Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace
I read this SO impossibly slowly (years) but surprisingly didn't hate it or get frustratingly bored. It was a strange exploration of addiction, recovery, communication, intergenerational family, art/film, obsession, and guilt. Infinite Jest is more carefully crafted than it appears. It reads like an unedited garble of funny and disturbing fragments, but you slowly come to see intention behind the character & exposition choices (and all the symbolism everywhere), and how it works toward something genuinely serious. And DFW does it all while being weird, self-indulgent, playful, and offensive. I don't think everyone should read this, but if for whatever perverse reason you want to, I think it'd be worthwhile.
Banana Yoshimoto
1988, transl. from Japanese by Megan Backus
Mar-Apr 2024
i loved this in its lightness and heaviness
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Mar 2024
H of H Playbook
Anne Carson
30 Mar 2024
The People in the Trees
Hanya Yanagihara
so interesting, a strange & enveloping story i couldn't look away from
War of the Foxes
Richard Sicken
10 Mar 2024
Yes, wow, this was really cool. More cerebral than Crush, but same urgent style. I liked the painting motif and epistemological questioning.
Sheila Heti
Mar 2024
oo very good
Salt Houses
Hala Alyan
Feb 2024
The Memory Police
Yōko Ogawa
1994, transl. from Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Jan 2024

Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics
Martin Heidegger
1929, transl. from German
Oct-Nov 2023
I keep falling deeper into the Kant hole
Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems
Ingeborg Bachmann
1978, transl. from German by Peter Filkins
After Dark
Haruki Murakami
2004, transl. from Japanese by Jay Rubin
Oct 2023
perfect tokyo read
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Gabrielle Zevin
Sep-Oct 2023
I liked reading this (perhaps a gentler version of A Little Life?); rich and frustrating and imaginative. I love a complex intimate web of friends. I think the plot was varying in strength, but I enjoyed Zevin's writing style and look forward to reading more of her work.
Aerial Concave Without Cloud
Sueyeun Juliette Lee
This is How You Lose the Time War
Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone
Sep 2023
lovely and riveting
Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
Immanuel Kant
Jul-Aug 2023
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
David Hume
Jul 2023
Dear Elizabeth
Sarah Ruhl
12 Jul 2023
specially crafted for my reading pleasure
Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
Mark Fisher
Jul 2023
a banger! I recommend
Meditations on First Philosophy
René Descartes
1641, transl. from Latin by John Cottingham
Jun 2023
go read Descartes and stop blaming him for everything
The Three Body Problem
Liu Cixin
2006, transl. from Chinese by Ken Liu
Apr - May 2023
Rilke: Selected Poems
Rainer Maria Rilke
1940, transl. from German by C.F. MacIntyre
14 May 2023
The History of Sexuality, Volume 1
Michel Foucault
1976, transl. from French by Robert Hurley
Feb - May 2023
How Far the Light Reaches
Sabrina Imbler
5-6 May 2023
Breasts and Eggs
Mieko Kawakami
2019, transl. from Japanese by Sam Bett, David Boyd
Apr - May 2023
liked this a lot
On the Genealogy of Morals
Friedrich Nietzsche
1887, transl. from German by Walter Kaufmann
Apr 2023
fascinating, Nietzsche is enjoyable to read, though difficult conceptually (his skill and creativity as a writer pose an interesting interpretive challenge). I found his primary argument in this work to be quite stunning.
Against Interpretation and Other Essays
Susan Sontag
Jan - Apr 2023
must-reads: 'Against Interpretation', 'Nathalie Sarraute and the Novel', 'The Death of Tragedy', 'Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson', 'Notes on "Camp"', 'One culture and the new sensiblity'
Don't Call Us Dead
Danez Smith
Apr 2023
To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
Mar - Apr 2023
The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro
Feb 2023
The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion
Feb 2023
The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
Alex Ross
Jun 2021 - Feb 2023
SUPER fascinating and fun to go through with the audio companion guide
Jean-Paul Sartre
1938, transl. from French by Lloyd Alexander
Jan - Feb 2023
big existentialism
The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
1869, transl. from Russian by Constance Garnett
Nov 2022 - Jan 2023
The Metamorphosis and Other Stories
Franz Kafka
1915, transl. from German by Malcolm Pasley
Oct 2022 - Jan 2023
A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
Hoa Nguyen
Jan 2023


