A Year in Reading: Joshua Ferris

I had the great pleasure of reading Sarah Manguso’s memoir The Two Kinds of Decay, a spare, unsentimental account of her fight against a rare autoimmune disorder. Manguso brings to the memoir a poet’s attention to line breaks and white space, which amplify the chilling juxtapositions and naked declarations of her monumental physical struggle. It’s a rare form for the memoir, one that perfectly suits its subject. Holly Goddard-Jones wrote a sad, dark, honest-spoken collection of stories called Girl Trouble, set in rural Kentucky—all eight of them 80-proof and among my favorites of the year. And I’ve just finished the lion’s share of essays in Zadie Smith’s collection Changing My Mind. I think Smith the best critic of her generation, maybe the best mind altogether. Certainly no one has written a more loving critical appraisal of David Foster Wallace than she has in the final essay, where she makes a convincing case that Wallace’s difficulty and maddening recursion was not purposeful obfuscation, but the manifestation of his commitment to making meaningful human connection on the page. More from A Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Joshua Ferris

Joshua Ferris' debut novel, Then We Came to the End - one of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2007 - was a finalist for this year's National Book Award. It's due out in paperback this spring. Mr. Ferris' shorter fiction has appeared in the Best New American Voices series and the New Stories from the South series, and in The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. He lives in Brooklyn.The Ambassadors by Henry James is every bit as melancholy and masterful as it is exasperating and windy. You need one determined machete to make it through and at times the style is so overwrought and unnecessarily filigreed that I nearly gave up. But James is fiction's paradigm for the satisfaction of fighting the good fight, as by the end of The Ambassadors the entire world has been hauled into that thicket. I chose The Ambassadors as opposed to the other James I read this year because its subject is one of my favorites: life not lived to its fullest, squandered life, the search for how best to live. I also read Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays for the first time, a gift from my friend Ravi, for which I'll always been thankful. And Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones, the collection that includes "An Orange Line Train to Ballston," a story as deeply affecting as any I've encountered.More from A Year in Reading 2007