A Year in Reading: Ben Dolnick

December 6, 2007 | 6 books mentioned 2

Ben Dolnick is the author of Zoology. He lives in Brooklyn with his fiancee and their dog, and is currently at work on a second book.

coverThis has been the year of short books for me. I’ve found my concentration running aground on long ones – even great long ones (Independent People, War and Peace, The Man Who Loved Children) – and so I’ve gravitated toward books of two-hundred or even fewer pages. The best have been the novels of Penelope Fitzgerald. In the past few months I’ve read The Gate of Angels, The Bookshop, Innocence and The Beginning of Spring, and each one is a ruthlessly efficient little miracle. Her books are full of characters who reliably say the wrong thing at precisely the wrong moment, who think only of themselves, who fail and fail again – and yet they’re warm, funny, and somehow even cheering. I’ve got the rest of her novels stacked up on my bedside table.

More from A Year in Reading 2007

is the author of Zoology and You Know Who You Are and, most recently, Shelf-Love, a Kindle Single about Alice Munro. He lives in Brooklyn.


  1. Fitzgerald's novels are all marvels–though I think the one generally acclaimed as her best, The Blue Flower, is her weakest.

    There are moments (like that mysterious gathering in the woods) in The Beginning of Spring that I have found coming back to mind regularly for years.

  2. Agreed about The Blue Flower not being on the same level of greatness as The Bookshop and The Beginning of Spring — it is a very fine novel though, and I was particularly grateful to it for introducing me to Novalis.

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