December 29, 2010

My Year in Reading

I firmly believe that being am avid reader is the first step to being a good writer. And at the end of every year, I like to look back on everything I read. So here are the highlights of my reading year.

Best New Poetry Collection: Okay, I admit it. I didn't read any new poetry this year. I read a lot of poetry, actually - just nothing that was published in 2010. This was a year of discovery for me, rather than a year of jumping towards new works.

Best Discovered Poetry Collection: New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. I'd been exposed to Boland's poems in college, but never took the time to really read them. This year, I finally gave myself the chance to be immersed in her work.

Best New Novel: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It's a tough book for me, emotionally. It sometimes hits my triggers. But it's brilliant - definitely his best.

Best Discovered Novel: Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. This was an unsolicited loan. A friend of mine finished the book, was convinced I'd like it, and brought it to me to borrow. And she was right! I love it when someone actually knows my taste.

Best New Nonfiction Book: Just like in 2009, I didn't actually read any new nonfiction. I read quite a bit of older nonfiction as research for various novels, but nothing new. Maybe next year.

Best Discovered Nonfiction Book: The Last Madame of New Orleans by Christina Wiltz. While Wiltz is not the best prose stylist I've ever encountered, she tells a great story, and writes on a fascinating subject.

Best New Collection or Anthology: Alison's Wonderland, edited by Alison Tyler. I wasn't quite sure I was going to like it, but it's proving to be one of my favorite anthologies, erotic or otherwise, of all time.

Best Discovered Collection or Anthology: Cathedral by Raymond Carver. While the feminist in me gets frustrated by Carver's relentless focus on white, lower-middle-class men, he's a brilliant stylist and he really knows how to write heartbreak.

Best New Short Story: "That Girl" by Cherry Bomb (from Fast Girls, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel). This is the first fiction piece with a character I could identify with completely. I'd never seen my sexual self represented in fiction before - hell, even my own characters aren't quite me. But the protagonist of "That Girl" resonated with me so much that I've probably read the story ten times already.

Best Discovered Short Story: "Fever" by Raymond Carver. A moving depiction of lost love that came to me right at a time when I really needed it. This piece will always stay with me.

Best New Periodical: Filament Magazine, without question. I aspire to have one of my stories grace their pages.

Best Discovered Periodical: Actually, I didn't really discover any established periodicals this year. I picked up Filament, but didn't look into other established periodicals beyond The Kenyon Review, which I read regularly.

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