All the Books I’ve Read Since I Moved to NYC

Personal

When I was in graduate school, one of the things I missed most about life outside of student-hood was reading for pleasure. Between my courses and my teaching position, I spent a great deal of my time reading, and rarely had the mental energy to pick up a book outside of that, just for entertainment.  Upon moving to New York City in September of 2017, I had two immediate goals: to find a steady job that would support my musical endeavors, and to read more. I promptly joined a friend’s book club and through it found a full-time job in a bookstore – somehow managing to achieve one goal and make the second unavoidably reachable – within two weeks of my arrival.

Maybe it’s because I was missing the organization of grad school, or maybe I am just a deeply obsessive reader, but for whatever reason, I decided to keep a list of every book I read. It’s been very cathartic, and proves useful when I am asked for recommendations. The list is in a little notebook which has plenty of pages left to fill, but I feel compelled to digitize it as well. I have included quotations that I found particularly striking – I write them on the pages opposite the list itself. So, without further elaboration, here is a chronological list of every book (and a few short stories) I have read since I moved to NYC:

[2017: September–December]

The Girls – Emma Cline

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams

The New Jim Crow* – Michelle Alexander

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

Night Shift – Ron Kolm

How I Became A Nun – César Aira

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body* – Roxane Gay

Witches, Sluts, Feminists – Kirsten J. Solée

Heather: The Totality – Matthew Weiner

Timequake – Kurt Vonnegut

          “I define a saint as a person who behaves decently in an indecent society.”

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Gratitude – Oliver Sacks

I Love Dick – Chris Kraus

          “To be in love with someone means believing that to be in someone else’s presence is the only means of being, completely, yourself.”
          “Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill – getting larger ’cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart, and mind.”

We Have Always Lived in the Castle* – Shirley Jackson

The Hate U Give* – Angie Thomas

Life Among the Savages* – Shirley Jackson

Notes of a Crocodile – Qiu Miaojin

[2018]

World of Wakanda – Roxane Gay with Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

          “To oppose something is to maintain it.”

Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan

Not One Day – Anne Garretta

          “But we have learned that this world is traitorous and that the surest way to preserve what we cherish is to devalue it overtly so that no one would think to take it, to flaunt it so that no one can expose it for what it is or steal it.”

Heating/Cooling* – Beth Ann Feeley

There, There* – Tommy Orange

The Purity Myth* – Jessica Valenti

         “What’s the difference between venerating women for being fuckable and putting them on a purity pedestal? In both cases, women’s worth is contingent upon their ability to please men and to shape their sexual identities around what men want.”
Quoting bell hooks:
          “For me forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”

The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Annie John – Jamaica Kincaid

          “Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my mother. Out of the corner of my other eye, I could see her shadow on the wall, cast there by the lamplight. It was a big and solid shadow, and it looked so much like my mother that I became frightened. For I could not be sure whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.”

Jane: A Murder – Maggie Nelson

The Red Parts – Maggie Nelson

Future Sex – Emily Witt

His Own Where* – June Jordan

Kindred – Octavia Butler

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights* – Katha Pollitt

On Imagination – Mary Ruefle

A Little White Shadow – Mary Ruefle

Heavens on Earth – Carmen Boullosa

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

Redefining Realness – Janet Mock

The Wild Iris* – Louise Glück

Giovanni’s Room* – James Baldwin

Not That Bad* – ed. Roxane Gay

We Were Feminists Once* – Andi Zeisler

Priestdaddy* – Patricia Lockwood

An Untamed State – Roxane Gay

Difficult Women – Roxane Gay

The Argonauts* – Maggie Nelson

George* – Alex Gino

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

Citizen* – Claudia Rankine

Boy Erased – Garrard Conley

Maud Martha* – Gwendolyn Brooks

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools* – Monique J. Morris

If Beale Street Could Talk* – James Baldwin

          “I guess it can’t be too often that two people can laugh and make love, too, make love because they are laughing, laugh because they are making love. The love and the laughter come from the same place: but not many people go there.”

The Testament of Mary – Colm Toíbin

Beautiful Losers – Leonard Cohen

Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black – Cookie Mueller

The Guest Cat – Tikashi Hiraide

Coyote Doggirl – Lisa Hanawalt

Adele – Leila Slimani

The Tree – John Fowles

          “It is not necessarily too little knowledge that causes ignorance; possessing too much, or wanting to gain too much, can produce the same result.”
          “There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, every line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter.”

The Witches – Roald Dahl

Call Them by Their True Names* – Rebecca Solnit

          “I sometimes wonder when I’m at a mass march, like the January 2017 Women’s March, whether the reason it matters is because some unknown young person is going to find her purpose in life that will only be evident to the rest of us when she changes the world in twenty years, when she becomes a great liberator.

Sonny’s Blues* – James Baldwin

Blood Child – Octavia Butler

Reckless Daughter* – David Yaffe

Autobiography of Red* – Anne Carson

You Have the Right to Remain Fat – Vergie Tovar

Ultraluminous – Katherine Faw

Friday Black* – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

[2019]

Zami* – Audre Lorde

Sex Object* – Jessica Valenti

Educated – Tara Westover*

Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake

I’m Just a Person – Tig Notaro

Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson

Currently reading: The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

*Favorite. I know I have a lot of favorites; the books that I marked here are ones that I would read again, and recommend to just about anyone.