Every book I’ve read in the last two years

Once upon a time in a Paris loft…

It’s finally time to publish it. I started keeping this list – of every book I have read cover to cover – in October 2018, as I was nearing the end of my transformational time at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris. Being there with the compulsion, nay, the explicit order to read as much as I could at all times, it suddenly felt imperative to tally them somehow. Now it’s been two years, and about 150 books.

How else to explain the influences that have walked in and out of my life? That’s what powerful art does; it hits you with lyrical force, in Thoreau’s words, with visceral and immediate impact that charges your body with flesh-level memory. I can recall, with perfect clarity, exactly where I was when I was floored, in tears, by that incredibly moving Love + Radio episode; how I felt that cold winter that I listened with rapt attention to the gripping series from The Untold; the exact moment (oh, and that one) I fell in love with Radiolab and spent a summer listening to the entire back catalogue. And pledging to donate and support good radio forever, it had changed my life that much.

Good books, of course, had been doing that for years before I became a podcast fanatic. Yet taking longer to “consume”, their effects are more distributed than an episode or a song; I can’t pinpoint them quite as precisely. But there is no doubt that I have been marked by many of these books below. Some of them (The Secret History; Moby-Dick) are amongst the best books I’ve ever read.

My book-nook at Shakespeare and Company, (2018).

One trend I observe with interest – although I lament it slightly, too – is my trend towards non-fiction. Mostly, this is because I am now studying again, and this demands reading a lot of more theoretical texts. But it began before that, too. Fiction will always be my first love, a magic that Shakespeare and Company encouraged me to pursue; stories enhanced life in a way that was so obvious then. Yet even now, just a couple of years later, the harshness of the world has been laid so bare that I think I hunger after non-fiction for its explanatory power, for what feels like immediate relevance – whether or not it actually makes me more enlightened, I do feel, at least, that I am engaging with “reality” on its own terms more than in fiction.

I hope to redress this going forward. I know that I suffer when I don’t read fiction; I feel myself become hardened and more cynical, interestingly in the same way that listening to news-based radio and podcasts hardens me. Music, on the other hand, tends to soften me. I haven’t found enough space for the soft parts in recent years. The world has felt too scary; I haven’t wanted to expose myself, to feel too much when the wider political landscape is already so out of control. But I also know that repressing feelings leads nowhere good, either…

Without further ado: the list.

Notable mentions from earlier in 2018

  1. Other Men’s Daughters by Richard Stern (1973)
  2. Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls (1982)
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (2018)
  4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)
  5. Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars (1926)

Mid-October 2018

  1. The Lady and the Little Fox-Fur by Violette Leduc (1964)
  2. Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
  3. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912)
  4. King of a Rainy Country by Brigid Brophy (1956)
  5. The Other by Ryszard Kapuściński (2008)
  6. The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet (2001)
  7. The Camino by Shirley Maclaine (2000)
  8. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (2010)
  9. The Years by Annie Erneaux (2007)
  10. On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss (2014)
  11. The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt (1992)
  12. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (1922)

2019

  1. Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt (2019)
  2. Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (2017)
  3. Hackenfeller’s Ape by Brigid Brophy (1953)
  4. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (1972)
  5. Pan by Knut Hamsun (1894)
  6. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  7. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (2018)
  8. South Sea Vagabonds by J. W. Wray (1939)
  9. 21 Lessons for the 21st Cenury by Yuval Noah Harari (2018)
  10. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008)
  11. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968)
  12. Tracks by Robyn Davidson (1980)
  13. On Nomads by Robyn Davidson (2012)
  14. The Wisdom of Wolves by Elli H. Radinger (2018)
  15. The Abortion by Richard Brautigan (1966)
  16. Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992)
  17. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson (1879)
  18. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (2017)
  19. Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990)
  20. The Passion According to G. H. by Clarice Lispector (1964)
  21. Little Labors by Rivka Galchen (2016)
  22. The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells (2019)
  23. Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)
  24. In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas (2011 / transl. 2019)
  25. Amateur by Thomas Page McBee (2018)
  26. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (2017)
  27. Happening by Annie Ernaux (2000)
  28. The Idiot by Elif Batuman (2017)
  29. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2019)
  30. The North Water by Ian McGuire (2016)
  31. Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (2016)
  32. The Naked Shore of the North Sea by Tom Blass (2016)
  33. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1946)
  34. The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy (1964)
  35. Power by Linda Hogan (1998)
  36. Enigma Variations by Andre Aciman (2019)
  37. The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals by Torill Kornfeldt (2018)
  38. Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast by Charlie Connelly (2004)
  39. Daddy Issues by Katherine Angel (2019)
  40. The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjöberg (2015)
  41. The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy (2015)
  42. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (2019)
  43. The Island: In Imagination and Experience by Barry Smith (2017)
  44. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (2011)
  45. Pig: Tales From an Organic Farm by Helen Browning (2018)
  46. Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (2007)
  47. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)
  48. The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (2007)
  49. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh (2016)
  50. The Hunter by Julia Leigh (1999)
  51. We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer (2019)
  52. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (2019)
  53. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson (1983)
  54. Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait by Bathsheba Demuth (2019)
  55. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (2019)
  56. Petro-Subjectivity: De-Industrializing Our Sense of Self by Brett Bloom (2018)
  57. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2019)
  58. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (2011)
Chattin’ books in Paris (summer 2019)
My bookshelf in Amsterdam (2020)

2020

  1. Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (2019)
  2. Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climate Regime by Bruno Latour (2017)
  3. Leviathan: Or, The Whale by Philip Hoare (2008)
  4. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (2019)
  5. Animal Liberation by Peter Singer (1977)
  6. Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk (1996 / 2010)
  7. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (1976)
  8. Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler (1926)
  9. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Tsing (2015)
  10. Caffeine by Michael Pollan (2020)
  11. Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee (2018)
  12. Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights by Helen Lewis (2020)
  13. Pandemic! COVID-19 Shakes the World by Slavoj Žižek (2020)
  14. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)
  15. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (2004)
  16. Recovering Lost Species in the Modern Age: Histories of Longing and Belonging by Dolly Jørgensen (2019)
  17. Weather by Jenny Offill (2020)
  18. Diary of a Steak by Deborah Levy (1997)
  19. Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq (1996)
  20. About A Mountain by John D’Agata (2010)
  21. Tender is the Flesh by Agustina María Bazterrica (2017)
  22. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)
  23. The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis by Elaine Morgan (1997)
  24. Spying on Whales: The Past, Present and Future of the World’s Largest Animals by by Nick Pyenson (2018)
  25. The Last Whalers: Three Years in the Far Pacific with a Courageous Tribe and a Vanishing Way of Life by Doug Bock Clark (2019)
  26. Blindness by José Saramago (1995)
  27. Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel (2006)
  28. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (2010 / 2020)
  29. Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and what the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves by James Nestor (2014)
  30. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh (2014)
  31. The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: Travels Among the Collectors of Iceland by A. Kendra Greene (2020)
  32. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning by Karen Barad (2007)
  33. Seasonal Associate by Heike Geissler (2014)
  34. Influx and Efflux: Writing Up With Walt Whitman by Jane Bennett (2020)
  35. The Future of Nuclear Waste: What Art and Archaeology Can Tell Us about Securing the World’s Most Hazardous Material by Rosemary A. Joyce (2020)
Window display in Amsterdam, spotted early on in the pandemic.

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