Eek, another New Year’s come and gone. Hope everyone has had a good “slide” into the new year, as one says in German. I spent it celebrating with my brothers, Liz, and a tabby cat named Floyd in the Arctic aka Milwaukee. This type of prolonged time together is very rare for us, so I am very grateful. And there was not a SINGLE argument about Andy Warhol this year! (Don’t worry, we adopted new discussion points)
Last year I did a mini roundup of my top ten books of the year, and thought it would be fun to do so again this year. BUT. Remember how I said last year was a bad year for me? I did EVEN LESS reading in 2017. It’s the worst year probably ever for me, definitely since I’ve been keeping track. The lack of reading almost entirely corresponds to the latter half of the year. In fact, I can tell you exactly where my reading time went. I developed this weird nervous habit of playing a cooking game on my phone in most of my down time this late summer/fall. I am not normally a gamer at all, and when I left for Japan after defending my PhD and finally began to relax, I just completely lost interest and haven’t looked at it since the day I got on the plane. Does this happen to anyone else? I think when all your energy is consumed elsewhere, there’s not a whole lot of extra mental space to consume stuff in your private life that is intellectually challenging.
I did manage 30 books and 10,509 pages, so I can still tell you my favorites, just maybe not 10. That’s pretty much a full third of what I read this year and I have to keep some standards on this blog 😛 And I do have one that I’m very proud of- I finally tackled that behemoth of the English language Ulysses this year, after an inspiring trip to Dublin and the James Joyce pharmacy (complicated story, buy the lemon soap! The proprietor told me that “even the binman reads James Joyce in Ireland”). This in general kicked off a very Irish inspired beginning of the year for me, so I guess I would call 2017 my year of learning about the Irish literature tradition (and playing a weird cooking game I never want to see again).
SO. Here are my favorites I want to tell you about, which just happen to add up to 5. I read other good books, don’t get me wrong, but these are really the highlights of my year.
- Ulysses by James Joyce. I’m not pretending I understood all of this or anything so extreme as that, but I did hunt down the companion guide AND start relistening to the whole thing on a podcast, so I guess it’s clear I liked it. I don’t really think Ulysses needs my introduction, though. Here’s my review anyway: My Ulysses Review
- At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien. Another weird as hell Irish classic that I thoroughly enjoyed: My At Swim-Two-Birds
- A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor. A book of short stories by one of the fabled masters- this is classic Americana with a bizarre twist. These stories pack an incredible shocking punch. My A Good Man is Hard to Find review
- Just Kids by Patti Smith. This book is exactly what every person who moves to NYC trying to make it as an artist THINKS it is going to be like, but no one is quite as badass as Patti Smith. Really one of my favorites. My Just Kids review
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Harrowing account of POWs building the Japanese a railroad through then Siam during WW2. Beautiful prose and interesting deep dive into the psychology of atrocities. My TNRttDN review
Cheers to you all and to another good year of reading! Would love any and all book recs for 2018!