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

Shortly after moving to New York in the fall of 2017, I found a job in an independent bookstore. I had finished grad school that spring, and was ready to get back in to recreational reading (something I let fall by the wayside when I was a student).

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 (and had the wherewithal to record) – I write them on the pages opposite the list itself; I have also reproduced some of my “staff pick” endorsements from my bookselling days. So, without further elaboration, here is a reverse-chronological list of every book (and a few short stories) I have read since I moved to NYC:

[2020]

Currently reading: Looking for Lorraine – Imani Perry

Currently reading: for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf –Ntozake Shange

Currently reading: Sonnets to Orpheus – Ranier Maria Rilke

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches – Audre Lorde

The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin

Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

Milkman – Anna Burns

Even though it’s not really my style, I admired the writing in this novel very much. Anna Burns has the sort of easy-to-miss, wry, dark humor that characterize Pynchon or Wallace, but her clearly feminist viewpoint sets her apart from those dudes. The world in Milkman is terrifying because it is not different from reality, and yet the climate is one of paranoia, suspicion, and self-doubt. This is not a fun read, but it is a good one.

[2019]

Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson

Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

This book changed my life when I first read it in 2015; it was my introduction to intersectional feminism, and its many salient points were just as striking to me now. Roxane Gay is an icon. That is all.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life – Samantha Irby

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now – Jaron Lanier

The Overstory – Richard Powers

Rising Out of Hatred – Eli Saslow

The true story of Derek R Black, who was raised at the center of the white supremacist movement, and how he became an antiracist activist. It’s an inspiring, barely-believable story of the value of listening to others.

A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry

Duke and Jill – Ron Kolm

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

The Faggots and their Friends Between Revolutions – Larry Mitchell & Ned Asta

Falter – Bill McKibben

This is is a thoughtful, expansive, and somehow even funny examination of the ways in which humanity has fucked itself over, and how all of these problems seem to be coming to a head right now. From climate change to the wealth gap to gene editing and AI, McKibben’s cold facts and hot takes will leave you reeling. A must-read.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers

Best novel I have ever read.

Sa Femme – Emmanuelle Bernheim

The Book of Essie – Meghan Maclean Weir

Paul takes the form of a mortal girl – Andrea Lawlor

I went in expecting a fun, easy read – and while this book is wildly entertaining, it offers much more than just that. The writing is clever and personal – you’ll fall right in love with Paul whether or not you’d want to be his friend in real life – and the story is a whirlwind tour through turn-of-the-millenium queer culture. There is just so much to love about this book.

The Houseguest and Other Stories – Amparo Dávila

Though these stories were written in the middle of the 20th century, this is the first time they’ve been published in English translation (2018). The writing is gorgeous and each story is original and totally creepy – it strikes me as a blend of James Baldwin’s writing and Shirley Jackson’s most morbid thoughts.

Sabrina – Nick Drnaso

Girl Town – Carolyn Nowak

Born A Crime – Trevor Noah

Crush – Richard Siken

Mrs. Caliban – Rachel Ingalls

The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson

I’m Just a Person – Tig Notaro

Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake

Educated – Tara Westover

Sex Object – Jessica Valenti

Zami – Audre Lorde

[2018]

Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

It’s like reading “Black Mirror:” Each of these stories creates a world of its own – one that feels completely real as soon as you step into it. Adjei-Brenyah’s writing is clear and smart and totally engrossing. This is a book you won’t want to put down.

Ultraluminous – Katherine Faw

You Have the Right to Remain Fat – Vergie Tovar

Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson

Reckless Daughter – David Yaffe

This Joni Mitchell biography is a spellbinding portrait of one of the greatest Western folk musicians of all time. I was a Joni fan before reading it, but afterwards I felt so much more connected to her incredible work.

Blood Child – Octavia Butler

Sonny’s Blues – James Baldwin

Call Them by Their True Names – Rebecca Solnit

Like Solnit’s other essay collections, this is a slim but powerful volume. These essays address topics from climate change to voter suppression to gentrification, but all return to a common theme: the power that words can have when they are used carefully and precisely. Solnit demonstrates this notion as she explores it; her writing is delicately crafted, dense yet accessible. An inspiring read for worn-out activists.

          “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.

The Witches – Roald Dahl

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.”

Adele – Leila Slimani

Coyote Doggirl – Lisa Hanawalt

The Guest Cat – Tikashi Hiraide

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

Beautiful Losers – Leonard Cohen

The Testament of Mary – Colm Toíbin

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.”

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

Maud Martha – Gwendolyn Brooks

Boy Erased – Garrard Conley

Citizen – Claudia Rankine

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

George – Alex Gino

The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson

Difficult Women – Roxane Gay

An Untamed State – Roxane Gay

Priestdaddy – Patricia Lockwood

This book is SO funny and SO smart. The “Poet Laureate of Twitter” lets her distinctive voice shine while addressing complex current issues through a personal lens.

We Were Feminists Once – Andi Zeisler

Not That Bad – ed. Roxane Gay

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

The Wild Iris – Louise Glück

Redefining Realness – Janet Mock

This is everything a memoir should be: fascinating, vulnerable, relatable, and inspiring. Janet Mock’s message of compassion and self-love is one we can all learn from.

One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Heavens on Earth – Carmen Boullosa

A Little White Shadow – Mary Ruefle

On Imagination – Mary Ruefle

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights – Katha Pollitt

Kindred – Octavia Butler

His Own Where – June Jordan

Future Sex – Emily Witt

The Red Parts – Maggie Nelson

Jane: A Murder – Maggie Nelson

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.”

The Vegetarian – Han Kang

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?”

There, There – Tommy Orange

Heating/Cooling – Beth Ann Feeley

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.”

Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

          “To oppose something is to maintain it.”

World of Wakanda – Roxane Gay with Ta-Nehisi Coates

[2017: From September]

Notes of a Crocodile – Qiu Miaojin

Life Among the Savages – Shirley Jackson

If you are/have/know a mom, this hilarious memoir will resonate with you. It’s one giant eye-roll at the patriarchy, and a delightfully wry, incisive-yet-lighthearted read from a writer best known for her unsettling fiction.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

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.”

Gratitude – Oliver Sacks

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Timequake – Kurt Vonnegut

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

Heather: The Totality – Matthew Weiner

Witches, Sluts, Feminists – Kirsten J. Solée

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

How I Became A Nun – César Aira

Night Shift – Ron Kolm

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams

The Girls – Emma Cline

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