• My Year of Meats

    Ruth L. Ozeki

    this novel pulls together excerpts from Shonagon’s The Pillow Book and some research on the use of hormones in the production of meat (as well as medicine) as a backdrop to the story of jane, a documentarian who takes a job...more

  • Blankets

    Craig Thompson

    i thought i would be with this book — which clocks in at nearly 600 pages — for at least a few days. but then it turned out i could have breezed through it in one long sitting. it’s hard to put down and the art often takes advantage of the full page, so it reads pretty quick.

    the coming-of-age story is well-constructed; even...more

  • A Farewell to Arms

    Ernest Hemingway

    bare prose and war-themed story, i didn’t really expect to get drawn into the characters but did in the end. interesting how the story existed so much in its present; so little of the characters’ backgrounds were illuminated and no future was hinted at by the end. enjoyed the descriptions of mountains but wasn’t sympathetic to the...more

  • The Remains of the Day

    Kazuo Ishiguro

    i love the format of this narrative, it reads like a journal or a letter but it’s unclear what audience either possibility might have been written for. the narrator is an old butler in a distinguished house which is now owned by a younger american. he reminisces about the days past while driving out to the country for a rare vacation,...more

  • Cinnamon Gardens

    Shyam Selvadurai

    laura sent me this book saying that she had read another book by this author but not this one. Funny Boy, probably? another friend told me that one is “really good” and this one is just “okay,” so it took some...more

  • Palestine

    Joe Sacco

    Joe Sacco spent two months in the occupied territories in 1991–1992 interviewing people and gathering stories. like Persepolis this book shows how powerful graphic novels can be with historical and political subjects. Palestine is a direct chronicle of his time there, a comic of him making the comic...more

  • The Waste Land and other poems

    T.S. Eliot

    one of those used books that has been sitting on my shelf forever, pulled it out finally and loved the way the words tumbled out. even when the subject doesn’t appeal exactly or the allusions and images are too deeply symbolic for uneducated reading (i.e., not in a class), the language is beautiful, images stirring, and rhythm ...more

  • Interpreter of Maladies

    Jhumpa Lahiri

    it’s been a little while since i read any short stories (for me, at least). this is a great collection set mostly in boston/new england or india. my favorite was the first one, “A Temporary Matter,” where a couple reveal secrets during nightly planned power outages. they are all pretty...more

  • Persepolis

    Marjane Satrapi

    amazing memoir of growing up in iran during the islamic revolution — i was unfamiliar with iran’s history and this gives a good overview from the perspective of being a girl from a resistant family, growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s. the drawings are stark black and white, there is a lot of humor amid the painful parts. i...more

  • Valencia

    Michelle Tea

    well. another book i meant to read several years ago. this gave me a better perspective on The Intuitionist—i appreciate more the ways that book is put together well now.

    supposedly Valencia is fiction, but it reads more like an online diary. and i don’t know how much of it...more

  • The Intuitionist

    Colson Whitehead

    this is a really smart novel, exploring race in a parallel time where elevator inspectors have great influence. i like a lot of technical aspects of the story, like the implied setting of new york city and the indeterminate time period; but i felt like i should have enjoyed it more than i did. maybe it was just the staggered fl...more

  • Evidence

    Candy Jernigan

    i kept thinking about this book lately and pulled it out today to look through — this retrospective of Candy Jernigan’s work never fails to inspire me, and there are so many aspects of it that feel timely right now.

    Jernigan died in 1991 of liver cancer, and eight years later this book was released as a collection of her work...more

  • Illuminations

    Arthur Rimbaud

    i bought a used copy of the Louise Varése translation a few years ago. it’s been kicking around, never read, like a few other books of poetry. supposedly Jim Carroll is reminiscent of Rimbaud, but maybe it is his better known book A Season in Hell. this one seems so rich in allusions with a classical feel and a visionary nature.

    the plus of buying used books is finding things like this makeshift bookmark. potentially this book has traveled much further than i have.more

  • Wicked

    Gregory Maguire

    i kept hearing about this book and expected to enjoy it more. as i started to read it, the book seemed like a YA novel for adults, and not really in a good way. at first the storytelling seemed really cheesy, and i thought maybe it was just trying to keep the same tone as the...more

  • Fast Food Nation

    Eric Schlosser

    incredibly in-depth and well-focused, this bestseller looks at the influence of fast food in the US (and, to a certain degree, beyond). Schlosser starts with a solid foundation of the history of fast food companies and afterwards builds a framework of how the companies and the companies they control run today....more

  • 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