Monday, January 01, 2018

Out with the old, in with the new

I don't often post year-end stats or best-of-the-year lists, mostly because they don't really mean anything to me.

I read, on average, a book a week, and that's held steady since about the time I became the sort of person who reads a book a week, about the time I started blogging. It's just not a very large sample to draw from for a top-ten list.

Aesthetic Apparatus
Michael Byzewski
But I can't help but call out some standouts from 2017. (They may be the standouts of my century so far.)

The Blizzard, by Vladimir Sorokin.
Not a nineteenth-century Russian novel. Although it is, only with some surprising elements, like zombie plague, Mongolian pharmaceutical kingpins, and small pyramids made of some unknown substance.

Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin.
Short and thrilling. Highly original in its form as well as in its story elements. Transmigration of souls. I loved puzzling over what the hell happened. (I am wondering, though, if my enthusiasm for this short novel might wane over time.)

My Heart Hemmed In, by Marie Ndiaye.
This is one of the most intense reading experiences I can recall. I didn't really notice the writing on the sentence level, but proof of its effectiveness lies in how this book seeped into my consciousness. I spent the week feeling anxious, paranoid, suspicious, confused, hemmed in.

The Passion According to G.H., by Clarice Lispector.
I'd been meaning to read this one for a while. Every book has its time and its place, and this one finally had its day. Absolutely a modern classic. I tried to read this one slowly, carefully. G.H.'s confrontation with a cockroach is rich with meditation on the meaning of life, the history of humanity, her place in the world. I can see myself returning to this book in a few years.

Short-term goals
Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer.
Read it before the movie hits theatres. Progress on this front: I used a Christmas gift card to finally acquire a copy.

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman.
By January 31, for New Reads book club.

Chronicle of the Murdered House, by LĂșcio Cardoso.
By February 7, for Reading Across Borders book club.

Catch up on The Familiar, by Mark Z Danielewski.
I have time for bingeing on Netflix serials, I should make time this literary equivalent. I started volume 2, but volume 5 has already been released.

Read more Clarice Lispector.
I have the Complete Stories at my bedside.

That's enough.

[Maybe this is the year for The Book of Disquiet.]


Danielle said...

I am really envious of your D&Q bookstore. If I lived there I would so be a frequent patron! I have the Batuman book on my reading pile, but I am terrible about not carrying hardcover books around with me, but it sounds really good. Happy New Year Isabella!

Stefanie said...

Fever Dreams sounds great and Heart Hemmed In sounds weirdly good. I added both to my library list. And thanks for the reminder to read more Clarice Lispector as well as Annihilation!

Cipriano said...

I love that comment in your more recent posting -- about the cold. It is JUST as cold here where I live, I must say. And I couldn't agree more -- weekends have been a time for me of staying inside, napping with my cat, and reading books.
You mentioned here The Book of Disquiet. I have that book at my bedside table, and it's been there for years. It's the kind of book that I pick up from time to time and I read passages from it as I go to sleep. Like... a meditative practice. The insights in it are profound.
I wish you a Happy New Year.

Isabella K said...

@Danielle, I am lucky to have D&Q, the quality makes up for the dearth of English-language bookstores around here. I only wish they'd waited till the Idiot comes out in paperback. Not sure my library hold will come through in time.

@Stefanie, So many good books to read! I started Annihilation yesterday and it is creepy!

@Cipriano, Where the hell have you been? I miss you! Happy new year! One problem with me and Disquiet is that I have it as an ebook, but the e-format demands cover-to-cover reading, which just feels wrong with this book. I've started it a few times and gotten lost in thought. As you say, meditative. Must get myself a lovely print edition.