Life on Mars
Tracy K. Smith
Complete Plays
Sarah Kane
5 May - 19 Nov 2022
Blasted was insane, shocking. I can't understand how any of these plays could be performed but I love how Kane pushes the medium. 4.48 Psychosis was remarkable and tragic.
Three Paths to the Lake
Ingeborg Bachmann
1972, transl. from German by Mary Fran Gilbert
17 Oct - 18 Nov 2022
Smile: A Memoir
Sarah Ruhl
Nov 2022
Letters from Max
Sarah Ruhl, Max Ritvo
Oct - 6 Nov 2022
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Audre Lorde
16 Oct - 2 Nov 2022
Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Oct 2022
Elif Batuman
9 - 18 Sep 2022
Fear and Trembling
Søren Kierkegaard
1843, transl. from Danish by Alistair Hannay
8 - 13 Sep 2022
My Baby First Birthday
Jenny Zhang
Jul 2022
Collected Poems
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Mar 2020 - Jul 2022
sip some coffee & read some edna st. vincent millay every day
Stories of Your Life and Others
Ted Chiang
12 - 17 Jul 2022
Ted astounds me, I have so much respect & admiration for him
Elaine Hsieh Chou
30 Apr - 16 Jul 2022
really funny, I laughed out loud, somewhat basic in its revelations but super creative as a 'coming of consciousness' story
The Idiot
Elif Batuman
7 - 11 Jul 2022
Really loved & enjoyed!! Incredibly funny (in a dry, observational way), about infatuation, aimlessness, absurdity. Musings & confusions about language, meaning, communication, and highly entertaining descriptions of everyday life with all of its humor and characters

Also I'm grateful to this book for keeping me company for the duration of my c*vid recovery ... literally all I did was read this book and flop around on my bed.
Giovanni's Room
James Baldwin
28 Jun - 7 Jul 2022
aughhh loved it, some themes: love turning cold, love & power, world splitting & crumbling, floodgates of queer realizations opening & the fear of its irreversibility & the despair of existing in a bubble of impossibility (Giovanni's room)

beautifully written, i read it while travelling but i recommend reading it in 1 or 2 sittings, the story will string your heart along and accompany yr queer angst
The Carrying
Ada Limón
Jun 2022
every poem a banger
Time Is a Mother
Ocean Vuong
Jun 2022
The Body Keeps the Score
Bessel van der Kolk
Jan - Apr 2022
I thought this was a balanced and insightful deep-dive (but still kind of an intro) about trauma research and approaches in neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry. I got a lot out of just understanding the scope of influence that trauma has on our brains and bodies, and also learning about all the non-pharmacological treatment options.
Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life
Natasha Lennard
Apr 2022
Some great entry/overview pieces into the antifa world, and specifically what it means to be anti-fascist in the U.S., along with some ruminative pieces on a bunch of topics like human rights, radical sex, metaphysics, surveillance, and marriage. I recommend it.
Messy Roots
Laura Gao
8 - 9 Apr 2022
great graphic memoir from my friend! nuanced and heartwarming, beautiful and funny
After the Fall
Arthur Miller
19 - 20 Mar 2022
A stunning, emotional, personal work. I could feel the desparation underlying the protagonist Quentin's many questions as he reflects on his life and loves. "We are killing one another with abstractions." It grapples with love not being enough, the impossibility of innocence, and hope after the death of love. I'm really curious how this play would be staged, since the whole thing happens in Quentin's mind, and characters constantly appear and disappear. There was also a really interesting interleaving of the public/political with the personal, as this was set post-WWII and against the backdrop of American McCarthyism.
Stories of God
Rainer Maria Rilke
1900, transl. from German by Michael H. Kohn
Mar 2022
Long Day's Journey into Night
Eugene O'Neill
11 Mar 2022
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Alison Bechdel
2-6 Mar 2022
really liked it!!
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
William Styron
27 Feb 2022
good read on a bad day for me
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari
2014 English ed.
28 Nov 2021 - 21 Feb 2022
This guy was kind of annoying, but it was a smooth read and there were some interesting tidbits, such as the "fraud" of the Agricultural Revolution. Overall, I didn't find it particularly insightful though.
The Temptation to Exist
Emil Cioran
1956, transl. from French by Richard Howard
18 Jul 2021 - 9 Feb 2022
The writing was loose and unfocused, and many of the claims assumed the shared starting point of nihilism so I wouldn't necessarily recommend this (since I am not a nihilist). Certain ideas did stick with me, though, such as freedom in proportion to self-destruction, and this passage from the title essay:

"We last only as long as our fictions [...] To exist is equivalent to an act of faith, a protest against the truth, an interminable prayer ... As soon as they consent to live, the unbeliever and the man of faith are fundamentally the same, since both have made the only decision that defines a being. Ideas, doctrines--mere facades, decorative fantasies, accidents. If you have not resolved to kill yourself, there is no difference between you and the others, you belong to the faction of the living [...] Do you deign to breathe? You are approaching sainthood, you deserve canonization ..."
Self-Reliance and Other Essays
Ralph Waldo Emerson
17 Sep 2021 - 30 Jan 2022
I liked the essays "Friendship" and "Experience"
At the Mountains of Madness
H.P. Lovecraft
21 Dec 2021 - 17 Jan 2022
The story was alright -- untold mega-ancient horrors in the Antarctic -- but with a frustratingly long buildup
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Ottessa Moshfegh
Dec 29 2021 - Jan 5 2022
A dark humor masterpiece. Live inside flippant self-destruction and escapism for a year, come out whole. Just what I needed.


