Selected 2016 Reading List, in ABC order by author
Books by friends, books recommended by friends,
new reads, lots of rereads, books read to review or blurb.
Of course, I lost my list (so me!) partway through the year,
so here's what I remember right now in the way of books read in full.
, Saint Aldhelm's Riddles
, translated by A. M. Juster. Reviewed for First Things
. (Yes, I liked it and gave it a great review.) My husband bought me a copy at the same time I bought myself one, so clearly it must be a "me" sort of book!
Reread, again. It has climbed higher on the Austen list. Maybe I'm finally old enough to appreciate its virtues.
, Pride and Prejudice.
Reread for the Nth time. In the kingdom of the novel-in-English, I can never be done with rereading Fielding, Austen, Dickens, Hawthorne, and Melville.
, The Watsons
(fragmentary novel.) If you're a fan....
, translator of The New Covenant Volume I: The Four Gospels and Apocalypse.
Translated from the Greek and informed by Semitic sources. Extensive introductory and appendix essays. I don't always agree with him but the essays and notes are interesting, and so is the translation, which uses Aramaic / Hebrew name ways and returns the text to poetry.
, Joel-Brock the Brave and the Valorous Smalls
Read in manuscript to write a blurb for Kudzu Planet Productions. Illustrated with charm and abundance by Orion Zangara. Full blurb:
"Joel-Brock Lollis's family has vanished into the labyrinthine Sporangium below a curious Georgia emporium, Big Box Bonanzas. Glimpses of an older J-B Lollis of the Atlanta Braves on a BBB television suggest that Joel-Brock may never get back his parents and sister. The Valorous Smalls--almost-ten Joel-Brock, lively teen Addi, and tiny detective Valona--forge their way into the mushroom realm to change that possible future. Young readers who enjoy quests with marvels in the kingdom of the weird (mushroom warriors! mazes! time games! giant slugs!) will find much to interest, amuse, and surprise them in Michael Bishop's unusual fantasy, Joel-Brock the Brave and the Valorous Smalls, well and profusely illustrated in pen-and-ink by Orion Zangara."
Louise Bogan, The Blue Estuaries: Poems, 1923-1968.
Fine poems, well worth reading. As with Muir, I like the mythic ones a lot. That may be because they were the first I knew, as both writers were in a mythic poetry anthology by John Alexander Allen bought when I was seventeen.
G. K. Chesterton
, The Ballad of the White Horse.
If you're a fan of LOTR, read this! Clearly a major source, far more suggestive of Tolkien than I expected.
, The Woman in White.
Reread yet again. Such a marvelous "sensation" novel, such curious characters, such moody "set pieces," starting with the initial encounter with the Woman in White. While it was very clear on the unequal status of men and women (particularly as regards inheritance) at the time, I suppose that its marked fluidity of male and female roles within a Victorian world always conscious of what is proper must be of new interest to scholars in our era.
John Putnam Demos
, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England
, The Abundance.
If you like Dillard, which I do, you might order this thinking (as I did) it would be chock full of essays. I was rather disappointed that this selection was not a little more abundant in its choice. Great starter book if you haven't met her before.
, Predominance of the Great: non-haikus.
Narcissitic comment: always so pleasant to have a poem dedicated to you--to find out what words the poet thought suited to "you."
, The Shadow Year.
Interesting to read another Ford novel. But if you have not but wish to read him, start with the short stories.
, The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England.
, The Marriage of Convenience.
Read this one because Ellen Kushner kept talking about Heyer. It is frothy--rather as if Leon Garfield, Jane Austen, and P. G. Wodehouse had a word-frolic.
Clive James, Poetry Notebook
. Wonderful essays, well worth reading. If you write or read formal poetry (you know, the stuff we used to just call poetry,
back before Modernism), you will find him congenial, I expect.
, The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose: Moral Essays on the Poet's Calling.
Learned about this one via a Michael Juster tweet. This book would be salutary for any young poet to read, no matter his or her bent, because he or she would be challenged by the description of the poetry of our day. Even if the poet radically disagreed (perhaps especially then?), such strongly formulated arguments would be helpful in coming to understand his or her own thoughts.
, A Wizard of Earthsea.
Holds up from the first read, many years ago.
, The Tombs of Atuan.
, At the Back of the North Wind.
I loved this as a small child; it feels dated but still has the MacDonald sweetness.
Foundational book for 20th-century fantasy.
, Ritual 1969
. You can read my review of this collection (her third) for Planet: The Welsh Internationalist
. "Jo Mazelis’s well-crafted stories in Ritual, 1969 (Seren, 2016) stand at a crossroads—liminal place between worlds where criminals and suicides were buried—of the fantastic and the homely real."
(Susan Stewart, translator), Love Lessons: Selected Poems of Alda Merini.
I have read this book twice, trying to see why I should be a fan. Still not, alas. It seems more than a language problem, as I once again felt let down. Truly, I would like someone to explain to me why I should admire the poems. I would welcome a little enlightenment. Alessandra Bava tells me that Alda Merini is quite good, and I believe her but still can't see.
, Collected Poems.
I had not read him in a long time; I like his poems, especially the myth-tinged ones.
Garth Nix, Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, Goldenhand
and To Hold the Bridge
. Y. A. fiction. The two last are new, a novel and a collection (the title novella is set in the Old Kingdom.) Thinking about going back to a novel for teens than I abandoned when almost finished, but I think this is about all the contemporary Y. A. I read last year.
, The Thing Itself
. I tweeted a lot of quotes from this book in the fall, and regret that it has not had a wider readership. If you love irrealism of any sort, try it. If you love Kant, try it. Oh, just go ahead and try it!
Robert Louis Stevenson
Enjoyed as much as when I was a mere sprat. The "flight in the heather" (admired by Henry James) and the roundhouse battle are well-handled pieces that mix action with forcible inaction and watching. I also like the wild weirdness of the hideout for Cluny Macpherson, Jacobite rebel. The relationship between David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart is effective in great part because Alas is so rash and bold and childish and proud, and David is tested in his loyalty to the man who has saved him. Set in the eighteenth century and making use of the murder of Colin Roy Campbell the Red Fox near Ballachulish (the Appin Murder
), the story is well worth a read if you missed it, growing up.
, Gilles and Jeanne
(translated by Alan Sheridan.)
Definitely should not be the first
Tournier read. I think it must be called a failure, though failures are, of course, important to art and shed light on related work or can be transitional bridges to something more successful. Yet I dislike it. You know it's not kindred when the book is short and you start skimming anyway!
, Oppressive Ligh
t (selected poems, translated by Daniele Pantano.) Walser made me write a few poems in opposition to his, so I am grateful to him. I was a little disappointed--somehow expected more, when I should have been simply curious--but interested all the same.
, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God.
The self as kingdom flourishing within the divine kingdom.
W. B. Yeats
I always read Yeats, but this year I'm looking at his poems as separate collections instead of hopping about at whim (although I am doing some of that as well.) New poem "I Met My True Love Walking"
has a sigodlin relationship to "Down By the Salley Gardens."
W. B. Yeats
, The Rose.
Philip and Carol Zaleski
, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings.
How lovely to have such a wonderful setting, to be a writer in a setting where words mattered so very much. How sweet to grow and aspire in a small, encouraging country that cares about its literature.