Word by Word by Kory Stamper

a book about how dictionaries are made and the stubborn, chaotic, ever-changing English language. Stamper is funny and frank, denouncing most “grammar” as the preferences of a few dead white men and constantly making room for English to change its meaning and functionality (irregardless is now in the dictionary) without bitterness.

“Humanity sets up rules to govern English, but English rolls onward, a juggernaut crusting all in its path.”

Rating: 8.5/10

Debriefing by Susan Sontag

following my tradition of discovering an author in reverse order, I read Susan Sontag’s journals, then her short stories, and next I’ll move to the essays. I really liked these, many of them are autobiographical or experiment with form, and they’re all beautifully written.

“She once told an interviewer that while the living room is fine for essays, short stories needed to be written in the bedroom. This distinction between outer and inner sancta seems a good way of approaching the contents of this volume. The stories are her innermost work.”
Rating: 9/10

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

This book was so compelling I threw out my whole newsletter so I could write about it instead (& it will be waiting for you in your inbox tomorrow morning.) it’s poetry & memoir & philosophy all in one, all about the color blue, and about a lot more than that.

“Sometimes I worry that if I am not moved by a blue thing, I may be completely despaired, or dead. At times I fake my enthusiasm. At others, I feel I am incapable of communicating the depth of it.”
Rating: 10/10

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

THIS BOOK ROCKED MY WORLD!!! Sheila Heti’s voice and her themes are definitely not for everyone, but if you like poetic, mostly plotless, and memoir-tinged writing you might like this. (if you aren’t sure message me, I can tell you.) this book is her journey to deciding if she wants to be a mother, “whether I want kids is a secret I keep from myself.” I read it furiously in one day, and I’m pretty sure I underlined 85% of it.

“Having children is nice. What a great victory to be not-nice. The nicest thing to give the world is a child. Do I ever want to be that nice?”

Rating: 10/10

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

when people ask about my favorite book my first answer is usually the book I’m reading at that moment but my second answer is THIS. They’re short stories but also flash fiction but also mostly indescribable. Her voice is the voice you wish was inside your head.

“In fact, I liked teaching because I liked telling other people what to do. In those days it seemed clearer to me than it does now that if I did something a certain way, it had to be right for other people, too. I was so convinced of it that my students were convinced, too.”

Rating: 10/10 (I’ll post a less than 10/10 one next time promise)

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Read this whole book last night to procrastinate reading for book club (lol) & I LOVED it. The New York Times wrote a great piece on it last year that is worth the read, but basically, it’s redefined what The Great Indian Novel means, and it’s one of the first books in its language (bhasha) to be translated into English. It’s written very tightly, the story of an entire family in just 117 pages. And it is captivating.

“Language communicates in terms of what is already known; it chokes up when asked to deal with entirely unprecedented.”

Rating: 10/10