2021 in books
Kline Nurses (2015) by Rita Ackerman
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I read 187 books this year. You can see the books I recommended in 2020 here. Here are my favorites:
Books about women, uh, trying to figure it out: The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer (surreal in the best way), Blue Skies, No Candy by Gael Greene (unabashed, sexy, excessive), Intimacies by Katie Kitamura (her prose is incredibly elegant), Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (much discussed and deservedly so).
Other novels: Climates by Andre Maurois, Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park (fresh, sad, funny), Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen.
Daughters writing about their mothers: The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow (made me cry).
Psychology/psychotherapy/mindfulness: Awareness by Anthony de Mello (timeless), Already Free by Bruce Tift (which I’ve quoted numerous times in this newsletter), The Fantasy Bond by Robert W. Firestone.
Memoirs: Better to Have Gone, Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville by Akash Kapur (I’m very interested in utopian communities right now), A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ni Ghriofa (superb, probably my favorite book of the year), Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel.
Short story collections: Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill (phenomenal), Dusk by James Salter (every line is gorgeous), Lust by Susan Minot.
Essay collections: These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (a perfect human being), Violations by Sally Tisdale, The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan.
I travelled a lot this year, which meant I read in airports, on planes, on trains, in hotel rooms, at 3 AM when I woke up jetlagged, in the afternoon when I had writer’s block, while drunk, while sad, while happy. Reading has always been the thing that soothes me most. This marks 1.5 years of more or less writing full-time, and my first full year of writing this Substack. 2020 and 2021 have been my best, freest years of reading since I was in middle school.
If you’re a subscriber, thank you so much for supporting my work this year and following along as I try to read my way to some kind of answer. One of my favorite ever lines is from an interview with Rachel Cusk, where she says (paraphrasing D.H. Lawrence) “Some people have a lot farther to go from where they begin to get where they want to be—a long way up the mountain, and that is how it has been for me. I don’t feel I am getting older; I feel I am getting closer.” I’ve written this before, but my dream has always been—still is—to keep getting closer.
Wow…that Rachel Cusk quote gave me chills. I am so happy to have found your substack. On multiple occasions I have found myself reading your writing and feeling understood. Thank you!
187 ❤️😭 i’m usually at 150ish but this pandemic is definitely impacting my reading time