Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Readings, 2015 Goals

Happy New Year!

As I've done the last two years, I'm recapping the books I read in the last calendar year, and sharing some goals for this next year. Last January, my goals were:

"... in 2014, I want to read 65-70 books. I'm currently halfway through Ben Tanzer's Orphans (a science fiction novel, something I didn't touch upon last year, depending on one's definition) and I'm starting NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, which starts me off on an ongoing goal to read more minority and women writers. So yeah, I'm pleased. My focus is more on writing, but reading is essential to that balance."

I'm pleased to note that I went above that estimate and finished with 81 titles. Throughout the year, I thought I was reading more women writers than men, but after reviewing my list, the total wasn't as high as I hoped. So for 2015, I want my final tally to be 75-80% women writers, and with more minority and GLBT voices as well (any recommendations? I'd love to hear them). I'm not going to make a number prediction. I was happy to break 80 titles, and if I stay within the 70-80 range, I'll be happy. As I always say: quality beats quantity. With that in mind, I'm not ranking these titles under any "great/good/mediocre" categories, but merely writing out the reading list chronologically.

I'm writing my own novel this year, so any reading I do will be done with an eye for narrative voice, syntax, and spacing as I attempt to make sense of my own project. So, without further ado, here are the books I knocked out in 2014:

1.) Orphans by Ben Tanzer

2.) We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

3.) The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg

4.) Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

5.) Remainder by Tom McCarthy

6.) Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor

7.) Blood and Soap by Linh Dinh

8.) The Body Artist by Don DeLillo

9.) Samedi the Deafness by Jesse Ball

10.) Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

11.) Threats by Amelia Gray

12.) AM/PM by Amelia Gray (re-read)

13.) The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again by Sven Birkerts

14.) Bluets by Maggie Nelson

15.) Fugue State by Brian Evenson

16.) One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin

17.) Steps by Jerzy Kosinski

18.) Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz

19.) China Cowboy by Kim Gek Lin Short

20.) Embassytown by China Mieville

21.) Lost in Space by Ben Tanzer

22.) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

23.) The Fun We've Had by Michael J. Seidlinger

24.) The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

25.) Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

26.) You Only Get Letters From Jail by Jodi Angel

27.) The Lover by Marguerite Duras

28.) The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell

29.) Up Up and Away by Jonah Keri

30.) The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick

31.) Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith

32.) Big Bad Asterisk* by Carlo Matos

33.) The Last Days of California by Mary Miller

34.) Horse, Flower, Bird by Kate Bernheimer

35.) Every Day is For the Thief by Teju Cole

36.) Sky Girl by Rosemary Griggs

37.) The Karaoke Singer's Guide to Self-Defense by Tim Kinsella

38.) Motorman by David Ohle

39.) The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

40.) The Holy Ghost People by Joshua Young

41.) Angry White Men by Michael Kimmel

42.) The Great Frustration by Seth Fried

43.) Fast Machine by Elizabeth Ellen

44.) Backswing by Aaron Burch

45.) You Feel So Mortal by Peggy Shinner

46.) The Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

47.) The New Black, various writers, edited by Richard Thomas

48.) Neverhome by Laird Hunt

49.) Alone in America by Robert Ferguson

50.) Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

51.) Notable American Women by Ben Marcus

52.) If I Would Leave Myself Behind by Lauren Becker

53.) Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

54.) Commercial Fiction by Dave Housley

55.) Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

56.) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (re-read)

57.) Princesse de Cleves by Madame de Lafayette

58.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (re-read)

59.) Democracy by Joan Didion

60.) Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

61.) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

62.) Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (re-read)

63.) Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison

64.) Candide by Voltaire

65.) The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

66.) A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne

67.) Sprawl by Danielle Dutton

68.) Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

69.) The Poor Man's Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide by Schuler Benson

70.) Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

71.) Distant Star by Roberto Bolano

72.) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

73.) Women by Chloe Caldwell

74.) Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz

75.) Binary Star by Sarah Gerard

76.) Forest of Fortune by Jim Ruland

77.) Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra

78.) A Different Bed Every Time by Jac Jemc

79.) Fat Man and Little Boy by Mike Meginnis

80.) Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter

81.) Kill Manual by Cassandra Troyan

Some brief notes on these readings:

--I smiled when I typed this out and wrote the names Ben Tanzer, Megan Stielstra, and Leesa-Cross Smith. Back in July, I had the amazing honor of reading with these amazing people (including Paul Luikart and Steve Karas) in support of Leesa's debut story collection (the aforementioned Every Kiss a War). Frankly, I need to get more confident about reading my work in public. I'm really new to that part of the game, and I'm still honored that I was invited to share the stage with these lovely, talented people. I'll never forget that evening.

--I can't pick a favorite book, but one that stuck with me a lot was Binary Star, which is being published this month. Sarah Gerard writes with amazing details, forms, and emotions, and I was fascinated, repelled, and captivated by the relationship in her book. Read it when you get a chance. Yes, you.

--As I write my own novel, I'm constantly struggling with spacing, details, and how the narrative voice should take shape. I'm grateful for Jim Ruland's Forest of Fortune and Lindsay Hunter's Ugly Girls. These novels have very distinct narrative voices, and the pacing and layouts gave me ideas on how to go about my own story. This project is a challenge, but I'm happy that I can read books with an eye for narrative. For this, I also thank my professor Kyle Beachy and his "Finding Voices" workshop this fall.

--A final shout-out to Megan Stielstra. Once I Was Cool was such a wonderful collection, and I almost cried on the train when I read the essay "This is Scary and Here I Go:"

It was in that quad, on my way to my very first class, that the panic kicked in: What am I doing here? How did I get here? Am I a total fraud?

I've grown so much as a writer over these last couple years, yet, when I'm struggling with a piece of writing, or I get another form rejection letter, I sometimes wonder if I'm a fraud and will have the rug pulled out from under me. But I realize that some of my favorite writers struggle with this all the time. When I finished this book, I tweeted that it made me feel less alone. And for this, I'll always be grateful for having read it. Thank you, Megan. I needed that.

Have a productive 2015, everyone. Thank you to the writers on this long list. I'm glad I spent time with you.

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