Monday, January 13, 2014

A Year in Reading (2013)

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."
--Lemony Snickett

Reading!” those busy zip-zipping multi-taskers cry superciliously, “who has the time these days anyway?” And to be fair, I find the pleasure of reading more often a luxury than a responsibility. But it is not just in a human being's prerogative to challenge himself with reading, it is in our collective social interest. Through reading not only do we acquire smarts but we also become a better, more compassionate, empathetic species. There is a historical argument gaining momentum which suggests that the rise of the novel and the belief in the universal rights of man could very well be interconnected.

Here are the books I read in 2013 in sequential order. They are marked with their year of publication. Those with a * details a second (or multiple read) and those with a <> designate a book read while traveling.
  1. High-Rise by J.G. Ballard (1975)
  2. East West by Salmon Rushdie (1994)
  3. The Birdman and the Lap Dancer by Eric Hansen (2004)
  4. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara (1934) *
  5. Karma Cola by Gita Mehta (1979) * <>
  6. Maximum City by Suketu Mehta (2004) <>
  7. Delhi: a Novel by Khushwant Singh (1990) <>
  8. Kubla Khan: The Mongol King Who Remade China by John Man (2006) <>
  9. A River Sutra by Gita Mehta (1993) <>
  10. Bill Contino's Blues by James Ellroy (1994) <>
  11. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (1938)
  12. The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski (1965)
  13. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side by Keith Fleming (2000)
  14. The Road to Wellville by TC Boyle (1993)
  15. Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller (1956) *
  16. The White Nile by Alan Moorehead *(1960)
  17. Howard's End by E. M. Forster (1910)
  18. Loving by Henry Green (1945)
  19. 1984 by George Orwell (1948) *
  20. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) *
  21. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain (2007) *
  22. Welcome to the Monkeyhouse by Kurt Vonnegut (1970)
  23. Hip: a History by John Leland (2004) <>
  24. In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (1997) * <>
  25. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander (2007) <>
  26. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912) * <>
  27. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1988) <>
  28. What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (2012) <>
  29. Double Indemnity by James Cain (1935) <>
  30. Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (2010) <>
  31. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2007) <>
  32. The Reader by Bernard Schlink (1995) <>
  33. The Art of Travel by Alain de Bottom (2002) <>
  34. Motoring with Mohammed by Eric Hanson (1991)
  35. Cultural Amnesia by Clive James (2007)
  36. The Assault by Harry Mulisch (1982)
  37. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever (1957)
  38. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (1949) * <>
  39. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch (1954) <>
  40. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy (1887)
  41. The Spice Trade by John Keay (2005) *
  42. The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb (1993)
  43. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928)

All in all I managed to read 43 books this year (last year I'd read 42-- it seems that thus my pace is one book every nine days or so). 25 of the books were novels, 7 were short story collections, and 11 were books of nonfiction, including memoir, history or travel narrative. Also 11 of the books were rereads, and 19 were read "traveling," which included a stint at my mother's for three weeks with all the time in the world. The oldest book read was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1887) and the most recent Nathan Englander's What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank (2012). 18 of the books were published before I was born. 21 of the books were written by Americans. Of the others, only three were translations. All books were hard- or softcover-- I am yet to read anything on the tablet. 

It was wonderful to discover Clive James' Cultural Amnesia, Harry Mulisch's The Assault, and Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I revisited some of my favorite books this year including Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, Ben Fountains Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, and the historical narratives of John Keay's The Spice Trade and Alan Moorehead's wonderful The White Nile. There were no absolutely bad reads, though I found myself slightly exasperated at times with Khushwant Singh's Delhi, Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird, and John Leland's trying too hard on the prose vernacular of Hip: a History.

As this blog has been slightly moribund of late, I will make some attempt to summarize the books I'm reading-- I say that now but following through on resolutions-- especially those related to writing-- is not one of my strong suits. Nevertheless, it's important to try. The first book I'm reading in 2014 is Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, and after a promising start I rather loathe it.

How was your year in reading?

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