Books I Must Read This Year

Photo of BooksI am promiscuous with books. I think about other books while I’m reading a book. I buy books and then get distracted and forget to read them because I’m busy buying other books. I spend as much time looking for and thinking about books as I do reading them.

The thing is: about 200,000 books come out in the U.S. every single year. That’s 2 million books a decade. Even if reading were my full-time job, I’d never get to all the books that interest me. That’s why I rely heavily on recommendations (I ask for yours at the end of this post).

In an effort to curb my literary ADD and take control of my life, I am compiling a list of books I want to read at this moment in time, which is 11:32 a.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2014. Perhaps you, too, will be interested in a few of these titles.

(Obviously this list is in no particular order; that would just be cruel.)


Holding Silvan: A Brief Life by Monica Wesolowska  I’ve tried to read this book before, but I was crying by the end of the Preface.

21 Dog Years: Doing Time by Mike Daisey  Started reading this one the other day. Very funny. Recommended by author Theo Nestor. Check out her list of recommended reads here.

Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield  Recommendation from an editor.

My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta  This book doesn’t come out until August, but it is exactly the kind of unconventional, hard-to-categorize memoir that I most enjoy reading.

An Unsuitable Princess: A True Fantasy | A Fantastical Memoir by Jane Rosenberg LaForge  Another example of the type of memoir that melts my butter.

Remembering the Bone House by Nancy Mairs  Womanhood, sex, multiple sclerosis.

How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran  Recommendation. Bestseller.

Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake In Another Language by Katherine Russell Rich  Recommendation. Travels to India.

Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson  Recommendation. Examination of women’s lives and what success and achievement mean.

Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer  I love Dyer. The L.A. library has this one available electronically, but get in line.


Ha! I don’t read romance novels. My life is a romance novel.


The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison  Jamison is a 30-year old wunderkind, but I’m not holding it against her.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett  Gift from a friend. Been on my Kindle for a few months now.


Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall  Margaret Fuller is the bomb.

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman  I am those people.

The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge by John Bateson Duh? Who wouldn’t want to read this book?

Thinking, Fast and Slow by David Kahneman  This guy won the Nobel Prize in Economics. About how we think and make choices.

In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America by Laurie Edwards  This is a great topic, and I really enjoy Edwards’ writing.

The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro  Recommendation from fellow book lover Albert Sheen. I started reading this a few months ago, and it was fantastic, except it wasn’t the right book. I’d been reading the Passage to Power, which is a later book in the series. I stopped reading it and decided I would start from the beginning.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg  I promised my unofficial sister-in-law, Kristen, that I would read this book, and I am indeed very interested in the topic of women in leadership.

You are Not Special and Other Encouragements by David McCullough Jr.  Heard an NPR interview with this author the other day. He gave a high school commencement speech a few years ago that went viral. This book will explain why students like me were upset by a B+.

The Parenthood Decision: Discovering Whether You are Ready and Willing To Become a Parent by Beverly Engel  If I’m going to over-think anything, it should be this.


Peace Like a River by Leif Enger  Gift from fellow writer, Paige Eve Chant, when I had my sinus surgery in 2008ish. My mom also said it was one of the best novels she’d ever read.

So L.A.: a Novel by Bridget Hoida  Gift from Paige when I moved to L.A. last year.


Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway  Loved Hemingway in college but haven’t read him since. Thought it might be fun to go back and read his work from a writer’s POV, rather than a student’s.

Dubliners by James Joyce  I could only read about 12 pages of Ulyssess, but my friend Albert assures me that I can handle this book.


Writing that Risks: New Work From Beyond the Mainstream Edited by Red Bridge Press. Bought this book at the AWP Conference.

WHAT’S MISSING FROM MY LIST are more books by people of color, and a book of poetry. I also want to read more about world history, but I don’t know where to start. I should probably read more international literature, too. Any help you can give me would be much appreciated. FYI – I enjoy literary books that grapple with the human condition and that make me think. Perhaps because I write memoir, I mostly read memoir.


7 thoughts on “Books I Must Read This Year

  1. Thanks for posting your book list! I need to gather myself and do the same at some point. It’s always useful for booksluts (ahem, “avid readers”) to explain to themselves and others what they’re reading (or want to read) and why.

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Anything by Haruki Murakami! Reading his works is an exercise in mindfulness–your brain will feel as if it’s being kissed 🙂

  3. Albert I don’t think my comment to you went through, so I’ll try again. I get half my book ideas from you, so if you would’ve posted your list, I could’ve just linked to it. Fail, Sheen. Fail.

    • Hi Sharon No, I don’t think I’ve read any of Wendell Berry’s. I’m so ashamed at my lack of poetry knowledge! Thanks so much for the recommendation — I’m adding it to the list!

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