A lot happened in 2017, but then a lot happens every year. Politically, the year was trash. Professionally, quite fruitful. Creatively, filled with some much needed validation. Personally, well, the personal narrative is private for now.
The analogy of my year came during a half-marathon I hadn’t trained for, when between miles 8 and 9, the crown of my back molar came off on an energy chew. I was lucky to notice it before I swallowed. I held onto the crown in my gloved hand for a mile without slowing down, and then gave it to Bryon, who met me at mile 10 to pace me for the rest of the race. Despite having decaying teeth (this was the year I spent $2000 at the dentist after reading an Onion article), I felt very grateful for my body and my ability to run 13.1 miles at will. I also felt grateful that I already had a teeth cleaning scheduled for later in the week and reattaching the crown wasn’t a problem.
What does that analogy mean? I don’t know, I guess in the face of a lot of bullshit, things mostly worked out for me this year.
While I check my privilege, here’s the list of what I read this year:
Flash Fiction Forward, Robert Shapard, James Thomas (Editors)
On Michael Jackson, Margo Jefferson
City of Thieves, David Benioff*
The Coast of Chicago, Stuart Dybek
Postcards from the Edge, Carrie Fisher
The Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler*
Whether because of Trump anxiety, living with Bryon, or generally becoming an adult, 2017 was the year I became a more regular cook. I spent many Sundays watching reality TV and making pasta bake. This book taught me to keep the greens from beets and reminded me of the basic pleasure of cooking.
The Normal One, Jeanne Safer
The Handmaiden’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Cowboys are My Weakness, Pam Houston
I lent this book to a male coworker with two teenage daughters, and he came back with, “Are women really this stupid about men?” Yes.
The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy*
The Secret History, Donna Tartt ®*
Transit, Rachel Cusk*
Love and Other Obstacles, Aleksandar Hemon*
Do Not Become Alarmed, Maile Meloy*
I met Maile Meloy on Twitter, and then again in Santa Monica and Denver. She’s lovely, as a writer and a person. This book shows her versatility: you may know her as a soulful New Yorker short story writer, but she’s also a middle grade fiction writer, and a master of plot. I read this book in a weekend, and I recommend it to anyone looking to get lost in a fictional world.
The Seven Good Years, Etgar Keret*
The Plot Against America, Philip Roth ®*
While I love Philip Roth, in the past, I had talked some shit about the glove passage of American Pastoral as proof that Roth was a writer before a master of story. This book features Roth’s lyrical beauty, but also has the kind of storytelling that rivals the best of sci-fi. (I don’t actually read sci-fi, but I imagine it has a lot of plot.)
The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy
Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout*
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri ®*
Single, Carefree, Mellow, Katherine Heiny
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Parker
Laughable Loves, Milan Kundera
How to Leave Hialeah, Jennine Capó Crucet
The Unsettlers, Mark Sundeen
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
Music for Wartime, Rebecca Makkai
The Twilight of the Superheroes, Deborah Eisenberg*
The Vanishing Velázquez, Laura Cumming
After seeing Ramiro Gomez talk about Las Meninas, I realized I needed to see the painting in person before I died. About two years later, I met my Mom in Madrid, and we spent a lot of time at the Prado staring at it. Of course life is short and history is long, but there’s something kind of amazing about standing in front of the same painting that Picasso, King Philip, and of course, Velázquez himself stood in front of. I read this book in Spain, and while it’s a bit of a deep dive, it fed my excitement about seeing Velázquez’s work in person.
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner ®*
Rereading this book in Denver was the first time I ever wished I had an e-reader; it would have been nice to read it while I was in Madrid. When I came back home to my copy, not only could I catch references to various streets in Madrid, but I also appreciated that Ben Lerner, for all his fussing about, does care about plot and character development.
Transactions in a Foreign Currency, Deborah Eisenberg
My Misspent Youth, Meghan Daum
Sam the Cat, Matthew Klam
Paris Stories, Mavis Gallant
Going to Meet the Man, James Baldwin
Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney*
Believe the hype, this is a good book. I read this book while going through a difficult time, and there was something so lovely about losing myself in a slim volume over the course of a weekend. Being a writer has made me understand fiction better but enjoy it less. A great book brings me back to my first love: reading.
The Burning Girl, Claire Messud
* Raronuer recommended
® A Raronauer reread