What I Read in 2019

The following is a list of all the books I read in calendar year 2019. Despite it being an extremely busy year, I still managed to squeeze in reading time, mostly by avoiding distractions like sleep. I only listed the books I completed.

In this list are 26 fiction titles, 19 poetry collections, and 5 books of nonfiction. On a five point scale, almost all of these were in the 3 to 5 range. I only scored two books lower than 3. I’m not including scores here because I included them in GoodReads and, less consistently, LibraryThing.

What this list doesn’t show is all of the short fiction and individual poems I read in mailing lists, magazines, websites, literary journals and the like. Those together would probably equal around a thousand pages, or say four additional books.

I can say that it was the poetry books that got me to 50 titles for the year. Not that poetry is trite or easier to read than prose; it is simply that poetry books (the works of Evan S. Connell notwithstanding) are in the main shorter than prose works.

Though each of these books was in some way remarkable, I want to specifically call out five of them for sticking with me well after reading:

  • Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin (fiction)
  • Here: Poems for the Planet, edited by Elizabeth Coleman (poetry)
  • Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang (nonfiction)
  • The Language of Saxophones by Kamau Daaood (poetry)
  • Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski (memoir)

For 2020 I will track my reading a little differently: I will keep two lists, one for books and the other for short prose. As I ramp up my writing practice I will be reading A LOT of short stories as study for my own work. Keeping an account of this reading will help me figure out my own skills and shortcomings in the art.

Date Author Title
2019.01.17 Palmer, Ada Too Like the Lightning
2019.01.25 Steinmetz, Ferret Fix
2019.02.12 Greylock, TL The Blood-Tainted Winter
2019.02.14 Tucker, Phil Death March
2019.02.18 Clark, P. Djeli The Black God’s Drums
2019.02.25 Hernandez, Catherine Scarborough
2019.02.27 Link, Kelly Origin Stories
2019.03.13 Adams, John Joseph and LaValle, Victor (eds.) A People’s Future of the United States
2019.03.27 Oliver, Mary Why I Wake Early
2019.03.29 Huey, Amorak Ha Ha Ha Thump
2019.03.31 Dickinson, Seth The Monster Baru Cormorant
2019.04.02 Ferlinghetti, Lawrence A Coney Island of the Mind (50th anniversary edition)
2019.04.03 Ridl, Jack Saint Peter and the Goldfinch
2019.04.04 sax, sam madness
2019.04.11 Kocher, Ruth Ellen When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering
2019.04.13 Montes, Lara Mimosa The Somnambulist
2019.04.21 Cooper, Wyn Postcards from the Interior
2019.04.24 Evans, CJ A Penance
2019.04.25 Vodolazkin, Eugene Laurus
2019.04.30 Ostups, Artis Gestures
2019.05.10 Palmer, D. Thourson Ours is the Storm
2019.05.20 Comola, Jessica everything we met changed form & followed the rest
2019.05.26 Townsend, Tracy The Nine
2019.06.13 Coleman, Elizabeth J. (ed.) Here: Poems for the Planet
2019.06.20 Brace, Kristin Each Darkness Inside
2019.06.30 Krieger, Scott Illyrian Fugue
2019.07.01 Liu, Ken The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary
2019.07.04 Tomlinson, Patrick The Ark
2019.07.07 Tomlinson, Patrick Trident’s Forge
2019.07.12 Roanhorse, Rebecca Storm of Locusts
2019.07.17 Kowal, Mary Robinette Scenting the Dark and Other Stories
2019.07.27 Turgenev, Ivan First Love and Other Stories
2019.08.06 Kuznia, Yanni (ed.) A Fantasy Medley 2
2019.08.23 Chateaureynaud, Georges-Olivier A Life on Paper
2019.08.28 Daaood, Kamau The Language of Saxophones
2019.09.01 Serna, Rudolfo A. Snow Over Utopia
2019.09.06 Ivanova, Adelaide The Hammer
2019.09.19 Jin, Yong A Hero Born
2019.09.19 Breedlove, Lynn 45 Thought Crimes
2019.09.23 George, Jenny The Dream of Reason
2019.09.28 Kooser, Ted Local Wonders
2019.09.30 Rhein, Christine Wild Flight
2019.10.18 Harrison, Jim True North (re-read)
2019.10.29 Pimentel Chacon, Sasha Insides She Swallowed
2019.11.16 Straczynski, J. Michael Becoming Superman
2019.11.17 Buckell, Tobias It’s All Just a Draft
2019.12.02 Ashton, Dyrk Paternus: Wrath of Gods
2019.12.05 James, Marlon Black Leopard, Red Wolf
2019.12.17 Wang, Jackie Carceral Capitalism
2019.12.19 Fisher, Mark Capitalist Realism

