• Waiting for the Barbarians

    J.M. Coetzee

    I took this book and Disgrace out from the library at the same time, unsure if I would read both. I still didn’t have any of my holds in when I finished, so I started this one immediately afterwards. It was interesting to read the two so close to each other. There are a lot of thematic similarities in the stories, even though they are so different: ...

  • Disgrace

    J.M. Coetzee

    I’ve been wanting to read something by Coetzee since he won the Nobel Prize in 2003. I guess it took an open reading slot and a wander around the library to make it finally happen. This book is sparse in the way it’s told but incredibly nuanced at its heart. While the story is simply about an older professor who...

  • You Shall Know Our Velocity

    Dave Eggers

    I got this book when McSweeney’s had their big sale last year. I never read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and I never read this one even after I bought it. It happened that when I was unpacking my books, I was a week into a...

  • Pale Fire

    Vladimir Nabokov

    While Lolita holds fort as Nabokov’s best known novel, Pale Fire rates vaguely higher on the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Comprised of a 999-line poem in four cantos by a (fictional) famous American poet, John Shade, as well as a foreword and extensive...

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    Junot Díaz

    I’m pretty sure that I read and enjoyed Díaz’s book of short stories, Drown, years ago, but it must have been pre-log. It’s been so long, the first time I noticed this book, it was more because of its distinctive cover than recognition of the...

  • The New York Trilogy

    Paul Auster

    I read this while I was in the UK recently, and it’s now several weeks since I got back, so details are already getting a little fuzzy. These three books, technically separate but subtly threaded together, have been on my list for a long time. Ostensibly detective novels at the start, each one devolves into surreal and existential mysteries of an entirely different...

  • Drops of this Story

    Suheir Hammad

    While I really like the concept of each piece of this book as drops that collectively represent all the challenges of her life as a Palestinian American, it felt like Hammad spent a little too much time talking about writing her story through all the different references to wetness and where it found her compared to actually threading the pieces together. It’s a rather short memoir...

  • Sixty Odd

    Ursula K. Le Guin

    I took out a bunch of poetry books and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this one, or maybe I’m not into Le Guin’s poetic “wryness.” I suppose she is better known for her fantasy and sci-fi fiction.

  • Kissing God Goodbye

    June Jordan

    The mix of personal and political poems felt a little awkward at times, but I like her down-to-earth style.


  • Invisible Man

    Ralph Ellison

    Though I started this book with the news that many people find it just a little too long, knowing that must have helped, as I was not overwhelmed by the length at all. Though everything is drawn-out in this book — like this sentence at the beginning of chapter five, as the students are walking to chapel for vespers:

  • Last Night at the Lobster

    Stewart O’Nan

    A little novella about endings and regrets for what maybe never could have been, dressed in the ill-fitting hopes that anything is possible. You can feel that tightness and slack in all the wrong places.

  • Miracle Fruit

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil

    Poetry can be pretty good reading for subway reading as it often is comprised of shorter pieces that you’re more likely to reach an even stopping point when you reach your destination. But I’m kind of out of practice in reading verse these days. The beginning of this book felt so prose-like and conversational, but by the end things flowed more. I can’t really tell if that was the book or just...

  • Print is Dead : Books in our digital age

    Jeff Gomez

    A few months ago I listened to some excerpts from this book, and finally got around to actually reading the whole thing.

  • Two Serious Ladies

    Jane Bowles

    This is one of those books that I didn’t know anything about when I started, and now that I’ve finished I have since been reading up about it and Jane Bowles and still feel like I missed something. I heard this mentioned on Show Me Your Titles film podcast as a suitable pairing to the movie ...

  • A Spot of Bother

    Mark Haddon

    I couldn’t quite figure out sometimes if things in this book were supposed to be funny or not and having to think about it got a little annoying. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was so good, and this is entertaining enough… But something felt missing in this one.

    The story is all third...

  • The Learners

    Chip Kidd

    Back in 2002 I wasn’t yet officially, or perhaps consciously, interested in graphic design, but heard about Chip Kidd’s first novel The Cheese Monkeys somewhere random and put it on my Christmas list. That one is about a guy who goes to a university to study art and ends up in an intense design class that involves lots...

  • Bonjour Tristesse

    Françoise Sagan

    French and emo naïveté turned coquette frolicking around a rented villa on the Riviera — thematic pairings for an ideal summer read? Narrated by the precocious teenager not long after the events happened, it dramatizes her meddling in her “affectionate rogue” father’s love life while pursuing her own sexual conquest on the side. There’s something about Cécile’s voice...

  • Wanderlust

    Rebecca Solnit

    I loved A Field Guide to Getting Lost, so it was only a matter of time before something else by Rebecca Solnit wound up on my hold list. This one is a pretty impressive history of walking, which has a rather left-leaning gait at times.

  • The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910–1934

    Margit Rowell & Deborah Wye

    I noticed this on my friend Leslie’s goodreads page and put it on my to-read list more to remember it as a potential resource. But I wound up with some time to kill in NYC and the Mid-Manhattan library has it for reference use only, so I went to visit. The book went with the 2002 exhibit that came out of a gift of 1,100 illustrated books from the Judith Rothschild...

  • The Mother Garden

    Robin Romm

    Elissa was returning this at the library and told me I should read it, so I checked it out. This collection could be subtitled something like”variations on grief,” as all of them involve a core theme of loss, whether imminent or realized. Most of the deaths involve sickness, especially cancer, mostly parents. Somehow they all capture something...