December Reading Update

Books

I finished 2013 having read 28 books, three more than I had hoped to read. I am quite pleased by this. I have always loved reading but had fallen into some lazy habits. Last year, I had read only 14 books, which is one of the reasons I decided to push myself a bit to read more and 2013 really reignited my love of reading.

I also succeeded in diversifying my reading, picking up a few things that I normally would not have. I read  Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic because it was Philadelphia’s One City One Book choice of the year. I read McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13, which focuses on comics, because a friend loaned it to me, which led me to reading Chris Ware’s Building Stories. I read Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because I wanted to test the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Virtual Public Library that had been set up in our local train station. I read  Deborah Reed’s Things We Set on Fire because of Amazon’s Kindle First program.

December Reading UpdateI also got back into reading some science fiction and fantasy, including Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Adam Christopher’s Empire State, Neal Stephenson’s Ananthem, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, the opening two volumes of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s Saga, Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad Super True Love StoryBrandon Sanderson’s Elantris, and  Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane.

My year ended on a particularly high note with Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers. Set in the 1970’s, The Flamethrowers ranges from motorcycle speed records, to Andy Warhol’s New York art scene, to violent Italian worker protests, to a desperate escape through the Alps. It’s a dizzying and dazzling story told from the POV of twenty-ish Reno, a want-to-be artist who spends more time intrigued by other artists than by creating art herself. Then again, the novel raises questions as to the nature of art, so who is to say what of Reno’s actions are art and what aren’t.

Kushner vividly recreates a past era and lifestyles that feel immediate and present. She blends in some short historical passages that provide a deeper understanding of events.

With Reno, Kushner gives us one of the most compelling voices I’ve read in ages. Her curiosity, her willingness to try new modes of life, and her fascinating use of language all serve to create an intriguing character study. Reno’s actions are seldom predictable and her motivations are deserving of serious contemplation.

The Flamethrowers appears on many end of the year best of lists and deservedly so.

I also read Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 in December, which I wrote about earlier.

Based on the 28 books I read in 2013, I’m setting a goal of 30 books for 2014.