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Home: The Toast

My favorite books of the year, the ones that provided me the pleasure I always seek when I sit down to read, the ones that tore my heart wide open and made me envious but simultaneously honored to be writing in the same time as such accomplished writers:

Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter
Man vs Nature by Diane Cook
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
Cinderland by Amy Jo Burns
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Red Rising by Piece Brown
Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
Scarecrone by Melissa Broder

The books I read and kept by my nightstand and sometimes caressed even though I am not worthy:

Foolproof and Make It Ahead by Her Highness, Ina Garten, both autographed, she said, bragging.

The book I shamelessly read and re-read even though I wrote it because the book is my heart but in truth I wrote a book I want to read and my editor told me I’m her first writer who has admitted to reading her own book and I felt strangely proud of that and then ashamed:

An Untamed State by Roxane “one n” Gay

Books I reviewed for fancy places even though book reviewing makes me nervous because who am I to offer up opinions on the writing of others:

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill
The Unspeakable by Megan Daum
Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May

It is super awkward to make a list of under-recognized books because that probably makes a writer feel self-conscious but nonetheless, these are books I loved that deserve more attention because they are excellent:

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
Love You, Be Safe by Cara Hoffman

The book I was most surprising to enjoy because I am burnt out on the post-apocalyptic landscape but then I started reading and couldn’t put it down and I kept thinking about how the characters who survived “end times” must have been in fantastic shape because of all the walking they did and I wondered if Kirk Cameron had read the book because he is one of those end times evangelists and the book that offered me a glimpse of how I don’t want to die and all in all, it was a lovely, very satisfying read:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The intelligent satire that also made me laugh the most:

Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos

The books that are probably supposed to be considered “guilty pleasures” that I loved unabashedly and feel no guilt for reading, with the most unbelievable but somehow, still fucking believable and also sexyfierce lady protagonist who travels the world and has demons and is awesome and has a man’s name and also has a made up profession like “Symbology” in the Robert Langdon books:

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
The Innocent by Taylor Stevens
The Doll by Taylor Stevens

The excellent book I would have loved to see more tightly edited but I still admired for everything it tackled:

Foreign Gods by Okey Ndibe

The ferocious book imbued with physicality that engaged the sentences and was brutal but beautifully plotted except for the ending that made me want more because I am a greedy reader:

All the Birds, Singing Evie Wyld

The very good book that made me never, ever, ever want to go into a rain forest or jungle in a humid climate for “research” or a leisurely stroll or any other reason ever in life at all and did I say never ever?:

Euphoria by Lily King

The book I read because the author is so well-respected and everyone said the book was amazing and then I didn’t like it very much but this was before it won the Pulitzer and I do recognize the craft excellence but STILL and then more people decided to say they didn’t like the book and some of them, probably, were being a bit weird about that but I swear I am not doing that here:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A book I read because I was going to interview the author and I was kind of peeing myself because OMG he created the Law & Order franchise and then I interviewed him and I asked him which Law & Order detective is his favorite and he said he couldn’t answer the question but I know it has to be Detective Olivia Benson because she is perfection and she wears a leather jacket very, very well:

The Execution by Dick Wolf

Books I blurbed and therefore legitimately enjoyed, some of which will be released in 2015 and all of which you should check out:

Irritable Hearts by Mac McClelland
Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn
A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us by Caleb Curtiss
Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee
Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra

Books about which I was wildly ambivalent even though the writing was solid:

Redeployment by Phil Klay
Black Vodka by Deborah Levy
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot
Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Books I simply could not finish even though they were well-written and so on:

Bark by Lorrie Moore
Real talk, I’m too chickenshit to list the other books I didn’t finish but it’s not the books, it’s me!

Book I read for my job that is really useful in helping me read better.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

The books I read and re-read even though I’ve read them before because they are extremely sexy and give me interesting ideas for “research” and such:

Meeting the Master by Elissa Wald
The Story of O by Pauline Reage

The book I read to participate in a discussion about how far we’ve come (or not), and was then dispirited that things have changed but things are also pretty much the same:

Backlash by Susan Faludi

The utterly bizarre book I read because Mallory sent it to me as a “gift” and that book can never be unread or removed from my scarred psyche:

The Winter Lord by Jaye Edgerton

The book coming out in 2015 that I reviewed and had major problems with:

[Redacted]

 

NOTES:

  • Normally I read quite a lot but this year I was on the road quite a bit and dealing with the glorious terrifying flurry of publishing two books so my reading list is small but mighty.
  • I need to read more diversely, in every sense.
  • I need to become more comfortable with simply not finishing books I am not enjoying.
  • Sorry, men writers. I know your struggle is real and maybe I will do better about achieving parity in 2033.

 

Here is a selection of books that will be released in 2015. If you have a book coming out in 2015 not on the list, share it in the comments!

xTx, Today I Am a Book
Jami Attenberg, St. Mazie
Cyn Vargas, On the Way
Jessica Hopper, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House
Asali Solomon, Disgruntled
Kristin Valdez Quade, Night at the Fiestas
Nikki Loftin, Wish Girl
Wendy Shang, Home Looks Now
Mira Jacob, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
Vu Tran, Dragonfish
Amitava Kumar, Lunch with a Bigot
Lincoln Michel, Upright Beasts
Wendy C Ortiz, Hollywood Notebook
Alexandra Fuller, Leaving Before the Rain Comes Out
Samantha Ellis, How to Be a Heroine
James Hannaham, Delicious Foods
Laura van den Berg, Find Me
Ansel Elkin, Blue Yodel
Morgan Parker, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night
Shanna Mahin, Oh! You Pretty Things
Steve Himmer, FRAM
Jabari Asim, Only the Strong
Paul Beatty, The Sellout
Mari Naomi, Turning Japanese
Benjamin Percy, The Dead Lands
Nikesh Shulka, Meatspace
MK Asante, Buck
Matt Salesses, The 100 Year Flood
Jenine Capo Crucet, Make Your Home Among Strangers
Amelia Gray, Gutshot
Adrienne Celt, The Daughters
Patricia Park, Re Jane
Mark Wisniewski, Watch Me Go
Amy Spalding, Kissing Ted Callahan
Jennifer Stell, The Ambassador’s Wife

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