It’s been a little while since I’ve been bloggy, eh?
Here is the complete list of books I read in 2019. Or, more accurate, the complete list of books I read all the way through this year, ignoring the books I didn’t quite finish or only picked through. Throughout the year, I keep a running long on a Word document on my computer; I like to look back and try to remember how I moved from one book to the next, what logic (if any) I can retroactively apply to the decision to close one book and pick up the next one. I read several Elmore Leonard novels because I had the Library of America collections of his short books, and it was easy to move from the end of one to the beginning of the next.
I’m not sure this reveals anything particularly insightful about my reading this past year. I’m aware of the times where I read very little, bogged down by my own writing or reading manuscripts for Story, and didn’t make the effort to read books. It’s always interesting to recall which books have made a lasting imprint on me and which ones I think “oh, right, I read that”.
In alphabetical (hopefully) order, here ’tis:
Above All Men by Eric Shonkwiler
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Anagnorisis: Poems by Kyle Dargan
The Art of Dumpster Diving by Jennifer Moses
As Close to Us As Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell
Blood Work by Michael Connelly
Boom Town: The Fantastic Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding… its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis by Sam Anderson
Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
The Desert Sky Before Us by Anne Valente
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
Fifty-Two Pickup by Elmore Leonard
Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro
A Fortune for Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib
Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christine Aschwanden
The Hazards of Good Fortune by Seth Greenfield
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
Honeypot by Brenna Womer
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie by Christopher Ingraham
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
LeBron, Inc.: The Making of a Billion Dollar Athlete by Brian Windhorst
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
The Man They Wanted Me to Be by Jared Sexton
The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. by Evan Ratliff
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home by Michael Brendan Dougherty
No-No Boy by John Okada
On Immunity: an Inoculation by Eula Biss
One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers by Gail Sher
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark by Cecelia Watson
61 Hours by Lee Child
The Story of STORY Magazine: A Memoir by Martha Foley
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Swag by Elmore Leonard
That Time I Loved You: Stories by Carrianne Leung
The Switch by Elmore Leonard
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The Taxidermist’s Catalog by James Brubaker
Unknown Man #89 by Elmore Leonard
The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks
Virgin: Poems by Analicia Sotelo
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
When Rap Spoke to God by Erica Dawson
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
This year, I read more than 60 books, which is a new high for me since I’ve been keeping track starting in 2009. On a Word document on my computer, I keep a chronological list of what I’ve read, and I find it fascinating to see how I move from one book to another, remembering why I finished, say, Margaret Atwood and then next picked up Edith Wharton. Sometimes there is a logic to it, and sometimes not. Sometimes I have to remind myself why I read a particular book.
And I write that as I’ve gotten much better at giving up on a book I don’t like. I give a book about 75 pages and if I’m actively thinking “This is terrible” I leap ahead, skim the last three chapters, and put it away. I haven’t included the books I gave up on, but there were more than a few.
In addition to these books, of course, there are all the submissions I read for Boulevard and Story. And the New York Times and Columbus Dispatch on the weekends, the New Yorker, and all the online reading I do, particularly Vox and The Athletic. That’s a lot of reading! Anyway, here’s what I read in alphabetical order (probably) with some additional thoughts at the end.
Since 2009, I’ve kept a reading log on my laptop of the books I’ve read in the calendar year. I’m not sure this tells you anything all that interesting, but I like to look back at what I’ve read and see the connections between my reading choices, however tenuous those connections might be. This list only includes the books that I’ve read in its entirety, not books that I’ve picked through (story and poetry collections often fall under this category) or given up (novels that I will not list here – hey, not every book is for every reader). Two or three are re-reads. Believe it or not, I have, in fact, read Gatsby before. So! Here they are:
This past Monday, I had my first post-operation follow-up appointment. It wasn’t with my surgeon, who I have, so far, talked to for perhaps three minutes on the day of the operation. On that day, the orthopedic surgeon showed up with about a dozen others (Ohio State is a teaching hospital/medical program) in green scrubs. Barely making eye contact, the surgeon explained how there would be two incisions to set the tibia with “hardware” inserted into my leg, and that the surgery should talk about two and a half hours.
I’ve never spoken to him again.
