Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books Read - 2009

As is the annual tradition, here is the final list of books I completed reading in 2009, in chronological order of completion (links are to posts in which I've either written about the book or the author, or posted excerpts), with comments and observations, not to mention the all-important statistical breakdown, to follow:

1. The Lazarus Project, Aleksandar Hemon
2. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein
3. Rock Crystal, Adalbert Stifter (Elizabeth Mayer & Marianne Moore, trans.)
4. Not to Disturb, Muriel Spark
5. The Takeover, Muriel Spark
6. The Great Fire of London, Jacques Roubaud (also) (Dominic Di Bernardi, trans.)
7. By Night in Chile, Roberto Bolaño (Chris Andrews, trans.)
8. The Tenants, Bernard Malamud
9. Indignation, Philip Roth
10. Fear and Trembling, Søren Kierkegaard (also) (Alastair Hannay, trans.)
11. Boyhood, J.M. Coetzee
12. Youth, J.M. Coetzee
13. The Square, Marguerite Duras (Sonia Pitt-Rivers & Irina Morduch, trans.)
14. Moderato Cantabile, Marguerite Duras (Richard Seaver, trans.)
15. 10:30 on a Summer Night, Marguerite Duras (Anne Borchardt, trans.)
16. The Afternoon of Mr. Andesmas, Marguerite Duras (Anne Borchardt, trans.)
17. A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
18. The Victim, Saul Bellow
19. The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow (also) (re-read)
20. Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich
21. The Red Badge of Courage and Selected Stories, Stephen Crane (some re-read)
22. The Hunter, Richard Stark
23. Jealousy, Alain Robbe-Grillet (Richard Howard, trans.)
24. Martin Heidegger, Timothy Clark
25. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, Giorgio Agamben (Daniel Heller-Roazen, trans.)
26. Maurice Blanchot, Ullrich Haase & William Large
27. The Limits to Capital, David Harvey (also)
28. The Thirtieth Year, Ingeborg Bachmann (Michael Bullock, trans.)
29. Walden and Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau (also, also)
30. Night Work, Thomas Glavinic (John Brownjohn, trans.)
31. Passing, Nella Larsen
32. Slow Homecoming, Peter Handke (Ralph Manheim, trans.)
33. Across, Peter Handke (Ralph Manheim, trans.) (re-read)
34. Contre-Jour: A triptych after Pierre Bonnard, Gabriel Josipovici
35. In the Fertile Land, Gabriel Josipovici
36. Hunger, Knut Hamsun (Robert Bly, trans.)
37. Sula, Toni Morrison
38. My Old Sweetheart, Susanna Moore
39. The Outfit, Richard Stark
40. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
41. Life Is Elsewhere, Milan Kundera (Peter Kussi, trans.)
42. Homo Faber, Max Frisch (Michael Bullock, trans.)
43. Man, Beast, and Zombie: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us about Human Nature, Kenan Malik
44. The Execution, Hugo Wilcken
45. Corregidora, Gayl Jones
46. Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life, Daniel C. Dennett
47. Everything Passes, Gabriel Josipovici (re-read)
48. Escapade, Evelyn Scott (also)
49. Colony, Hugo Wilcken
50. On the Geneology of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche (also) (Walter Kaufmann & R.J. Hollingdale, trans.)
51. Collected Stories, Franz Kafka (various translators)
52. A Life, Gabriel Josipovici
53. Exit Ghost, Philip Roth
54. The Fixer, Bernard Malamud
55. Migrations, Evelyn Scott
56. The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James
57. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O'Connor
58. My Ántonia, Willa Cather
59. Amulet, Roberto Bolaño (Chris Andrews, trans.)
60. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason, Alfie Kohn
61. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
62. The Dying Animal, Philip Roth
63. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem (Joanna Kilmartin & Steve Cox, trans.)
64. Flaubert, Joyce, and Beckett: The Stoic Comedians, Hugh Kenner
65. Monstrous Possibility: An Invitation to Literary Politics, Curtis White
66. Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (also) (James Strachey, trans.)
67. Effi Briest, Theodor Fontane (Douglas Parmée, trans.)
68. Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
69. Friendship, Maurice Blanchot (also, also, also, also) (Elizabeth Rottenberg, trans.)
70. The Fall, Albert Camus (Justin O'Brien, trans.) (re-read)
71. The Voice Imitator, Thomas Bernhard (Kenneth J. Northcott, trans.)
72. The Hothouse by the East River, Muriel Spark
73. Confessions of a Mask, Yukio Mishima (Meredith Weatherby, trans.)
74. O Pioneers!, Willa Cather
75. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
76. Last Evenings on Earth, Roberto Bolaño (Chris Andrews, trans.)
77. Man in the Dark, Paul Auster
78. Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre (Lloyd Alexander, trans.)
79. Self-Help, Lorrie Moore (re-read)
80. Dubin's Lives, Bernard Malamud
81. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, James C. Scott
82. Anarchism, Daniel Guérin (Mary Klopper, trans.)
83. Fear and Trembling, Amélie Nothomb (Adriana Hunter, trans.)
84. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, Silvia Federici
85. Goldengrove, Francine Prose
86. L'amante Anglaise, Marguerite Duras (Barbara Bray, trans.)
87. Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, Robin Dunbar
88. The Character of Rain, Amélie Nothomb (Timothy Bent, trans.)
89. Tokyo Fiancée, Amélie Nothomb (Alison Anderson, trans.)
90. Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Some statistics
Number of books written by men: 61
Number of books written by women: 29 (better than usual, but still: !)
Number of books which were acquired via the Big Dalkey Get: 1 (Curtis White)
Number of other Dalkey books: 2 (Roubaud, Kenner)
Number of books in translation: 34

