books (2021)

At the end of 2021, I jotted down a few notes on readings from the year – they draw a circle around themes of spirit, the body, art-making – the mystery and complications in how these things hang together:

  • This year, I indulged in a lot of re-reads. I think it was a combination of comfort-seeking and realizing that my memory was actually kind of hazy on some of the books I tell people are “favorites”.
  • Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton and Agnes Martin: Making Space for the Sacred by Joanna Weber feel like inverses to me. The first is about spirituality, but written in a way that made me think about practicing art – and the second is about art that clears a ground for spirituality. Can art be a devotion made physical?
  • Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder is one of those books I was bound to read: the woman, the artist, the existential angst. (lol) It explored motherhood and artistry and embodiedness in a way that was unexpected and unsettlingly (as in, activated my gag reflex a few times) memorable.
  • I took Getting to Center by Marlee Grace as a sort of workbook to kick off my year, which is a nice way to engage it.
  • After seeing Lucille Clifton poems here and there, I finally read a collection of her work – which was so worth the deep dive. The introduction (by Toni Morrison) described her work this way, “for Clifton there’s no split between the body, the spirit, and the intellect: no ideas but in the body.”

The books listed in bold stood out to me for one reason or another, and asterisks (*) indicate a re-read.

  • Getting to Center: Pathways to Finding Yourself Within the Great Unknown, Marlee Grace
  • Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna, China Galland
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  • *My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
  • *Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems, Mary Oliver
  • *Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
  • Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity in This Crisis, Dean Spade
  • *The Gift of Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
  • All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
  • Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, Claire Bidwell Smith
  • The Incendiaries, R.O. Kwon
  • *East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  • The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965-2010, Lucille Clifton
  • Woman No. 17, Edan Lepucki
  • Bon Appatempt: A Coming-of-Age Story, Amelia Morris
  • Chroma: A Book of Color, Derek Jarman
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie
  • Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, Angela Garbes
  • Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, Linda Kay Klein
  • A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Karen Armstrong
  • The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  • The Murder on the Links, Agatha Christie
  • *Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill
  • *Vermeer in Bosnia: Selected Writings, Lawrence Weschler
  • Let’s Talk About Hard Things, Anna Sale
  • The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Last Things, Jenny Offill
  • Grand Union: Stories, Zadie Smith
  • Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, edited by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence
  • *The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Contemplative Prayer, Thomas Merton
  • Swimming Studies, Leanne Shapton
  • Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, Angela Chen
  • *The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy, Stuart Ray Sarbacker and Kevin Kimple
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
  • Nightbitch, Rachel Yoder
  • The Mystery of the Blue Train, Agatha Christie
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein
  • Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser
  • A Giacometti Portrait, James Lord
  • The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice, Thich Nhat Hanh
  • All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, Sheila Heti
  • Agnes Martin: Making Space for the Sacred, Joanna Weber
  • Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Deborah Feldman
  • The Ninth Hour, Alice McDermott
  • The Body’s Question, Tracy K. Smith
  • *Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life, Emily Nagoski
  • Warlight, Michael Ondaatje
  • *The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems, Marie Howe

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