Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Janet Potter

By posted at 6:00 pm on December 10, 2013 2

The Second Annual Janet Potter Awards for Literary Achievement

Biggest Redemption

coverVampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

In last year’s awards I proclaimed that “everyone is wrong” about Swamplandia!, which I couldn’t stand. I only tried this book at the very strong recommendation of my never-wrong friend Michael Schaub and the promise that one of the stories was about dead presidents reincarnated as farm animals. I loved that story and went on to love all the stories in Vampires. Everything that irked me about Swamplandia! clicked into place in this volume. Perhaps I should give more authors a second chance.

Funniest

coverYou Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me by Nathan Rabin

“Everybody who rides a Greyhound from Newark at that hour might as well wear a sign reading, ASK ME ABOUT THE HORRIBLE MISTAKES THAT HAVE LED ME HERE.”

Cutest Couple

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I recently heard Rowell speak, and when asked whether it bothered her that her books were sometimes labeled as Young Adult Romance, replied, “I think ‘romance’ is a word used to make women feel bad about themselves and how they feel, and I refuse to feel bad about either of those things.” So not only do I love Rowell even more than I did already, I’ve become even bolder in recommending the most romantic book I read this year.

Best Temper Tantrum

coverThe Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

The young Theodore Roosevelt loved nature, and brought a lot of it into his childhood bedroom for what he called the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History — snapping turtles tied to the furniture, frogs hidden in his hats — but most of his family called a nuisance. When his mother, exasperated, let loose a litter of field mice he had been housing, he cried, “The loss to Science! The loss to Science!”

Most Belated Reading Experience

coverThe Secret History by Donna Tartt

All the excitement surrounding The Goldfinch’s release led me to read the novel that made Tartt a literary darling back in 1992. A few sleepless nights later I was dying to go back in time so I could talk to everyone about it.

Best Back Catalog

Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns by John Green

After joining the legions who love The Fault in Our Stars last year, I quickly read his first three novels. Although they don’t transcend the YA genre as much as his mega-seller, they’re all superb YA novels. I don’t think anyone has portrayed high school life as realistically since Freaks & Geeks.

Biggest Failure

coverThe Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

For a few years I have been wanting to read Carr’s book about how the internet is affecting our attention spans and “ability to read and think deeply,” so I got it out from the library. But then I got busy with, I don’t know, finding new Tumblrs and watching eyeshadow tutorials on YouTube, so 3 weeks later, to avoid the fine, I returned it to the library unread, and the gods of irony laughed.

Best Career Inspiration

coverDud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

One of the characters in this book says that she wants to start a magazine called “Everything Gauche” and now, by gum, so do I.

Best Epiphany

This Bright River by Patrick Somerville

I turned 30 this year, a milestone I was relieved to reach in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. A few days after my birthday I read this passage that sums it up perfectly.

Occasionally I would join them for their weekly baby lunches, depending on whether I was busy that day, and all of us could discuss how strange it was that we were no longer part of the youngest generation or (for that matter) the generation of the main people on TV, that marketing didn’t seem directed at us anymore, how we didn’t quite know what to make of the early days of this new status as adults but that it did seem to have its benefits, like a remarkable unbounded freedom, despite the stresses and responsibilities, which seemed to want to take that same freedom right back.

Best Read of the Year

coverThe Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This book also swept Best Depiction of Female Friendship, Book I’ve Recommended and Given the Most, Best Depiction of Class, and Author I Want to Be Friends With.

More from A Year in Reading 2013

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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2 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Janet Potter”

  1. skiki
    at 6:33 pm on December 10, 2013

    I was torn about Swamplandia! There were aspects of it that I really dug and then a lot of it that didn’t work. But you can definitely see there’s talent there, and you’re right–Schaub knows everything! So I’ll give Russell another go.

  2. rebecca
    at 11:38 pm on January 7, 2014

    Wow – how perfect is that Patrick Somerville quote? I’m only just about 28ish, but it’s everything I’ve been struggling to say.

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