• The Autobiography of Red

    Anne Carson

    after reading Anne Carson, i always have a heightened sense of awareness. this book is a “novel in verse” and much more of a story than the previous books of hers that i read. she has an incredible way of splicing time, in terms of when everything is taking place. it is set like a classical myth (and this even includes a very scholarly preface...more

  • The Elephant Vanishes

    Haruki Murakami

    i’ve definitely fallen into Murakami’s style now, the very fantastic, science fiction twinged fables. After the Quake, as a collection, was far more striking. but a few of these stories stand out with an obvious sense of humor or enjoyable haunting mysteriousness — “The...more

  • Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

    H.J. Jackson

    celia suggested this book to me a while back when i found someone’s notes in one story of a Mavis Gallant book. it is the first book to look at the history and argue for the value of writing in books.

    marking books in any way is a practice largely unaccepted for most of the books...more

  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities

    Jane Jacobs

    i have spent the last week getting myself to the halfway point on this. it’s always a little bizarre to read non-fiction books and realize that while reading fiction, my brain must not be engaged as intensely or something, because suddenly i’ve “read” several pages and don’t remember a thing.

    this is a...more

  • Kiss of the Spider Woman

    Manuel Puig

    impressive story told through the dialogue of two prisoners in a jail in an unnamed latin american country. a gay window dresser entertains his revolutionary cellmate by narrating movies he has seen, and over time an intimacy develops between them. interspersed are theory-laden footnotes about the origins of homosexuality. due to the format, a...more

  • Kafka was the Rage

    Anatole Broyard

    this claims to be a “Greenwich Village memoir,” but it didn’t give me much of a sense of greenwich village directly after WWII, perhaps because this book was never finished. the stories and perspectives are interesting, but it feels more like a series of sketches than a cohesive work....more

  • Forbidden Colors

    Yukio Mishima

    i stuck with this book even though i never really liked any of the characters. at the end i just felt ambivalent about the story in general. it always seems wrong to not care about the protagonist, but it’s worse to not care about anyone in the story or anything that happened at all.

    an aging misanthropic writer follows a...more

  • Fear of Dreaming

    Jim Carroll

    i picked this up randomly, though i should have learned by now that picking up poetry in that manner isn’t the best approach for me. Jim Carroll also wrote The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical...more

  • Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

    Lorrie Moore

    kind of a fictional memoir of a middle-aged woman as she reminisces to herself about her best friend at fifteen. the familiar tone enriches the story, and the recounting of returning to her hometown after a long absence rang especially true. though the frog theme stuck into my subconscious in a bizarre way.

  • A Fine Balance

    Rohinton Mistry

    i kept noticing people reading this on the train and then laura was reading it when i visited her in montreal. it turns out it’s an Oprah book, which is probably why so many people were reading it.

    i like epics lately — this one takes place...more

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    Stephen Chbosky

    i tend to like books written as letters or diaries, as i tend to have a harder time reminding myself it’s not real. the concept of anonymous letters from a freshman in high school written to a mysterious older person he doesn’t actually know somehow emphasizes that, even with the few awkward parts that struggle to maintain the weird...more

  • Rapture

    Susan Minot

    i think i got books mixed up. i remember looking at a book in a store recently and thinking it sounded good. i also saw this book and remembered how i read Minot’s book of poems several months ago. somehow this became the book i wanted to read, but i can’t recall the other book at all. i glanced at...more

  • Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947‑64

    Simone de Beauvoir

    Published as A Transatlantic Love Affair in the US

    it was bound to happen, and it was likely to be during the summer, that i would find many distractions from...more

  • The Beauty of the Husband

    Anne Carson

    all the Anne Carson books i’d like to take out at the library are always missing from the shelf — i finally took this one out so i could stop frowning at it. as i thought, i’m not so into the story here: it’s “the story of a marriage” and throughout the characters are called “the wife” and “the husband” but other...more

  • The River of Lost Voices

    Mark Brazaitis

    written by one of sandi’s professors at wvu, these stories are all set in guatemala. it’s a little weird reading stories about guatemala from the perspective of a white american, but he seems to bring light to the tense and...more

  • Power Politics

    Arundhati Roy

    we saw arundhati roy speak last month, with her cleverly titled Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free). i expected nothing less than these eloquent essays about globalization and privatization of public assets in india. her writing is so engaging and accessible that...more

  • Ship Fever

    Andrea Barrett

    the back of the book claims these are “set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century.” i don’t want to nitpick or anything, but several are mostly set in the twentieth century and two are set in the eighteenth century.

    the stories all hinge on the sciences — from genetics to zoology to public health to several other...more

  • New Addresses

    Kenneth Koch

    another recommendation from elissa, poems addressed to various things like “life” and “yes” and “the italian language” and “wars,” etc. a nice study in anthropomorphism with prying reflection....more

  • The Stories of John Cheever

    John Cheever

    i only read about a third of this, since 700 pages of short stories seemed like a bit much all at once. even if i have been reading so many short story collections lately. these are set mostly in nyc, various times between the 1930s and 1950s with a range of class focuses. Cheever has exciting insights into his characters. i loved the slightly...more

  • Camera Lucida

    Roland Barthes

    theories on photography by someone who is not a photographer. knowing little of the technical aspects of photography, Barthes attaches his own kind of technicality by applying his own terminologies to the observation of photos. the first section is much heavier, laying out his basic theory; though the second part, written at a later date...more