Another Year On the Books

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Susan Sontag

This morning I did something I haven’t done since finishing my 52 novels in 2004 goal in late October – I requested a book from the Philadelphia Library. Reading the obituary of Susan Sontag (pictured above) has made me curious to read some of her work. Since it’s a subject that I’m very interested in now, I chose her 1978 non-fiction On Photography.

I really have not had the urge to become involved in any book since finishing that fifty-second novel. I have enjoyed having the time to read the Philadelphia Inquirer from cover to cover, especially since there isn’t that obligation to finish what I have started. I thought that getting The Best American Short Stories 2004 would be a good way to ease back into longer works but the book has sat on my bedside table, unread except for the introduction, since the missus picked it up for me in October. For Christmas I received The Wilco Book and though I really wanted this for its bonus CD, I have been thumbing through it and reading a few things here and there.

While the goal I set for 2005 will have nothing to do with reading (I’m still trying to determine exactly what it will deal with), I do hope to continue reading – just not at the same rate, and not limited only to novels. The New York Times Notable Books year-end feature for 2003 and 2002 proved to be an excellent resource for selecting most of what I read last year, so the 2004 edition was the first place I went to for ideas for next year's reading. Here are the entries that caught my eye:

The Amateur Marriage. By Anne Tyler. Discovering Tyler was one of the highlights of completing my 2004 goal.

Men and Cartoons: Stories. By Jonathan Lethem. Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn was one of the better books I read this year. I’m curious to see his short story work.

Runaway. By Alice Munro. One of the bad things about limiting myself to novels this year was missing out on short stories. Munro is a constant on “Best of” lists and a favorite of mine.

Alexander Hamilton. By Ron Chernow. Joseph Ellis's Founding Brothers was an interesting book about the guys who don’t have monuments in Washington, and I wouldn’t mind reading a little more about them.

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. By Gordon S. Wood. It’s kind of hard to walk around Old City Philadelphia like I do and not become interested in Franklin.

John James Audubon: The Making of an American. By Richard Rhodes. One of the novels I read this year was Katherine Govier’s Creation, a fictionalized account of Audubon’s long trip into the Canadian wilderness. I’d love to see how his real life compares to Govier's excellent fiction.

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. By Kevin Boyle. I hope by not limiting myself to just fiction I can discover new (to me) non-fiction writers. The Inquirer review of this book, about the trial of a black doctor who went after the crowd that burned his house down in the 30’s, caught my attention.

That's it for now. Nothing too ambitious, I hope. Leave a comment if you have any other good suggestions. Just keep in mind that in addition to being a beer snob, music snob, etc., I'm also somewhat of a book snob (hint: I refuse to read The DiVinci Code).


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