Books I Read in 2017 (and 2016, and 2015)

It’s been … (checks calendar, hangs head) … three years since I last did one of these? I am slack. As ever, I enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, so I figure that the least I can do is share alike. Here’s the fiction (only) that’s kept me busy since the start of 2015. Other posts in this series go back to 2009. FYI, links are to Amazon, but aren’t affiliates.

  • Beatty, Paul. The Sellout (2015). Enjoyed this a lot, though I don’t think I could teach it.
  • Blixen, Karen. Out of Africa (1937). Not sure why I decided to close this particular gap this year.
  • Burroughs, William S. Naked Lunch (1959). Tested my patience.
  • Cole, Teju. Open City (2011). Wonder if I might pair this with Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation (short, experimental, New York) the next time I do the contemporary U.S. fiction class.
  • Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend (2011). Wasn’t moved the way that others seem to have been.
  • Fruhlinger, Josh. The Enthusiast (2015). A friend’s first novel. Genuinely good.
  • Hawkins, Paula. The Girl on the Train (2015). Wasn’t gripped by it.
  • Heti, Sheila. How Should a Person Be? (2010). Serious question: when did “art monster” become a thing?
  • James, Marlon. A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014). Very good, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
  • July, Miranda. The First Bad Man (2015). Really liked this.
  • King, Lily. Euphoria (2014). I remember liking this, though not much else about it.
  • Klay, Phil. Redeployment (2014). Ditto.
  • Lethem, Jonathan. Amnesia Moon (1995). A lot of dystopias these last few years. Not crazy about that, though I am apparently a slow learner of my own tastes.
  • Mandel, Emily St John. Station Eleven (2014). See Lethem.
  • Mantel, Hilary. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (2014). One of two story collections (with Klay). I usually prefer novels. But, man, is Mantel good.
  • Marr, Andrew. Head of State (2014). Enjoyably trashy.
  • McCarthy, Cormac. The Road (2006). See Lethem.
  • McCarthy, Tom. Satin Island (2015). I preferred Remainder, but perfectly serviceable.
  • Murray, Paul. The Mark and the Void (2015). The metafiction eventually wore thin for me.
  • Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Sympathizer (2015). About as good as everyone says.
  • Ortberg, Mallory. Texts from Jane Eyre (2014). God, I miss The Toast.
  • Price, Richard. Clockers (1992). Couple of decades late to this party. Sorry to have missed it for so long.
  • Pym, Barbara. Excellent Women (1952). Damn you, Mallory Ortberg. I will read literally anything you tell me to.
  • Robinson, Marilynne. Gilead (2004). The best thing I’ve read in … years? How many years? A decade, at least, I think.
  • Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping (1980). Not as good as Gilead, but still awfully good.
  • Saunders, George. Lincoln in the Bardo (2017). Technically interesting, left me a little flat. Surprising, given how much I enjoy his short fiction.
  • Stout, Rex. Fer-de-Lance (1934). See figure 5.
  • VanderMeer, Jeff. Annihilation (2014). Looking forward to his visit to Notre Dame this year.
  • Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad (2016). Other than Zone One, the best thing of his since The Intuitionist.
  • Yamashita, Karen Tei. I Hotel (2010). Left me cold.

I tried Kindle samples of another couple of dozen novels. Some that I’d like to come back to eventually. FWIW, I do almost all my reading on a screen of one sort or another. No frickin’ deckle edge.

Numbers? 30 books in three years. Not going to win any awards. 13 by women, 17 by men. Mostly Americans, for professional reasons, though it’s a mug’s game to divvy them up in detail. None that I hated, maybe two or three that I read more from obligation than desire, and handful that were full-on great. The Robinson was the real standout.

First up in 2018 is Julian Gracq’s A Balcony in the Forest or Helen Phillips’s The Beautiful Bureaucrat. Or something else. You never know.

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