|Posted on December 31, 2019 at 10:10 AM|
Our second installment in the Listing of the Things series: Books.
Discounting the DNFs, the cookbooks and photography books, the tomes I whizzed through purely for research, and the unpublished MS I can't name but would recommend if I could, I read 56 books this year. Not bad, but considering 8 of those were kids' books, that number seems a bit low. In my defense, some of these were over 500 pages.
As with the music list and upcoming movie list, I don't pay attention to release dates. These are simply books I read in 2019. Since I could be here forever gushing, I'll limit it to recommendations.
Speaking of which, I love getting recommendations as well. What were your favorite reads in 2019?
7. Them (Nathan McCall) - the story of a white family who moves into a predominantly black Atlanta neighborhood brought up some interesting perspectives on race relations. Unfortunately the ending felt rushed and cliched, with not nearly as much care taken as the rest of the book, but I couldn't keep from recommending this one.
6. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Three Stories (Oscar Wilde) - the shorts were not the draw; the novel—minus a few soliloquies and epigrams that go on for pages—was hard to put down. The idea that a man's soul is trapped in his portrait remains a chilling prospect.
5. Getting Mother’s Body (Suzan-Lori Parks) - a woman and her flamboyant family races to dig up her mother's grave in order to rob the corpse of jewels. As fun and multifaceted as it sounds, no pun intended.
4. The Green Flames (Marcos Spinelli) - I picked this up at a dinky resale shop in a tiny mountain town in Pennsylvania, simply because the cover was a scream. I didn't know I would be in for an incredible adventure tale in the Brazilian jungle, increasingly drawn to a hero who starts out beastly and discovers civilization is worse. As I read more about Spinelli, I found that Green Flames is not unlike his own life story.
3. Lonesome Animals (Bruce Holbert) - another great crime novel with beautiful prose, this one set in the American West instead of contemporary Ireland. I am drawn to stories with quiet protagonists, the power of solace and silence, and this book has it in droves, both the positive and negative aspects. Less a story about crime than the futility of humanity, this story finds beauty in bleakness.
2. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) (Tana French) - I was blown away by all the usual elements present in this police procedural/murder mystery: French's exquisite prose; the character-driven narrative; and, my favorite aspect: the deliciously unsatisfying ending.
1. Indignation (Roth) - the story, in a nutshell, is the butterfly effect. But you don't find out the status of the hero until you're about halfway through, and it stunned me into re-reading the chapter. It was one of those "pause and stare into the middle distance" moments. How clever and different and powerful, and huzzah for breaking the rules! I can't give details, but this setup increases the impact of the book's perspective and especially the last few sentences. It's incredible.
Many of these have self-explanatory titles, so I won't go into a lot of detail.
8. Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (Debby Irving) - the things I didn't know I didn't know is astounding.
7. Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation, Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry (Armando R. Favazza)
6. Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers (Lauren Sapala) - I haaaaate bombarding people with endless posts and posturing. It simply isn't me. Enter Lauren Sapala, the patron saint of introverted writers.
5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain) - I was surprised and tickled at how many of my writer buddies were reading this at pretty much the same time.
4. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death (Caitlin Doughty) - Not only do you get an in-depth lesson on what happens when you die, but blackly comic illustrations by Dianné Ruz.
3. Sleep Paralysis: Night-mares, Nocebos, and the Mind-Body Connection (Shelley R. Adler)
2. Shit My Dad Says (Justin Halpern) - not just a collection of quips as I thought, but a legit bittersweet memoir. I had to bite my cheeks to keep from laughing on the train.
1. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir (Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich) - the strength the author must have had to research a boy's murder at the hands of a pedophile—years after having been molested herself—is unfathomable. Her writing style is irresistible and poetic, and just when you think the story is coming to a close, more disturbing information comes to light, much of which has eerie connections to her own past. Her family covered up her abuse; the murdered boy's mother fights to save the criminal from death row. Why? These lines sealed the deal for me: "They need to leave the past behind. ... I want—I need—to understand."