Just before I was born in 1960, my parents purchased a complete hardbound set of the Compton’s Encyclopedia; furthermore, they subscribed to the annual yearbook supplements. I believe the year 1959 was the first one.
Accordingly, my earliest childhood memories pertaining to books and reading are looking at the photos and drawings in these encyclopedias and yearbooks, and trying to dope out the words, because strictly speaking, I couldn’t read. By the time I greeted the kindergarten regimen, I had it sussed.
Another distant recollection about books and reading centers on a Catholic publication about the lives of the saints, with quite a few of the illustrations depicting the various means of torture deployed to make the case for future sainthood. As no doubt intended, they gave me nightmares.
Somehow I’ve escaped a fetish for masochism.
Following is my reading list for 2023. As you’d expect with me, the subject matter skews heavily toward European history, geography and travel, whether fiction or nonfiction. It’s who I am and what I do, and there’ll be no apologies. In my view the stork was drunk as $%@!, and in his muddled ineptitude mistook New Albany on the Ohio for Neuburg an der Donau.
Consequently, my Hoosier lifetime is only an accident.
My New Year’s resolution is to add short descriptions, so maybe there’ll be more to the exercise next year. Picking annual reading favorites always seems harder than with albums, as books often take longer to sink in. But if I had to pick three from the larger list:
- We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, by Fintan O’Toole
- The Hive, a novel by Camilo Jose Cela
- France on Trial: The Case of Marshal Pétain, by Julian Jackson
Reverse Chronology, December – January 2023
33 Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany, by Katja Hoyer
32 The Wizard of the Kremlin, a novel by Guiliano da Empoli
31 Oldest Louisville: A Guide to Historic Treasures, by Kevin Gibson
30 Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country, by Jan Morris
29 A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
28 Karaoke Culture, essays by Dubravka Ugresic
27 The Man Who Built the Berlin Wall: The Rise and Fall of Erich Honecker, by Nathan Morley
26 Berlin Stories, short stories by Christopher Isherwood
25 France on Trial: The Case of Marshal Pétain, by Julian Jackson
24 No Meat Required: The Cultural History & Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating, by Alicia Kennedy
23 Moscow 1937, by Karl Schlögel
22 The Thought Gang, a novel by Tibor Fischer
21 Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land, by Jacob Mikanowsky
20 A Monk Swimming, a memoir by Malachy McCourt
19 The Physics of Sorrow, a novel by Georgi Gospodinov
18 Judas, a novel by Amos Oz
17 Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe
16 Kokoro, a novel by Natsume Soseki
15 Ticket to Latvia: A Journey from Berlin to the Baltic, by Marcus Tanner
14 Summer of ’49, by David Halberstam
13 The Spirit of Mediterranean Places, essays by Michel Butor
12 The Food of a Younger Land, by Mark Kurlansky
11 Journey to the Alcarria: Travels through the Spanish Countryside, by Camilo Jose Cela
10 The Hive, a novel by Camilo Jose Cela
09 Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, by Tamim Ansary
08 Sicilian Carousel, by Lawrence Durrell
07 Jan Morris: Life from Both Sides: A Biography, by Paul Clements
06 We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, by Fintan O’Toole
05 The Undercurrents: A Story of Berlin, by Kirsty Bell
04 Pale Fire, a novel by Vladimir Nabokov
03 Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall, by Sir Thomas Browne
02 Endless Flight: The Life of Joseph Roth, by Keiron Pim
01 The Rings of Saturn, a novel by W.G. Sebald