Paws for Poetry

First, the most important news of the year. As of Christmas day, 2019, we have a cat! Internet, meet Poe, our Yooper ginger kitten. As near as we can tell he is about five months old. We adopted him from my girlfriend’s sister’s farm in Rudyard. Or rather, he adopted us. All of the cats were approachable, but Poe was the only one who stuck around to socialize after being fed.

Zyra named him after Edgar Allan Poe. Addressing someone as “po” is also a sign of respect in Tagalog and other Filipino dialects. And before anyone asks, no the cat was not named after Poe Dameron from the latest Star Wars trilogy.

(When I announced the kitten acquisition on Facebook the fine folks there suggested names like “Gravy”, “Pasty”, and “Poutine”. Poutine would in fact be a good name for a cat.)

Unless something exciting happens in the next two days, the January 2020 issue of Poetry will likely be the last acquisition to the Library at Winkelman Abbey for 2019. And that is fine. I have more than enough to read over the next few months, and since I want to hit the ground running on January 2 with lots of writing, editing and submitting, I won’t have as much time to read and catalog. I think of all my various subscriptions I will only be keeping three going into the new year: Poetry, Paris Review and And Other Stories. I might renew the subscription to Restless Books, but I need to draw the line somewhere.

In reading news, I haven’t done much in the past week. Still working through Gore Capitalism and occasionally edging carefully past my copy of A Thousand Plateaus on the way to and from the kitchen, lest I startle it into attacking me.

I doubt I will start reading any new books before the new year; too many and-of-year projects to complete, too much food to eat, and wow, do kittens require a lot of attention.

Happy New Year, everyone!

(PS: You cant have Poetry without Poe! Poetry without Poe is just “try”.)

The Shortest Day of 2019

As we roll into the holidays I have come down with one of the many and varied species of Crud which roll through Grand Rapids on an almost weekly basis. This makes me sad as this, the shortest day of the year, is also one of the most beautiful and sunniest we have had in months, with temperatures in the mid-40s (F) and local squirrels suddenly regretting having grown such thick pelts for the winter.

We had a surprising stack of books arrive here at the Library this week. I suspect it was various publishers rushing to complete their 2019 tasks before the end of the year. As a former publisher (about which more below) I can understand that.

At top left is A Creative Sojourn, a spur-of-the-moment Kickstarter backing which looks like it has a lot of content near and dear to my own heart, it being a journal of sorts kept by a group of creatives as they toured China and Tibet. The nest two are the latest from my subscription to Deep Vellum, Life Went On Anyway by Oleg Sentsov and Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River by Jung Young Moon.

At bottom left is issue 7 of Salvage, which should keep my head in the appropriate place for the rest of the holidays. Next to it is Michael Burstein’s collection I Remember the Future from Apex Books. On the bottom right is the latest from my subscription to And Other Stories, Luke Brown’s Theft.

In reading news I finished Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism and Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and, mind blown, moved immediately on to Gore Capitalism by Sayak Valencia. I have to say, this type of reading has put my head in an interesting and uncomfortable place, which I think can best be summed up by a tweet I posted yesterday:

Any sufficiently eldritch abomination is indistinguishable from capitalism. Corollary: Any abomination which is distinguishable from capitalism is insufficiently eldritch.

So, yeah, when I’m done with the leftist books I might need some time to reintegrate into the ever (and increasingly) wingnutty world of West Michigan.

Anyway.

