I’ve always been a glass-half-empty kind of girl. Maybe one of the few good things that has come out of this time of isolation has been more time to read.
In 2020, I read 51 books. This year, I read 61 books (or 16,825 pages - thank you, StoryGraph!)
This year I moved from Goodreads to StoryGraph. I was a pretty spotty user of Goodreads, but after I read more and more troubling news about Goodreads (no surprise, since it's owned by Amazon!), I made the move, in a quick hot minute, and I am so happy. StoryGraph is free, and it has tons of cool features that a book-geek will love.
StoryGraph has a recommendations feature that is robust and spot-on. It has really insightful stats and clear graphics about your reading habits and it has a great and fair system for reviews (unlike the shenanigans going on at Goodreads). Last but not least, StoryGraph was founded by an African-American woman – who doesn’t want to support her team rather than give over more personal data to Bezos?
The one thing that is missing right now on StoryGraph is a critical mass of people. So, come join me, so we can build a big community on StoryGraph and support them! (Sadly, I made absolutely no money from that 100% honest, but very long bit, I just did about StoryGraph).
Here are some of those 61 books that I highly recommend:
Poetry: OBIT by Victoria Chang, 1919 by Eve Ewing, The Renunciations by Donika Kelly, Nox by Anne Carson, and Girls Like Us by Elizabeth Hazen.
The most lovely, important collection I read was Prognosis by Jim Moore, one of my first poetry teacher. Like many of you, I have been struggling a lot these past two years, and Jim’s poems have helped me feel less alone. I haven't written much about the pandemic, or the heartbreak of watching my Minneapolis burn after George Floyd was murdered. These gentle, funny and soulful poems let me enter these recent times in a way that takes note, tends to our fears and grief, and offers a hope that’s neither simplistic nor superficial. They are small prayers for all of us, these poems.
Memoir/Essay: I read a lot of wonderful memoirs and creative nonfiction last year. One of my favorites was The Clearing: a memoir of art, family and mental health by Samantha Clark. I search high and low for books that tell the story of mental illness with accuracy and respect, and I was also very moved by Clark’s visual art. Other good reads were Girlhood essays by Melissa Febos (I can’t wait for her craft book, Body Work, coming out in March 2022), and The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham.
Two of my favorites were a wonderful mix of memoir and literary criticism: All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth and A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ni Ghriofa.
Craft: Literary magazines, writing programs, and publishers are beginning to address their own biased practices. There’s work for us all to do - in our work and in our classrooms. I attended some great training sessions rooted in the work of two pivotal books: The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop by Felicia Rose Chavez and Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses. Other craft books to recommend are A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders, Getting to the Truth: the Craft and Practice of Writing Creative Nonfiction from the good folks at Hippocampus, and The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman.
Fiction: These four novels are truly awesome: True Story by Kate Reed Perry, Happiness by Aminatta Forna, The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Over the past two years, I’ve read every book of Laura Lippman – a smart Baltimorean who writes good novels and thrillers as well as her fun Tess Monaghan series.
I'm already halfway through my first book of 2022 - These Precious Days, the wonderful new collection of essays by Ann Patchett. What are you reading?