Ann Patchett books this year, The Magician’s Assistant and Commonwealth. I thoroughly enjoyed them both but had complaints about their narrative structures. There were many others I liked a lot: Dodgers by Bill Beverly, Happy Dreams by Jia Pingwa, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth PolinerThe Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, and A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline.  Let’s call that my Top Ten Fiction List.

I read a lot of non-fiction, too. My favorite there is The Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell. Others I liked very much were White Trash by Nancy Isenberg, Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, The End of the World as we Know it by Robert Goolrick, and Thornton Wilder: A Life by Penelope Niven.

I also read poetry, which you can see scattered around my reading list, but I don’t think I read any that really stood out this year, except maybe Copia by Erika Meitner. I also liked Cadaver, Speak by Marianne Boruch.

So that was my reading year. I’ve already begun reading a few books I’ll finish in early January, and I’m enjoying them so far, getting my 2018 reading year off to a great start.


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