Fiction or Poetry (or sufficiently literary memoir):
Number of books: 66
Number that are poetry: 0
Number that are memoirs: 3 (Evelyn Scott's Escapade, both by Coetzee)
Number that are re-reads: 6
Number of authors represented: 41
Number of books by female authors: 25
Number of female authors: 14
Number of books by American authors: 26
Number of American authors: 18
Number of books by African-American authors: 3
Number of African-American authors: 3
Number of books by non-American, English-language authors: 11
Number of non-American, English-language authors: 4 (Coetzee, Josipovici, Spark, Wilcken)
Number of books in translation: 28
Number of authors of books in translation: 19
Number of translated books by female authors: 9
Number of foreign languages represented: 7 (German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Norwegian, Czech*, Polish*) (*Lem's Solaris and Kundera's Life is Elsewhere were both translated into English from the French translations, not directly from Polish or Czech, respectively)
Most represented foreign languages: French (12 books), German (9)

Number of Nobel Prize-winners: 6 (Bellow, Camus, Coetzee, Hamsun, Morrison, Sartre)
Number of books from before 1800: 0
Number of books from 1800 to 1899: 3 (Stifter, Crane, Fontane)
Number of books from 1900 to 1914: 3 (Conrad, Stein, Cather's O Pioneers!)
Number of books from 1915-1944: 6
Number of books from 1945 to 1970: 17
Number of books from 1971-1989: 15
Number of books from 1990 to 1999: 3
Number of books from 2000 to 2008: 15
Number of books from 2009: 1 (Francine Prose)

Number of non-fiction books: 24
Number of books by female authors: 4 (Klein, Woolf, Federici, Hrdy)
Number of books in translation: 6 (primarily philosophy or criticism)
Number that are biographies or letters: 1 (Josipovici's A Life)
Number that are philosophy or about philosophy: 7
Number that are books of criticism or essays: 7
Number that are about politics or economics or history: 3
Number about pop music: 0
Number about science: 4
Number about parenting: 1

Comment & Observations:
Brief pointless note on the numbers: things were back to usual this year, with fiction dominating the count, though the actual number of non-fiction books didn't decline by much. Also, I easily surpassed my previous blog-life high of 77 books, back in the blog year-one of 2006; statistics are unavailable for my pre-blog life, as if such a thing existed. It is perhaps worth noting that the number is slightly inflated by the appearance of a great many very short works, fiction and non. Not that it matters.

