a reader

an eudæmonistreading



Dante. La Vita Nuova. trans. Barbara Reynolds. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989 (1290). [83]
An odd little book – sits more comfortably with Augustine’s (and Rousseau’s) Confessions than the Divine Comedy. I kept wanting to be irritated by it, but every time I looked more closely, it charmed me instead.
Fanny Howe. The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf, 2009. [82]
A sideways look at the meaning of vocation, religious, poetic, personal. Shades of May Sarton.
Nina Berberova. Aleksandr Blok: A Life. trans. Robyn Marsack. New York: George Braziller, 1996 (1991). [81]*
An odd book, impressionistic, but at times too caught up in the larger story of the times to see Blok as a person rather than a symbol. This might, I suppose, be fitting.
James Joyce. Ulysses. Oxford: OUP Classics, 2011 (1922). [80]
I read most of this last year, but only finally got through chapter 17, which was, of course, the best.
Naja Marie Aidt. When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book. trans. Denise Newman. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2019 (2017). [79]*
‘We being to understand, and what we understand is ghastly.’ (p. 80)
Deborah Harkness. Time’s Convert. New York: Penguin, 2018. [78.d]*
Narrative tension really is essential: there needs to be pressure, tension – something has be at stake. This book did not have that.
Vladislav Khodasevich. Necropolis. trans. Sarah Vitali. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019 (1926–1938). [77]
‘It wasn’t that his dancing was bad; it was that he was terrifying when he did it’ (on Bely dancing, p. 71). See post.


Felicity Young. Dr Dody McCleland Mysteries. 5 vols. New York: HarperCollins, 2007–2016. [76.d]*
Annemarie Schwarzenbach. All the Roads Are Open: The Afghan Journey. trans. Isabel Fargo Cole. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2011 (1942, 2008). [75]
A book to brood over. See post.
Harriet H. Guest. Unbounded Sentiment: Sentiment and Politics in the Age of the French Revolution. Oxford: OUP, 2014. [74]*
Got this out on interlibrary loan and actually managed to read it before it was due.
J. Kathleen Cheney. Novels of the Golden City. 3 vols. New York: Penguin, 2013–2015. [73.d]*
In some ways satisfying for the ways in which it includes mythical creatures (fitting them as another element in race/gender/class), as political thrillers these left something to be desired – the question of motivation.
Jaime Lee Moyer. Delia Martin. 3 vols. New York: Tor, 2013–2015. [72.d]*
The infrastructure of the occult in fiction is peculiar – here, the autodidact and apprenticeship model of spiritualists, though why that seeing ghosts needs to expand to include exorcising demons and reading tarot cards is rather beyond me. Mission creep.
Rebecca Lee. Bobcat & Other Stories. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2013. [71.d]*
In a familiar vein.
Kate Bowler. Everything Happens for a Reason. New York: Random House, 2018. [70.d]*
Cf. The Undying.
D.E. Stevenson. The Young Clementina. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2013 (1938). [69]*
Interesting method for justifying the narrative and presenting information hidden from the narrator.
Ambrose Parry. Raven, Fisher, and Simpson Mysteries. 2 vols. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2018–2019. [68.d]*
Odd (narratively) in the way the characters relate to each other, but in many ways more human.
Kaite Welsh. Sarah Gilchrist Mysteries. 2 vols. New York: Pegasus, 2017–2019. [67.d]*
Another diversion.


David Foster Wallace. This Is Water. NewYork: Little, Brown & Co, 2009 (2005). [66.d]*
Mentioned in the Critchley Suicide book and immediately available on the library ereading app.
Simon Critchley. Memory Theater. New York: Other Press, 2014. [65.d]*
Diverting, though the odd details occasionally jarred.
Simon Critchley. Notes on Suicide. London: Fitzcarraldo, 2015. [64]
It is a brave essayist who includes one of Hume’s essays as an ‘afterword’.
Ashley Weaver. Amory Ames Mysteries. 6 vols. New York: Minotaur, 2014–2019. [63]*
Mireille Gansel. Translation as Transhumance. trans. Ros Schwartz. New York: Feminist Press, 2014. [62]
For some reason it reminded me of Hilbig, but I suppose that could have been the size of the book.
Allison Montclair. The Right Sort of Man. New York: Minotaur, 2019. [61]*
Kate Ross. Julian Kestrel Mysteries. 4 vols. London: Penguin, 1993–1997. [60.d]*
Charming and diverting.