My Year of Meats
Ruth Ozeki
27 Nov - 20 Dec 2021
Ruth is so cool
In the Dream House
Carmen Maria Machado
18 - 21 Nov 2021
The Consolations of Philosophy
Alain de Botton
19 Sep - 22 Oct 2021
I would recommend Sophie's World over this
The Italian
Ann Radcliffe
5 Jul - 17 Oct 2021
trying to get my gothic kick; this was ok (too long), and not really it
Anna Kavan
2 Aug - 24 Sep 2021
I'm really smitten with this sort of surreal, twisted world rendered in Kavan's sparse, cold language (that English lends itself so well to), though I don't feel it was executed perfectly
Henry and June
Anaïs Nin
2019 - 2021 (slowly)
[feverish, something to be devoured]

i almost wish this was fiction so i wouldn't feel so weird about being engrossed and obsessed with Anais's real life and loves
Samuel Beckett
30 Jul 2021
Yevgeny Zamyatin
1920, transl. from Russian by Mirra Ginsburg
1 Jun - 5 Jul 2021
Either/Or, Part I
Søren Kierkegaard
1843, transl. from Danish by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson
13 Sep 2020 - 8 Jun 2021
my guy
The Age of Innocence
Edith Wharton
22 - 30 May 2021
spent a rainy, dreamy, intense weekend inside this novel
Old Times
Harold Pinter
24 May 2021
really glad I picked up this strange little play
Johann von Goethe
1832, transl. from German by George Madison Priest
Apr - May 2021
A Beautiful Question
Frank Wilczek
10 Jan - 9 May 2021
A Secular Age
Charles Taylor
17 Nov 2020 - 24 Apr 2021
A mammoth of a work that provided incredibly insightful historical context to the story of how we got to where we are today in this "secular age". Taylor problematizes the mainstream over-simplified narratives that we use to understand the arc of Western religious history, and offers much more nuanced, careful, fascinating accounts of the various major shifts that happened: from the medieval "golden age" of Christianity, through the Reformation and Scientific Revolution, and into the 20th century "supernova" of spiritual directions and cross-tensions. I found this to be such an interesting read that has really challenged the assumptions implicit in our modern understanding of belief, time, art, meaning, and embodiment.
Under the Net
Iris Murdoch
18 Mar - 8 Apr 2021
Thoroughly enjoyed! Murdoch's style and humor really hit the spot for me. It's a light, kind of absurd adventure vis our cheeky but good-natured protagonist, with musings, wanderings about without a place to sleep, impulsive scrambling to and fro around London and Paris, over-grandeurizations, off-hand philosophical debates, and taking love and life day by day.
Yrsa Daley-Ward
24 Feb - 2 Apr 2021
The Night of January 16th
Ayn Rand
21 Mar 2021
trying to read more drama! (but probably less Ayn Rand..)
The Thirtieth Year: Stories
Ingeborg Bachmann
1961, transl. from German
17 Feb - 16 Mar 2021
Bachmann is my literal hero. One day I need to sit down and properly articulate why her writing so personally stirs me. There is a persistent element of authoritative neuroticism running through her narrative voice. It is moody as a default, with patches of warmth; a constant questioning; a frustration with language, with boundary; impulsive and urgent. I get to see some interesting characters in these stories, many effusing the sort of cold and indifferent qualities of the impenetrable who're being swept by a dominant conviction. The title story, "The Thirtieth Year," and "A Step Toward Gomorrah" knocked me over completely.
Frank Herbert
7 Nov 2020 - 6 Mar 2021
finally i've finished book one, very interesting ideas, especially about manufactured mysticism, and geo-engineering, but the story has just begun
A Woman at Bay (Una donna)
Sibilla Aleramo
1906, transl. from Italian by Maria H. Lansdale
6 Feb - 1 Mar 2021
Fascinating, moving
The Electricity of Every Living Thing
Katherine May
12 - 15 Feb 2021
I really appreciate Katherine May
A Haunted House and Other Stories
Virginia Woolf
1921, 1944
24 Jan - 15 Feb 2021
Wonderful, brief, varied, moody gusts of Virginia Woolf. I think if you haven't read much Woolf before and you're looking to dip your toes in, this is an excellent place to start. Her deceptively slim novels are dense and require (at least from me) an intense amount of concentration, so I understand the hesitation to read them. The stories in this collection, though, are each less than 10 pages, and are the perfect afternoon dose of Woolf. There is something vital and essential to Woolf's writing for me; it seems I can't go too long without it before slipping into a kind of gray literary torpor.
Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman
On the Improvment of Human Understanding / The Ethics / Selected Letters
Baruch Spinoza
1677, transl. from Latin by R. H. M. Elwes
2 Dec 2020 - 7 Feb 2021
The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
Alan Watts
.. Jan 2021
.. let's let this marinate for a while .. certainly the most framework-of-reality-challenging thing I have read recently
Her Body and Other Parties
Carmen Maria Machado
11-23 Jan 2021
electrifying and genuinely frightening. I liked how Machado played love and fear off one another, sometimes they worked together and sometimes they pulled in different directions or overlaid each other, like in the haunting (from a covid-19 perspective) recounting of a woman's partners against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic. I appreciated how sex as a narrative element was never quite antagonistic/scary, but instead another layer of enthrallment. the body was a weird meeting place for the supernatural, for lust, psychosis, dis/embodiment. these stories were riveting, surprising, thrilling, mysterious. they inspire in the reader a hunger for more ...
Katherine May
21-22 Jan 2021


