Gregory Rodriguez, author of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, is a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation and an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
Maybe it’s my age, but after years of reading nothing but serious history, I’m suddenly hungry again for fiction and poetry. It’s been good for my head and my heart.
There’s no rhyme or reason to my short list of favorite books of the year, really. I mostly picked them up in advance of long airplane rides. Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Bad Girl, a fun and ultimately redemptive story of obsession, made me squirm for hours. So did Philip Roth’s excruciating The Dying Animal, another story about (middle-aged) obsession. Wait, maybe there is a thread!
Thank goodness I bumped into Lloyd Jones’ lovely and romantic Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance. Then there was Philip Schultz’s Failure, a brilliantly compassionate collection of poems that I savored for weeks. So smitten was I by Schultz’s simple, direct, accessible, yet profoundly moving poems, that I’ve taken to reading contemporary poetry daily – Edward Hirsch, Stephen Dunn, Ted Kooser. For so long I read with a purpose, to learn more or become an expert about this or that. In 2008 I rediscovered the joys of reading randomly.