I read a lot of books in 2020 but I amassed so many more of them than I was able to read. Gifts, visits to the second-hand store, and occasional bursts of an unresistable urge to buy more dead trees: All of these things left me with an ever-growing pile of books. There’s plenty of stuff I want to get to next year but we all know how that goes. You plan on reading a bunch of books and a lot of titles on your list are some of the postmodern literary titans you’ve always wanted to conquer. You’ve known that “a screaming comes across the sky” since you bought that copy of Gravity’s Rainbow 3 years ago but you still haven’t gotten any further than that. Nevertheless, there are a few titles I will read, which is why I’ve set a goal of 13 books I will actually get to next year. Some of these picks might be obvious, most them are well known classics, but I feel like I’m in a phase as a reader where I still haven’t read enough of them. So without further ado, here’s a glimpse into my plans for next year.
1. Underworld by Don Delillo
This would be my first DeLillo, even though I might end up reading White Noise first. I will definitely read Underworld though, because it’s my pick for next year’s buddy read with my dad. It’s often called a Great American Novel, it was written in the second half of the 20th century, and it centers around baseball. What’s not to like?
2. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
I first stumbled upon this title in Noam Chomsky’s On Anarchism, in which he talks at length about the Spanish Civil War. Homage to Catalonia is Orwell’s account of the events he was a part of himself. This is an era of recent history that I am terribly intrigued by, but which I hardly know anything about. I might read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls as well, but Orwell’s account has been at the very top of my reading list for way too long.
3. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
I know, I know. I should’ve read some Faulkner a long time ago but I’ve just been too intimidated by his stuff. This year’s the year though. I bought a copy of As I Lay Dying in a wonderful bookshop during a vacation earlier this year and I will pick it up in 2021.
4. Mishima: A Biography by John Nathan
I’ve written a couple of Mishima Reviews on here, so it should come as no surprise that I’m a fan. Mishima wrote fiction that tells us a lot about who he was. One has to look no further than Runaway Horses to find out about his strong, even extremist political beliefs, his fear of getting older, and his yearning for a Japanese tradition that had been dying out since the Meiji Restoration. He lived an interesting life and died a spectacular death, so I think it’s time to dive into the history behind it all. I heard that this was the go to biography about Mishima, so I’ll give it a try very soon.
5. Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
I don’t know much about this novel, other than that it’s very famous. It’s also one of only two picks on this list that was written in German. There’s just too much non-German stuff I currently want to read but I should consider reading more German fiction.
6. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
I know I don’t read enough newly released novels but I’m just not into contemporary fiction that much. However, I adore Ishiguro’s work and I preordered his new novel recently. This means I’ll actually be able to review a book shortly after it comes out for once. From only reading the blurb it looks like he’s going into a kind of dystopian/science fiction-ish direction similar to that of Never Let Me Go. This kind of futuristic fiction often tends to be very dull but I adore Never Let Me Go and I am confident that Ishiguro will live up to expectations.
7. Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann
It’s time. Thomas Mann. What else is there to say?
8. Herzog by Saul Bellow
For my birthday my parents each gifted me a book that they want me to read. My mom’s pick was Doktor Faustus, my dad’s was Herzog. I have to confess that I haven’t read anything by either of the two writers. That’s about to change.
9. No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
One of the many great modern Japanese classics I still haven’t read. If Wikipedia is correct it’s the second-best selling novel ever in Japan and it’s notorious for its brutal portrayal of mental illness. Dazai committed suicide shortly after publishing it, so I am in a state of uneasy anticipation when thinking about No Longer Human.
10. Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
Man, I’m really looking forward to this one. I read Inherent Vice recently and, even though it wasn’t one of my 13 favorite reads of 2020 (I will talk about my favorites of the year in a post next week), it definitely was the funniest. I originally wanted to read Vineland next because of the similar subject matter but Bleeding Edge intrigues me too much for it not to be my next Pynchon. The turn of the century and the ascension of the internet to the global phenomenon it is today are both things that fascinate me and that I can still somewhat remember, if only vaguely.
11. What’s the Matter With Kansas by Thomas Frank
I love Thomas Frank. Only a few journalists today are as intellectually capable and honest as he is. I read two books of his in 2020 and in 2021 I finally want to read the one he’s most famous for: What’s the Matter With Kansas. Why do people vote against there own economic interests? Why do so many working class people that used to be constituents of the Democratic voter base vote Republican? Thomas Frank tries to answer these questions in several of his books and does so in a funny but rational way. He’s a history buff and he understands a lot about politics, which kind of makes him a unicorn in the landscape of postmodern journalism.
12. On Writing by Stephen King
I’ve been writing a lot lately, so it’s only natural that I have become more and more interested in writing as a craft. This has been recommended by pretty much everyone that’s into writing and it seems like a good place to start. I’m not really into Stephen King but I’ve seen videos of him giving advice on writing that were certainly helpful.
13. Money by Martin Amis
My uncle gave me his old copy of Money and he thinks I’d really dig it. From what I can tell it’s a critique of consumerism and these types of books are usually a lot of fun. Martin Amis also seems like a smart dude so I’m anxious to see how he tackles the subject.
Honorable mentions include The Plot Against America by Philp Roth, Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem, and just about anything by James Baldwin but I don’t want to commit to them just yet.
13 books I will actually get to next year!Tweet that shit!