52 books is a lot of books! In 2017, I read more than 52 books–57 to be exact. Started a whole bunch, finished almost all of them. Here’s the rundown.
A strong start with ten books, three of which I’d already started reading at some point the prior year. Then there were the two Kirchner graphic novels.
- Aeschylus‘ Persians, Seven Against Thebes, and Suppliants
- Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
- Paul Kirchner’s The Bus
- Paul Kirchner’s The Bus 2
- Apostolos Athanassakis (translator) The Homeric Hymns
- Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings
- Richard Feynman’s The Character of Physical Law
- Dava Sobel’s Longitude
- Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others
- John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis’s The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat
Book(s) from this month that I’m glad I read: Kirchner’s The Bus books and Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. When is Chiang going to write a novel?! I’ve also got my eye on Kirchner’s Awaiting the Collapse: it’s supposed to be weeeeiiiirrrrdddd.
Book(s) from this month I probably should’ve put down immediately: the Prose writing book. Just another dry-ass text that the instructors in my writing classes think I need to read. I think I’m mostly annoyed by Prose’s selections of what she thinks is good writing. None of it I found terribly interesting nor enlightening. Blech.
- Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States
- Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and Other Clinical Tales
- Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad
- Liu Jan (translator), Chinese Stuff
- Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Book(s) from this month I probably should’ve put down immediately: Zinn only because, after the 2016 election and this book, I really hate America now.
Man, I really exploded this month with fourteen books (29 total). Six were volumes in Otomo’s Akira. Two were the Maus books. Three were books from my workshop class last spring. And then there was Don Quixote, my alternative Infinite Winter II reading.
- Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams
- Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool
- Han Kang’s The Vegetarian
- Art Spiegelman’s Maus I & II
- Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (vols 1 – 6)
- Miguel de Cervantes‘ Don Quixote
- Don Quixote Spark Notes
- Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé
Book(s) from this month that I’m glad I read: The Vegetarian, Maus, Don Quixote, and Bringing Up Bébé. The Diving Pool and The Vegetarian were (good) weird, but The Vegetarian is what I keep coming back to in my mind as the queen of weird books I read this year. Maus, obviously because of Birdland: so much thinking I’m doing on metaphor and allegory and genocide, all because of this incredible graphic novel. Don Quixote: I do love the classics. And the Bébé book: because I’ve got a kid now, and this book reinforces what my instincts tell me about caring for a baby.
Book(s) from this month I probably should’ve put down immediately: None. This was a good month of reading!
Uh oh, just one book this month to bring my total up to thirty for the year (almost 60% of the way there). I blame Naked Lunch for killing my desire to read.
- Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds
I’m still very “eh” on this month’s book.
Still in a bit of a reading slump this month (thanks to Gullit’s scam-ass book) with just three books read.
- Ruud Gullit’s How To Watch Soccer.
- Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart
- Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark’s Cryptozoology A to Z
Book(s) from this month I probably should’ve put down immediately: Did I mention how much of a chump I felt after fighting to finish How to Watch Soccer?
I found out a coworker of mine had a book published twenty years ago, and that one helped re-ignite my reading. Got up to five books this month for a grand total of 38 for the year.
- Bob Oeste’s The Last Pumpkin Paper
- Junot Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her
- Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell
- John M. Henshaw’s An Equation For Every Occassion
- Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge
Book(s) from this month that I’m glad I read: From Hell was incredible. Chapter 11, though, hoooo boy, that was a tough one to get through.
Book(s) from this month I probably should’ve put down immediately: Bleeding Edge. Fuck you, Pynchon.
Four books this month, two of which were workshop class reads.
- Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate
- Alissa Nutting’s Tampa
- Drew Magary’s The Hike
- Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
In retrospect, this was a frustrating month. Franken is out of the Senate for sexual harrassment/assault. Wells Tower was a formulaic drudge that had incredibly bright moments here and there. And Alissa Nutting was salacious, but Tampa isn’t enough to get me excited for her latest book. And don’t get me started on The Hike.
