Thoughts on My Year of 94 Books

Posted on: December 31st, 2022 by

One Hundred.

The thought occurred to me that if I really pushed I could hit 100 books read for 2022. But so what if it’s 94? Though 100, triple digits, is a milestone number, it’s not a failure if you don’t summit. I’d be happy to climb 94% of Mount Everest (and come back alive and in good physical/mental health). Having said that, I’m going to attempt my book version of peak-bagging and set my sights on The One Hundred for 2023.

Books and bookshelves from an old building in Florence, Italy.
(not my library) Photo: michael kogan via Flickr

How? I think if I take the time between my cat waking me up in the morning and the time I feed him to read rather than Doomscrolling in the Dark (sung to the tune of The Boss) I can add a half-dozen or so books.

BTW, I adopted a cat in February from Seattle Area Feline Rescue. His name is Gucci. Though I also will refer to him as my little pumpkin loaf, cinnamon bun-bun, or any combination thereof: pumpkin bun/cinnamon loaf. (Also like to give a shout-out to everyone at Madison Street Animal Hospital for their great care and thoughtful answers to my extremely long, detailed-yet-rambling emails.)

My little cinnamon/pumpkin bun/loaf.

I also need to sing the praise of audiobooks. I do a lot of walking and listening. Highly recommended and a great way to make your reading goals. BTW, please do not walk and read a hardcover book or paperback. And definitely not a pop-up book.

So let’s get to the books! Here are some of my highlights/thoughts/recommendations. Not a “Best Of” list just an experiential type of homespun, facile algorithm. Like to see the whole list? It’s on Goodreads.

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The Read the Book then Listen to the Audiobook Experience

The Idiot by Elif Batuman is one of my all-time favorite books. So I was really excited to read the sequel, Either/Or. I actually listened to the audiobook of The Idiot, read by Batuman herself, this year. She is a great reader; I really enjoy how her phrasing, tone, and pauses enrich each character and the narrative. (Sidebar: Why don’t more fiction writers read their audiobooks?)

So after devouring Either/Or, I listened to the audiobook and gained an even keener appreciation for the book. So my thought for you, dear reader, is to get a physical copy of The Idiot and/or Either/Or, then listen to the audiobook. What a fun exercise for a book nerd, no? (I also got a chance to see Batuman at Elliott Bay Book Company and her talk and Q&A was very entertaining, candid, and thought-provoking.)

Unforgettable Audiobook Performance

I loved Jenifer Lewis’ memoir The Mother of Black Hollywood. A tour de force performance, and how could you expect anything less from a Diva (yes, Capital D) like Lewis? Walking in My Joy: In These Streets delivers more of the same, highs and lows and everything in between, in her indomitable voice. Also: songs!

The Reread of a Book You Haven’t Read in Years

I read Geek Love in 2017 and it affected me deeply. Actually, it was given to me. And that always adds a certain gravitas to a book, when someone you are dating wants you to read a book. This year I took a (remote) class via The Center For Fiction called “Born Freaks: A Katherine Dunn Reading Group.” Obv we read Geek Love and I wondered how I would react to it in this more “formal” setting of a very informal Zoom discussion group. Anyway, I still really enjoyed it and I think it is the book reader’s eternal struggle to devour new books or revisit favorites. I am of the mind to judiciously reread the books that resonate the most, at least a couple a year. Also, Dunn’s new book that’s not new, Toad, is also excellent.

What did I read in 2021? Find out about the 80 books here.

Short Stories

Short stories are underrated. I have a great appreciation for those who embrace the format. Here are two collections to check out:

A Centuries-Spanning Review of Black Achievement

Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and Unseen by George McCalman is, in both prose and pictures, a book that (in my case) serves as an introduction to many remarkable Black men and women who haven’t received their due historical recognition. And using his own life and experience as a lens, McCalman provides illuminating depth and complexity to Black icons who influenced and inspired him.

Yes, I am Well-Versed in the JFK Assassination Controversy

Two books for those interested in knowing more about the topic. The title of the first, A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually focused on the Warren Commission, which was doomed/handcuffed/a fait accompli before it even started. The book doesn’t judge, just lays out the fascinating/maddening history of the Warren Commission, how it came to be, and those who served on it.

The second, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, focuses on Kilgallen’s extremely suspicious death just as she was ready to meet again with Jack Ruby. I’d also like to note that Kilgallen was a media pioneer and her life and work independent of JFK is book-worthy. She shouldn’t be mainly known for her tragic place in the murky malaise of those who got too close to the truth.

Like more? My favorite books of 2019. I don’t know why I didn’t do this in 2020. [shrug]

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