Thursday, December 22, 2005


More books of the year

Looking back in my commonplace book, I find quite a few favorites from this past year, from really stupendous to plain old good satisfying reading. Here's another short selection of my books of the year, in no order other than the order I happened to read them in:

An Almanac of Reading by Charles Lee, Coward-McCann, 1940. Gentle, funny, bookish. Includes literary quizzes and authors' birthdays and the like.

Nick Hornby. Last spring I read all of Nick Hornby's books (except Fever Pitch, which I'm searching for in a good hardcover edition). I've already mentioned The Polysyllabic Spree. It's so good I happily bring it up again. Read it! It's all about acquiring and reading books, as it really is! (p. 43: "A couple of months ago, I became depressed by the realization that I'd forgotten pretty much everything I've ever read. I have, however, bounced back: I am now cheered by the realization that if I've forgotten everything I've ever read then I can read some of my favorite books again as if for the first time.") His Songbook (McSweeney's, 2002) is also quite wonderful (find the edition with the music cd included). I revisited High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, and I bought and read his latest, A Long Way Down (Riverhead, 2005) the week it was published. His books all have rather hapless characters (and in his essays it's just himself) trying to piece together meaningful lives, often with books and music featured as necessary support systems.

The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin, Hyperion, 2003.

Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins, Bloomsbury, 2004.

Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs, St. Martin's, 2004. No, I have not read Joan Didion's book The Year of Magical Thinking yet. I may.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn, Norton, 2004.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, Anchor, 2000. (p.213: "Who was it who said that forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past?)

The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin, Penguin, 2004. Helprin is concerned with Truth, Honor, Justice, Redemption, and Beauty. His metaphors are unexpected and lovely. I consider him a writer's writer. (p.12: "...Milan is where you busy yourself with the world as if what you did really mattered, and there time does not seem to exist. But in Venice time seems to stop, you are busy only if you are a fool, and you see the truth of your life." And p.244, I love his description of a bookstore as "...mysteriously inactive." "Many stores manage somehow, day after day, to exist without customers, and so did this one.") I hope to find out someday that Mark Helprin has been writing poetry for years in secret, just for himself. And also writing his autobiography.

A Reader's Delight by Noel Perrin, University Press of New England, 1988. I want to give this book to all the real readers I know.

Material Witness: The Selected Letters of Fairfield Porter, University of Michigan, 2005.

Supercargo: A Journey Among Ports by Thornton McCamish, Lonely Planet, 2002. He calls himself "... a seasoned connoisseur of other people's bookshelves..." (p.203). After I read it, this book made itself at home on my shelf of travel narratives relating to steamer and cargo ship travel.

The original Horatio Hornblower trilogy by C.S. Forester, Little, Brown, 1939. A re-read. I can read this, and The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, at least once every two years, just for the pure enjoyment of it.

New and Selected Poems Volume II by Mary Oliver, Beacon, 2005. Oh, the beauty. How I love these poems. I'm memorizing a few, just to be able to always have them handy, if I need them.

There are so many others, but this post is getting long. Plus I've still got another week to go until the official end of the year, and I've got David Foster Wallace's new book of essays Consider the Lobster, a copy of Jarhead, and Gilead sitting on my desk to take home and read (I'm taking another break from Pepys, as must be obvious at this point).

I adore other people's book lists and Noel Perrrin's Reader's Delight is a great favorite of mine. I recently read and enjoyed Indian Summer by William Dean Howells. What are your favorites from Perrin's book?
Hi Vicky, thanks for commenting! I'll have to check, my copy is at home. But I think that just I enjoyed his essays as they were, without following up on any of his reading recommendations. Oh dear...
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