Maggie Nelson
31 Dec 2020
We Need to Talk
Celeste Headlee
12 - 17 Dec 2020
A Mathematician's Apology
G.H. Hardy
8-9 Dec 2020
A Little Life
Hanya Yanagihara
Mar - 6 Dec 2020
[slam my heart into the ground]
This book really pokes the central wound of life right in the cornea. Yanagihara has given the world an enormous, epic, astounding empathic feat. I thought I would break or implode so many times throughout the reading process, yet somehow I've come out whole: mad at these 700 pages, for what they've done to me, the state they've left me in, (the memories they've given to me), but also in awe -- a much bigger awe: at Yanagihara's achievement; at our (the author's and the reader's) disappearance into this world; at the painful lifesource of friendship; at the beauty and fragility and uncertainty of being; and at the incomparable intimacy of sharing an entire life with people you love and who, mysteriously, love you.
Ravel: Man and Musician
Arbie Orenstein
15 Jun - 2 Dec 2020
Ravel's the man but this biographer was not too illuminating. The best parts were direct quotes from Ravel, such as

"[O]ften it is not until years after, when the means of expression have finally surrendered all their secrets, that the real inner emotion of the music becomes apparent to the listener."

And (on the composition process), "I find a long period of conscious gestation, in general, necessary [...] I may thus be occupied for years without writing a single note of the work--after which the writing goes relatively rapidly; but there is still much time to be spent in eliminating everything that might be regarded as superfluous, in order to realize as completely as possible the longed-for final clarity."

In general, it's been fascinating to learn more about the lives and (first-hand) thoughts of the artists I admire (Woolf, St. Vincent Millay, Ravel, Weil, Nin), and I definitely would like to continue this thread.
Liberating Theory
Michael Albert, Leslie Cagan, Noam Chomsky, Robin Hahnel, Mel King, Lydia Sargent, Holly Sklar
15 - 26 Nov 2020
provides some structure and clarity; I mostly agree with everything here, but as a proposed theory it was underwhelming
Philosophical Sketches
Susanne K. Langer
Fall 2019 - 18 Nov 2020
I love this little philsophy book. Because each essay ("sketch") is relatively short, every argument/speculation packs a punch and invited me to think more formally about a wide range of essential topics: language, evolution, society, knowledge, consciousness, art, meaning. I found the sketches startling in their precision and rational creativity. I'm so glad I picked this up and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND AND NOW HAVE SO MANY NEW IDEAS IN MY HEAD!
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
Anne Carson
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde
1890, England
3 Aug 2020 - .. Sep 2020
Waiting for God
Simone Weil
1951, transl. from French
2 Jul - 7 Sep 2020
Simone Weil has an almost inhuman intellectual rigor ... -> a supernatural faith. Weil's uncompromising devotion to spiritual exactitude and virtue reveal new truths about God. I can only read her work with awe. These writings should be as 'required' as C.S. Lewis.

"A sense of our knowledge is more to be desired."
Ingeborg Bachmann
1971, transl. from German
23 Aug - 5 Sep 2020
Dark, obsessive, absurd ... this book at every step, at every astonishing achievement of language, eludes understanding--yet is implicitly understood. I am obsessed. My only wish is to have been able to read it in German.
Don't Look Now
Daphne du Maurier
20 Jul - 22 Aug 2020
In Praise of Shadows
Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
1933, transl. from Japanese
9 Aug 2020
"Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty."
On Photography
Susan Sontag
14 Jun - 25 Jul 2020
This is Sontag's skeptical, precise de-romanticization of photography. The advances of each decade since these essays were compiled would only multiply and serve to prove the truth of her observations and critical conclusions about photography as a practice, a cultural phenomenon, an art, and about the Image and its relationship to society.
For the Time Being
Annie Dillard
1 - 27 Jun 2020
... like a dream about the nature of life ... Annie Dillard is an archaeologist of meaning
Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
20 Oct 2019 - 10 Jun 2020
my man
Walden and Resistance to Civil Government
Henry David Thoreau
Mar - 31 May 2020
A Writer's Diary
Virginia Woolf
20 Feb - 25 May 2020
lots of thoughts, emotions, reactions...will type them up here soon
Sylvia Plath
Mar - 23 May 2020
These are not the sorts of poems you copy onto a card and send to your friends; these you read alone, bitterly, in agony: as solace when life becomes sore.
Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
David Foster Wallace
20 Apr - 10 May 2020
DFW could write about literally anything and I would read it.
Welcome to the Monkey House
Kurt Vonnegut
15 Mar - 11 Apr 2020
Exploratory, mysterious, always hopeful in the end
Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller
Mar 2020
Why We Sleep
Matthew Walker
23 Jun 2018 - 11 Apr 2020
This book made me become pretty neurotic about getting enough sleep...ultimately a beneficial neurosis, I think. I would recommend everyone to read at least the first section. The studies described are all pretty astounding. Perhaps it’s too good a conclusion to be true, but it seems like sleep is that missing lurking variable behind most, if not all, areas of health science.

When I told my chronically sleep-deprived parents about the contents of this book they reacted as if I’d joined some doomsday cult. I say: if it’s possible for you right now, just try it for yourself: prioritizing 8 hours of good sleep is a small price to pay for well-being, creativity, intelligence, memory, and longevity.
Hedda Gabler
Henrik Ibsen
Mar 2020
Trick Mirror
Jia Tolentino
19 Feb - 9 Mar 2020
Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen
17 Jan - Mar 8 2020
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
David Foster Wallace
14 Jan - 17 Feb 2020
Incredible: stimulating and entertaining; engrossingly but not excruciatingly detailed. DFW is the champion of the Adjective.
Men Explain Things to Me
Rebecca Solnit
19 - 20 Jan 2020
The Clean House and Other Plays
Sarah Ruhl
8 - 16 Jan 2020
Sarah Ruhl rules.
Can't and Won't
Lydia Davis
3 - 16 Jan 2020
I love Lydia Davis!!
Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng
5 - 7 Jan 2020
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
29 Dec 2019 - 3 Jan 2020
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Marie Kondō
15 Aug 2019 - 1 Jan 2020
Worth a read. Marie Kondo did change my life in several ways.


We Learn Nothing
Tim Kreider
25 - 31 Dec 2019
The Plague
Albert Camus
1947, transl. from French by Stuart Gilbert
6 - 24 Dec 2019
100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write
Sarah Ruhl
18 Nov - 23 Dec 2019
Ahhhh very wonderful. I read a few of these every morning for the past few weeks, and it’s been such a pleasure. Each mini-essay is thought-provoking, personal, and features Sarah Ruhl’s amazing sense of humor.
Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë
22 Nov - 1 Dec 2019
When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi
25 - 26 Nov 2019
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the glimmer of this precious soul in this precious book
The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Leo Tolstoy
1886, transl. from Russian by Lynn Solotaroff
6 - 18 Nov 2019
Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf
28 Oct - 5 Nov 2019
Virginia Woolf puts me into such a state of overexcitement and frenzy, Mrs. Dalloway is an entire world and all of existence in one bursting day. I read some of the best sentences in the English language here!!

“Only for a moment; but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores! Then, for a moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over—the moment.”

Here is a novel to get lost inside of sentences, wandering the streets of London and the minds and pasts of its people. Woolf writes to fully convey a MOMENT—how large that moment can be, how full of meaning and sensation !! I wandered through this book, grasped at the beginnings and ends of thoughts, held on to feelings even as they disappeared, and felt the glowing, sensitive magnificence of the mystery of being.
Howl and Other Poems
Allen Ginsberg
25 - 26 Oct 2019
The Living Mountain
Nan Shepherd
25 Oct 2019
Incredibly Scottish, I had to look up every 7th word, but wonderful. Perfect accompaniment for an intimate excursion up whichever great mountain looms over you.

“So, simply to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. Man has no other reason for his existence.”
On the Road: The Original Scroll
Jack Kerouac
17 - 24 Oct 2019
Yes, yes, yes! I dig it, these magnificent, magnificent visions of the road, this sprawling scroll of ever onwards and the ever illuminating vastness of wide open land.

