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Friday, January 3, 2014

Some of what we read in 2013

These are not recommendations.

I was not paid to write about these books.

These are simply some of the books my kids and I read in 2013. I didn't include my wife's books because she hates social media and wouldn't want people knowing what she read (she read more than all of us combined this past year btw).

This was the first year my daugher, 8, finally started consuming series books at high speed. Clementine, Ivy & Bean, and the Babysitter's Club graphic novels were big. Her top book by far, though, was Smile written and drawn by Raina Telegemeier, a tale of a girl's dental adventures. This became sort of phenomenon amongst third grade girls at her school. She was on the waiting list at the library for it and desperate to get it so I just went ahead and bought it for her. A good investment. She read it like 15 times.

For me this was a year of the novel. I've spent so much of my life focused on history books and in 2013 I just didn't feel like reading the same kind of books I have for a long time (lots of biographies and popular histories). So I binged on novels. A lot of them I read on my phone. Not sure how I feel about this. Some of the ones I read in their actual physical form -- and could find in my disastrous post-holiday house -- you can see above.

Yes, I read the Story of O (I never had!) and James Salter's sex ode, A Sport and A Pastime. I am not ashamed.

I had never read Jesus' SonCivilWarLand in Bad Decline, nor White Teeth before this year. I loved Johnson's novels so this was an oversight I needed to correct. George Saunders is another I finally got to and he pretty much took over my life as I debauched on most of his catalog on my phone during a two- or three-week period. Zadie Smith I finally tried after becoming entranced by her New Yorker piece on Joni Mitchell. Glad we finally got together, me and Zadie.

I read & Sons with an online book club with some friends who live in other places. We "met" on GooglePlus. It was really fun but we haven't successfully begun a second book. We began American Dervish together but I think only I finished it. Emily, Faiuna, etc: can we start again please? (sorry to quote Jesus Christ Superstar)

I finished vol. 3 of Robert Caro's LBJ biography and almost finished the fourth. These books are a problem for me. When I get near the end of one I put it aside, afraid of what my life will be like without it.

I read the kids the first two Harry Potter books and started the third. They're finally ready. I'm trying not to be a lunatic but I really want to get all crazy doing the voices and making it super scary and reading a whole lot at one sitting, often more than they can handle. Advice on this welcome.

Darin Strauss and I ended up following each other on Twitter. Not sure why. But I'm glad we did because I've discovered his writing (which everyone else already knew about it). He was nice enough to send me a copy of his memoir Half A Life after I tweeted about the copy I ordered being stolen from my porch (I like to think of the moment when the thieves, thinking they had some sweet electronics or something, opened the packages to find an elegiac literary memoir and two volumes of the Clementine chapter books). I sent him some albums for his kids in return.

Michael Hearst's wonderful encyclopedia of hard-to-believe read living things, Unusual Creatures, was revisited a lot. So were the books of Ezra Jack Keats. The Dees did a whole show based on his work at the Contemporary Jewish Museum along with Rudy Trubitt back in February and this started our family reacquaintance with books we knew (Snowy Day, Peter's Chair) and our introduction to ones we didn't (Regards to the Man in the Moon -- a book that forced me to have a number of conversations about 9/11 due to its beautiful picture of the old mighty towers).

Tomi Ungerer's Moon Man never gets old. Both kids still want it time to time.

Robert Sullivan's book about following in Washington's steps -- literally -- makes the whole experience of living in this crowded dirty part of the world much more pleasant. I think about it all the time. (I might have actually read this in 2012 but I can't remember)

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths rules more every time you open it. But you know that. Persephone's tale was my 5yo son's most-requested of this past year.

I continued to re-read Paul Reyes' Exiles in Eden as Roy Nathanson and I revised the script and the songs for our musical Trashed Out that was inspired by it.

Morrissey's Autobiography: Booker Prize I say. It's as good as fiction so why not?

What am I forgetting? A lot. Jeanette Winterson! My friend Joy leant me two of her books and I read them in a week. Had heard of her but thought she was a romance novelist. Had no idea she was this icon of feminist and lesbian literature. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is about me! Well none of the specifics but the general feeling, the truth of every moment.

I'm sure I'll think of some other stuff worth mentioning and when I do I'll update this page.

What did you read?


some other stuff that I remembered we read:

my 8yo daughter 
To Dance, a ballerina's graphic novel  by Siena Cherson Siegel with artwork by Mark Siegel
The Whole World's Crazy and at least one book in Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules! series
at least one of those My Dumb Diary books
Radioactive, a Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss (the stunning graphic novel about Marie and Pierre Curie)
Weird, But True (put out by National Geographic) and many other fact-filled "can you believe it" true science books with similar titles. She often read these at the table (until we asked her to put them away) and quoted weird facts at length.

my 5yo son
(these are books I read to him)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and the sequels (my wife has been reading these to both kids)
I Am Optimus Prime, Bumblebee's Best Friend, Luke Skywalker's Amazing Story, Star Wars: Blast Off! and many other terribly written, super-thin beginning reader books about Transformers, Star Wars, Spiderman, Ninjago, and other characters who deserve books that are at least a little bit better. If your kid is into these worlds, though, the encyclopedias are the way to go. Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary has been with us for at least three years (at one time it helped my son get over his fear of going to bathroom -- our deal was that I'd read it to him while he sat on the toilet) and we still continue to return to it.
and, of course, Captain Underpants and Commander Toad

2014 Ulysses book club

Yes, the James Joyce Ulysses. I've been wanting to do a musical book club for it and I finally finally have some co-readers.

Here's the basic plan if you'd like to join us:

- We'll read the Gabler edition

- We'll read two episodes a month. You can find a guide to the episodes here: Following this guide you should read to page 30 by the end of January. That's doable, right?

- We'll have meetings online and in person. If you're able to meet in person in the NYC area we'll sing songs that show up in the text (this is the whole reason I'm doing the club).

That's it! Get to reading. I hope you're as excited as I am.