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Pleasure reading 2009

December 20, 2009
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I read many more books for fun this year than the rest of my grad career combined, for two reasons. First, I had a relatively free summer and a relatively manageable fall semester that included two publishing courses (which are not nearly as labor-intensive on the eyeballs as lit theory classes), only one class to teach, no internships, and only a few freelance editing and writing jobs here and there. Second, I gave audiobooks a shot and found they’re perfect for people who like to read and clean, read and walk, or read and eat (I do a lot of all of those things).

This comparatively light schedule and newly discovered hands-free format meant I had time for the following memorable reads in 2009 (and many more unmemorable ones that will remain unchronicled):

  • Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein: Although this was technically work related, I still would have read it for fun, so it makes the list. For anyone interested in Japan, crime, or adventure, this is a fantastic and interesting book.
  • For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander: Beautifully crafted stories, but a bit over my head culturally. I’ve taken Holocaust literature courses in the past, but I still think I missed a lot. Touching nonetheless.
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafron: Great quick read, very mainstream friendly.
  • Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco: Dense and laughably technologically outdated, but I like Eco’s use of language (and this particular book’s use of language), so it was a stimulating read.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Larissa Volokhonsky: Much better than other translations.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville: I listened to this in podcast form from Librivox and it was fantastic!
  • O Pioneers! by Willa Cather: Another Librivox podcast, and while I think it would make a much better read in print, it was still a lovely story (and much shorter than the other books I tackled this year).
  • Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert, translated by Eleanor Marx-Aveling: Great book, but not great as an audiobook. I had a hard time following the story if I missed so much as a sentence due to distraction.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson, unabridged versions, translated by Reg Keeland, read by Simon Vance: Amazingly addictive! I haven’t read the print versions, but the audio was great.
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris: I found this laying around one day, and while it was very nicely written, I didn’t feel any connection to the author despite the unflinchingly candid stories.

As last week marked the end of the final semester of my graduate degree, I hope to have much more time to read for the sake of reading in 2010.

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