My first post of 2012 was a documentation of the books I read in 2011, along with my goals for 2012. I'm doing the same thing to start this new year, and I'm curious to see if I met the goals I set for myself. Back then, I wrote:
"I read 21 books this year, which is down from my total of 31 in 2010. If I can bump my total up to 25 or so this year, I'll be pleased."
I read 56 books last year, more than double my perplexing, modest prediction. How/why did I do this? Well, there are quite a few reasons. The goal is always the quality of the readings, not just amassing a number. But, as I get more serious about where I take myself in a literary sense, I simply need to read more than I usually do. As one of the Fiction Editors of Longform.org, it's my job and expectation to be well-read, to make sure I'm familiar with trends, contemporary voices, and older classics. I'm also in the process of completing applications for potential MFA candidacies. If I'm serious about my own art and writing, I need to devote time to reading as much as I can. Also, I'll never forget a seemingly off-hand remark by my high school English teacher, the man who inspired me to major in English and unwittingly set me on the path I'm currently traveling. In a discussion on reading, he said, without any posturing or snobbery: "Smart people read." And obviously, writing is a community. How can I better myself if I'm not keeping up on the works and creations of others?
As I recap the books I read last year, I'm going to classify the works under the same headings: "Masterpiece," "Great," "Very Good, and "Good With Reservations." I'm also adding the category "Disappointment," since I read a handful of books I didn't like. But as I said last year, feelings change. Sometimes I'm too eager about titles, and after time, that eagerness fades. And since writings are so diverse, from fiction to non-fiction to styles, I know it's sometimes silly or pointless to lump books into rigid categories. I'm very active on Goodreads, and I give books star ratings, but I never take them seriously. Star ratings are gut reactions and should never, ever replace discussions, full reviews, or genuine insights. So while I'm categorizing my 2012 readings, I hope you'll take them with a grain of salt.
NW by Zadie Smith
You Were Never In Chicago by Neil Steinberg
Mao II by Don DeLillo
Chicago: City On the Make by Nelson Algren
Arguably by Christopher Hitchens
The Age Of Wire and String by Ben Marcus
Daddy's by Lindsay Hunter
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Cataclysm Baby and How They Were Found by Matt Bell
Ayiti by Roxane Gay
Space Chronicles by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In Praise Of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Flower Cart by Lisa Fishman
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max
Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
Winter Journal by Paul Auster
Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank
The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano
Autoportrait by Edouard Leve
Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham Dixon
Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen
Conversations With Nelson Algren by H.E.F. Donohue
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Fire the Bastards! by Jack Green
Horoscopes For the Dead by Billy Collins
From the Back Of the Bus by Dick Gregory
My Father's House by Ben Tanzer
Dream Team by Jack McCallum
Tree Of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
Free Will by Sam Harris
It Chooses You by Miranda July
No Doors, No Windows and Bugfuck by Harlan Ellison
Eminent Outlaws by Christopher Bram
The Lazarus Project by Alexsandar Hemon
The End Of the Story: Collected Fantasies, Volume One by Clark Ashton Smith
Sky Saw by Blake Butler
42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
GOOD WITH RESERVATIONS:
Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls
Two Novels by Robbe-Grillet: Jealousy and In the Labyrinth by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Open City by Teju Cole
Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin
The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
Ascent Of the A-Word by Geoffrey Nunberg
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Whore Of Akron by Scott Raab
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Straight Man by Richard Russo
I wrote this last year: "I also want to squeeze in more nonfiction, especially world history, contemporary politics, and writings by black and female artists." I feel like I did that fairly well. I may not have read as much history or political writings as I wanted, but I devoted a good portion of my reading time to black and female artists, and I'll continue to do so in 2013. What are my remaining goals? I'm going to shoot for 60-65 books. Again, it's a conservative increase, but maybe, just maybe, I'll look back and see myself near 70. As far as topics, I'm still deciding. I want to read more science fiction, classics, and graphic novels. And while I like to mix up what I read, I might spend a month or two devoted to a specific writer, to see how his/her books change through the years. But whatever I end up doing, the focus will be on quality.
And as I said last year: if you're a writer/reader, I'd love to know your goals and intentions for 2013. Best of luck going forward in whatever you do.
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