My 2012 To-Do list includes reading. Reading is the best thing a writer can do. I think reading tops eating. Though I really do like to eat, which is probably why my writing suffers at times.
I have a list of books I cannot wait to read in 2012, and I’ve listed them below. What are your anticipated books?
A good friend of mine asked, in the comments below, “How do you choose what contemporary books to read…So when I ask ‘how do you choose,’I mean less the mechanics (friends’ recommendations, the number of stars on Goodreads, Atlantic reviews, etc.) and more the personal definition of what books are worthy of three weeks of your life? How do you grant permission for a book to potentially change your life?” (Scroll down to the comments to read the entirety of his question).
Great question, and I realize, an answer that was absent in my introduction of this list.
So instead of making you crawl through the comments below, I’ll post my answer here in the post, too:
A huge writing mentor of mine once advised us to read more classic books, and to hold off on reading contemporary books (she also said we shouldn’t read anything written by someone under the age of 30). I think her advice (about reading the classics) holds merit. I try very much to read a book that’s survived scrutiny/time for every book that is a new release. HOWEVER…
I want to support contemporary writers. It’s important to support new voices and read new voices and usher them into some level of awareness, even if it’s just little old me doing it.
Also–I just love particular themes and writers and voices. There are stories I’ve wanted to hear from childhood but could not find in books.
You’ll notice most of the writers above are female. The canon is very female-light. And I like reading the voices of women, so of course I”m attracted to contemporary lit for those voices.
You’ll notice that writers above are from largely underrepresented ethnicities. How many books in the canon are written by Muslim writers? Or even though East Asian Americans have had a foot in the door for 20ish years now, how many books in the canon are written by writers of Asian descent?
I can’t rely on “The Canon” to find these voices and stories.
It’s up to us to form our own canon.
And yes, I love Fitzgerald (after all, The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel of all time), and I love Graham Greene. But as important it is to read novels that have survived the test of time, it’s important to me to read new voices, especially those that have been underrepresented in our history. In my reading history.
Also of course, there are just writers I like! Who are alive! And writing books. And I’m there when the book hits the shelves.
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar
Growing up Muslim in (Midwest) America. Maybe this theme reminds me of a lot of East Asian American books, circa 1988, but this is a door through which new voices come.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
My adult life was spawned with Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue at its nucleus. Of course I want to read this.
Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung*†
How excited am I to hear this book is coming out? I’ve been waiting for Catherine Chung’s book, one that focuses on folklore and immigration and identity, to come out, and I can’t wait to read it.
In One Person by John Irving
John Irving. Whom I adore. His first “political book” since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer For Owen Meany, two books I adore. So buying this.
Suddenly, A Knock On The Door by Etgar Keret
I love Etgar Keret. He gets it. His stories are bizarre and always tunnel under my skin. It’s quite pleasurable, this tunneling.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour*
Yes, I read YA. Nina LaCour’s fiction is the kind of fiction I wished existed when I was fourteen years old.
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
Hello, I loved Victor Lavalle’s Big Machine (sorry, I say that whenever possible). I am such a fan of his work–and did you read his defense of the National Book Awards? The Devil in Silver is going on my shelf.
Drifting House by Krys Lee*†
I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of these stories in their fetal state, and now they’re in a collection! Krys Lee’s prose is quiet–tiptoes into a room and then delivers a knockout punch.
Home by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison. Has. A Book Out. Nuff Said.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Of course I am going to buy and read Wild–I want to know more about the writer who wrote Torch.
Dora: A Head Case by Lidia Yuknavitch
Lidia Yuknavitch always tells it like it is. And then makes you like it.
*Books I will be giving away on 80,000 Words in 2011.
†Authors I will be interviewing and who will be featured in Kartika Review’s March 2011 issue