So Much to Read
"A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good."—Samuel Johnson

What did I read in 2023? Several Elin Hilderbrand novels, of which The Love Season was probably the best, but Barefoot was good too. What Happens in Paradise and Nantucket Nights, both solid reads, mixed some mystery in with the beach romance.

I read a couple new books by authors I like: The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez and Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, both of which lived up to expectations. Nunez’s, true to form, was very internal, about a woman stuck in a weird living situation during the pandemic, and Patchett’s, as usual, was much more external; her protagonists don’t spend time doubting themselves, but they always inhabit a richly textured world.

I read a couple somewhat disappointing books by authors I love: the novel Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld and the story collection Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny. Both succumbed to a disturbing recent trend of letting agenda get in the way of art. Heiny gets in some digs at Fox News watchers and throws other signals to make sure her audience knows which side she’s on, and Sittenfeld seems to have written her novel solely to push a narrative about a funny woman who gets the hot guy, not to tell a real story about real people.

I read Liars in Love, a story collection by my old favorite Richard Yates, who thankfully was never one to contort his writing to soothe his readers’ feelings. Yates is great to read if you need a break from modern fiction and want something a bit slower and more substantial, or if you are just missing Mad Men. I also read The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel, who specializes in true stories about oddball loners who pursue their idiosyncratic lives without regard to the damage they inflict on others. The Stranger In the Woods is not nearly as destructive as Stéphane Breitwieser, a Parisian who with the help of his girlfriend and the cooperation of his mother ransacked the museums of Europe for his personal amusement.

I read Pineapple Street, a romcom/family story set in upper middle-class Brooklyn Heights, by Jenny Jackson. She’s an executive editor at Knopf who turned out this perfectly polished novel as her debut, as if she were an ornithologist who suddenly took off in flight.

2022 reviews

2024 reviews

"There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breathgiving air...I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the Yale News—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the 'well-rounded man.' This isn't just an epigram—life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all."—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby