Tying Up Loose Ends in 2011

As cold weather descends and shows no sign of budging, my thoughts turn to holidays and family and, far too soon, the end of the year. But before I can even start thinking about 2012, I first need to finish up a few things from 2011.

Books, of course. Specifically, the great books that I have picked up at various times this year and, for some reason, put back down. I have about a dozen unfinished books piled on my shelves right now, and it’s killing me. So, in December I’ll be focusing on wrapping them up.

1. The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert Boynton
I’ve enjoyed reading this book, though it’s a tough one to read cover-to-cover; there’s so much information and advice I want to absorb, I’m going slowly and savoring every minute.

2. Telling True Stories by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call
Again, this is a book that is jam-packed with valuable advice, perhaps even more so than The New New Journalism. I have to stop every few pages to highlight a passage or just absorb the gems that sparkle on each page.

3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird is another invaluable resource for writers, though its conversational tone and humorous anecdotes make it feel lighter than the other reference works I’ve been reading.

4. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
This is a short book that I thought would be perfect on audiobook, but, strangely, finishing it has been a struggle. I’ll have a full review up once I do, but for now I’ll only say that it was not what I expected.

5. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Oh, Dave Eggers. How much speed did you do in order to keep up your frantic pace for this book? Eggers pulls the reader straight into his stream of consciousness, which is both a good and bad thing. I had to take a break from his unceasing energy, but now I’m back and ready to conquer this memoir.

6. The Grace of Silence: A Memoir by Michele Norris
Michele Norris is brilliant and eloquent, and I’ve been meaning to finish her slim memoir for a while. So far, she has managed to reveal a world utterly unlike mine without seeming judgmental. What a woman.

7. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
I began reading this book on vacation in Thailand, which was a mistake. It is dark and meandering–not exactly a beach read. I plowed through most of it on the plane, but then had to put the book in quarantine when I arrived back home, and I’ve had trouble getting up the nerve to finish it.

8. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Lahiri, and so far this book has only impressed me. I think I haven’t finished it because I want to draw it out for as long as possible. But, after all, I have her other books to start when I’m done with this one!

9. Lost in Shangri-La: The Epic True Story of a Plane Crash into the Stone Age by Mitchell Zuckoff
Talk about terrible books to read when you are flying over the jungle in Borneo in a retired Russian jet. On my trip to Indonesia, I had to put it down and opt for something a little less creepy, given the circumstances. This book has been on tons of “best nonfiction” lists, and I’m determined to finish it, our rocky start notwithstanding.

10. Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
I have a ton of books I want to read, so why did I start reading Didion’s first collection of essays last month? Because I just couldn’t stay away. Her voice is sharp and clear, and I want to be her one day.

11. Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy
This book has been surprisingly popular, but it’s been difficult for me to really get into it. But I’m determined to finish!

Of course, I’m not going to be able to resist sneaking in a few new titles. I’ve already finished The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber and The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore. In addition, I’ll start listening to Freedom by Jonathan Franzen on e-audiobook once I finish The Art of Racing in the Rain, and I’m hoping to begin The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins on my e-reader as well. Many of these will count toward my Bookshelf ROWDOWN challenge, which will be a great way to round out 2011.

Which do you think I should polish off first?

Categories: On Writing, Sunday Salon

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