This urgently told, go go go recounting of endless happenings on the road back and forth, up and down the U.S. has infected me with my own inner go, go, go—a thirst for experiencing life, finding what’s exciting about it, traveling across the country, and writing about it all with the splendid candor of Jack Kerouac’s prose, and talking about it in the decisive, enchanting, and insane manner of Neal Cassady.
The Weight of Glory
C.S. Lewis
18 - 23 Oct 2019
My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante
2011, transl. from Italian by Ann Goldstein
20 Sep - 16 Oct 2019
I was so immediately immersed into this novel; Ferrante puts into words those dazzling emotions of friendship that I've also felt in my life--so mesmerizing, so captivating are those friendships, and here is one of the greatest friendships between women in all of the literature I've read.

Most of all, My Brilliant Friend is about the desperation, complexity, and attachment of intimate friendship. The strings that bind Lila and Lenù together are earth-shattering, bigger than any of the romantic love in the novel, inexplicable. The story of the beginning years of this epic friendship speaks to the power we hold over each other and the endless mysteries of relationships--as if they are a puzzle we long to resolve, to find security in, but that continue to confound, disappoint, and fascinate us.

I read this novel hungrily, all throughout thinking: this is the love of friends--lifelong, strange, full of tension and power dynamics; they're made of a fabric of unconditional protection, long-held hurt, comparison and inadequacy, moments of sheer joy, excitement, ecstasy, painful hyperawareness of the other, the secret pleasures of exclusivity, of going into the world together, alone except for each other. I found solace in Lenu's inner world, in her insecurities, her fragile heart, her confusion, and her submission to the inescapable, unfailing grasp that Lila seemed to have on her life.

I love what John Freeman wrote of the Neapolitan series: "Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you'll have some idea how explosive these works are."

I so loved this novel and I'll be sure to read the next three!
The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
1879, transl. from Russian by Constance Garnett
2 Jul - 12 Oct 2019
Oh my, there is so, so much to say, and I can’t say it all now. This was magnificent, brilliant, philosophical, intricate, dense. “Dostoyevsky paints like Rembrandt” (Andre Gide). I’ll miss reading about dear Alyosha, Dmitri, and Ivan every night. Dostoevsky’s fiction is unrivaled...his characters are rendered with unbelievable depth, and the sheer breadth of characters is breathtaking. He understands the rich, the poor, the wretched, and the righteous. All is deeply philosophical, and the experience of reading this spun me into a loop several times thinking and rethinking religion, morality, honor, and despair.
On the Shortness of Life
49 AD
8 - 10 Oct 2019
This was fascinating to wrestle with! I don’t agree with some of it, but I think there’s always a time in our lives when we need to hear some good Stoic advice. It’s shocking that Seneca lived 2000 years ago, yet so many of the traps we fall into as humans seeking purpose and joy are the same, and he addresses them thoroughly and methodically.

“Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have been passed before them are added to their own.”
From the first essay/letter, “On the Shortness of Life”

Seneca really emphasizes stewardship of our time, and at first I resisted understanding this because I value generosity—i.e., giving my time and energies freely to a wide range of people and activities. Though Stoicism doesn’t naturally align with this sort of idealistically overflowing heart, I still think there’s a lot of wisdom for me to gain in how I give my time and energy, as they can be given foolishly.
Just Mercy
Bryan Stevenson
8 Mar - 8 Oct 2019
“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.”

The last few chapters of this book have made me think a lot about the suffering I’ve caused others in the name of “justice,” how harsh and unrelenting I’ve been, how inhumane. Stevenson also wrote:
“Fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous.”

I realized that when Stevenson talks about “just mercy” he is addressing both the victims and the victimizers (for many of us have been both). He appreciates victims of injustice who forgive those who enacted the injustice on them, and he calls on the public and the state to have mercy on those who commit crimes—to understand the context they come from. We, as both people who have been hurt and people who hurt others, can show compassion and mercy to those who hurt us instead of acting out of self-righteous, fear-induced anger. Not only would this mercy be good, but it would more importantly be just.

“The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?”

