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Read in 2020

January 2, 2021

This year’s books, in the order I read them.

Quarantine began around the time I finished Journey by Moonlight. As usual, I read mostly literature. I enjoyed the smattering of theory books I read (Weil, Paglia, Scarry). This was a rare year that I sought out a little more nonfiction: Only One Thing Can Save Us, Voices from Chernobyl, Silent Spring, The Unbanking of America. I was getting kind of tired of escapism. And maybe I missed learning specific things.
Like many things this year, favorite books felt more like a slow burn. The Last Samurai, On Beauty and Being Just, Tropic of Capricorn, and Oppression and Liberty took me a while to finish. I love books from people who write with a level of artistry: Henry Miller obviously, Helen DeWitt also, and Simone Weil for that and her incisive understanding of her world and, in fact, our world still. Elaine Scarry is very funny and very respectful of beauty, also two things I love to read. And finally, Fair Play was a perfect meditation on a long life of love and a little bit of bickering. And being an artist, and living in Finland.
I wonder how to best reflect on or summarize a short list from a very long year, and I think about the hundred or so books I have on my reading list, and the one I'm still in the middle of right now (Perlstein's 800 page retelling of American politics in the 1970s and 80s, The Invisible Bridge). This year I raise the books I would love to revisit: Oppression and Liberty is first on this list. The Crying of Lot 49 and Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, both for moments of total illegibility, Pynchon more so than Fariña, although they pair very well because they knew each other. I often read more from specific authors I love (Paglia, Nin, Miller) or am curious about (Houellebeqc). But I don't often reread. In each of those cases I think it would be worthwhile.


Story of the Eye, Bataille
Sex, Art, and American Culture, Paglia
The Red Parts, Nelson
Oppression and Liberty, Weil
Death in Venice and 7 Other Stories, Mann (Lowe-Porter)
Against Nature, Huysmans
Too Far To Go, Updike
Only One Thing Can Save Us, Geoghegan
Serotonin, Houellebecq
Journey by Moonlight, Szerb (Orringer)
The Crying of Lot 49, Pynchon
The Easter Parade, Yates
We Have Always Lived In The Castle, Jackson
A High Wind in Jamaica, Hughes
A Tale for the Time Being, Ozeki
Skylark, Kosztolányi
Fair Play, Jansson
The Memory Police, Ogawa
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson
The Last Samurai, DeWitt
Verity, Hoover
Ladders to Fire, Nin
Valley of the Dolls, Susann
Damned, Palahniuk
Prince: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, Prince
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, Fariña
A Children's Bible, Millet
On Beauty and Being Just, Scarry
The Wallcreeper, Zink
Caucasia, Senna
Things: A Story of the Sixties, Perec
Gone Girl, Flynn
Voices from Chernobyl, Alexievich
Silent Spring, Carson
Benchere in Wonderland, Gillis
The Unbanking of America, Servon
Tropic of Capricorn, Miller