Friday, January 31, 2020

My Reading Year 2019


Each year I endeavor to read as many books as I can. These are the books that kept me company in 2019.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. Danish baroness Karen Blixen's account of living a in Africa. She lived a hard life—her husband, who had many affairs, at some point gave her syphilis—but there is no bitterness in this account. Only servants, dogs, lions, chieftains, tribal politics, and farm life. I had the feeling that she left so many things unsaid. Cue Ronan Keating's "When You Say Nothing At All."

White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Why had I only discovered Zadie Smith this year? I remember starting on her novel when I saw an old secondhand copy in our bookshelf at home. Her debut novel was about family and friendships, religion and secularism, Muslims and Jehovah's witnesses, Bangladesh and Jamaica.

Peasants and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine. A graphic novel that I read on a plane ride.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, edited by Robert Silverberg. Read my entry.

The Hugo Winners Volume 5: 1980–1982, edited by Isaac Asimov. The Nine Billion Names of God was a standout.

Death in Midsummer by Yukio Mishima. My favorite story was about the girls who, dressed in kimonos, performed a ritual of silently crossing several bridges so that their wishes would come true. This was one of the very few stories that made me laugh. The rest were depressing: a mother who, after napping, realizes her children had drowned; a couple who commit honorable suicide but make passionate love before that.

John the Baptist by F. B. Meyer. I turn to F. B Meyer for the beauty of his writing. It was a pleasure to the soul to get a glimpse of the humility of John the Baptist in light of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. I've written this for the nth time—that I adore Elena Ferrante. I read this months before I flew to Italy.

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante. I read this in Milan. I realized that reading about the places I travel to amplifies the joys and wonders of adventure.

Overheard in a Balloon by Mavis Gallant. She belongs to the triumvirate of my favorite women writers, which includes Alice Munro and Marilynne Robinson. Both Gallant and Munro are Canadian.

L’appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz. A chef who buys an apartment in Paris and renovates it. It's not as easy as it sounds. Apparently, the French require a lot of unnecessary paperwork.

The Doctrine of Regeneration by Stephen Charnock. My cell servant (Bible study leader), Kuya Vance, mentions this during our Thursday meetings. So I decided to give it a go: an encyclopedic treatise about the Christian doctrine of regeneration. It took me two years to finish the book, mostly during train rides to work. On sanctification, he wrote: "It is the office of the Spirit not only to comfort but renew, and to comfort by renewing."

What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson. Miss Robinson, the author of Gilead, Housekeeping, and Lila, as well as a number of essay collections, is one of America's most insightful thinkers.

Circe by Madeline Miller. The Odyssey as told from the perspective of Circe. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. Autobiography of a woman whose father was a Roman Catholic priest. I like reading anything about fathers.

Young Once by Patrick Modiano. Reading about the Métro stations jolted me: "Oh, I've been there, too!" I like reading works by this Nobel laureate: they're just of the perfect length to distract me from my academic reading without significantly disrupting my life.

Normal People by Sally Rooney. A simple love story told beautifully. I will read anything by Miss Rooney.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert. Each year I try to read any work by Frank Herbert.

I've been doing a compilation of books I've read ("My Reading Year") since 2011. Here are the links:

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