Sylvia Izzo Hunter. Noctis Magicae. 3 vols. New York: Ace, 2014–2016. [59.d]*
Amusing and light.
Wioletta Greg. Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance. trans. Marek Kazmierski. Todmorden, UK: Arc Publications, 2014. [58]
Again the interaction of personality and history. And a sack of flower instead of flour.
David Graeber. The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2016. [57]
The beginnings of a leftist critique of bureaucracy – wears its learning lightly.
Eleanor Flexner. Mary Wollstonecraft. A Biography. London: Penguin, 1972. [56]
A decent brief biography, although it goes in a bit too much for cheap psychologizing.


Colette Fellous. This Tilting World. trans. Sophie Lewis. San Francisco, CA: Two Lines Press, 2019 (2017). [55]
Memories of places and people and culture, made melancholy by history.
Jeannie Vanasco. The Glass Eye. Portland: Tin House, 2017. [54.d]*
Troubling and at times difficult to read.
Joan Naviyuk Kane. Milk Black Carbon. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017. [53]*
I read another volume and this was almost as good.
Terese Marie Mailhot. Heart Berries. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2018. [52]*
At a great distance, in a different language.


William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. ed. Willard Higley Durham. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1965 (1594, 1918). [51]
The first of the plays in this reading that strikes the note, that doesn’t seem to be only an assemblage of set pieces, but grasps at more.
Deborah Harkness. All Souls Trilogy. 3 vols. London: Penguin, 2011–2014. [50.d]*
Does not quite capture the atmosphere of waiting for the Bodleian to open.
Gabriela Ybarra. The Dinner Guest. trans. Natasha Wimmer. San Francisco, CA: Transit Books, 2018 (2015). [49]
Very good, except for the typo on page 53.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Reveries of the Solitary Walker. trans. Peter France. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979 (1778, 1792). [48]
A better introduction to Rousseau than the Confessions, I think.
René Daumal. Pataphysical Essays. trans. Thomas Vosteen. Cambridge, MA: Wakefield Press, 2012 (1995, 1929–1941). [47]
Amusing and strange.
Joan Naviyuk Kane. Hyperboreal. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. [46.d]*
Looking for ways of reading/seeing/thinking.


William Shakespeare. Two Gentlemen of Verona. ed. Karl Young. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1924 (1590–1595). [45]
Which critic said that, by the end of the play, there were no gentlemen in Verona? I’m with that guy. The dog was my favorite bit, but I’m a bit crabby myself.
Duanwad Pimwana. Bright. trans. Mui Poopoksakul. San Francisco, CA: Two Lines Press, 2019. [44]
Very much enjoyed this novel/collection of interconnected short stories, read it in two sittings (four months apart).
Noelle Stevenson. Nimona. New York: HarperTeen, 2015. [43.d]*
Charming and melancholy.
Georgette Heyer. Complete Regency Romances. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2007–2012 (1921–1972). [42.d]*
Patterns and repetitions.
Alison Goodman. Lady Helen Trilogy. 3 vols. New York: Viking, 2015–2018. [41.d]*
A diversion.
Gertrude Stein. Paris France. New York: Liveright, 1970 (1940). [40]
A strange little book.
William Shakespeare. The Taming of the Shrew. ed. Thomas G. Bergin. New Haven: Yale UP, 1965 (ca. 1594; 1954). [39]
And I did not remember the framing device at all, which is as odd as that from Wuthering Heights.


Mira Jacob. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations. New York: Penguin, 2019. [38]*
Read all in one sitting.
Elisa Gabbert. The Word Pretty. Boston: Black Ocean, 2018. [37]*
An engaging collection of essays that I enjoyed but suspect I will forget having read. Approachable, readable, humane.
Rebecca Ross. The Queen’s Rising. 2 vols. New York: HarperCollins, 2018–2019. [36.d]*
More lazy afternoon/procrastination reading.
Anna Lee Huber. The Lady Darby Mysteries. 8 vols. New York: Berkley, 2012–2019. [35.d]*
Lazy afternoon reading.
Frances Hardinge. The Lie Tree. New York: Abrams, 2016. [34.d]*
Fast-paced novel about truth, lies, natural history, and murder.
James Joyce. Dubliners: Text and Criticism. ed. Robert Scholes and A. Walton Litz. New York: Viking, 1996 (1916, 1967). [33]
Finished up the book group reading of this; rewarded discussion, though some meetings were more successful than others (it was a bit of a slow start).


