After not posting on this blog in over a year, I have finally decided it is time to play catch up. This site actually means quite a lot to me– It has been a creative space where I have been able to catalog and keep track of everything from my sewing, drawing, & painting projects to more recent cooking and baking endeavors. I have been adding to this portfolio (at no particular pace) for over 8 years.
Though writing about books might not seem like it fits with the general theme of a blog dedicated to art projects, I have decided to document my readings here because so much of my creativity is informed by the books I consume. I want to be able to look back and see what I was reading at a given moment in time.
I didn’t not read as many books in 2022 as I did in 2021, but it was an important year for reading for me regardless because so many of these books were ones I bonded with friends over. Marilynne Robinson’s Houskeeping was a book I read per a friends recommendation, and it gave us an opportunity to discuss suicide, transience, and haunting, poetic prose.
In August, a different friend and I started a long distance, two person, google doc book club. Thus, reads from David Sedaris, Natalia Ginzburg, J.D. Salinger, Joan Didion, Kurt Vonnegut, and the multiple writers of the Best American Food Writing 2022 were all ones we shared. Writing about these books to one another became a beautiful and unique way to keep a long distance friendship alive, and to better get to know each other’s brain. It also became an invaluable writing exercise for me. As it stands (May 2023), our google doc book write ups combined amount to 88 pages of text. Nothing intense about us 😉
Anyway, without further ado, I present some thoughts on my 2022 reading:
Part of It by Ariel Schrag: A graphic novel filled with queer coming of age stories? Say less. What more could I want? Retrospectively I am finding that this book was relatively unmemorable to me, yet as I flip back through it, I am reminded that it actually has quite a few funny lil gems.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: Of all the books I read in 2022, I might argue that this one had the best quality of writing. I underlined SOOOOO many passages. The story was haunting and unsettling like a fever dream. The lines between death and sleep and dissociation and dreaming seemed to me to blur. The cadence of the writing was so gorgeous I found myself wanting to read aloud. I particularly loved the passages which offered meditations on the nature of memory and loneliness. I geeked out when I discovered that Marilynne used to teach at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where so many of my favorite authors either went or taught. I feel like half the time I read a book that is stunningly written, I turn to the back flap to find that the author has some association of other with the program. As an aside, a professor in college once told me that we read to re-read, and I think this book is a perfect example of a one that can give new insights and perspectives on the second, third, fourth read, etc. It is definitely one I want to revisit again in the future.
I Saw You, Comics Inspired By Real Life Misconnections by various authors, edited by Julia Wertz: I found this comic at a local thrift store for $1 and it was an absolute joy to devour in an evening. I loved the diversity of comic styles, and the various stories of miss connections. Some of them were certainly more relatable than others.
This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollen: This book was definitely one of my favorite 2022 reads. Michael Pollen writes about science in way that is incredibly accessible and engaging, and I found the read overall to be fun, interesting, and filled with information that was news to me. Throughout the course of my life thus far, I have been obsessed with coffee and sugar, and repulsed by the thought of trying elicit drugs of any kind. Despite this, I’ve also become a huge nerd for plants and fungi in recent years. This book reminded me that coffee is just as much a brain altering drug as opium is, and that opium is just as much a dynamic, fascinating plant as coffee is.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel: This book was my favorite 2022 read by far. Anyone who knows me knows that graphic memoir is my favorite genre of book, and I have no idea why it took me so long to hear about and read this one. It’s queer, it’s contemplative, and it’s whip smart. Unlike other comics which I can speed through in a couple of hours, this was one I wanted to sit with at a leisure pace. Alison intertwines literature and mythology into her own personal narrative, using them to make sense of her experiences. I found her writing to be equally as expressive and engaging as her drawings, which is something I don’t always see in comics. I went into reading this book blind, and I was happy no one spoiled the story for me. From father daughter relationships to queerness to tragedy, this book took on hefty, deeply personal subject matter in a way that felt earnest, tender, and inquisitive.
Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel: I picked up this book because I loved Fun Home so much, and because I was curious to read what Alison had to say about her relationship with her mother, and about mother daughter relationships in general. I found this book to be enjoyable, but much of the literary references went clear over my head.
Girls Can Kiss Now by Gill Gutowitz: I found this book to be just okay. I couldn’t help but compare it to Grace Perry’s The 2000s Made Me Gay, which is also a collection of stories about the influence of 2000s pop culture on the author’s queer coming of age, and which is one of my all time favorite books. I thought it was cool to see a different perspective on the same topic, but it did not resonate with me the same way Grace’s book did. Nevertheless, there were aspects of this book that I found to be deeply relatable, funny, and heart wrenching.
Bourdain The Definitive Oral Biography by Laurie Woolever: I found this book to be an absolute slog to get through, and I am not going to spend too much time detailing why. Anthony Bourdain used to be one of my biggest idols, but i’ve grown tired of the way in which the media tells his story, and with the way the world idolizes him in general. The only part of this book that was interesting to me was the snippets from the interview with his daughter towards the end.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris: Of all the David Sedaris books I’ve read, this one might just be my favorite. To start, it was the first book club read for my two person, long distance, google doc book club I mentioned earlier. For that reason alone it will always hold a special place in my brain and in my heart. It was my pick because my friend had never read anything by David Sedaris before, and I think we both really enjoyed it. We wrote 8 pages on it! I loved how these essays showed absurdity without ever using the word absurd. Does that make sense? Sedaris is a master of show don’t tell.
The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg: I can’t say this novella was a fun read, but it certainly was an interesting one. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it… I don’t think I would have ever read it if it were not for my book club, so in that sense, it was cool to have a translated fiction about a dysfunctional relationship thrown into my reading mix.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: Despite the religious undertones, I actually really liked this book. For all his controversy, I found that I like Salinger’s writing style, and I found his depiction of east coast yuppies to be absolutely priceless. “Lane[…] sat back […] with an almost palpable sense of well being at finding himself […] in the right place with an unimpeachably right looking girl— a girl who was not only extraordinarily pretty but, so much the better, not too categorically cashmere sweater and plaid skirt” (11). The line not too categorically cashmere sweater and plaid skirt made me chuckle.
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion: Despite reading this book in one sitting, I wouldn’t say I…. liked it. Of course the writing was beautiful, but the story line was dark and listless in a way I found to be aggravating.
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut: I love Kurt Vonnegut but had a hard time working my way through this book. It is scattered with smart, beautiful, thought provoking sentences and little nuggets of truth, but I am having trouble stringing together coherent thoughts on this book. My interpretation of this book was largely that it was about pretending to be someone you are not, and the implications and the resulting guilt that one might face from doing so. I was impressed by Vonnegut’s ability to simultaneously write in a way that seemed void of emotions and yet at the same time, in a way that evoked emotions in me.
Directions by Hallie Bateman: I picked this book up at a queer comic fair at a local book store coffee shop. Each page is a different little piece of advice, and I thought that the collection was quite beautiful.
The Best American Food Writing 2022 by various authors, edited by Sohla El-Waylly and Silvia Killingsworth: I have never been so disappointed with a collection of essays that calls themselves the best. Though I thought some of these essays were exceptional, I though that other ones were straight up terrible. One of my favorite essays in this book spoke to the fact that familiar platitudes are often used to help individuals tell stories when they lack the skills and the proper language to tell their stories with greater levels of nuance. One of my least favorite essays in this book used platitudes to tell a story that deserved skill and proper language and nuance. Despite the fact that I found myself aggravated by the lazy writing of some of these essays (I may not be an exceptional writer myself but I can tell the difference between good and bad writing when reading), I loved that the essays in this book were engaging enough for me and my friend to write 18 pages on them.