Reading a book is like being in a relationship. There are moments you do not want it to end, yet there are also times when you feel more than ready to walk away from it. There are disappointments, but also surprises. Sometimes, there are sequels, which just elongates the pleasure.
I’ve had entire summers dedicated to writers, unable to say goodbye to their language: Mary Gaitskill, Haruki Murakami, Charles Bukowski, even an orgy of Pablo Neruda, Kazim Ali and Hafiz.
It is easy to use the excuse: there is just no time to read a book, but time must be paved and watered.
When I read, I travel to countries and territories I may never get the opportunity to discover. I meet characters who help me to understand myself and the world around me. I read poems that expand my vision. Reading reminds me to always believe in magic.
Here are just a few great books I read this year and highly recommend:
Nevada (Topside Press) by Imogen Binnie. Throughout this book, I felt like I was part of the bike gears turning over bridges as the narrator, Maria, traveled toward and away from herself. I was significantly blown away by this novel and the honest, funny and emotional writing of Imogen Binnie. After reading this book, I purchased, The Collection, which is a phenomenal anthology of transgender writers, including Binnie. I just didn’t want to let go of her yet.
Man Alive (City Lights Publishing) by Thomas Page McBee is a memoir exploring masculinity and a highly focused dissection of the past. It is poetic and brutal and exploratory. I found myself folding over the corners of pages in order to go back to his words. I even underlined some things, faintly, since it was a library book. This one I need to purchase, so I can reread and rediscover.
Prosperity, A Novel (Dog Ear Publishing) by Jenna Leigh Evans. I was blown away by Evans’s vocabulary and cinematic approach to the ways in which debt can be overpowering and (oddly) funny. It is beyond relatable, since I want to believe that everyone is slathered in some form of debt. The entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was watching it. Her mind is so illustrative and she crafted a place that I could see in every scene, down to the color and smell of it all.
For Today I Am a Boy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Kim Fu explored the complex relationship of gender and culture. I fell in love with the protagonist, Peter Huang, and loved being a part of his journey away from and toward home. Kim Fu brings such dynamic characters together up until even the very end of this novel.
An Untamed State (Grove Press) by Roxanne Gay has infiltrated my dreams and has sewed itself to my palm. I am forever changed by the horrific accounts of the protagonist, Miri. Roxanne Gay already had me with “Bad Feminist”. I fell in love with her frankness. Here, in this novel, she captivates my core. I feel bloodied and battered from the scenes she creates.To write that I could not put this down is not exact enough. Even when I put it down, I was reading it. I want to ask Gay: How did you leave these scenes while writing them? How were you able to move through the world (eat lunch with friends, watch a television program, sleep) with these images crafted by your mind and fingers. This book MUST be read.
Retrograde (great weather for MEDIA) by Puma Perl surprised me in such marvelous ways. I’ve been a fan of Puma Perl’s since moving back to Brooklyn almost five years ago. Her poetry is gritty, like rock-n-roll slurs of graffiti against the page. I’ve seen her perform many times and she slides her words out seductively and authoritatively. I have read most of (if not all) of her books and find that this collection shows such immeasurable growth that makes me an even bigger fan than I already was.
the pedestrians (Wave Books) by Rachel Zucker feels like a walk through the subconscious mind. This is what I imagine it might feel like to hold hands with another’s frontal lobe, interlocking fingers with mood and behavioral status. There is a saltiness to her prose. A desperation drenched in almost-stale tears. It is a unique experience to read a book of poetry and want to call it a ‘page-turner’, but this one definitely is.
Here (Mariner Books) by Wislawa Szymborska became my travel date on a long walk through Greenpoint, Brooklyn one day. I carried her words around and could feel the seep of her line breaks saturate my skin; her words drip. I feel full when I read her, like I’ve just eaten a meal full of protein and starches and my insides feel bathed. There is an optimism in her writing that also reveals a bit of loneliness as well.