Suspend Your Disbelief

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how to read 462 books in 365 days

How many books, on average, do you read a year?

I thought I was a pretty voracious reader; in 2008 I finished 68 new books (this doesn’t include any books I re-read or manuscripts I read/edited for employers or friends). But, oh, I am outdone! Writer-reviewer Sarah Weinman (and a host of others who commented on her article) can read 462 books in one year; according to Weinman, the quality of her reading experience isn’t suffering, and she isn’t just skimming.

Taking in this article, I was suddenly three feet tall in corduroy overalls, standing on tip-toes to ask my school librarian how many books were in the room; I was doing the math, realizing I’d never finish them all by sixth grade. There were the bookshelves beyond, the towering libraries and bookstores and friends’ apartments of the world, laden with books I’d never have the time to read. My first real glimpse of mortality had nothing to do with an upside-down goldfish: there was only so much time, and there were so, so many books. Reading the New York Review of Books is a comfort, but sometimes there are also so, so many issues of that fine publication to catch up on…

So. When people say, there’s nothing good to read or I can’t get into anything, I can’t help it: bile rises in my throat. But to be fair, I’ve felt like that, too. There are a lot of crappy books out there, and if you read too many of them (or even too many decent, eerily similar ones) in a row, it can be disheartening. So when someone says there’s nothing to read, the only solution is to put a truly superlative book in his or her hands.

Inspired by my friend Karyn, I recently began keeping track of books read each year. Here (click the “Read the rest of this entry” link), is 2008’s list; books are listed in the order read. As a rule, I don’t get very far into books I dislike, so I’d recommend nearly all of these with some measure of enthusiasm.

(Exception: the Twilight series; I defy its “ABSTAIN! ABSTAIN!” Mormon message, and all four tomes did their damndest to abstain from editing. Yet I don’t regret reading the books myself…I couldn’t put them down; despite their size and sometimes intolerably slow pace, they tell a compelling, even thrilling story.)

Books read in 2008

* = recommended most highly / **=by a friend, colleague, or teacher / () = recommended as a show-stoppingly pleasurable read

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz [novel]
()The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde [novel]
*Watchmen by Alan Moore [graphic novel]
Hiding Out: Decoys by Jonathan Messinger [stories]
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer [YA]
*Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell [novel]

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer [YA]
**Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera by Anne Carson [poetry]
**Saltwater Empire by Raymond McDaniel [poetry]
In No One’s Land by Paige Ackerson-Kiely [poetry]
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer [YA]
A Paragon of Virtue by Christian von Ditfurth [novel-mystery]
The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst [novel]
()You Must Be This Happy to Enter by Elizabeth Crane [stories]

The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault [novel]
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes [novel]
**In the Mouth: Stories and Novellas by Eileen Pollack [stories]
St. Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell [stories]
Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederik Peeters [graphic novel]
Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham [novel]
Johnny One-Eye by Jermoe Charyn [novel]

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff [novel]
**I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley [essays]
**Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan [novel]
Mort: A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett [novel-fantasy]

*Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy [stories]
Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell [novel]
The Best Place to Be: A Novel in Stories by Lesley Dorman [novel]
*The View from the Seventh Layer: Stories by Kevin Brockmeier [stories]
*The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter [essays]

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson [novel]
()The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer [novel]
**Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan [stories]
Being Dead by Jim Crace [novel]

Run by Ann Patchett [novel]
*The Archivist’s Story by Travis Holland [novel]
Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles [novel]
“The Light in the Piazza” and Other Italian Tales by Elizabeth Spencer [stories]
()Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett [novel-fantasy]
Bicycle by Paul Fattaruso [prose poem]

Theory of Orange by Rachel M. Simon [poetry]
The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women’s True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned Out, or Faded Away, Ed. Jenny Offill [essays]
Lust and Cashmere by A.E. Simms [stories + novella]
Ethan, Suspended by Pamela Ehrenberg [YA]
The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian [novel]
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer [YA]
*Away by Amy Bloom [novel]

A Better Angel: Stories by Chris Adrian [stories]
()Instant Love: Stories by Jami Attenberg [strories]
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon [graphic novel]
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future for You by Joss Whedon [graphic novel]
*The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti [novel]
*The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor [novel]

How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn [novel]
Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo [novel]
*Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama [memoir]
Comic Book Tattoo by David Mack, Neil Gaiman, et al. [graphic novel collection]
**To Catch the Lightning by Alan Cheuse [novel]
*The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman [YA]

**Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward [novel]
**Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun [novel]
In a Bear’s Eye: Stories by Yannick Murphy [stories]
The World Beneath by Aaron Gwyn [novel]

The Love Song of Monkey by Michael S. A. Graziano [novel]
()The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart [YA]
*Pretty Monsters: Stories by Kelly Link [stories/YA]
How Fiction Works by James Wood [nonfiction-essays]
Transmetropolitan Vol 4: The New Scum by Warren Ellis [graphic novel]

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