Kept it steady this month with another five reads: two graphic novels, a book I started back in 2014, Chabon’s latest, and a book Canelli read earlier in the year.
- Michael Chabon’s Moonglow
- James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time
- Hamish Steele’s Pantheon
- Italo Svevo’s Zeno’s Conscience
- Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta
Book(s) from this month that I’m glad I read: I liked all the books I read this month except for the last one.
I don’t remember how it happened, but I got a sudden hankering to read Melville’s Typee. It was one of the two books I read this month (total up to 49 this month), and it had me thinking I could close out the year with Moby Dick. Fat chance.
The slow-down from last month continued into this month with just the three books, but part of that was Murakami’s Underground. It made it hard to finish. Still, I completed the task, 52 books, with two months to spare!
- Haruki Murakami’s Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
- Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation
- Jeff VanderMeer’s Authority
This was a tough month. Underground was an extremely harrowing book. It has painted a black spot on my heart for the rest of my life. I’m still excited to read more Murakami, however. After that, the extreme up that was Annihilation followed by the extreme down that was Authority almost soured me on the Weird Thoreau.
I kept going because when I’m reading, I’m writing. Only three books for the second month in a row, but I needed that time to power through the writing.
- Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon
- Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance
- Theodore Ziolkowski’s Cults and Conspiracies: A Literary History
Book(s) from this month that I’m glad I read: Cults and Conspiracies was surprisingly fascinating and probably very important to read for someone who wants to read and write the things I like.
Book(s) from this month I probably should’ve put down immediately: The Maltese Falcon was terrible. I hated it.
A leisurely stroll through two more books while gearing up for Infinite Winter III. Grand total: 57 books. Fuck yeah!
Both books were great. Dracula was much more entertaining than I thought it would be. And The Storm Before The Storm was just as good as the podcast.
And here are the books I started but didn’t finish in 2017.
- John Dryden (translator) Plutarch’s Lives, Vol I (started 6 Jan 2017)
- Võ Nguyên Giáp’s People’s War People’s Army (started 11 Feb 2017)
- Rebecca Skloot (editor) The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2015 (started 19 Feb 2017)
- William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch (started 19 March 2017)
- Phong Nguyen’s Pages from the Textbook of Alternative History (started 19 May 2017)
- J. David Archibald’s Extinction and Radiation (started 6 Sept 2017)
- Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (started 17 Dec 2017)
Just seven books, even though one of them will definitely get finished, probably sometime in early to late February.
So, final reflections? Well, I don’t feel as down on how I read them as Canelli does. Part of that may be because I allowed myself the ability to finish books I’d already started in prior years as well as made graphic novels fair game. Take the latter out and I’ve only got 40 books for the year. But what kind of fucking snob would that make me to say, “Graphic novels don’t count because”–why?–“they’re not real literature.” Fuck that. I picked classics–Maus, Akira, From Hell–and read them just as seriously as any other text.
Also, I think I finally accept that I’m actually a much faster reader than most people. For years I always claimed–and believed–that my mind’s voice spoke at the same pace as my mouth’s voice. But, it turns out, that’s not true. When I get into a book–really get into it–I burn through pages faster than one a minute. Do the math, and I’m reading 60+ pages in an hour. I actually tried speaking some of Zinn at the same pace my eyes read, and my mouth couldn’t keep up.
Finally, I’m not sure if Canelli did this, but I just let my book choice be dictated by whatever my fancy was at the moment of book selection. You can see from above that what I chose to read varied tremendously, and I was happy to experiment. I didn’t quit a lot of books because I was very keen on not starting a book I didn’t think I could finish. And what I thought I could finish varied greatly by whatever mood I was in when it came time to pick a new book.
So there you have it. I’m not going to read 52 books in 2018, but I will keep reading, because, man, I’ve got so many fucking books in my house. Forget about it.