Our Year in Reading 2015

In under the wire, my annual round-up of the books my husband and I read over the year.

My book-loving guy and I read two books in common this year: Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, which we both loved (a rare event for us), and Alice McDermott’s Someone, which I loved and warned him he wouldn’t. I was right, alas.

The other thing I’ll say about Dan’s list is that he’s shown his usual penchant, both for reading work in translation and for finding an author he loves and reading a lot of their work. This year’s chosen author was the contemporary Hungarian novelist László Krasnahorkai, who appears three times on Dan’s list.

Just a few words about my list. The first half includes links to some Goodreads reviews I wrote. Early on I had this fantasy that I was going to be active on Goodreads as both reader and author. But I gave up. It was just too much. Plus, I started reading a lot of books by people I know in real life, and there’s just no way to write objectively about the work of friends.

The second half of my list is loaded with books from Graywolf’s The Art of… series, which I read in conjunction with ScribeLab, an online writing workshop I did this fall. It’s run by my friend, poet and writing coach extraordinaire Rae Gouirand. I highly recommend it — both the series and Rae’s workshops.

And I guess I also picked one writer to read over and over. In my case, it was Lydia Davis.

Here are our lists in the order in which we read. Unlabeled books are novels. I’ve included links to relevant web pages for authors I know in real life.

Naomi’s list

  • Paul Harding, Tinkers: a marvelous way to begin my reading year
  • Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (tr. Lydia Davis): I’m just going to be honest here. There were many gorgeous moments, but even in Davis’s luminous translation, this was a slog, and I often fell asleep over its many, many, many pages.
  • Jay Rubin, Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You (non-fiction): my two cents
  • Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation: my review
  • Marilynne Robinson, Lila: my rave review
  • Kathryn Miles, Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy (non-fiction): my review
  • Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night (poetry): I loved this collection more than my brief, restrained Goodreads post might suggest.
  • Edwidge Danticat, Claire of the Sea Light: my rave review
  • A. Moody, Happily Ever Armageddon: The author is one of the first creative writing students I ever had. An entertaining collection of stories, many inspired by fairy tales, served up inside a compelling sci-fi frame. Full disclosure: the book is dedicated to me!
  • William Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra (drama): Turns out some Shakespeare plays are justly less famous.
  • Mark Doty, Source (poetry): my appreciative Goodreads review
  • Barry Lopez, Resistance: my take on a complex read
  • Eileen Carr, Veiled Intentions
  • Anthony Trollope, The Warden: my somewhat mixed review
  • Julia Levine, Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight (poetry): winner of last year’s California Book Award for Poetry.
  • Takao Suzuki, Words in Context: a Japanese Perspective on Language and Culture (non-fiction, tr. Akira Miura): a dated book with many interesting tidbits & an unfortunate nationalistic agenda
  • Alice McDermott, Someone: my two cents at Goodreads
  • Amy Pence, Armor, Amour (poetry)
  • Lydia Davis, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant (short stories): my rave review at Goodreads
  • Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk (non-fiction): my review for SIERRA Magazine
  • ­Ō no Yasumaro, The Kojiki (really old stuff, tr. Gustav Heldt): this translation of ancient Japanese text an achievement more impressive than readable
  • Catriona McPherson, Come to Harm
  • Jan Ellison, A Small Indiscretion
  • Donald Revell, The Art of Attention (non-fiction)

  • Mark Doty, The Art of Description (non-fiction)
  • Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance (short stories)
  • Carolyn Forché, Blue Hour (poetry)
  • Charles Baxter, The Art of Subtext (non-fiction)
  • Maceo Montoya, The Optimist and the Scoundrel
  • Sven Birkerts, The Art of Time in a Memoir (non-fiction)
  • Denise Levertov, Candles in Babylon (poetry)
  • Haruki Murakami, After The Quake (short stories)
  • Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin (novel in verse)
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
  • Ellen Bryant Voigt, The Art of Syntax (non-fiction)
  • Val Brelinski, The Girl Who Slept with God: Val’s marvelous debut novel came out the same day mine did, and we did a few events together in August. I could not have asked for a more wonderful release-day “sister.”
  • Stacy D’Erasmo, The Art of Intimacy (non-fiction)
  • Robin Beth Schaer, Shipbreaking (poetry): Another writer I was supremely lucky to do a few events with this fall. More in 2016, please!
  • Lydia Davis, Almost No Memory (short stories)
  • James Longenbach, The Art of the Poetic Line (non-fiction)
  • Maceo Montoya, You Must Fight Them (short stories): Maceo, a visual artist, fiction writer, and professor of Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis, will be the featured writer at Stories on Stage Davis on February 13.
  • Kate Asche, Our Day in the Labyrinth (poetry)
  • Madison Smartt Bell, Lavoisier in the Year One (non-fiction)
  • Rebecca Foust, Paradise Drive (poetry)
  • Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend: lives up to the hype
  • W. G. Sebald, Vertigo: This miraculous book, which I’m finishing up today, has changed the way I’m thinking about writing — particularly my next book project.

Dan’s list

  • László Krasnahorkai, Sátántango
  • Frank Key, By Aerostat to Hooting Yard: A Frank Key Reader (short stories, sort of)
  • Daniel Alarcón, At Night We Walk in Circles
  • Dezső Kosztolányi, Skylark
  • Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
  • Robert Charles Wilson, Spin
  • Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
  • Ahmed Hamdi Tanpinar, The Time Regulation Institute
  • Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
  • Kij Johnson, At the Mouth of the River of Bees (short stories)
  • Holly Black, The Poison Eaters & Other Stories (short stories)
  • Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel (novella)
  • Tove Jansson, The Woman Who Borrowed Memories (short stories)
  • Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (short stories)
  • Alice McDermott, Someone
  • László Krasnahorkai, The Melancholy of Resistance
  • Aleksandar Hemon, The Making of Zombie Wars
  • Rebecca Makkai, Music for Wartime (short stories)
  • Jenny Erpenbeck, The End of Days
  • Beowulf (epic poem, tr. Seamus Heaney)
  • Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • László Krasnahorkai, Seiobo There Below
  • Harry Matthews, The Conversions
  • Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman
  • Shirley Jackson, Let Me Tell You (short stories & essays)
  • Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
  • Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
  • Matt Taibbi, The Divide (non-fiction)
  • Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
  • Edward St. Aubyn, A Clue to the Exit

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