I’m not going to say it was a bad reading year, but I’m going to say I was maybe a bad reader, or not my best reader, for some portions of the back half. I think my mood got away from me for a while and some books that I either put a lot of time into or that I was really excited about didn’t land right. It happens. (And I guess that’s what perpetually saying I’m going to reread things is for, after all.)

Still, of course, there were some real hits in there that I’m not sure I’ve mentioned yet. Lojman by Ebru Ojen (translated by Aron Aji and Selin Gökçesu) was particularly memorable. Combining my low-key love for stories that set folks against raw, primal-feeling backdrops (Trilogy by Jon Fosse did this a bit) with a fairly, shall we say, less-than-rosy view of motherhood, Lojman made for a quick and unsettling read. Highly recommended if you’re in the mood to get weird. (Thanks to Rebecca Hussey for this recommendation, though I don’t know if she knew she was actually recommending it to me at the time!)

I’ve read both The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle and have loved both and have lived under the bizarre, misbegotten belief that Shirley Jackson’s previous books were not great, which record thankfully Christine set straight for me, leading to me picking up Hangsaman and loving that one, too. There were parts early on where I think I laughed out loud, which isn’t something I expected to do with a Jackson novel, one of which points was a fairly critical turning point of the book that was so upsetting but also just so well-put I couldn't help but laugh through my horror across the span of five or six perfect little words. Being in large part a campus novel the book also made for a mildly surreal read reading it over lunch breaks on the town square of the college campus where I work.

Earlier in the year I read Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by (the writer) Elizabeth Taylor and was just knocked out of my chair by it more than once. I know I set out a big ambitious outline of things I wanted to say about it that got lost in the rust of the rest of the year. It might be one from last year I’m most tempted to go revisit just so I can try to at least point out in better detail how it actually moved me.

I ended the year with Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart which mostly left me feeling really depressed and anxious. I mean, it’s a good book, and it’s sometimes a very funny book, but, like, I don’t know. I saw the movie Idiocracy for the first time sometime last year I think and in ways the book kind of just felt like prequel fan-fiction? In the way that both works kind of hit differently when you’re coming to them today rather than when they first came out. Since Idiocracy came out we’ve had an actual literal moron television clown in the White House and since Super Sad True Love Story came out it basically became just a super sad true story about the world and also the moron television clown is somehow still around and ready to murder us all to get power back so he can murder us all some more. Which made it all kind of a tough novel to casually pick up and read for fun while I was, you know, already giving myself heart palpitations while also trying to enjoy the holidays with my kids, huh.