A few days ago I removed from the Caffeinated Press offices the remaining copies of the twelve issues of The 3288 Review. And with that, my involvement with Caffeinated Press has ended. It was a good run, but now it’s over, and at present my strongest associated emotion is relief. I suspect that as time goes on my feelings will drift over to nostalgia tinged with regret as, for all its frustrations and long nights, it really was a lot of fun and quite rewarding in all ways except the financial.

Maybe I’ll do it again some day.

The Last Quiet Moments Before the Holidays

Oh, holidays. You never fail to leave me exhausted, burned out and tired of the presence of other humans.

As the year winds down everything within it winds up and thus the already limited available time vanishes at an ever-increasing pace. Fortunately I don’t have much to buy for the holidays and most of the shopping is already done. All that’s left is travel, and that will be done just after Christmas, which will leave a few days for sitting around the house and doing absolutely nothing.

This was a light week for acquisitions here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. On the left is the latest issue of Dreamforge Magazine. In the middle is the latest issue of Rain Taxi, and on the right is the latest (and fortieth!) issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet from the always-superb Small Beer Press. These are timely as, per last week’s note, I plan to focus my reading on short fiction in 2020, and I have several years of back issues of many magazines and journals to work through.

In reading news, I am almost done with Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism from Semiotext(e) and it has put me in quite a mood. I am sure my writing and social media presence will reflect the influence thereof, as well as that of the other books in the stack I mentioned last week. It’s a capitalism time of year, in all its gory details.

Tomorrow after work I will head into the Caffeinated Press office to load up several boxes of books to add to the stack of boxes in my attic. At some point I may catalog them and figure out new homes at various libraries and used book stores,  but for now in boxes they will remain.

And as far as Caffeinated Press goes, that will be that. I will roll into the new year unencumbered.

Entering the Home Stretch of 2019

Wow. That year went quickly and also dragged like a drunk sloth. And we still have three weeks to go.

Last week was fairly quiet for the acquisitions department here at the library of Winkelman Abbey. Most of my subscriptions have wound down and I am not out and about purchasing new books as frequently as I have in past years. I don’t consider that a particular problem as I have enough unread books here that, were I to quit all other obligations and devote my life to reading, I would still have difficulty making it through the pile before 2030. For every 36-page poetry collection I have a matching 800+ page genre novel, and more of each are published every day.

In the middle of the above stack is the latest issue of The Paris Review. On the left is Soft Science, a poetry collection by Franny Choi which I purchased on impulse when I visited Books & Mortar to pick up my special order of the book on the right, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher.

With the Fisher book in hand I now have a good stack of holiday reading, which I consider appropriate for some good holiday reading here at the end of 2019.

All of these books have arrived at the Abbey within the last year.

With NaNoWriMo over and Caffeinated Press winding down, as well as various other obligations on hiatus for the month, I have had a lot of time to read, which has been wonderful! I completed Dyrk Ashton‘s excellent Paternus: Wrath of Gods last weekend, and shortly after made it to the end of the magnificent Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. Both books have sequels in the works, and they cannot arrive soon enough!

Currently I am about a third of the way through Jackie Wang‘s Carceral Capitalism. For this (and the other books in the holiday reading photo) I am going back to my roots as a student and treating the reading as a learning assignment. I am taking notes and cross-referencing, underlining long stretches of text with a blue ball-point pen. The experience has been enlightening, if such a word applies to a book as astonishing, infuriating and depressing as this one.

In my spare moments I have been organizing all of my completed, mostly-written, and partially-written poems and short stories, and sorting them into stacks based on whether or not I think they are ready to send out into the wild. Based on the advice Tobias Buckell offered in It’s All Just a Draft I have put together several lists of potential targets at which to fire off my work – fiction, nonfiction poetry, genre and themed deadlines and anthologies. Gotta be somebody, somewhere who wants to publish the work of a burned out, disaffected fifty-something dude.

With 2019, and therefore the decade, winding down, many think-pieces are surfacing on the internet, looking back on the events of 2009-2019 and how now compares to then. I have not decided if I will do something like that. If so it will certainly happen in the last day or so of the year. Wouldn’t want to miss a last-minute event.