A Year in Reading: David Shields

December 9, 2009 | 15 books mentioned 1 2 min read

coverNicholson Baker, The Anthologist (there are passages in this book that I love as much as anything Baker has ever written–which is saying something)

Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest (I reread this book seemingly monthly, attempting–futilely–to figure out how he managed this brief, perfect magic trick.)

Joe Brainard, I Remember (I’m very late to the party on this book, but it’s an extraordinary assemblage of seemingly unconnected–in fact, profoundly interconnected–sentences)

coverAlbert Camus, The Fall (see The Mystery Guest)

Robert Clark, The Angel of Doubt (an as yet unpublished manuscript; a gorgeously written, deeply felt, and relentlessly smart sequence of intereconnected essays about religion, art, and sex, not necessarily in that order)

Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave (see The Mystery Guest)

John D’Agata, About a Mountain (a beautiful embodiment of what is to me a
central principle of great nonfiction: it’s not remotely about what it purports to be about)

Amy Fusselman, The Pharmacist’s Mate (see The Mystery Guest)

coverSimon Gray, The Smoking Diaries (4 volumes of diaries; read together, they dwarf his plays and are commensurate, I swear to god, with Proust)

Spalding Gray, Morning, Noon, and Night (see The Mystery Guest)

David Kirby, The House on Boulevard Street (very late to the party on Kirby, too; I love his work; “poetry as well-written as prose,” as good ole Ez said)

Phillip Lopate, Notes on Sontag (I disagree with Lopate’s assessment–in my view, too generous–but I love the book)

coverSarah Manguso, The Two Kinds of Decay (one of the least sentimental and most deeply emotional books I’ve ever read)

Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain (see above)

Maggie Nelson, Bluets (utterly brilliant)

Brevity: Blaise Pascal, Pensées; Don Patterson, Best Thought, Worst Thought; François Le Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima Mon Amour (the screenplay; the best book she ever wrote)

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (where it all started and ended)

More from A Year in Reading

is the author of ten books, including, most recently, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (Knopf, February 2010) and the New York Times bestseller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (Knopf, 2008).

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