The nurses and physician’s assistants at Ohio State have been godsends. They’re the ones focused on patient care, on the day-to-day of managing pain and medications and mobility, patiently answering my questions and providing me the information I didn’t even know to ask. So I was very happy that this week, I got meet my PA, a man named Matthew, who would deliver the verdict on the current state of my recovery.
How do you decide what book to buy and read? There might be two separate questions and two separate answers in there. I have a great many books on my bookshelves that I have bought and never read. Some of them will get read eventually. Some will be gifted away or donated. Some will never get read. I don’t entirely know why, but that’s okay. In short, we often need several reminders to pick up a book. Sure, we might be excited about the newest Zadie Smith, but for the vast majority of authors, we have to remind readers over and over again to pick up a copy of our book (and probably Zadie’s, too). Which is fine: there are so many books published every week so it is very difficult to keep track.
Since I have a novel coming out in 2018 and have learned how important it is to make your readership aware as early and often as possible, I want to do the same for other authors. Help people find even more great books to read. More the merry and all that. So I just asked Literary Twitter for help:
I received dozens of responses. To each and everyone that shared my tweet and suggested additions: thank you! Keep ’em coming, folks: I plan on updating this post throughout the year. If you can do so, please do pre-order these books: it’s a long story, but it really does a tremendous amount of good for helping each author find a wider readership. Without further ado, here’s the list:
This coming Saturday April 23rd, I will be attending the Conversations and Connections conference in Washington, DC. This one day conference brings together writers, editors, and publishers in a friendly, supportive environment. The past two years, this conference has been held in Pittsburgh, and is returning this weekend to the magazine’s roots in The District. This conference is organized by the fine folks at Barrelhouse Magazine, and I was invited to attend by my friend, founding editor Dave Housley.
I’m participating in two events: Speed Dating with Editors and the Editors’ Panel. Should be a good time. On the Editors’ Panel, I’ll be with Marcos Martinez, Michelle Webber, Emily Rich, and Nate Brown to discuss all sorts of editorial issues, questions, and (hopefully) answers. Here’s the boilerplate from the conference website:
Editors from a number of new and established literary magazines and small presses discuss the ins and outs and nuts and bolts of both sides of the literary fence: researching and submitting work, and reviewing the work that comes in through the proverbial (and now mostly virtual) slush pile, from what gets them excited about a story/poem/essay/book to the kinds of mistakes that might make your writing easy to reject. Questions will be taken from the audience, as well as pre-conference via email and Twitter.
All of which sounds terrific. But I’ve recently been thinking about something else in regards to editing.
At AWP 2015, I was one of five panelists discussing literary magazines and how to teach them in a classroom. Along with my colleagues Rebecca Morgan Frank, Rachel May, Jenn Scheck-Kahn, and Christina Thompson, we discussed the various ways that a literary magazine can be integrated into a college classroom. It’s a pretty good discussion that was, if I remember right, held on Saturday afternoon, toward the tail end of the conference when everyone is running out of steam, and yet, the whole thing went well and I had a wonderful time participating.
If you want to skip ahead, I chime in around the 21:30 mark. But you should listen to the whole thing! It’s good and stuff. Enough hype: listen to the podcast in its entirety here.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
Since 2009, I have kept track of every book that I read. The file name on my computer is “Books Read in 2009,” which is kind of funny, since it actually covers books I’ve read in each of the last six years, but I can’t be bothered to name it something different. I started doing this many years ago when the writer Matt Bell started posting the books that he read. Now, if I remember right, Matt read a LOT of books, way more than I did, and I was a little jealous that he could get through so many books in one calendar year. I’ve since learned to let go of such jealous, but I have continued to maintain the annual reading list. Why? Not really sure. I like tracking stuff?
Here’s a few notes before I get to the list:
My friend, the author Kate Sweeney, whose new book American Afterlife has just been released, tagged me in a blog tour questionnaire. I asked her what the rules for this post are, and she wrote back “Rules?” I always like hearing that answer. Anyway, if you haven’t already read it, read Kate’s entry here. To play along, my job is to answer the four questions that Kate sent me, and then “tag” another author, link you in her/his direction, and the thread continues. So, without further ado, here are the four questions and my four answers: