• How to Breathe Underwater

    Julie Orringer

    Image of How to Breathe Underwater

    I wanted to like this collection more, but there was something missing or it just wasn’t the right time to read it. Maybe the stories are just a little too polished, a little too clean. Like The Mother Garden, all of these stories involve some element of sickness or grief. But unlike that one overall this book doesn’t feel...more

  • The Namesake

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    Image of The Namesake: A Novel

    I watched the movie version of this story in the winter, thinking I’d already read the book — it was actually Lahiri’s short story collection Interpreter of Maladies that I’d read just before this one was published. I was worried I’d picture Kal Penn as Gogol the whole time and to some degree I did at the beginning. But...more

  • Waiting for the Barbarians

    J.M. Coetzee

    Image of Waiting for the Barbarians (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

    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...more

  • Disgrace

    J.M. Coetzee

    Image of Disgrace

    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...more

  • You Shall Know Our Velocity

    Dave Eggers

    Image of You Shall Know Our Velocity

    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 misguided mission to read Roland Barthes’ Image, Music, Text. I...more

  • Pale Fire

    Vladimir Nabokov

    Image of Pale Fire

    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 commentary by his friend, Professor Charles Kinbote, at times it...more

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    Junot Díaz

    Image of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    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 author. Then Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for this epic...more

  • The New York Trilogy

    Paul Auster

    Image of The New York Trilogy: City of Glass; Ghosts; The Locked Room  (Contemporary American Fiction Series)

    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...more

  • Drops of this Story

    Suheir Hammad

    Image of Drops of This Story

    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...more

  • Sixty Odd

    Ursula K. Le Guin

    Image of Sixty Odd

    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.more


  • Kissing God Goodbye

    June Jordan

    Image of Kissing God Goodbye: Poems 1991-1997

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

    POEM AFTER RECEIVING VOICEMAIL FROM YOU AFTER (I DON’T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE) HOW LONG!

    Your voice and the weighted
    stammering between us
    evident

    ...more
  • Invisible Man

    Ralph Ellison

    Image of Invisible Man

    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:

    Above the decorous

    ...more
  • Last Night at the Lobster

    Stewart O’Nan

    Image of Last Night at the Lobster

    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.more


  • Miracle Fruit

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil

    Image of Miracle Fruit

    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

  • Print is Dead : Books in our digital age

    Jeff Gomez

    Image of Print Is Dead: Books in our Digital Age (Macmillan Science)

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

    There’s something in the way Gomez has written this book that kept eliciting these knee-jerk, argumentative responses, and I’d find myself angrily relating some piece of what I read nearly every day that I was reading this book....more

  • Two Serious Ladies

    Jane Bowles

    Image of Two Serious Ladies (Peter Owen Modern Classic)

    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 Daisies. Thinking...more

  • A Spot of Bother

    Mark Haddon

    Image of A Spot of Bother

    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 person but...more

  • The Learners

    Chip Kidd

    Image of The Learners: A Novel

    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 of...more

  • Bonjour Tristesse

    Françoise Sagan

    Image of Bonjour Tristesse

    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 that is beguiling though...more

  • Wanderlust

    Rebecca Solnit

    Image of Wanderlust: A History of Walking

    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.

    For whatever reason the second section, covering “From the Garden to the Wild” kept...more

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