(At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2024

Art by Yasmina Reza (January)
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (January Bonus Round!)
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (January Bonus Round!)
My Ántonia by Willa Cather (January Bonus Round!)
Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard (January Bonus Round!)
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (February)
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (February Bonus Round!)
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (February Bonus Round!)

See also:
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2017
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2018
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2019
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2020
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2021
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2022
- (At Least) 12 Books in 12 Months - 2023

Art by Yasmina Reza (January)

I was assigned this book for my Literature and the Law class. Really liked it! Like a Seinfeld episode. Listened to a recording of a performance on file with the library, rather than reading the physical copy, which worked really well because the voices helped keep the characters separate. I would like to read the piece in the original French, at some point, and Diana said she has read it in both English and French already.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (January Bonus Round!)

I was assigned this book for my Literature and the Law class. Really liked it! Themes of responsibility and duty to take the hard road in doing the right thing, even when what you are doing is difficult and unpopular. The hardest step, though, is refusing to close your eyes. I want to look at the world, to really look at it. Notice the details of the good parts: the small gratitudes of day to day life. But also not ignore the bad parts of the world. And critically, the most nuanced of things contain both: student organizing is also the way in which I see the greatest among us in this world.

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (January Bonus Round!)

Kept getting locked out of my apartment when my roommate was out of town. On New Year's Eve, and when I texted my super for the second time, she was good natured about it: she hates new years parties and was at home reading and happy to let me in. When she did, we made small talk about what she was reading, and she said she was in a Henry James book club. I had never heard of Henry James, and his name reminded me of Stephen King, but she talked about him as if I should. Then, he was mentioned as one of the greats in one of Alexander Chee's essays too. Then, as I was registering for classes I saw one called "James/Baldwin" about how James Baldwin was influenced by his favorite author: Henry James. Third times the charm, and I decided to read something by Henry James. Found an audiobook of Portrait of a Lady from the library and chugged through it!

I was disappointed with it. It began in such a subversive way, and I was delighted when Ralph bequested money to the main character so she could live her life. I was shocked by the twist at the end, which I thought was pulled off quite well. But the outcome: with the marriages proceeding relatively traditionally, was not as subversive as I was hoping.

My Ántonia by Willa Cather (January Bonus Round!)

I was assigned this book for my American Novel class. Really liked it! I really liked this book! I kept expecting it to become a love story, even when she was off and married, etc. I still expected them to somehow end up together. but instead, it was a story of friendship and shared childhood knowledge. How heartwarming, and surprising.

The preface mentioned that there is something that people know who have lived in rural areas, that only they can know. I feel that I know that thing, too, and I like reading about it.

I think it is funny that everything we read in this class is tangentially about harvard lol how navel-gaze-y.

Reminded me of my friendship with Nicola, I should reach out to her about it. And I wonder if Tara relates to it at all, given her childhood in Iowa that seems so incongurous with the way I see her now. She said she would read it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she thinks of it.

Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard (January Bonus Round!)

I was assigned this play in my Literature and the Law class. I highlighted a lot of the book because I found the passages very interesting. The frustrating part of reading plays, though, is that it's kind of hard to reproduce the passages here with all the different character names and formatting. I think I got a lot out of this book!

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (February)

I was assigned this book in my high school sophomore year English class, didn't read it, and then didn't return my book at the end of the year with the intention of actually reading it at some point. I actually did, in October of 2017, and it is funny to go back to the way I wrote back then in my reflection.

This time around, I was assigned this book in my Shakespeare and the Law class, along with a movie production of the book. It was interesting how the movie reinterpreted scenes: not incorrect or worse readings of the text, but just different interpretations that seemed surprising to me.

One thing I like about reading as opposed to watching productions is that I imagine dialogue in my head to be much more quick and back to back than it is acted out, because I don't really read in any natural pauses. This makes all of the characters seem so clever to come up with perfect retorts and turns of phrase in a split second.

I think having consumed this play for the fifth time (2014, 2017, the movie, and then reading it), I am a bit bored by it now.

ANTONIO 
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
GRATIANO  Let me play the fool.
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man whose blood is warm within
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes? And creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio
(I love thee, and ’tis my love that speaks):
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond
And do a willful stillness entertain
With purpose to be dressed in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say “I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark.”
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing, when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers
fools.
I’ll tell thee more of this another time.
But fish not with this melancholy bait
For this fool gudgeon, this opinion.—
Come, good Lorenzo.—Fare you well a while.
I’ll end my exhortation after dinner.

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (February)

I was assigned this play in my Literature and the Law class. It is about a meeting between Bohr (half Jewish) and Heisenberg (German) in 1941.

Unreliable narrator, and therefore introducing the character of Bohr's wife (Margrethe).

Nostalgia for physics, math, and the divinity of theoretical math and science.

The former owner who took notes in a foreign scandinavian looking language, and initially thinking it was some fancy math and wondering how it was related, and then realizing that it was just elementary probability equations, like the formula for Poisson distributions, so it was probably just an early undergrad reading the book because of the scientist angle and then also taking notes for other classes in the margins.

Extensive endnotes at the end about what was and was not historically reliable. Read some of it, which was interesting, but did not finish reading those.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (February Bonus Round!)

I was assigned this novel in my American Novel class. It is about the marriage between Wyland Archer and May in the shadow of a simulated affair between Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska.

I found the novel a bit tedious, but I think I have just read too much of this type of genre lately. For what it is worth, though, these novels (Portrait of a Lady, The Age of Innocence, Anna Karenina, etc.) are very enjoyable audiobooks and I actually struggle to read the visual word. I think this is a credit to the fact that the authors are quite impressive at the sentence and syllable level: they are writing phrases and sentences that have a good ryhtym when said out loud.

I find Archer to be pretty whiny.

I have come to admire that novels can convey inner thoughts in a way that other forms of media struggle to. The sentence "I considered going to study, but decided not to because I felt hungry" lends itself to no effective visual representation, but contains depth and emotion and thoughts that are worth communicating and considering.

In progress: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Short Stories (Bonus)

Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri
Désiré's Baby by Kate Chopin - kid comes out mixed race, and the less powerful mom is blamed for having Black heritage. the reveal is that the father is the one who actually had Black race. shows that the notion of race is constructed.
Humility in One Drum by Richard Wagamese - rabbit is better leader for animal kingdom than more powerful types of animals because the rabbit brings humility to her leadership style.
He by Katherine Anne Porter - story about disabled kid from the perspective of the mother
How to Pronounce Knife by Sourahkham Thammavongsa - immigrant kid who doesn't feel she can ask her ESL parents for help with elementary school homework, and does not know how to pronounce the silent k in knife
Verlie I Say Unto You by Alice Adams - Black maid for white family hates and fears her husband whom she has escaped, and has a secret affair with another Black worker in the home. The white family is confused when she is calm (even secretly ecstatic) to learn her husband has died, but then her lover dies and she is extremely distraught.
Defender of the Faith in Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth - Jewish military commander struggles to lead his Jewish subordinates, including one particularly squeaky wheel
El etnógrafo de Jorge Luis Borges - guy goes native and refuses to reveal the secret to life he learns while integrated into the indigenous community, which he takes with him back to his world where he lives a very normal life.
The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol - Russian copying clerk saves up to replace an old coat ("dressing gown") to brave the northern chill, commissions a beautiful new coat, enjoys it briefly, is robbed of the coat, tries in vain to recover it, dies of cold, and haunts people by stealing their coats.