Jenny Odell. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2019. [32.d]*
While it reviewed the classic works that seem to be having a moment (William James, the stoics) and had journalistic discussion of contemporary art, it was nonetheless a thought-provoking essay on ecosystems and the place of humanity within ecosystems, as well as the meaning of what is natural and what is created.
Mary Townsend. The Woman Question in Plato’s Republic. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017. [31.d]
An engaging look at Plato’s narrative choices in the presentation of women in the Republic – makes a strong case for remember that the work is the beginning of a conversation, not its end.
William Shakespeare. The Comedy of Errors. ed. Robert Dudley French. New Haven: Yale UP, 1965 (ca. 1594; 1926). [30]
A glance upon the past.
G.W.F. Hegel. Reason in History. trans. Robert S. Hartman. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953 (1837). [29]
It is pleasant to have someone to disagree with – ‘for interest is only where there is opposition.’


Yiyun Li. Where Reasons End. New York: Random House, 2019. [28.d]*
Pairs well with The White Book, and similar in ambiguity to The Department of Speculation. There is the temptation to call it tender, but that does a disservice to the power of the book.
Han Kang. The White Book. trans. Deborah Smith. New York: Hogarth Press, 2019 (2016, 2017). [27]*
Exploration of the color white, but also the ephemeral, the blank, the empty. Better than Bluets.
Deborah Levy. Things I Don’t Want to Know. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. [26.d]*
On exile and outsiderness and the appearance of belonging.
Patricia C. Wrede. Daughter of Witches. New York: Tom Doherty, 2011 (1983). [25.d]*
Weekend fare.
Patricia C. Wrede. A Matter of Magic. New York: Tom Doherty, 2010 (1991, 1997). [24.d]*
Weekend fare.
Yiyun Li. Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. New York: Random House, 2017. [23]
While waiting for Li’s latest novel on hold from the library, I saw this memoir and checked it out and was so transported I ended up buying a copy of my own. Enjoyable and meditative.
Katherine Arden. Winternight Trilogy. 3 vols. New York: Del Rey, 2017–2019. [22.d]*
An amusement, the whole better than its parts.