That leads into my observation about my goals. Unlike 2008, when my goal had been to read Proust and Beckett (successfully met), I had no special goals for 2009. I had hoped to continue my engagement with Marx; in particular, I wanted to study Capital. But I was unable to do so this year; lack of mental space being the primary reason, though I did fruitfully read David Harvey's The Limits to Capital. Similarly, some of the more opaque philosophical or critical theory authors I've had my eye were usually beyond me this year. Though I did read Blanchot's Friendship and a few of the essays in The Book to Come, I didn't return this year to The Space of Literature. Nor did I return to Heidegger's Poetry, Language, Thought; I did take a shot at the intro to Being and Time, without much success. In general, I just wasn't up for it. (The classics didn't fare too well either: even passes at Plato's Republic or Cicero's On the Good Life were short-lived.) I did read the books in the Routledge Critical Thinkers series on Heidegger (by Timothy Clark) and Blanchot (by Ullrich Haase & Will Large); both were lucid introductions and very helpful. In addition, I read Agamben for the first time. I found his Remnants of Auschwitz fascinating, if not entirely satisfying; I was doing pretty well with his Man without Content, but I stopped reading it in part because I was so engaged by it. I realized I was reading it a little too quickly and that I wanted to spend more time with it, taking notes, considering his arguments.

Moving right along.... See my earlier post for some of my thoughts on my reading year.

Other thoughts:
I read a lot more books written by women this year. Five titles by Maguerite Duras and three by Muriel Spark, to name two writers with whom I was already committed to reading deep into. Spark's books seemed minor. I liked Not to Disturb, didn't quite get the Josipovici-raved The Hothouse by the East River, found The Takeover rather tedious. Duras' were very short (four compiled into one volume). I enjoyed most The Square, The Afternoon of Mr. Andesmas, and L'amante Anglaise. I've already said quite a bit about Evelyn Scott (though not nearly so much as I intended; lucky you), and I had something to say about Flannery O'Connor. I liked the three Willa Cather novels I read. I finally read some Gertrude Stein; when I could get into the flow of the writing, Three Lives was a fascinating read. If I got distracted, returning to the text was often difficult, to the point of boredom. I had meant to say quite a bit about Gayl Jones' fascinating Corregidora. Several others I wrote about elsewhere. Late in the year, I returned to Amélie Nothomb after an absence of three years, with three novels, in part, I admit, because they are so short and so easy to read. But there's something fascinating, if occasionally overly precious, about Nothomb's writing (and are they all autobiographical? I sometimes get the sense she's written one large novel, in a dozen or so novella-length sections. . .).

I read books by many of the old standbys, Bellow, Roth, Malamud, Coetzee, Bernhard, Handke, Kafka (the rest of the Collected Stories, about a fifth of the Diaries). Finally read Lord Jim and Solaris; a random Kundera; two of Richard Stark's Parker novels (entertaining, hard-boiled crime fiction). I re-read Bellow, Josipovici, Lorrie Moore. Blanchot had me going back to Camus' The Fall, to see if I could see what he saw in his marvelous essay on that book. Alas, it was not to be, though I appreciated the book more this time around (I'm not a big Camus guy).

Other books I read portions of: again Peter Brown's fascinating history, The Rise of Western Christendom, which I actually started over. Half of Pascal's Provincial Letters (and just a few pages in Pensées). Graham Robb's The Discovery of France. And of course I read bits and pieces of various books about parenting and childhood and education (including Alfred North Whitehead's The Aims of Education), though perhaps not as many as I should have. Not much poetry this year: a Wallace Stevens poem here, Emily Dickinson there, a few of Shakespeare's sonnets, glanced at Rilke and Rimbaud, and so on.

I could probably ramble on and on without saying much more. So I may as well end this post here, which effectively ends another fine year for reading. Here's to a great 2010. Happy New Year and thanks for reading!



Blogger Jordan said...

Spark can be hit-and-miss, but when she's good she's just one of the best, ever. Try The Driver's Seat.

January 02, 2010 12:44 AM  

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