Less on top of this than I should have been, I also admit that I was trying to squeeze in a few more books before the new year.

I did not really have a reading program this time. I read a lot more things that I wanted to, read a fair few novellas and things in advance of my MFA thesis project, and generally tried to enjoy myself. I read one semi-big (The Savage Detectives) and one objectively big book (Life: a User Manual), and I found, late in the year, a couple of new semi-reading infatuations in Perec/the Oulipo more generally and Gertrude Stein, which I know is kind of a bad idea. I also did some re-reading, which I mean to do more of.

Speaking of re-reading, I was talking to the writer and poet Joe Torra in the hallway (as one does) and we got on about reading habits, and he mentioned something about how, when he was younger, he would find a writer or poet he liked and then would go and read everything that person had ever written, which I thought was pretty cool. I don’t think I’d done that, though, since maybe the Redwall books as a kid (and even then, I never really got into Jacques’s pirate ship novel, or whatever that way). So in addition to re-reading, I mean to read more deeply within a writer’s work whom I decide I like. I’ve accidentally started doing that anyway, but I think because I was so concerned with being “well read” which I took to mean “widely read,” I would read a writer’s “major work” and then move on: and so I know I’ve missed things.

So here’s to the next year of reading (clinks glass).

Below are the books I “completed” in 2019. This list does not include any articles, half-finished books, or anthologies out of which I read most things but not all. Many of the books I’m reading at this present moment or have recently finished (e.g., The Problem with Pleasure, Tender Buttons), were started in 2019 but I’ll count those towards 2020. For 2020 itself I had meant to read only (excepting things for school) books written since I’ve been born, as I feel less familiar with contemporary stuff than I mean to be, but I think I’ll still sneak in a few broad exception categories (nonfiction, poetry, oulipo, and “Jewish books,” broadly construed). But we’ll see what I actually end up doing.

So the list! This year again without commentary. Should you want to discuss one or hear more about it, please let me know. I like talking books. To borrow a phrase, “Some of the stuff I [liked] very much, some of the stuff I quite [liked] / And I don’t hate any of it.”

  1. Going Places by Leonard Michaels
  2. Virtual Muse by Charles O. Hartman
  3. #! by Nick Montfort
  4. From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
  5. The Rider by Tim Krabbé
  6. It’s All About the Bike by Robert Penn
  7. On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World by Elizabeth Kadetsky
  8. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
  9. The Sensualist by Daniel Torday
  10. Spring and All by William Carlos Williams
  11. The Ethical Slut by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton
  12. Justine by the Marquis de Sade
  13. The Empty Space by Peter Brook
  14. Women by Chloe Caldwell
  15. Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion
  16. Miss Loneleyhearts by Nathanial West
  17. Point Omega by Don Delillo
  18. By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño
  19. I Would Have Saved Them if I Could by Leonard Michaels
  20. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  21. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
  22. A Very Short Introduction to Islamic History by Adam J. Silverstein
  23. Exercises in Style by Raymond Quineau
  24. A Very Short Introduction to Comparative Literature by Ben Hutchinson
  25. Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (chapbook) by Sara Ryan
  26. Frankenstein (1818 ed.) by Mary Shelly
  27. Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
  28. A Hurry of English (chapbook) by Mary Jean Chan
  29. Create Dangeously (a wildly over-marketed… essay?) by Albert Camus
  30. Life: A User Manual by Georges Perec
  31. The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
  32. The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes
  33. Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz
  34. The Dead and Other Stories by James Joyce
  35. Modern Technical Writing by Andrew Etter
  36. Ida by Gertrude Stein
  37. A Very Short Introduction to Decadence by David Weir
  38. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes