2018 book list
I tried and failed to read 50 books this year.
I’m not even mad about it. I read only half the number of books I’d initially hoped for, but that number is greatly increased from the number I read in 2017. I explored a lot of contemporary nonfiction writing, which is what I’m hoping to study in an MFA program. I read some fiction I loved. Best of all, I didn’t feel forced to finish books or to read a certain kind of book. I kept an ongoing list of books I wanted to read and a list of books I finished. And I started a ritual I really love of writing, on the cover page, the date I finished the book and where I read it and then adding my personal embossed stamp.
I don’t plan to set a reading goal for 2019. I don’t want to disappoint myself, to make reading into some kind of obligation. But I am setting a few other goals, one being that I’m reaching for 50 writing rejections. People look at me strange when I say this and I guess it’s because rejections aren’t something you’re supposed to hope for, plan for. MFA program rejections, residency rejections, pitch rejections, essay submission rejections — all of these sound strangely hopeful to me because my worst fear is that I won’t get any rejections, meaning that I won’t submit anything in the first place. And so I’ve created a spreadsheet, a home to stow away all my rejections, to keep track of those emails and letters that say “no thanks.”
Boys of my Youth | Jo Ann Beard
Notes From No Man’s Land | Eula Biss
Goodbye to All That | anthology edited by Sari Botton
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel | Alexander Chee
My Misspent Youth | Meghan Daum
Slouching Towards Bethlehem | Joan Didion
Estranged | Jessica Gross
Would You Rather? | Katie Heaney
Tonight I’m Someone Else | Chelsea Hodson
Sick | Porochista Khapour
Dear Friend, From my Life I Write to You in Your Life | Yiyun Li
Let Me Clear My Throat | Elena Passarello
Truth and Beauty | Ann Patchett
On Looking | Lia Purpura
A Field Guide to Getting Lost | Rebecca Solnit
Educated | Tara Westover
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? | Jeanette Winterson
Edinburgh | Alexander Chee
Neon in Daylight | Hermione Hoby
Cities I’ve Never Lived In | Sara Majka
The Answers | Catherine Lacey
Little Fires Everywhere | Celeste Ng
Th Bell Jar | Sylvia Plath
Franny and Zoey | J.D. Salinger
Sing, Unburied, Sing | Jesmyn Ward
The Female Persuasion | Meg Wolitzer
One goal I have for 2019 is that I want to start saving bits and pieces of books in a commonplace book, writing a little bit about the voice and the flow and the way the words felt sinking into me. I lose so much of what I read.
My other big goal for 2019 is to stop ordering books from Amazon (and to end my Prime membership when it’s up in April). The recent news articles that have come to my attention about Amazon’s questionable facial recognition software obviously aren’t the first red flags to be raised about the company. A quick google search results in dozens of articles like this one about the treatment of employees in Amazon Fulfillment Centers. I don’t know, I guess I’ve just gotten to a point where I can’t ignore the fact that I feel, well, kinda gross supporting Amazon. I’ve put off changing my habits for so long because the thing about convenience is, once you’re used to it, going back to a slightly less convenient lifestyle feels so…ugh. It’s such a first world problem, something I know I can bear to adjust.
2018 is the first year that I genuinely feel proud of—proud of the work I put in, of the progress I’ve made with myself. I try not to put too much energy into resolutions for the coming year or imagining a perfect plan for 2019. I’m the kind of person that does all of that naturally, that plans and overthinks and stresses out about said plans. I’ve spent plenty of Januarys wrapped up in all of that and spent plenty of months not fulfilling my goals, but 2018 turned out the way it did because I spent less time planning and more time just doing the work, doing the small shit that feels like it never adds up to anything.
So here’s to another year of me working for the shit I want.