Rather than a list of my favorite books (I can never seem to remember them when pressed), I've decided to keep an absolutely faithful account of what I read. I'll be adding to this list every couple of months. I'm not sure if this page will be of interest to anyone else, but hey, this is the Web—since when was that the criterion?
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
I adored this almost until the very end, when I realized that it wasn't really building to any exciting climax. Kind of bummed me out.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
How does she keep getting better and better?
The Book on Bookies by James Jeffries
Yeah, I'm like five minutes and a stack of dissolving rice paper away from opening my own sportsbook.
Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano
I had no idea this period of history even existed! Amazing.
Knocking on Heaven's Door by Katy Butler
This book blew my mind. Absolutely everyone must read it immediately. It will change how you think about old age and dying.
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Kelly did it again, brought us another heartbreaker that'll keep you laughing and crying.
Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
I love British novels, I really do.
Love Nina, A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe
Crappy chick lit, you say? No! In fact, totally delightful. A wonderful surprise.
Death of a Black-Haired Girl by Robert Stone
I wanted to like this more than I did.
Golden State by Michelle Richmond
I loved this novel. I love the high concept conceit (California seceding!) but more than that I loved the characters.
Benediction by Kent Haruf
My God, this is a magnificent novel. One of the best I've read in years.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adele Waldman
I went in prepared to hate this. I mean, hello? Another A. Waldman? But it was pretty fucking great. The insight into the way these literary boys think about women? Terrific.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
Man, is he ever at the top of his game. This fabulous book totally freaked me out. It made me rethink a hell of a lot about how I interact with the world.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Starts great, but kind of falls a little flat at the end.
A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava
Stupendous. I mean, seriously. Masterful. And it's a first novel!
Posted by ayelet on October 24, 2013.
My Education by Susan Choi
This book was terrific, and terrifically sexy.
HHhH by Laurent Binet
This book was stupendous for the first 200 pages, then suddenly I got sick of the conceit.
Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor
Terrific stories, but man oh man is it bleak.
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
Absolutely his best novel.
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
Man, oh man, I do not get what the big deal is about this book. Snooze.
The People of Forever are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
I feel like I know nothing about Israel. This book blew my mind completely.
Other People's Houses by Lore Segal
She is one of my new favorite novelists.
The Reef by Edith Wharton
Not as magnificent as her others, but still pretty damn good.
American Savage by Dan Savage
Super fun and insightful.
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
My absolute favorite book of the summer. Should win prizes.
Posted by ayelet on August 19, 2013.
Before I head off to a summer of Maine and Italy (!!), I'd better drop a few lines on my spring reading.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
I love historical novels, and I love feminist novels. Gilbert's prose is marvelous, and the story is fun fun fun.
Cooked by Michael Pollan
No one writes like Pollan. I learned an astonishing amount from this book, as usual. And I was inspired to roast a a pork butt! Me!! The person who never cooked.
All That Is by James Salter
Beautiful writing. Some of the best. But far too much of this book was the same, tired "middle-aged man gets laid" story.
Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal
I have never read such an astonishing book about old age. It's remarkable. This woman is one of the best writers I've ever had the privilege of reading.
The Liars Gospel by Naomi Alderman
I would never have expected to love a book about Jesus. I find the subject tiresome in the extreme. But this book is a revelation (?!!). I absolutely loved it.
The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
This lovely beautifully, written novel is the best possible summer read (for those of us who demand excellent prose, even in the summer).
& Sons by David Gilbert
A wonderful novel that I loved almost to the end. Then I suddenly lost interest in the travails of rich New Yorkers. The wild twist kept me excited, though.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Yeah, I read this again. Because it's FUCKING AWESOME.
The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
In the great tradition of boarding school novels. Plus sailing!
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
This one didn't do much for me.
Last Friends by Jane Gardam
Lord how I love Jane Gardam. This book reminds me of the work of Lore Segal. They are both fabulous and you should read them NOW.
Home by Toni Morrison
A nearly-perfect short novel.
Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal
Just as marvelous as her new novel.
The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings
Hilarious and interesting as I embark on my new homeschooling adventure.
Posted by ayelet on June 11, 2013.
The past few months I've allowed myself to read whatever the heck I want. It's been a joy. I'm about to launch into a new novel, and have a pile of biographies on my desk. Saul Below. Vladimir Nabokov. Alma Mahler. Alongside that a few histories of the Côte d'Azur, of Hollywood in the 1940s.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
This one was a reread, after loving Life After Life so much I felt like I needed more Atkinson. It's every bit as good as you want it to be.
The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
Zweig is a killer. Such aching pain. Such tragedy. OY OY OY.
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
I wish I had a complete set of every single New York Review reissue. They're so lovely.
Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig
This slim little novella devastated me. Broke my heart.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
A great, satisfying read.
The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
It was reading this amazing book that made me understand what my new novel was going to be about.
Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This book is so lush, and so compelling, and ultimately it kind of falls apart. But I didn't care.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A serious weeper. And funny, too.
The Riviera Set: From Queen Victoria to Princess Grace by Lita-Rose Betcherman
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
Reread all of these. They're every bit as good as the first few times I read them.
Posted by ayelet on April 12, 2013.
Lots of great reading this time. So happy to be done with my Budapest obsession, the fruits of which will be published in April 2014 by Knopf.
With or Without You by Domenica Ruta.
I'm not usually so into the pain memoir, but the writing is so good, the mother so crazy, that it's worth it.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Purchase by Linda Spaulding
Rich and dense and terrific.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Despite wanting to hate it (dude was NOT nice to my husband) I fell under its spell.
Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
Compelling, but the elephant book is genius.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This book is actually pretty good. Although the ending is hard to swallow.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
Fascinating, beautiful in places, but influenced (of course) by the author's biases, both conscious and unconscious.
If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney
Hilarious. I want her to be my BFF.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fascinating because it recounts an experience unfamiliar to me, but otherwise a bit predictable in terms of prose and story.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
I gobbled this up, refusing to converse with anyone until I'd finished.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Simply marvelous. Read it.
Londoners by Craig Taylor
A must-read for Anglophiles.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Lovely first novel.
Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown
This book is utterly delightful. I know I say that a lot about books, but this one really is delightful.
The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy
I know this book is nuts. It's told from the point of view of elephants, for god sake. But it's magical and heartbreaking. And it changed the way I think about animals in the world.
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
One of the ten best books I've ever read.
Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff
1. I utterly identified with Véra.
2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Everyone should read this book. It should be required reading for every human.
Posted by ayelet on January 28, 2013.
It's been a fine, long stretch of reading for me. Some marvelous books. I'm finally free of the obligation to read everything ever written about the Holocaust in Hungary (though I doubt I cracked the surface), and am reading purely for fun, which is pure joy. I suppose it's getting to be time to consider my next novel, so soon enough I'll have to turn my attention to whatever inspiration will be appropriate for that. Though for the time being, I haven't the faintest idea what I'll do next. TV, at least through the end of the year, and hopefully longer.
Freud's Sister by Goce Smilevski
If this novel has even a jot of truth in it, Freud was a loathsome prick (but we knew that already) who allowed his sisters to be murdered by the Nazis when he could have saved them. Worth a read for those, like me, who are Holocaust-obsessed.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
I'd read McEwan's dream journal (and I despise dreams), so perhaps I'm not a good gauge of this one, but I did like it very much. I like all his books very much. Though the main character here didn't ring quite as true to me as some others of his. It wasn't her callowness. I have teenagers. I know how callow youth is. It was just something about her seemed false.
Traps by MacKenzie Bezos
Bezos is a great, relatively undiscovered, talent. She's got a miraculous way with a sentence.
The City of Devi by Manil Suri
I am a total sucker for Suri. He blows my mind. And this book is just a fun and fabulous as the rest.
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
This memoir about Rushdie's days under the Iranian Fatwa is fascinating, mostly because it's chock full of literary gossip and payback.
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
Sometimes the prose is delightful, but the sexism so unbearable that it's impossible to enjoy a book. It just comes off as at once boorish and insipid, which is something of a trick. But I hear Parade's End is great, so I'll give it a try before I give up on him as a writer who does not survive his era.
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
A very quick, very sweet and charming (and sad) read.
Time and Again by Jack Finney
I was briefly considering writing a time travel TV show, and read this for that. It was super fun.
Jacob's Folly by Rebecca Miller
This book doesn't necessarily fulfill its ambition, but it's better to strive and not quite succeed than not to try at all. It's fascinating and worth the read.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I totally adored this book. It's experimental in its way, but also a ripping yarn. (See how British I can be?)
Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming
This book was part of the Mass-Observation project in England, where people -- not writers, just regular, normal, not-necessarily-neurotic people -- were asked to keep daily diaries. Nella Last's is remarkably fascinating. She's a terrific writer, but more to the point, the window into the life of a housewife in the thick of the war, the bombings, the rationing, is incredibly interesting. And the food! Gah. Horrible.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
I honestly can't say why I liked this book so much. Probably the stylish prose. Has to be, actually, because I sort of hate Westerns. But I gobbled this up in just a couple of nights.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple
Super, super fun.
Toby's Room by Pat Barker
Barker's Regeneration trilogy are among my favorite books. But now it just feels like she's just treading the same, well-worn path.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Not my cup of tea.
Trapezeby Simon Mawer
I love a good spy story.
Posted by ayelet on November 12, 2012.