This Reading Wasn’t Required But I Did It Anyway

According to my Goodreads profile, which I do my best to keep current, I’ve read 30 books this year. As of next week, the number should rise to 32, which was my goal for the year. (Well, my goal as of October. Before that, it was lower. Sometimes, my reading habits get a little out of control.) Here are some selections from that list, annotated.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell. If you’re even a little bit interested in how Tommy Wiseau crafted his fascinating fiasco of a movie, then you should—nay, need to read this book. Sestero (who starred in The Room and was heavily involved in the production process) and Bissell explore Wiseau’s inner psyche as they take readers through the movie’s short but tumultuous history, and they do it in a fairly evenhanded but entertaining manner.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. I briefly quit reading books after finishing NOS4A2. The content was that disturbing to me. I don’t recommend it. Read Horns instead. The editing is better, and it’ll stick with you, but not like this guy.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. I couldn’t stop reading this book and assigned myself to the Nice Faction (I literally don’t remember what the Nice Faction is actually called, sorry). Apparently, its appeal didn’t stick, because I haven’t read the sequels. But I’m glad you probably have!

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. Remember how magical the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series was? No? Well, I assure you, it was very magical. This—a novel featuring the same characters several years down the road—is the opposite of magical. It’s like the worst kind of Muggle in book form. This book is Marge Dursley. There. I said it. You’re welcome.

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. This Ukrainian novel was mentioned in one of Nick Hornby’s essay collections (essay collections I’ve read and reread and would probably reread again). It’s about a man who writes obituaries for a living and has a pet penguin that’s probably depressed. I don’t want to say more for fear of ruining it or making it sound any weirder than it already does, because yes, the premise is unusual, but the storytelling is oddly sweet and the dystopian elements (yes, they’re there) fit in nicely with the surface narrative of a man and the family he accidentally builds.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl is endlessly relatable if you, like me, dabble in the world of fanfiction and have some difficulty articulating your feelings despite writing all the ever-loving time. Rowell’s one of my favorite writers these days.

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright. If you’re in any way interested in the history of scientology, this is a must-read. It’s pretty exhaustive but it’s relentlessly fascinating at the same time.

The Witches by Roald Dahl. I used to read Matilda every year. It’s one of my favorite books and features one of my favorite protagonists. I tried to read The Witches as a kid but got distracted. At 27, I can’t understand how that could possibly happen. It’s so delightfully strange and eerie and involving, and it’s every bit as good as Matilda.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I described this book—a book club pick—as a real bummer in the best possible way. That’s still the most succinct, accurate description I can give.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I put off reading the last chapter of this book for a little while because I was enjoying it so much. The narrative structure is brilliant, with characters in each chapter connected—however closely or loosely—to previously mentioned characters. It’s essentially a concept album with words instead of music. Just wonderful.

The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman. I have A Lot to Say about these books. I’m saving that for a blahg entry that will probably never happen.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I’ve never met a graphic memoir I didn’t love, from Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis to Craig Thompson’s Blankets to this. On Goodreads last month, I said Fun Home is poignant without being overly emotional. That’s a delicate balance when you’re writing about your father’s death. But Bechdel handles it beautifully.

Hawkeye: LA Woman by Matt Fraction. I’m still savoring the third volume of Hawkeye, which focuses on Kate Bishop’s misadventures in LA. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: everyone should read this series. Really. Everyone.

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