A Year in Reading: Hamilton Leithauser

December 22, 2016 | 5 books mentioned 2 2 min read

covercoverMy Struggle: Book Five by  Karl Ove Knausgård

I see that last year I recommended books one to four, so I won’t go too much into this again. Book Five is pretty much more of the same, but mostly focuses on young adulthood.  I’m looking forward to Book Six…I still have absolutely no idea what the Mien Kampf connection is.  But the book is great.

Dream Boogie by Peter Guralnick

Sam Cooke had a kind of funny problem early on in his career.  As a teenager, he started singing in the Chicago Gospel circuit.  Everywhere he went, people noticed. His voice was angelic, and he was charming and appealing. Within a short time, Sam was invited to be a member (then soon promoted to frontman) of The Soul Stirrers — the band he’d emulated since childhood. But Sam was also uncontrollably sexy…he couldn’t turn it off if he wanted to (and he didn’t want to). So Sam starting packing these sleepy midwestern Sunday services with young women.  The pastors were in kind of a pickle: Sam was great for business, but was this their business? He wasn’t doing anything wrong…but it felt a little iffy.  After a few years, Sam was at a crossroads: stick with the authentic Gospel music that had made him something of a star, or dive into pop music — offending many of his, and his family’s, religious sensibilities.  Sam chose pop. This is a good read for anyone who likes Sam.  I also recommend Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis for any Elvis Presley heads out there.

covercover10% Happier by Dan Harris

I recently became (slightly) interested in meditation.  I discovered this guy’s podcast and found an interesting interview with Rivers Cuomo, who has been meditating his entire life.  I actually started listening to Weezer for the first time after hearing this interview.  Dan Harris came to meditation as a full-on skeptic, but found his own way of appreciating it. I can relate.

The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop is inspired. I read her when I feel uninspired. Check it out.

coverCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Full disclosure…the author is a friend/drinking companion.  Unfortunately, since I have kids, I had to read this book in stops and starts.  It seems like it should be done in marathon stretches, as there is a wide-ranging cast of characters, times, and places. Ultimately I pulled it together and came out with a pretty good understanding of what happened, and ultimately I found it a satisfying, cohesive novel…which is impressive, since it had like 1,000 pages to fall off the rails…it didn’t.

More from A Year in Reading 2016

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is a songwriter and musician living in New York City. He has released several solo records in the past few years, as well as a brand new single “Heartstruck (Wild Hunger).”  He has two little daughters.


  1. What Moe said! This — plus the introduction so many newer poets sprinkled throughout the YIR — is both wonderful and useful. Poetry is surely alive and growing.

    Quick shoutout for her collected letters as the corollary to the poems. They inform her work in interesting ways, especially the correspondence with Lowell et al. Enjoyed reading this.

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