Friday, January 1, 2010

Eclectic reading, as usual

Since 1964 I've made only one new year's resolution: to try to read 100 books that year. Books! Magazines, how-tos, cookbooks, newspapers and all the other stuff I read don't count. Why '64? Because that's when I graduated from college and my thought was that never wanted to stop learning so I would read to learn, not [usually] for entertainment alone. I have a small notebook in which are listed every book, author, date since then. Only 3 or 4 years was I able to get to 100. The average is in the high 60s. For 2009 it was 67, the last one being finished last night. I read very eclecticly and rarely the new book of the moment as I buy a great many at used book stores.

Some good books I read this year in three categories: poetry, nonfiction and fiction.

Poetry: Mary Oliver, three of her books [plus went to a reading she gave]
Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, a no nonsense guide to writing and reading poetry, with some of his poems in it
Billie Collins, Sailing Alone Around the Room, poems
Garrett Hongo, The River of Heaven, poems
Stanley Kunitz, The Wild Braid, poems and memoir -- title poem unforgetable!

Nonfiction: 1599, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, James Shapiro, really a year in London.
Life and Death of a Druid Prince, A. Ross, D.Robins, fascinating anthropology
Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow, Benjamin Holt/ Opal Whitely, painful biography of a child prodigy including her diary
The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester, the making of the OED
Best American Travel Writing of 2000, anth. ed. Bill Bryson, one of the annual collections, a particularly good one
The Zookeepers Wife, Diane Ackerman, novelistic biography
A Voyage Long and Strange, Tony Horowitz, recounting the exploration of the US
Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman, Polly Adams, dog sledding in the Yukon
Smara, Journey to the Forbidden City, Michel Vieuchange. classic travel in the Sahara by a Frenchman in disguise
Gutenberg Elegies, Sven Birkerts, the death of books as we know them [!?!]

Fiction: Nadine Gordimer, Get a Life
Elfrida Jelinke, Lust -- Wanted to find out what this Nobel winner wrote. Hated it.
Anchee Min, Empress Orchid about the last Empress of China, her early years
Linda Hogan, Mean Spirit, a wonderful Native American writer, book move into magic realism now and then
Irwin D. Yalom, Lying on the Couch, By and about the world of a shrink, very fun read
J. G. Farrell, The Seige of Krishnapur,
One of three important books written before he died much too young.
J. M. Coetze, Disgrace, a frightening picture of South Africa
Muriel Barbary, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, A book I'd never have read without a friend's recommendation.

Now I am going to my bookshelf and decide what fiction I will read next, and I'm going to Amazon to order a nonfiction I know I want to read. I recommend all the above to anyone. Some are hard to find, some not


Kass said...

I'm impressed and inspired. Have you listed all your books on Goodreads? I lot of my family share books this way. Now I know why you have so much knowledge about so many things. Would never have known about Mary Oliver's sexual preference or Walt Whitman's narcissism if twere not for you.

John Ettorre said...

An interesting list, for which I thank you.

Jonas said...

I do rightly admire the poets you cited.