26 books
  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    Joan Didion

    Not having it in front of me now, I can’t skim through and remember the precise points that caught me when I was reading this. I can recall that I appreciated the elements that returned throughout the book, waves washing back over, appropriate for a memoir of grief. I poke through a few reviews to jog the memories, noticing that a few describe a lack of “inwardness” or distance from emotions; this one in particular critiques it as “oddly lacking.” I would argue it’s not odd at all. Didion herself describes the hospital social worker’s declaration of her as a “cool customer” with what I felt was full awareness of this distance.

    They took me into the curtained cubicle where

  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

    Haruki Murakami

    I waited for months on the hold list from the library, only to be unable to finish all these stories before going out of town. Perhaps I should have just paid the few days of late fees I would have received if I’d taken it with me on my trip and returned it afterwards. I only got through half the book, but I might have gotten through more if I hadn’t been unable to resist re-reading the stories I’d caught in magazines previously.

    Even if you’ve read a lot of these already as well, it’s worth browsing this one for a few older stories from the 1980s as well as the forward by Murakami where he talks a bit about his...more

  • Coraline

    Neil Gaiman

    This girl Coraline is bored in her new house, her parents are too busy for her, and all the neighbors call her Caroline. But there is an old door to the flat next door that has been bricked up; when no one is around, it brings her into a parallel world which has all the things she might want, but in messed up, creepy ways. And all the people have buttons for eyes.

    Illustrations by Dave McKean, who must be this Dave McKean (perhaps the only website left on the ’nets designed for Netscape).more

  • The End

    Lemony Snicket

    I couldn’t decide while reading this whether it was a good ending for the Baudelaires, being stuck on some island rather than somehow encompassing all the books in one. But the ending does deliver pretty well. A lot of us had our suspicious anyhow.

    I still think it would have been better to wait until all the books were published, having only read the first twelve books about a year ago.

    It leaves off so mysteriously, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a follow-up of some kind.more

  • The Jungle

    Upton Sinclair

    I never was assigned this book in high school and probably only read it now because it happened to coincide with some curiosity about Lithuanian ancestors we know nothing about and a casual mention of this to a friend who happened to reading this book at the time. While this book is well-known for its effect on the meatpacking industry, it’s primarily an argument for support of socialism, by showing the extent of terrible conditions for unskilled workers (mostly immigrants) in the late 1800s.

    [Sinclair] famously noted the effect of his book in leading to meat packing regulations — but its failure to lead to popular support for socialism — by stating that “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it

  • The Crooked Mirror and other stories

    Anton Chekhov

    I tried reading some Chekhov three years ago after a long stretch of short stories and just couldn’t do it. Being that I read with much less density these days, what I read has less to do with what I’ve read before it. And I guess not having read much short fiction lately at all gave me a prime opportunity to try again.

    Chekhov’s stories are pretty clever, many of them function as long jokes with a punchline at the end. But I think the part I most enjoyed in this collection were there selection from his writings about a journey out to Siberia, though the diary-like entries seemed to stop abruptly....more

  • By Its Cover

    Ned Drew & Paul Sternberger

    Looking back through all the covers reproduced in this book, subtitled Modern American Book Cover Design, I love Alvin Lustig and Paul Rand’s covers from the 1950s, a few things here and there from the 1960s, and then nothing much else until the last chapter, looking at the late 1990s with a section focusing on various Knopf designers.more

  • In Cold Blood

    Truman Capote

    I wanted to like the movie Capote but in truth I found myself bored through large stretches. Aesthetically it was pretty well-done, but the story maybe needed some extra editing. This isn’t one of those straight-up book vs. movies cases, as the stories are from the same source but different perspectives — the movie a story about Capote writing the book and the book absent of Capote’s personality and interactions with the town entirely. That said, the prose in the book is often quite stunning, but there are, much like the movie, long chapters that I trudged through; so perhaps the movie and the book are pretty close in their impact. Overall, the book felt like a better use of time...more

  • The Madame Paul Affair

    Julie Doucet

    This story about the bizarre events surrounding a Montreal apartment Doucet lived in ended kind of weird and anti-climactic after all the suspense. It was originally printed serially in a newspaper, and I think that would be the best way to read it, slowly and over time.more

  • My New York Diary

    Julie Doucet

    I used to read a lot of comics years ago but I don’t think I’d ever read any of Julie Doucet’s, not even holed up in a comic shop, pretending it was a library. Her drawing style is pretty dense; it took awhile for me to adjust to it, and then I was surprised I never stumbled on her largely autobiographical work before now. This one opens with some back story in her early sexual and romantic experiences before delving into her time spent in New York, where she lived for about a year in the early 1990s with a jealous artist boyfriend in Washington Heights. Eventually she left New York to go to Seattle and then Berlin before finally...more