There is so, so much to learn from this book. I haven’t even picked out the most important parts of this book for the review (such as the history of capital punishment, the cruel treatment of children in the criminal justice system, and the system of mass incarceration in the US); these thoughts are just what linger on with me as I finish the book. I highly recommend picking this one up! Stevenson writes with such honest clarity; his recollection of these important cases is both focused and passionate. I really appreciate this book for teaching me and moving my heart and mind.
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
23 - 26 Sep 2019
The Abundance
Annie Dillard
18 - 22 Sep 2019
Funny, observant, and poetic
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
Lewis Carroll
15 - 18 Sep 2019
The Martian Chronicles
Ray Bradburry
2 - 5 September 2019
Delightful, thought-provoking, and occasionally cynical tales of humans’ first contact with and subsequent habitation on Mars.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Rebecca Solnit
5 Jul - 28 Aug 2019
This book was an absolute pleasure. Solnit’s beautiful prose was a comforting companion for many of my long train rides this past month. In these essays, she gives words and shape to the abstract and intangible vastnessss of the unknown, of longing, and of life in a startling accuracy that I’ve never experienced before. “Abandon” is spectacular! Should anything ever happen or not happen in the world, I would want Rebecca Solnit to recount it.
Jane Austen
1 Jul - 15 Aug 2019
Lovely and delightful (the wittiest voice I’ve read in my recent memory!), let me live inside this world for a little bit longer...
The Abolition of Man
C.S. Lewis
20 Jan - 16 Jun 2019
This is C.S. Lewis’s defense of objective value. Lots of good stuff in here!! “The Abolition of Man” essay was quite haunting to read 40 years after it was written... we seem to still be headed in the direction that Lewis postulated and feared. Reading it gave me a helpful framework for understanding my unease about our growing technological might. I wonder what Lewis would have thought about artificial intelligence! Ha! I will continue to think about all this slowly over the next few months/years.
The Leavers
Lisa Ko
9 Apr - 15 Jun 2019
Beautiful, this book is like an emotional sour punch
Sour Heart
Jenny Zhang
8 - 15 Jun 2019
Wow, I’ve never been so moved to unexpected tears—and secret feelings and aching reminiscences of childhood and (most of all right now) devastation that the pages have run out—by a collection of stories. These stories are beautiful and sometimes ugly and painful in their truth, in their never-ending hope, in their curiosity, and most wonderfully, in their pure joy and embodiment of love. I really experienced the full spectrum of tears while reading this—thank you so much for bringing these to life, Jenny!!
On Doing Nothing
Roman Muradov
26 - 28 May 2019
:) A short, whimsical, and beautiful quasi-literature-review of the benefits and wonders of idleness in art, writing, and life
Ayn Rand
25 May 2019
Worship of “We” vs. worship of “I”

A perspective from the 1940s that I have honestly not encountered today, because it’s like it’s already engrained in our individualistic society. Rand argues for the worship of the “I” — the individual — above all else, and as a means in and of itself. It’s pretty wild to think that now, 70 years later, this is where we are. I’m afraid Rand and Objectivism hasn’t worked out, though, since people are curiously unhappy when they try to live for only themselves and their own happiness. I might still read more of her work, though, to get a better idea of it all.
A Tale for the Time Being
Ruth Ozeki
29 Jan - 1 Apr 2019
A wonderful combination of deep-dives into a collection of interesting subjects, including: Buddhist principles of time, quantum mechanics, birds, family, suicide, 9/11, Japan in WWII, what it means to live and die, and agency in fiction. I particularly loved the exploration of meta-fiction and the careful teasing of (but not quite fulfillment of) surrealism throughout this novel. A Tale for the Time Being is hard to explain to other people, and that's one of the reasons I love it -- it was at the same time investigative and magical, dark and light, pensive and emotional, informative and questioning -- truly an enjoyable, compelling read.
Sophie's World
Jostein Gaarder
1991, transl. from Norwegian
31 Dec 2018 - 26 Jan 2019
Fun book! Sophie’s World is a pretty simple and digestible overview of Western philosophy. I found it a useful springboard for finding philosophers I wanted to read more of. The book did drag a bit, but I don’t think it’s meant to be read all at once.
A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf
2 - 6 Jan 2019
I really enjoyed this essay! I admire and adore Virginia Woolf so much, and of course recommend this. I found it a bit quicker and lighter than her fiction, so it’s a good read for being outdoors on a nice day :)

I think also after reading a lot of queer-feminist theory this past semester, Woolf’s prose and opinion on women and fiction was refreshing—full of wit, hope, and appreciation of literature and life.


Letters to a Young Poet
Rainer Maria Rilke
1929, transl. from German
27 - 29 Dec 2018
I really enjoyed this little collection. Rilke is astonishingly gentle in his advice and wisdom, and his love for and confidence in life, art, and solitude is comforting. In these letters Rilke also addresses romantic love, sickness, hardship, and God. I would recommend this to anyone seeking guidance or perspective on writing, art, or simply being.

“Always wish that you might be able to find patience enough in yourself to endure, and single-heartedness enough to believe; that you might win increasing trust in what is difficult, and in your solitude among other people. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, at all events.” Rilke, 1904
Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Madeleine Thien
27 Oct - 26 Dec 2018
Wow. This novel makes me feel as if I've just lived several lives; I hope these lives stay with me. Thien has created an intimate web of characters that I felt like I disappeared into; their hurt was my hurt; their dislodged and repressed longing my own.

