It’s always a bit staggering — to find oneself and the world arriving yet again at a December 31st. Here we are, on the precipice of hope, and yet, how easy it is to feel the loss of the year past — how we want to hold so much in ourselves at once.
It has become a tradition of mine to celebrate December 31st with a remembrance and appreciation for some books I encountered during the year, books that brought company, wisdom, linguistic splendor, and perspective — for in times of uncertainty, books are a stalwart, omnipresent friend. Throughout electric days, blue days, and the always-prowling fog, look — a book is here, waiting to sing to you as you hold each other close.
It would be impossible to include them all, but here is a sampling of a few books I would like to highlight: texts that were exquisitely staining and impactful to me in one way or another — and have inevitably shattered and rearranged my glass body, my glass path … books that after reading, I will never be quite the same.
2021 was a year in which I also became reacquainted with the audiobook — a wonderful format to slow down, marvel at the sound of language on a tongue, and invite voices and oral storytelling into our private ear rooms. The book via the voice vessel becomes a secret companion on so many walks. Another reminder that a life with books is a life of abundance. A star next to a book title means that I listened to and enjoyed the audiobook version, and you might enjoy it, too! (Hint: Did you know you can borrow audiobooks from your library system through the Libby app?)
So, on this pensive day of old and new, I give a fizzy thanks to those who write books, make books, bind books, share books, give books, read books, and love books! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading.
(in no particular order:)
I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart
Pew by Catherine Lacey
Another Country by James Baldwin *
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell *
Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon *
Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo
The Pastor by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
Figuring by Maria Popova *
Sleep, Death’s Brother by Jesse Ball
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Two Big Differences by Ian Ross Singleton
Keen by Erin Stalcup
How I Became a Nun by César Aira, translated by Chris Andrews
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer *
Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli
Woolgathering by Patti Smith
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich *
My goodness, I am in a foggy, mystical happy place here in Vermont. I’m feeling the positive energy from my cohort, my professors, and the full-blown autumn air! Generative exercises in class are allowing me to free my grip on being “perfect.” Instead, I’m suddenly a literary scientist, content on adding a dash of this, a beaker of that, and putting it all into a cauldron to see what transforms, what changes state, and what explodes entirely.
I’m also super excited to begin my new volunteer position at the library (because there’s no such thing as being around too many books!) More on that later.
And now for a brief message: If I could go broke buying only one kind of item in the world, it would be books. I am quite frugal when it comes to clothes, food, even entertainment. But bring me to the bookstore and I lose all sense of frugality. I’ve always felt a certain kinship to this quote by Erasmus:
“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”
That is all. Absolutely no shame. In fact, I love to buy books sometimes because I think about in the future, when maybe I have my own little human rummaging through my house, and I imagine he or she searching through my shelves and pulling a book off the wall and we would sit down together and begin to read it, and I would say, “Ahh! I remember reading this book when…” Perhaps this is silly, but I find a deep comfort in this slice of my future life.
And now, to the reading pile of October!
I’ve already started Ben Loory’s Tales of Falling and Flying and am very much enjoying it so far! It’s a read you can ingest voraciously, so I’m trying to slow down and savor it.
I picked up John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise because I was intrigued by its wordy cover (which is kind of like a book in itself). It’s pretty hysterical and will be great for afternoon slumps in case I run out of coffee.
I brought The Catcher in the Rye with me to school, mostly because it’s comforting to know it’s in the room with me. But the last time I read it was in AP English class in senior year of high school. I am a very different writer and reader than I was back then, and I’m curious to know what I think of it now. I’ve always had an affinity for Holden and I think his voice might be the perfect muse for one of my new writing projects.
In other news: it’s Birthday Week! So let the wild rumpus begin! Hieperdepiep Hoera! (which is the Dutch and in my opinion, far-superior, way of saying Hip Hip Hooray). This little boy needs a little practice on saying it, but he’s so darn adorable.