Mary Wollstonecraft. Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. ed. Tone Brekke & Jon Mee. Oxford: OUP, 2009 (1796). [21]
Amusing and strange.
Deborah Levy. The Cost of Living. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. [20]*
I put this on hold from the library for reasons I don’t quite remember at the moment and usually when that I happens I do not read the book because the moment for the book has passed, but this time I managed to read it and to enjoy the scenes – cinematically driven, choreographed – that reveal on so much of a view on the author’s life (or the life of someone the author presents as herself, because we must take these things on trust sometimes).
Yannis Ritsos. Eighteen Short Songs of the Bitter Motherland. trans. Amy Mims. St. Paul, MN: North Central Publishing, 1974 (1973). [19]*
Poems of protest.
Guy Gavriel Kay. Under Heaven. London: Penguin, 2010. [18.d]*
Reposeful reading.
Guy Gavriel Kay. The Lions of Al-Rassan. New York: Harper Prism, 1995. [17.d]*
Saw this on Twitter through that silly book cover meme and it looked interesting enough to put on hold at the library, forget about, and then when it finally arrives three months later wonder why I put it on hold. It arrived early, however, so I read it and enjoyed it.
Nan Shepherd. The Living Mountain. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2011 (1996, 1977). [16]
With two short chapters to go, I misplaced this book and so when I finally found it again I had rather lost the thread. It is a meditative book and thoughtful about nature – but it feels very distant and far removed.
Jósef Czapski. Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp. trans. Eric Karpeles. New York: NYRB, 2018 (1987). [15]
A work of memory as much as a book about Proust’s novel. The hope for meaning and value.
Antonio Moresco. Distant Light. trans. Richard Dixon. New York: Archipelago, 2016 (2013). [14]
An uncomfortable book, like The Wall, but both more and less uncanny. It reminds me of the village of old Khndzoresk, built into the caves east of Goris, an abandoned town covered in vines that still seems strangely populated by its history.
Mariana Dimópulos. All My Goodbyes. trans. Alice Whitmore. San Francisco: Transit Books, 2019 (2010, 2017). [13]
Fragmented and broken, with the pieces not quite fitting together – like the narrator.
Xinru Liu. The Silk Road in World History. Oxford: OUP, 2010. [12.d.2]
For some reason I felt the need to read this again, primarily because I’d forgotten I’d already read it (though it did seem familiar in places). That is perhaps all that needs to be said for it (or see my note from 2013).
Scholastique Mukasonga. The Barefoot Woman. trans. Jordan Stump. New York: Archipelago, 2018 (2008). [11]
One is confronted here by a book of power – a personal reckoning and a historical one. When reading light books, one gives oneself over to the author, suspends disbelief (more or less) and takes the constructed world on its on merits, without limited reference to either the laws of physics or art. To place that same trust in such a tender work is to have one’s world upended – as it should be.
R. F. Kuang. The Poppy Wars. New York: Harper Voyager, 2018. [10.d]*
A novel that tries to do a great many things – school story, coming of age, war novel – and perhaps misplaces some of the details that are essential. Issues of pacing and character mortality. Verisimilitude in a way (death indiscriminate and unexpected), but hard to reconcile with the constraints of form (why have we engaged with these characters if they are to die in an aside?). First part of a trilogy, so perhaps this tension will be resolved/clarified in forthcoming volumes – but that is not something I am likely to find out.


Jenny Offill. Dept. of Speculation. New York: Vintage, 2014. [9]
Read it on the airplane returning home from vacation; it soaked up the time readily. It seems to demand those common book-review words – readable, fast-paced, etc. – but they are not quite right. A melancholy novel, the other side of Wedlocked, that offers the appearance of resolution to its characters and readers.
Kelly St. Clare. The Tainted Accords. 4 vols. Self-published, 2015–2018. [8.d]
Beach reading; a study in the expectations of world building – what can be transferred what cannot – and the extent to which this is (un)successful.
Olga Tokarczuk. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones. London: Fitzcarraldo, 2018 (2009). [7]
A peculiar book, not at all what I expected, and yet still satisfactory despite that.
Heather Havrilesky. What If This Were Enough. New York: Doubleday, 2018. [6.d*]
Essays on modern life/cultural criticism. Occasionally odd in their combinations, but at times the peculiarity strengthened the point.
Jess Kidd. Mr. Flood’s Last Resort. New York: Atria Books, 2018. [5.d*]
I kept seeing publisher tweets about Ms Kidd’s forthcoming book Thing in Jars, which sounds rather interesting, so of course I’ve been reading her backlist titles. It is amusing and strange and surprisingly light, like the foam on the sea.
Noémi Lefebvre. Blue Self-Portrait. trans. Sophie Lewis. San Francisco: Transit Books, 2018 (2009, 2017). [4]
I keep forgetting to put the books in the list in the order that I read them. It is curious. This book was odd, frenetic, and more a mood than a narrative. I seem to jumble it up with Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which it does not in the least resemble.
Andrea Penrose. Wrexford & Sloane Mysteries. 2 vols. New York: Kensington Books, 2017, 2018. [3.d*]
Amusing plane fare.
Penny de Byl. Holistic Game Development with Unity. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2019 (2014, 2017). [2.d]
This was something I read for work, but it was interesting enough that I actually found myself reading it as a book, rather than just grooming it politely for publication. Entry-level stuff on a topic I am not particularly interested in, but did change the way I think about computer games, so there’s that.
Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Death in Persia. trans. Lucy Renner Jones. New York: Seagull Books, 2013 (1998, 2012). [1]
Starting the year off with a morose, discontented traveller talking to angels in the mountains of Persia.

(last revised: 31 December 2019)

ego hoc feci mm–MMXX · cc 2000–2020 M.F.C.