BOOKS READ IN 2017

Inspired by @talor
  1. 1.
    The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters
    Every beautiful moment was bookended by dread or despair, that's how you know it's a Sarah Waters novel.
  2. 2.
    The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson
  3. 3.
    M Train, Patti Smith
    Gorgeous book. A series of essays in which Patti lives on coffee and crime series, forgets her notebooks on airplanes and writes phrases like this: "Nothing can be truly replicated. Not a love, not a jewel, not a single line."
  4. 4.
    How to Be Both, Ali Smith
    Two narratives, one set in 15th century Italy and the other in present-day England, twine together. The book's split in two parts, one for each narrator. It's an exploration of bonds, familial and romantic, and art - how we make meaning out of nothing and are defined by what we make. It's different and beautiful.
  5. 5.
    The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, ed. by C. Day Lewis
    Owen's most famous poem is "Dulce et Decorum Est", but there's so much here worth reading. It's heartbreaking to think of him scribbling his poems out in a trench by moonlight, surrounded by the horrors of war. I want to read more about Wilfred Owen, and also Siegfried Sassoon, a fellow soldier and poet who critiqued his work- I've put "Not About Heroes", a play about Sassoon and Owen's relationship, on my to-be-read list.
  6. 6.
    An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison
    I read this because I'm bipolar (surprise!). Jamison doesn't like the phrase bipolar disorder, prefers manic depressive. I can't decide if it's for precision or if she finds manic depressive to be the more romantic description. She romanticizes her mania, but then, I do too. People with bipolar brains aren't all the same, we feel, think and reason differently. "We all move uneasily within our restraints".
  7. 7.
    Regeneration, Pat Barker
    "Sometimes when you're alone, in the trenches I mean, at night, you get the sense of something ancient. As if the trenches had always been there. You know one trench we held, it had skulls in the side. And do you know, it was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough's army than to think they'd been alive two years ago. It's as if all other wars had somehow distilled themselves into this war... it's like a very deep voice saying 'Run along little man. Be thankful if you survive.'
  8. 8.
    The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories, ed. David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell.
    I'm trying to read from different perspectives this year. I didn't read the entire collection, but I did read most of them! My favorites were Graham Greene's "May We Borrow Your Husband?" and Michael Cunningham's "Ignorant Armies".
  9. 9.
    The Eye in the Door, Pat Barker
    The second book in the trilogy- it's brutal, like an elbow to the stomach. War is hell, war is loss, war is sometimes the only place one matters. "Like red- the color red- whatever it is, even if it's a flower or a book, it's always blood."
  10. 10.
    Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
    I'd pre-ordered this book back in November and then promptly forgot about it until it showed up in my mailbox on Valentine's Day. It's worth the (immense) hype. Saunders plays with form but never loses the narrative's function, and there's some brilliantly sad and tender bits on loss, death, fate and love — all tied together by the painful struggle of being temporal.
  11. 11.
    Not About Heroes, Stephen MacDonald
    I'm on a WWI bender thanks to Wilfred Owen. This is a 2 person monologue play built from Sassoon & Owen's poems and correspondence. It's an incredible story- Owen met Sassoon at a mental hospital during the war, and Sassoon, already a published war poet, mentored him. Sassoon was sent back to the front, wounded and invalided out. Owen was killed one week before the Armistice. But! I don't think the play brings anything new- Macdonald just pastes together their words, and I'd rather read those.
  12. 12.
    Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
    A rollicking fun mirror of a book where no one is as they seem. Though the point the plot spins around is the banking system in pre-Revolutionary New York, the novel is told with such a light and witty touch that it's a joy. I loved it. Spufford writes dense, beautiful sentences, mounding them together like a pile of velvet.
  13. 13.
    Manhattan, When I Was Young by Mary Cantwell
    This memoir follows a 1960s fashion writer from apartment to apartment through Greenwich Village. Mainly interesting for Cantwell's bold admission of PPD and her guilt over being a working mother. She loses focus the last 40 pages or so, but it was interesting to pick this up right after Golden Hill and see New York City some 200 years later.
