Saturday, December 31, 2016

My (two!) years' best

Read Red was on hiatus in 2015 so this time around I'm listing the best books I read over the last two years, 2015 and 2016. As always, this is based on what I read, not what was published in these years, and in fact some of what I read is quite old. It's fiction only, as my non-fiction reading was too sparse but also too complicated to rate. Here are my two years' best:
Adult Onset, Ann-Marie MacDonald
American Rust, Philipp Meyer
The Blue Between Sky and Water, Susan Abulhawa
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter*, Kia Corthron
Counternarratives, John Keene
Driving the King, Ravi Howard
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
A Gathering of Old Men, Ernest J. Gaines
The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney
Hiroshima, John Hersey
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
How To Be Both, Ali Smith
The Invention of Everything Else, Samantha Hunt
The Jaguar's Children, John Vaillant
Juliet Takes a Breath, Gabby Rivera
Long Division, Kiese Laymon
The Maintenance of Headway, Magnus Mills
Miss Fuller, April Bernard
The Mothers, Brit Bennett
The Once and Future King, T.H. White
The Residue Years, Mitchell S. Jackson
Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrrera
Song of the Shank, Jeffrey Renard Allen
The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
The Throwback Special, Chris Bachelder
Tumbledown, Robert Boswell
The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanta
The Year of the Runaways, Sunjeev Sahota

*Best of the best! A brilliant novel that should be read widely.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Only twice in my life I couldn't read

Or not read seriously, anyway. I never can't read, but twice I've found myself unable to read seriously, read as I usually do, with close concentration. Unable, therefore, to read anything literary, anything that requires anything of the reader. The first time this happened to me was when my mother died many years ago. For some weeks I found myself flipping through the likes of People magazine, watching movies, watching TV, but I could not settle down and really read. Not until the first flush of shock and pain began to ebb. Not until my mind started to clear, my consciousness started to emerge from the weird fog grief had created.

The second time was last month. After that unbelievable thing happened. After that horrible monster ascended. For two or three weeks after election day, I could not get back to my long hifalutin to-read list. I watched TV. I watched several movies. I ate, oy vey. When I did pick up a book it was a goofy celebrity memoir.

Now, I'm not among those who think doomsday is upon us. This development is bad, very bad indeed. It has unleashed the worst forces of racism, misogyny, anti-lgbt bigotry, and anti-Semitism, and there's no doubt we're in store for some very hard times. I don't however feel hopeless. In fact I'm full of hope that, faced with this unprecedented assault on the workers and oppressed, our side will rise up and fight back, and that this fight will be of a scope and power unseen ever before in this country's history. So I'm not sunk in a stew of depression and fear as some people are.

Still, I'm freaked out, sure, and scared, who wouldn't be, and was more so in those early days, and so I could not read anything of any quality. Like so many others, I kept waking up and remembering what had happened and wondering if it was all a bad dream but then realizing it wasn't, which was its own sort of weird grief fog my mind had created that blocked me from reading.

So. I'm not going to make it to 80 books this year, as I'd been on track to at the start of November. I am finally back to reading good books, in fact now I've kind of vaulted to the other extreme and wish to escape from it all by doing nothing but reading fine literature everywhere all the time, but still I'll only end up at 75 or so I think. We'll see. I will come back to Read Red before the end of 2016 to list the best books I read during this year from hell. Meanwhile, let's all hold strong. There's no force on earth more formidable than the working class and oppressed people, angry and mobilized.