Another year full of books
New Year’s resolutions are more than anything else a yardstick for measuring how much your life can change in a year. I try to make mine very cautiously, with the awareness that unforeseen circumstances within the coming months will inevitably render most of them impossible to keep. Out of the six goals I had for 2022, I successfully completed three by the end of the year, and to me this counts as a surprising triumph.
Nevertheless, I will keep on making resolutions, setting goals, refusing to think of self-improvement as futile. One of the things I most want to get done in 2023 is to read 50 books. I read 30 in 2021, and upped that to 40 (plus one extra!) in 2022 without much effort. I’m trying to gradually increase the books I read per year until I find the maximum number that doesn’t feel like homework. A book a week, with some wiggle room for the extra-long tomes, sounds like a very reasonable pace.
I am also going to try and stick to reading only physical books that I already own. Like probably every other reader with enough disposable income, I have way too many unread books on my shelves. Many of these are books I’m sure I would love. Several more are books I’m skeptical about, and could probably stand to jettison in favor of better options. Besides practicality and thrift, I also make this choice out of sensory craving: ebooks are unmatched for convenience, but I miss the feel of paper books. Also I need to not be looking at screens literally every single waking minute of every day.
I know myself, and thus I already know I won’t be able to stick to these guidelines if I don’t really, genuinely want to. As I’ve already learned, willpower is never as strong as desire. So I’ve started thinking about the books I’m going to read in 2023, planning out what I’ll read and when, trying to create groupings of books that I think will intrigue me. In this process I am assisted by a reading challenge on The Storygraph, which has as its prompts the 52 weeks of the year, allowing me to effectively assign myself one book per week.
There are ten books I want to read most of all, and I’ve already slotted them into the first ten weeks of the year. These books, with some notes about why I want to read them, are:
- Silence by Shusaku Endo. There is a movie of this that I will never watch, because it stars Andrew Garfield, whose so-called acting skills are one of the world’s greatest conspiracies. But the book itself sounds really interesting.
- The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin. Listen man, thank you so much again for sending me an ARC back in 2021, I am terrible at doing things on time, but I know this book is going to be a banger and I owe you a good review posted on some publicly viewable platform ASAP. Sorry it’s taking me so long. LOL.
- Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. I read the opening few paragraphs of this excerpted in a craft book years ago and found them quite mesmerizing, and I love the idea of a book structured around a central event that is given away by the title.
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The fact that this book continues to inspire fervent battles of online discourse to this very day has to mean something.
- Insurrecto by Gina Apostol. The summary on the back cover makes this sound sort of like a book-length version of that part in The Sympathizer where the main character is working as a cultural consultant for a movie in the Philippines, which is the best and funniest part of The Sympathizer.
- Lote by Shola von Reinhold. Several friends of mine have loved and recommended this book, and its plot summary is reminiscent of a novel idea that I’d like to work on in 2023, so I’m reading this partly for pleasure and partly to hype myself up to write my novel.
- Dumb Luck by Vũ Trọng Phụng. A classic of Vietnamese literature that was banned for 50 years after its initial publication in 1936, the first English translation of this book didn’t appear until 2002. If you are like me in your reading tastes, these facts sound very cool.
- The Parisian by Isabella Hammad. A contemporary novel about the political and intellectual education of a young Palestinian man who studies in France and returns to his homeland just as it begins a battle for independence. I’ve grouped it alongside Dumb Luck because I think it’ll be interesting to think through how colonialism is portrayed in both books.
- The Procedure by Harry Mulisch. The premise of this book sounds amazing: part Jewish folklore, part historical fiction, part science fiction.
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go fucked me up irreparably when I was like 15, and the premise of this book sounds somewhat similar to that one, so I’m delighted to go through all that once again!
And here’s all the books I read in 2022. Favorites are bolded.
- My Body by Emily Ratajkowski
- The Gangster We Are All Looking For by lê thi diem thúy
- Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
- Temporary by Hilary Leichter
- Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
- Surveys by Natasha Stagg
- Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados
- Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkemann
- Luster by Raven Leilani
- Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
- Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell
- Today I Wrote Nothing by Daniil Kharms
- The Miracle of Morning Pages by Julia Cameron
- Play It As it Lays by Joan Didion
- How Fiction Works by James Wood
- Grapefruit by Yoko Ono
- The Father by Sharon Olds
- How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti
- Either/Or by Elif Batuman
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
- Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan
- The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada
- The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
- Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca
- Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
- We’ve All Seen Helena by Lip Manegio
- Apartment by Teddy Wayne
- Red Pill by Hari Kunzru
- Beatlebone by Kevin Barry
- Outline by Rachel Cusk
- On Becoming A Novelist by John Gardner
- Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso
- The Word Pretty by Elisa Gabbert
- Nevada by Imogen Binnie
- Everything I Need I Get From You by Kaitlyn Tiffany
- Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast by Hannah Gamble
- We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets
- The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
- The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier
- Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag
- Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
Happy new year, and here’s to another year full of books! And if you’re reading this in your email inbox, please do hit reply and let me know what you’re most excited to read this year. It’s never too early to start working on my 2024 TBR…