Saturday, July 19, 2008

52 books in 52 weeks

13. What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain

I returned to teaching this past fall after a long hiatus, and Bain's book was incredibly helpful while developing my curriculum. I was able to go from an unreasoned collection of assignments to a generative and resonant semester-long plan.

14. Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewers by Anna Sklar

My thoughts on this book are old news, but here they are again.

15. Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepherd

This book was so overwhelmingly male that I thought the title was actually mocking me. Whether it was a tale of Yeti hunters or Chernobyl engineers or Hadrian's soldiers or a high school football star, the stories were irrevocably masculine. I do thank Shepherd, though, for lending credence to my long-held theory that The Who is a band for boys.

16. The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter

I didn't really get this book, though I'm generally a Baxter fan. At first, it was a semi-interesting exploration of how someone could fall under the sway of a sociopath or two, but then it seemed to take an Auster-esque turn toward displaced identity that didn't quite work for me.

17. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

I truly enjoyed this collection, as I imagined that I would. I'm an adherent of July's sensibility and just as it's come across in her projects and films, her stories also hum with a slightly desperate, perversely beautiful humanity (see my favorite "This Person"). If I had one criticism, it would be the sexual despair common to so many stories that did not always add to the narrative.

18. Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories by Steven Millhauser

I found the 13 ruminations on obsession fascinating; the stories were thematically repetitive and completely original at the same time. Each tale was a world so magical and possible and profound.

19. Look at Me by Jennifer Egan

I finally gave in to the many recommendations of this book despite my hesitation about reading about a model, a hesitation that seems as shallow as the industry portrayed in the novel. This story is smart and compelling, and I admire Egan for creating such a simultaneously sympathetic and despicable protagonist.

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