The name of the author is the first to go
Followed obediently by the title, the plot, the heartbreaking conclusion
the entire novel, which suddenly becomes
one you have never read, never even
Long before I read those lines from Billy Collins’ poem, “Forgetfulness,” I kept running lists of the books I read. Now in late, late middle edge, teetering on the cusp of dotage with a memory that seems increasingly porous, I find the lists more important than ever.
I just completed this book list, started nine years ago in the “Book Lovers Diary” my sister-in-law Connie gave me. Some of my favorites from the decade were Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” and “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.
This is my new reading record book. God (or Buddha) willing, I’ll use it for the next 10 years or so. I’m not sure Buddha would be down with the big font, but I like the sentiment.
So far in 2015 I’ve entered “Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life” by Hermione Lee, “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” by Christopher Scotton, and “Honeydew” by Edith Pearlman. Next is the daunting “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichi, 588 pages I am supposed to finish by Sunday, when my book group meets. I just started it last night, and so far it’s wonderful.
Then I’m going to read “Panic in a Suitcase” by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. Isn’t that a great title? I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I confess that I often select a book just because its title intrigues me. How could I not read a book called “Old Filth”? I loved it, and went on to read Jane Gardem’s “God on the Rocks” too. “Beyond the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo is another I chose for its title, and it did not disappoint me.
My mother had the same habit of keeping a book list. We never talked about it; it was something we both did. Here is the last list of books she kept before she died. When I got it out to look at it as I was writing this, I laughed when I saw that she had written “Let’s Not Let the Dogs Out” and crossed it out, writing the correct title of Alexandra Fuller’s novel, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.” Her editorial comments, written in her unique hand, are succinct: “Delightful.” “Good.” “Boring.” “Good, but not equal to author’s previous books.” “Silly, but quick summer read.”
My mother taught me to read long before I started school. Today, kids are reading a few hours after they leave the womb, but back in those days an early reader was precocious. I still miss being able to talk about books with my mother. Love of reading was one of many gifts she gave me.
What are you reading now? What books are on your list to read in 2015?