I will never forget the unbreakable, timeless yet heartbreaking bond between Sparrow, Kai, and Zhuli (and so many others).

The characters' lives have the quality of being so unquestionably, undeniably lived. After a 10 hour plane ride--at least 5 hours of which were spent reading this book--it was difficult to re-enter my reality thinking that the lives in the book were fiction, while my life was real.

I enjoyed this novel's meditation on the space and time between people, between ideas, between what one desires and who one is--much of which was told through the lens of music and mathematics: the growing and shrinking of time; the way it may freeze, the way it may silence; the freedom of silence; the endless cycles of time, music, and generations.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing grapples with a chockfull of questions that may be unanswerable, or which would take a lifetime to answer. What makes a life empty or full? What do we/can we hold onto inside when everything is taken away? Is it possible to really begin again? To change?

This novel and its stories has touched me so deeply. Thank you Madeleine Thien for writing this; I don't know much about you or your life, but within this book there were threads of hurt, love, and confusion that felt so lived, so experienced, that they were special and real in a way only a personal story can be.
Toni Morrison
18 Nov - 20 Dec 2018
This is actually the first Toni Morrison book I’ve read—picked it up on a whim because of the title in a used book store and just sat down to start reading it that day. (I had been itching for a good, immersive novel that said something profound about love.) This novel ended up being something entirely different, though. I thought it spoke more to vengeance, betrayal, youth, and power within families than to love. Or perhaps these are the ways that love when betrayed can become hate. The array of characters Morrison gives us are startlingly rich, and the non-linear timeline adds a sense of mystery to the story as it unfolds.
Orson Scott Card
3 - 23 Aug 2018
Ah wow. When I started reading this book, it immediately became one of my favorite sci-fi books. It’s a really beautiful exploration of love (maternal/paternal, filial, romantic) and emotional control. The mechanics of the plot are also complex enough to make it feel like a typical sci-fi, world-building novel. Lots of places of my heart were touched!
The Trial
Franz Kafka
22 - 30 July
:0 Yea
The pace picked up toward the middle and the story became this intriguing knot of anxiety and absurdity. Joseph K.’s character development wasn’t amazing, yet I don’t think I can ever forget him. At the core he embodies the very human frustration with one’s own (inescapable) entanglement with human-made absurdities. As K.’s fear and anxiety grows to be more diffuse and suffocating, logic becomes convoluted and he gets stuck in the unnecessary web of the court system itself. I found it so interesting that on many levels I could relate to that feeling — when fear goes on overdrive and I become immersed in the very thing I didn’t wanted to care about.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
1967, transl. from Spanish
13 Jun - 21 Jul 2018
The Stranger
Albert Camus
27 - 28 May 2018
The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath
17 - 26 May 2018
o man

The Bell Jar is an apt and startling portrayal of depression and of being suicidal. I resonated a lot with the book because of my own experiences. It was overall a pretty heavy book (despite Plath’s sharp humor - I actually laughed out loud a couple of times). There was incredibly precise, fresh, descriptive language throughout the entire work. It’s beautiful, and I’m glad it eventually got published, though I’m still heartbroken about Plath herself. The bell jar can return and descend seemingly out of nowhere :(

“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.”
The Waves
Virginia Woolf
22 Feb - 14 May 2018
wow!!!!!!! wow
Tuesdays with Morrie
Mitch Albom
31 Mar - 9 May 2018
wonderful book :)
Letters to Kelly Clarkson
Julia Bloch
28 Apr 2018
I liked this collection! It's light, colloquial, insightful, funny, intimate, and sometimes strange in a wonderful way.
The Woman Warrior
Maxine Hong Kingston
21 Jan - 21 Feb 2018


The Sympathizer
Viet Thanh Nguyen
14 May - 24 Dec 2017
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
David Eagleman
8 May - 11 Nov 2017
fun, light, thought-provoking
Jessica Hagedorn
3 Jan - 28 Apr 2018

Highly recommend, Hagedorn is extremely talented, and this book is quite the feat
Dear Jenny, We Are All Find
Jenny Zhang
6 May 2017
Richard Siken
4 Mar 2017
Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Ocean Vuong
4 - 6 Jan 2017
destroyed me


The Vegetarian
Han Kang
2016, transl. from Korean
3 Sep - 28 Dec 2016
The Awakening
Kate Chopin
16 - 27 Jul 2016
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Haruki Murakami
1985, transl. from Japanese
1 Jun - 6 Jul 2016
If you liked Calvino's Invisible Cities and if you like Murakami, I think you'll enjoy this.