  14. 14.
    The Charioteer, Mary Renault
    Oh, my heart. When you love someone so much you'll do anything for them, including break your own heart, if it means leaving theirs intact — That's Ralph in this book. But thank God in the end it's all right. "It can be good to be given what you want; it can be better, in the end, never to have it proved to you that this was what you wanted."
  15. 15.
    The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter
    A collection of reimagined fairytales with shifting morality and no promised happy end. My favorites were The Erl-King, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and The Lady of the House of Love.
  16. 16.
    Kiss, Kiss - Ronald Dahl
    So very very creepy. Obviously Roald Dahl is great at black comedy and social commentary- he's no different here! He leaves a lot of the stories bare, with just enough information dropped for your very active imagination to supply the rest. The Landlady gave me cold chills and I read it in the bath (something I previously thought impossible). Highly recommend, especially if you love Shirley Jackson or EF Benson.
  17. 17.
    The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry
    A Gothic-tinged piece of historical fiction. Cora is newly widowed and a budding natural scientist. She comes to Essex in search of the sea monster said to live in the lake and finds Will, the good-natured (married!) parson. For all the attention paid to the mystery, this novel is really about the marriage between science and faith and the pull exerted on two people who are so different from each other, both in words and deeds. It's very good.
  18. 18.
    The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
    "Who will teach me to write? The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity[...]that page will teach you to write.
  19. 19.
    The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, Louise Miller
    Sweet and warm and easy to read. While I liked Olivia, I LOVED Martin. This is Louise Miller's first novel - she wrote it as part of a novel incubator program- and I'm so impressed by it! This was a Christmas present from @brightlyanna - she saw it on my Goodreads TBR list and sent it to me!
  20. 20.
    The Ghost Road, Pat Barker
    I wish we'd spent more time with Owens and less with Prior. The most affecting parts of the novel were the diary entries, but those didn't crop up until 2/3 through. Still good, just disappointing as the trilogy's end. "I honestly think that if the war went on for a hundred years another language would evolve, one that was capable of describing the sound of a bombardment or the buzzing of flies on an August day on the Somme. There are no words. There are no words for what I felt."
  21. 21.
    Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit
    Solnit gave the ebook away for free in the month following the election. She's one of my favorite authors (I love A Field Guide to Getting Lost), so I was ready to read this. She champions hope, seeing the good in ordinary people, not giving in to despair, and remaining activist. "But hope is not about what we expect. It is an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world, of the breaks with the present, the surprises. I believe in hope as an act of defiance."
  22. 22.
    A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
    I feel bad about this, but it was a "meh" from me.
  23. 23.
    My (Not So) Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella
  24. 24.
    The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  25. 25.
    Hunger, Roxane Gay
  26. 26.
    Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood
  27. 27.
    The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  28. 28.
    Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  29. 29.
    An Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson
    Geryon's whole body formed one arch of a cry — upcast to that custom, the human custom of wrong love.
  30. 30.
    Let Me Tell You, Shirley Jackson
    Memory and Delusion, The Ghosts of Loiret and Notes on an Unfashionable Novelist were my favorite essays.
  31. 31.
    Eileen, Otessa Moshfegh
    Eileen is self-obsessed, deluded, twisting further and further into herself until she meets Rebecca and springs free. It's rare that a female protagonist is allowed to be the crude, judgmental antihero and I liked that she was.
  32. 32.
    Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher
    I can't tell you how goddamn glad I am that Carrie Fisher was here. She makes me feel better about my messed up wonky brain. You were great, Carrie.
  33. 33.
    The Lion in Winter, James Goldman
    "When the fall is all there is, it matters."
  34. 34.
    Tender Is The Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
    "All night in Paris he had held her in his arms while she slept light under the luminol; in the early morning he broke in upon her confusion before it could form, with words of tenderness and protection, and she slept again with his face against the warm scent of her hair."
  35. 35.
    Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
  36. 36.
    Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman
  37. 37.
    Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt