01 little failure (gary shteyngart). this memoir is boss: / it's funny, bitter, tender, / and features short pants.
02 mr. fox (helen oyeyemi). demure helen o. / has magnificent monsters / at her fingertips.
03 all creatures great and small (james herriot). i cried on the train / as i read this. why wasn't / i a vet, again?
04 the thin man (dashiell hammett). glorious old sots, / nick and nora. their new york's / got its own logic.
05 five came back: a story of hollywood and the second world war (mark harris). directors' wartime / experiences traced through / their careers. brilliant.
06 white is for witching (helen oyeyemi.) helen has nightmares / as she writes her books. that makes / a lot of sense here.
07 updike (adam begley). biographies this / good are dangerous: i went / on to read couples.
08 daughter of smoke & bone [daughter of smoke & bone trilogy #1] (laini taylor). art student collects / teeth for her foster demons. / YA at its best.
09 days of blood & starlight [daughter of smoke & bone trilogy #2] (laini taylor). taylor doubles down / on smoke & bone's heartbreak; i'll / save this for nieces.
10 dreams of gods & monsters [daughter of smoke & bone trilogy #3] (laini taylor). the romance...is, but / the rest of this finale / doesn't disappoint.
11 gone to new york (ian frazier). jamaica kincaid / loves frazier more than i do, / if that's possible.
12 the fault in our stars (john green). fine, i sniffle when / i see an "ok? ok." / shirt on the subway.
13 the secret history (donna tartt). this is why she's loved! / clean, confident, well-structured / fucked-up privilege.
14 the magician's land (lev grossman). atoned for book 2's / sins, sort of; quentin still bugs, / but this arc ends well.
15 on such a full sea (chang-rae lee). sly dystopian / fic narrated by a "we" / closer than most "i"s.
16 the art of fielding (chad harbach). an un-baseball book / lyricizes corpse-dumping. / i was deeply moved.
17 astonish me (maggie shipstead). black swan + freedom? / a strong, well-researched saga.
/ not canadian.
18 cooking with fernet branca (james hamilton-paterson). a goddamn brilliant / comedy of manners: take / note, ye food writers.
19 new jersey (betsy andrews). a book-length poem / of the turnpike, the city, / and their detritus.
20 NW (zadie smith). white teeth with veneers. / still waiting for zadie smith / to wow me again.
21 annihilation [southern reach trilogy #1] (jeff vandermeer). if lovecraft's your jam, / this trilogy's a great read / (NOT AT BEDTIME, CHRIST).
22 authority [southern reach trilogy #2] (jeff vandermeer). a mysterious / zone eats research teams, psyches, / and bureaucracies.
23 acceptance [southern reach trilogy #3] (jeff vandermeer). little is explained; / much is made permanently / creepy. no mean feat.
24 couples (john updike). updike terrifies / '60s america with / tales of his sex life.
25 california (edan lepucki). post-apocalypse, / siblings and spouses dirty / each other with fear.
26 the changeling (kenzaburo oe). i was with oe / 'til weird cannonball torture, / which lost me, sadly.
27 the goldfinch (donna tartt). this is highbrow doge: / much dickens...so overwrite... / drug reference; wow
28 all things bright and beautiful formulaic, but / a formula i'll read all / day. like a warm bath.
29 the dinner (herman koch). fancy dinners are / always rotten at the core, / right? i trust the cheap stuff.
30 adiĆ³s hemingway (leonardo padura fuentes). atmospheric noir / (hemingway in cuba!) with / an older man's pulse.
31 MFA vs. NYC (chad harbach ed.) not sure how it is / that i've no dog in that fight, / but here i, L, am.
32 happy all the time (laurie colwin). generous and twee / thirty years before twee was; / a calm, safe new york.
33 tender at the bone (ruth reichl). so much nicer than / RR's novel! personal / stuff i'll read all day.
34 comfort me with apples (ruth reichl). ruth r. the daughter / is as honest as ruth r. / the critic. lovely.
35 my misspent youth (meghan daum). she's great, but her more / recent essays pack more punch / for me. here's to...time?
36 friendship (emily gould). i prefer essays / from emily, but i liked / this, and wish it well.
37 the last days of california (mary miller). these teens are vivid, / this apocalypse well-drawn. / a good road trip book.
38 all things wise and wonderful (james herriot). i wish he'd written / more about his war service, / but i forgive him.
39 pretty in ink (lindsey palmer). former colleagues write / the most disturbing accounts / of our world! deep sigh. 40 what i talk about when i talk about running (haruki murakami). i started writing / an essay about running / that should surpass this.
41 the o'briens (peter behrens). CANADA SAGA / ALERT: trees will fall, hearts freeze. / reader lids will droop.
42 why have kids? (jessica valenti). when i pitch you my / tepid womb-related book, / sock me in the spleen.
43 delicious! (ruth reichl). the tale's pivotal / cake recipe is...not great, / which weirded me out.
44 a dangerous liaison: one woman's journey into a world of aristocracy, depravity, and obsessive love (sheri de borchgrave). most fascinating / memoirist i've crossed greenland / beside, for damn sure.
45 the bear went over the mountain (william kotzwinkle). this satire's targets / (publishing et al.) deserve / a better takedown.
46 joss whedon: the biography (amy pascale). a coronation / so bald i turned on whedon / for balance's sake.
47 subtle bodies (norman rush). middle-aged coitus / in smug, nightmarish detail. / what an awful book.
48 the book of life (deborah harkness). worst use of nazis / since frankenstein's army. oof, / deborah harkness. oof.
49 medium raw (anthony bourdain). bourdain's posturing / remains wheezy, unwinning, / and super-lazy.
50 half bad (sally green). YA's getting weird; / this race-y tale of witches / is somehow tone-deaf.

(previous list here.)

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 what was the best book you read last year?
02 would you be willing to help exhume a corpse, if circumstances called for it?
03 could you recommend a sweeping canadian saga that won't bore the crap out of me?
04 do you enjoy nonfiction about whether one should or shouldn't have children?
05 if you were to write a post-apocalyptic novel, what would cause the apocalypse in your story?
06 who's the most interesting stranger you've ever sat beside on a plane?


Laramie said...

01 The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, The Days of Abandonment, The Age of Miracles (speaking of apocalypses)

06 I don't talk to strangers

lauren said...

i don't approach strangers unless i need information, but i seem to have a "unusual but not scary; come have a quirky conversation with me!" look. it's especially popular with missionaries and foreigners.

jen said...

01 does it count if i simply started it last year (and am still reading it now?): The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
02 only a really really long dead corpse. because that's kind of just archaeology
03 no
04 uninterested in the genre
05 everyone (except our hero(s)) would just spontaneously disappear. no plausible explanation why. this scenario actually haunted my nightmares as a teenager.
06 i was once the only passenger on a plane who WASN'T part of a rabid Bruce Springsteen fan club (following him from concert to concert, ala Grateful Dead). that might have made ME the least interesting stranger on the plane, come to think of it.

uncle paul said...

01 Cecilia, Fanny Burney. Shaking people's shirt fronts and telling them to read Fanny Burney isn't having the effect I hoped for.

04 Christ, who cares, you have kids or you don't and it's not like it generalizes; how about something we don't know, like whether one should or shouldn't buy a cranberry bog.

05 Henry Ford

lauren said...

head-cold-related misreading for fun and profit! jen, i read your 02 as "a really really long, dead corpse," and thought, "ah, so she would dig up like a python or something." paul, i first read your 05 as an answer to 06 and thought, "oh, you old steampunk!"

Amanda said...

01 THE WITCH'S BOY (Kelly Barnhill).
02 Happily; I'll bring the Jello salad.
03 No.
04 No.
05 I'm afraid I can't tell you that.
06 I don't talk to strangers.

Anonymous said...

jacob said...

01 dept. of speculation by jenny offill and heart advice for difficult times by pema chodron.

04 what paul wrote, 1000x. that said, the book all joy and no fun was pretty dead-on (from my experience) on modern parenting.

06 i sat next to the director of the national advanced driving simulator on a flight to iowa city (http://www.nads-sc.uiowa.edu/). his wife is also a locally well-known children's book writer and illustrator. that's about as iowa city as it gets (other than your seatmate being marilynne robinson, of course).

Vanessa said...

01 Best book? Probably All the Light We Cannot See or Station Eleven. But my favorite book was The Lobster Kings.
02 Maybe if it was past the maggot stage.
03 Nope.
04 I do not enjoy nonfiction about whether women should or should not have children but I might enjoy it if it were about men.
05 My partner & I bonded during our first date over the coincidence that both of our dads were reading One Second After at the same time, so I'd probably have to include an electromagnetic pulse apocalyse as an homage to well-meaning, paranoid dads.
06 I also do not talk to strangers.

Anonymous said...

MDF said...
01 Schopenhauer’s The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, unless I was still reading Wharton’s House of Mirth back in January- if so, then that. (The most underwhelming was Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)
02 This is the type we can use gloves, right?
03 I used to hear praise for various Robertson Davies trilogies… unless the original run of Trailer Park Boys is admissible as ‘a sweeping Canadian saga,’ WHICH IT IS. (Oh fuck, it might bore you though…)
04 A very intriguing topic if you push past its initial repulsiveness (albeit JV’s discourse sounds powerful dreadful). What Schopenhauer said about children, reason, and the human race in the quotable quote feels unassailable but less than exhaustive; and, whilst fun to say aloud, impassioned (uh, pompous?) opprobrium of making babies comes with a fat set of disingenuous expressions and presumptions. I used to know; I’m not so sure now… At any rate, probably children are best in great wealth or poverty because the danger of increased monetary unhappiness is capped.
06 This one guy spilled a vodka drink on me and then later taught me the word ‘dunzo.’

emc said...

01 a tie: are you my mother? by alison bechdel // dept. of speculation by jenny offill // brief, wondrous life of oscar wao

02 nopenopenope

03 see above

04 long answer; could save for cocktail hour. as an aside, this question gets asked a lot in the binders group on fb.

05 robots are taking our jobs

06 a guy named joe who was having a hard time replacing his dead wife of 30 years. he flew planes in 'nam and had to land by the light of sterno cans along jungle runways, and the biggest danger flying at night in those days was not being able to tell if you were upside-down. i stole all that for my graduation speech that weekend.

Amanda said...


LPC said...

01 I totally cannot remember all the books I read last year. I'd have to go hunting through the house and my Kindle library:( Aging? Or sheer perversity of memory?
02 No.
03 Heck no.
04 Horse is out of the barn.
05 Corporate America. Is there any other reasonable choice?
06 A Monsanto guy whose job was to sell potato seeds to farmers in Peru. If the apocalypse comes, will it be caused by someone interesting?