Published January 21, 2013 | By thea

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver I read this book in one sitting, prone on the couch, drained by Sunday and sure that I was redeemed by beauty. How Fiction Works by James Wood Every critic should be like Wood; wise, seasoned, passionate and erudite. His graceful prose is a balm. The Fun Stuff by James Wood This book contains harshness not found in the previous one; ie saying Paul Auster essentially stinks, but it is fun. The Blindfold  by Siri Hustvedt I re-read this book after I finished writing my own, certain that hers had been a book that in some deep way had inspired me. I first read it in my twenties and it is spare, formal, nearly remote but written in such a lucid style that it’s almost hyper-real. Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst The title alone is compelling (not to mention scary) and she’s hilarious. She approaches writing about EGO –her own, her father’s, all artists– with blunt, refreshing candor. May We Be Forgiven? by A.M. Homes I read A.M. Homes early on and love her use of language, and the way she comfortably traipses around an edge–of death, of sex with the wrong person, of popping pills with your nephew–like no one else. This book has a wonderfully engaging propulsive plot;  the situation Homes creates is allegorical and fierce and impossible to turn away from. Dear Life by Alice Munro Every once in a long while you read work that makes you question the form. And so you say, what is this thing, a short story? You are dumfounded, stumped, awed in the same way that we can’t fathom the complexity and richness of life itself or of another human being.  Munro is a master of omission, artfully sculpting the matter  (life) and leaving only the very deliberate remains. NW by Zadie Smith Another genius. Critics might say she tries to be Joycean. She succeeds and does more. We are fully inside consciousness. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner It’s my first time and I’m in love. The letters are spectacular. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner I once lived in Madrid for no good reason. Ben Lerner writes so well about it. Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson I’m surprised I missed Markson in graduate school. He is a  deceptively simple writer. Incremental statements build and accrue and then become complex. My friends, a married couple who read to each other in bed, gave this to me. Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon Solomon is a conversational writer who fully employs manners on the page; he’s always engaging, never dull or pedantic, and never interrupts (his own stream of  thoughts) thus your own stream of thoughts.  Like the smartest of smarties, he’s never pretentious. It’s a pleasure to follow him down any path. Carry The One by Carol Anshaw I’m just dipping my toe in. Lovely.

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