In the winter, I light more candles, drink more coffee, and read more lists. I love year-end lists, even that frantic feeling they impart: that I should have read more, that I should be reading right now! I’ve made a list of my own–not a gift guide, not a year’s best (choosing favorites makes me itchy)–but a literary thank you list: six bookish things I was grateful for this year.
1: Freedom! I feel like it should be in all-caps, all the time. On several year-end lists I’ve read, people have prefaced their affection for Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom with an apology: for not choosing something that needs more of a boost, or something that reflects their eclectic reading tastes, or something that everyone’s not tired of hearing about. But I love that this book was so gigantic: that people raced to the bookstore to buy it, that it took up one-third of the space in their one additional personal item on the plane, that they said, “I haven’t read it yet,” as though reading it was a given, a requirement even. Of course I wish that more books and a greater diversity of authors got this kind of attention. I wish there were literary blockbusters on the stealing-the-author’s-glasses level every month.
2: The other Freedom. I spent a lot of time in this space this year complaining about my inability to look away from the Internet’s sweet and toxic glow. Freedom, if you’re not familiar, is “a simple productivity application that locks you away from the Internet“for up to eight hours at a time.” You can circumvent the time limit by restarting your computer, but don’t do that. Keep working.
3: I haven’t finished Skippy Dies, but so far it’s great. I’m including it in part to represent my happiness about the trend of splitting giant hardcovers up into boxed sets of paperbacks. This makes reading in bed or on the bus much easier, and there’s something very satisfying about putting away one section of a single book and starting on the next one.
Both from Slaughterhouse 90210.
4: There are countless incredible book sites out there, but this year my two most-visited were both tumblr sites: Slaughterhouse 90210 and Lazy, Self-Indulgent Book Reviews. Both are smart and funny and sometimes heartbreaking; both have me adding to my to-read list with regularity; and both make me want to write more. Is it even considered procrastinating when it’s so productive?
5: Jennifer Egan is incapable of writing a boring sentence. She is a brilliant writer who gets loads of attention, but not quite on the glasses-stealing-level. In A Visit from the Goon Squad she does that amazing thing of making you love every character, and want to know all about them, and then, when you switch characters with each chapter, she makes you immediately and desperately interested in this new character, so much so that you don’t forget the last one, but you forget the pain you felt at leaving them. Her sentences vibrate with energy and her books are so damn enjoyable to read. I am also grateful to this book for appearing during the charades game I played with my family over Thanksgiving. Should you have the opportunity to play charades over the coming holidays, I urge you to include this title. Watching your aunt attempt goon face will delight.
6: There’s no way to say just how thankful I am to The Kenyon Review for letting me be a part of this blog all year. I’ve been inspired and challenged and amused each week by my fellow bloggers, and I’ve been immensely grateful for the weekly deadline, for being expected to finish something, even if it is a short essay on cookie recipes or flea markets, each week. And most of all, thank you for reading. I know I said I was loath to pick favorites, but you’re mine.