Daybook · On Books · On Creativity - Art, Jewelry, Writing · On Herself

What I Read in 2011

It’s the time of year where publications both paper and pixel run lists of books read in 2011. I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks the contributors are lying? Well maybe not lying, but posturing in some way — and leaving out the trashy romance novel or the diet books or something else that doesn’t comport with “brand”, “niche”, “public image”.

Well who could blame them, really, it’s embarrassing to discuss how much we all care about life’s smelly sticky messes. Even while we’re all veddy veddy litch-er-ary.

Never letting a little hypocrisy stop me,  I started to think about what I read this year. It’s a task made much easier thanks to eReaders. I just need to look back at my Kindle and Nook accounts (read on iPad and phone) to know what I ordered and read in the past twelve months. This isn’t a complete list of what I read. For one thing, the NYPL recently changed its system, and I can’t figure out how to find a list of the books I checked out, nor do I have a complete list of books read on paper, many of which I bought at indie bookstores. But I do have my daily journal. Not every book made an appearance in my morning musings, but it’s a good enough record. And my idea here is to just record the books that were in some way meaningful to me.

I also think it’s funny when people apologize for reading books that aren’t newly published. Isn’t longevity the point of a book?

My list of meaningful books, 2011.

  • Lia Purpura, On Looking
  • Lewis Hyde, The Gift
  • Mary Roach, Packing for Mars
  • Andre Aciman, Alibis
  • Best American Travel Writing 2011
  • Best American Essays 2011
  • Margaret Roach, And I Shall Have Some Peace There
  • Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation (re-read)
  • Nick Flynn, The Ticking is the Bomb
  • Calvin Trillin, The Tummy Triology.
  • Blue Nights, Joan Didion.
  • Sarah Blackwell, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne.
  • Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. (Re-read)
  • Michael Ondaatje, Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film
  • Sven Birkerts, The Art of Time in Memoir
  • Edwidge Danticat, Create Dangerously
  • John D’Agata, About a Mountain
  • Anne Elizabeth Moore, Cambodian Grrrrl
  • Matthew Goodman, The Sun and the Moon
  • Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm
  • Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I always read a lot of books on writing. Some of these I re-read this year since I started teaching at Gotham. But I like to read about writing, generally. These books influenced my thinking this year:

Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction
The Journals of Joyce Carole Oates
Marion Roach Smith, The Memoir Project
Adair Lara, Naked Drunk and Writing
Kim Robert Stafford, Muses Among Us (re-read)
Bonni Goldberg, Beyond the Words (re-read)
Barbara Tuchman, Practicing History (re-read)
Richard Rhodes, How to Write (re-read)
Annie Lamott, Bird by Bird (re-read)

I also do a bunch of reading for projects of various kinds. I read several manuals on etiquette, a book about mothers that kill, several books about incest. Also, typography, book jacket design, indie publishing. Also, a couple of books about the history of science fiction, several biographies of Edgar Allan Poe, a few books about Star Trek and a biography of Robert Goddard. Also several books about Christopher Columbus.

I bought scads more books than I read. There’s always next year.

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