• A Field Guide to Getting Lost

    Rebecca Solnit

    Two good friends gave this the highest of ratings, so I took notice. A copy came through at the library just in time for a short trip down to the bay area, and it was pretty much the perfect reading for traveling, both in the subject matter and in the length of the essays. Every other one is called “The Blue of Distance,” and I love all the different ways Solnit explores this...

  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem

    Joan Didion

    Sometime in the spring, I was looking for used copies of Didion’s books and instead impulsively bought the Everyman’s Library volume of her collected nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. It’s taken only brief journeys off the shelf since it’s so darn unwieldy, and I tend to grab something else for on-...

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    J.K. Rowling

    In the realm of contemporary YA fantasy, the HP series isn’t quite as well-written or nuanced as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (which will hopefully get a bit more attention from the masses this winter with a big film version of...

  • Here They Come

    Yannick Murphy

    I took advantage of last month’s store-wide McSweeney’s sale to buy a few things. Though I’m not necessarily a fan of everything McSweeney’s, this book has a nice cover (which, you know, is always a swaying influence) and said it was about a teenage girl in...

  • Ex Libris: confessions of a common reader

    Anne Fadiman

    I got this book out from the library the same day as The Book of the Bookshelf, and Petroski makes several references to this book, so that was a kind of odd coincidence. I can’t remember now what made me seek out these two books specifically. Then I was also thinking about “books about books” and whether I...

  • The Push Man and other stories

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi

    If I’d paid better attention, I would have waited to read Abandon the Old in Tokyo in order to be properly anal and read the books in sequence. The introduction by Adrian Tomine is both a personal and technical opener to the series and how it came to be, including a note on the difficulty of translating the comics from Japanese — not...

  • The Book on the Bookshelf

    Henry Petroski

    Possibly you’ve read something by Henry Petroski before, as he is quite prolific: writing about the pencil, useful things in general, as well as more abstract concepts like Success...

  • Scrapbook

    Adrian Tomine

    This collection of Tomine’s “uncollected work” from 1990–2004 is divided into three sections: miscellaneous comics — either unpublished, drafts, or work that appeared in places other than Optic Nerve; (mostly commissioned) illustrations; and selections from his sketchbook. While these represent distinctly separate aspects of his work, they blend together nicely and given a well-rounded...

  • Abandon the Old in Tokyo

    Yoshihiro Tatsumi

    I haven’t been keeping up with Adrian Tomine, or the last few issues of Optic Nerve for that matter. So that might be why I also missed hearing about this series of translations of Tatsumi’s work, which Tomine is editing/designing/lettering. This book represents work originally published in 1970 and the...

  • After Dark

    Haruki Murakami

    This reads like it could have been a screenplay, and I spent most of the book thinking what a great movie it would be — a little David Lynch in all the good ways.

    As a novel it’s a little bit flat, but I still enjoyed the experiment in perspective. It seems as if there are a lot more characters interacting on one storyline, so while...

  • The Passion

    Jeanette Winterson

    After reading Lighthousekeeping back in March, I had a feeling I’d come back to this again. Sure enough I was waiting for some things from the library and pulled my copy out — the top spine corner of the paperback is bent in from being shoved into boxes each of the five hundred times I’ve moved. This is probably one of the few books I’ve had since...

  • We need to talk about Kevin

    Lionel Shriver

    This is the sort of book I can’t really talk about, the way I’d like to talk about it, as then if you wanted to read it, there would be little point. It’s written as a series of letters from the mother of a teenager who murdered several classmates and school faculty/staff to her husband (and his father). It’s the sort of book that carefully reveals information...

  • No one belongs here more than you

    Miranda July

    It was a small thing, but it was a thing, and things have a way of either dying or growing, and it wasn’t dying. Years went by. This thing grew, like a child, microscopically, every day. And since they were a team, and all teams want to win, they continuously adjusted their vision to keep its growth invisible. They wordlessly excused each other for not loving each other as...

  • My Life in France

    Julia Child

    I mentioned when I read Julie and Julia that I felt this book might be more up my alley. Indeed, I sped through this in a matter of days. While the book is focused on Julia and Paul’s time in Paris and France and later time spent in Provence, it oversees the entirety of their life together, with just enough background on the non-France parts to...

  • Poems for Architects

    Jill Stoner

    The best parts of this anthology are the overlays of drawings that interpret the certain poems’ structures. Being that Stoner chose the poems based on her own collection, it’s not necessarily a comprehensive look at poetry that tackles themes of space, like domesticity, urbanism, and form. But it is an interesting concept — how poetry can influence architecture.

    I really...

  • Anna Karenina

    Leo Tolstoy

    I started reading this novel in the fall, got halfway through by mid-December, and then wound up abandoning it when I decided not to lug 800 pages with me while going out of town for the holidays. Luckily last month I had a lull in novels and a bit of insomnia and hadn’t yet forgotten who all the characters were.

    Shortly after starting the book I got two spoilers about the dramatic...

  • Inside the Yellow Dress

    Mary Ann Samyn

    Wish You Were Here

    Postcard of time, stolen time. And I have such wide need. How can I tell you of all the birds visiting me? First, geese at night — just as you said — flying by the light of the river. No, I mean by the absence of the light of the river. Then, cranes, three: a dream, a painting, a photograph. Also, this paper if you fold it: origami sign of — what?...

  • Prep

    Curtis Sittenfeld

    Despite the length of this book, I breezed through it in a couple of days, often unable to stop reading until reaching the end of a long chapter. It’s a coming-of-age story of a Midwestern, middle-class girl who decides she wants to go to boarding school, gets some scholarships, and ends up in New England. Once there Lee realizes the class divide is more striking than she anticipated and...

  • Perfect Disappearance

    Martha Rhodes


    My body given away, parts

    flown to other parts — a child

    receives my eyes, another

    my heart, the diseased organs

    remain, benign now.

  • Fun Home

    Alison Bechdel

    The graphic novel memoir seems such an ideal form, especially as demonstrated in this “family tragicomic” where Bechdel uses snippets of journals and letters to flesh out the story of her relationship with her father, who is suspiciously killed by a truck four months after she comes out to her parents via a letter while she is away at college and two weeks after her mother asked him for...