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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Baby Please Come Home

This is not my top ten list, it’s just a list of some of the books I read for pleasure this year and are all highly recommended by me, the Grinch who stole joy and love and peace and reindeers and the way our faces glow in front of a fire or our hearts fill when the pond is frozen and the moon is low.

Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson (a brilliant memoir about the death penalty, wrongful convictions and his founding of the Equal Justice initiative. Compassionate, moving and inspiring. Beautiful writer and incredible human being.)

Path to Power – Robert Caro (the first installment of Lyndon Johnson biography I’ve meant to read my entire life. The writing is majestic and you find out things about  Johnson such as that he used to take dumps while giving orders to his aides. I know, right.

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (a novel about a young Nigerian woman in America. About many things but for me I loved reading about her relationships. As a person with a history of three night stands, I found it it fascinating to watch our protagonist navigate the culture largely through her relationships with men.) Terrifically muscular and nuanced writer.

Calypso – David Sedaris (I simply read everything he writes. I also poked around in his diaries. This is the writer’s petrie dish, where ideas, lines, jokes, everything germinate.) Did he win the Mark Twain award yet?

I’ll be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara (terrifying case of the Golden State serial killer. If you’ve ever wondered about the guy who checks the water meter, yes he is a serial killer. Sets a high bar for true crime.

Educated – Tara Westhover (extraordinary memoir of a  young girl raised without any education in a hardscrabble fundamentalist nightmare from which she escapes and becomes a scholar. The horrible moments are vivid, the quiet moment unforgettable. Also, when a hugely successful new memoir hits the scene my intense jealousy usually clouds the read. This book was just too fucking good. Respect.

Asymmetry – Lisa Holliday (Yes, I was interested because she supposedly had an affair with Philip Roth. While everyone talked about the twist, which I didn’t even get, I thought she wrote with a lot of sophistication and authority. And here’s some of my high minded literary criticism: I liked the middle part best.

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah (I don’t usually read celebrity bios, though I am a Noah fan. One of the bridge ladies recommended and I had to see why this memoir appealed to an 87 year old Jewish lady. It’s a superb memoir of childhood in the most universal sense, but an incredible rendering of growing up in South Africa with a fierce single mom.)

The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis (About two psychologists and their long term friendship which, as all great friendships do, implodes. Along the way you learn all about behavioral economics, or the science of decision making. It’s actually really suspenseful and the science is beautifully synthesized for English majors like moi.

Any recommendations from your 2018 reading?

14 Responses

  1. Finished my Masters thesis this year (on editing fiction, which still left me no time to actually read!) so 2018 reads were few. Still, ‘Eggshell Skull’, by Bri Lee (A&U 2018), I inhaled after submitting. A page turning, true story of a woman’s refusal to back down in bringing a sexual assault case.

  2. The Pisces by Melissa Broder! Funny and really weird.

  3. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata …

  4. Now I want to read all of the books you described…. 😉 They all sound so good!

  5. “Educated” was an amazing book.
    Three memoirs I enjoyed lately — perhaps not recent ones:
    “Dead End Gene Pool” by Wendy Burden
    “The Mighty Franks” by Michael Frank
    “Beer Money” by Frances Stroh

  6. The Litvinenko Inquiry — Owen, et al. (The British government’s official report on one of Russia’s recent assassinations of a domestic political opponent who was living in and a citizen of the UK. You may find it troubling.)

    Tropic of Cancer — Miller (Surprisingly tame despite its lurid reputation. My, how times have changed.)

    Orlando — Woolf (The first Woolf I’ve read. Entertaining tale of a person’s passage through time and gender.)

    Fifty Orwell Essays — Orwell (ed. Choat) (It’s Orwell.)

    A Higher Loyalty — Comey (A memoir by a convincingly decent and principled man. I also read his undergraduate honors thesis. He thinks serious thoughts about serious matters.)

    Wait Till You See Me Dance — Unferth (Delightful short story collection. Highly recommended.)

    Conversations with Gordon Lish — ed. Winters & Lucarelli (I have a sentimental attachment to Gordon. He was my teacher. If you’re curious about the man, reading this would be worth your while.)

    The Philosophy of Christopher Nolan — ed. Eberl & Dunn (Get out! The film director? Yes. An interesting, though at times slow and murky, exploration of Nolan’s persistent cinematic pursuit of themes of identity, free will, and responsibility.)

    Stories in an Almost Classical Mode — Brodkey (A collection of short stories in which the author wrestles with infinity and infinity wins. It always does. But Brodkey gives it a run for its money.)

    Berlin Alexanderplatz — Döblin (trans. Hofmann) (I’ve been waiting for a decent English translation of this since I made my way through Fassbinder’s 14-part miniseries. The miniseries was a somewhat different story, but that’s the way it goes when the transition is made from page to screen.)

    Secure Your Own Mask — Beers (Shaindel Beers’ third poetry collection. I think she is one of the best contemporary American poets. Highly recommended.)

    Underworld — DeLillo (Only the third DeLillo book I’ve read. End Zone is still my favorite. DeLillo gets a little lost wending his way through all the plotlines and characters in this. So why am I listing it here? Hey, it’s good.)

    Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — U.S. Supreme Court (Okay, you don’t have to read this. But I know a lot of people who have opinions about this decision, and I am the only person I know who has actually read it. Twice. The money shot? The court ruled that Congress screwed up election finance reform and needs to go back and do it right.)

  7. The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson and Even Thomas. A history of the shaping of US Cold War policy by six men whom I suppose would now qualify as deep state operators. This is my second Isaacson after the Jobs biography. Great writing. I’m going to read everything that guy has put out.

    On the advice of Conan O’Brien I’ve collected the Johnson volumes by Caro. May have to start the first one soon.

    War and Peace sits unloved on my shelf.

  8. I read more this year than I did in any of the previous five years, but I didn’t truly love nearly as many books as I usually do. Analyze me that?

    • I had the exact same problem this year. Read a lot; nothing stuck.
      I just bought a copy of Educated for after Christmas. I’m looking forward to that.

  9. I’ll second your recommendation for the McNamara, and along those lines I’d add Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I also enjoyed Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, and happily reread all my Malcolm Gladwells and Jon Krakauers.

    Oh, and my son and I often listen to audiobooks during our Rummikube marathons, so I can tell you that What If? by Randall Munroe was a hit, and Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli required a lot of replays but was totally worth it.

    I’m working up to revisiting my Anthony Bourdain collection, but not yet.

    • The Devil in the White City. Yes. I’ve heard good things about that. An old friend of mine who also lives up here (Chicago) recommended it. It’s in the “short” stack here next to my computer; however, it’s under the Derrida, Foucault, Joyce, and Kristeva, so it looks like I’ll have to earn it (and yes, the stack is arranged alphabetically).

      • You’re arranging your stack all wrong, T. The brainy shit should go at the bottom, and when it rises you’ve got to throw a bodice-buster or something on top so as not to reach it. Have I taught you nothing?

        P.S. It’s nice to see you and your cat-in-the-box avatar. I hope you’re doing well.

  10. I hope you will take a look at the “Words In Our Beak” three volume book series. The stories are set in NYC and told from the perspective of a female cardinal. Info is on the left side-bar of my blog, http://www.thelastleafgardener.com

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