A Year in Reading: David L. Ulin

December 16, 2009 | 5 books mentioned 2

covercovercoverI was going to say that the books I found most striking in 2009 were nonfiction, but as I think about it, that’s not completely true. Yes, I would say that the “best” books I read this year (whatever that means) fall into this category: William Vollmann’s Imperial and Dave Cullen’s Columbine, both of which used a combination of reporting, reflection and narrative to undercut pervasive myths about their subjects and get at the more complicated stories underneath. But equally compelling were a trio of small books — B.H. Fairchild’s poetry collection Usher, Lydia Millet’s short story collection Love in Infant Monkeys, and Ted Kooser’s brief memoir Lights on a Ground of Darkness — that each in its own way reordered my inner world. What connects all of these books, including “Imperial” and “Columbine,” is the depth of their observation, their tendency to nuance and detail, the way they have of slowing down the moment so that we can see it fresh.

More from A Year in Reading

is the book editor of the Los Angeles Times.


  1. I can’t find a good place to jump in with a general comment so this is the latest My Year in Reading so I’ll jump in here.

    I love this chain of writers/readers/writers/readers. So many interesting books to put on hold at the library, books I never would have found on my own. This is why I love The Millions.

    Also, or But–I wish pop culture (junk to me) didn’t get sentences and paragraphs here. RIP Susan Sontag, it’s really tricky to write about pop culture or its context and have it be truly interesting. As David Ulin says above, all of his selections in some way “reordered his inner world.” That’s what I want and Jackie Chan, Madonna or Beyonce will never ever do this for me. Others disagree. Just my two shekels.

  2. I agree that “reordered my inner world” is a phrase both lovely and precise for that thing that happens when a book moves/changes you. I’m going to be quoting that for a while.

Add Your Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.