Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Lydia Kiesling

By posted at 6:00 am on December 7, 2013 6

This year I read articles about the San Francisco housing market and the Oakland housing market and the rise of the tech class and the death of the middle class, and I had anxieties. But I was fortunate to have a job, so I subscribed to three magazines, two of which I read. I read trend pieces in which I recognized myself because I have student loans and no car and no house and no offspring. I read online guides for how to introduce cats to babies, in case the latter condition should change. I read laments on the death of the humanities and felt morose. I read tweets where people said they didn’t like Frances Ha and felt misunderstood. I read the numbers on the scale and learned that I am fatter than I was the last time I wrote my Year in Reading. I read warnings about sitting being the new smoking and wondered if smoking will become okay by comparison. I read the ingredients in my lotion and wondered if they are giving me a rash. I read a WebMD thing about my rash and wondered if my lotion would be harmful for a baby. I read Amazon reviews for natural flea treatments and learned that there are none.

covercovercoverWhen I wasn’t reading a bunch of depressing shit, I read some strange and wonderful things. I read Dissident Gardens and thought it was so overwhelmingly wonderful that I read The Fortress of Solitude right away, and was underwhelmed by comparison. I read half of William Vollmann’s An Afghanistan Picture Show, which was not wonderful, and then I read all of his article about not being The Unabomber, which was. I read Ross Raisin’s Waterline. I read The Kindly Ones and wanted to talk to someone about it, but it’s old news and everyone is arguing about whether The Goldfinch and The Circle are bad or good. So I read four-year-old commentaries by Garth Risk Hallberg and Andrew Seal and had an imaginary talk with them both, and I think we all felt good at the end.

covercoverI read the memoir of Donald Antrim and felt very moved by his description of an outlandish kimono constructed by his mother, and wondered what it would be like to be the mother of Donald Antrim, or to have the mother that Donald Antrim had. I read an interview with Charles Manson, but did not care to consider what it would be like to be his mother. I read Tortilla Flat. I read Cannery Row. I read the Granta collection of under-40-year-olds and felt sort of stunned and worthless at the end. A story by Tahmima Anam about Dubai and falling continues to haunt me at odd moments. I read another story about falling, by Lionel Shriver, and got the spooky feeling I always get from Lionel Shriver, that she found the diary I would never actually keep, containing all my most awful thoughts. I wondered if Lionel Shriver is a witch. I re-read Of Human Bondage for the utter joy of it.  I re-read Lucky Jim. I re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary. I got a cold and stayed home sick and re-read both memoirs of Beverly Cleary, and wished that I could stay home all week. I re-read Betsy was a Junior. I re-read The Adventures of Augie March, and wondered how it could have failed to show up on this list.

coverI read more things than I anticipated about Miley Cyrus. I somehow also read an interview with the woman whose husband committed infidelity with Kristen Stewart, accompanied by a picture of her nipples. I watched the music video for “Blurred Lines” and felt for a moment how very much people must hate women to come up with this shit. I realized that some of my favorite books by women are actually by men. I resolved to read more books by women. I felt obscurely annoyed at society for necessitating extra work on my part to correct its imbalance. I felt annoyed at myself for having this thought. I read The Group, which was a revelation. I read The Dud Avocado. I read The Conservationist and The Debut. I read The Affairs of Others and some good stories by Kate Milliken. Now I note that my reading list, like Ms. Cyrus, has a race problem–another thing requiring redress.

Next year I’ll do better, in this and all other matters.

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

Like what you see? Learn about 5 insanely easy ways to Support The Millions, and follow The Millions on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr.





Share this article

More from the Millions

6 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Lydia Kiesling”

  1. Gary
    at 10:40 am on December 7, 2013

    You can’t do better than this column, however. Wonderful.

  2. Hannah
    at 1:04 pm on December 7, 2013

    I love this series in general, but I adored every word of this essay in particular. It made me wonder, as Lydia does of Lionel Shriver, if Ms. Kiesling is in fact a (good) witch, and has read my mind but expressed it much better than I could’ve.

  3. Judy Krueger
    at 1:27 pm on December 7, 2013

    I am a member of a Sunday Salon. We get together and discuss a topic in person, in my living room, instead of by email, facebook, or twitter. Last month we discussed holidays, traditions, what they mean to us now, and New Years resolutions. I wish you could have been there. I wish I could write as well as you do. My New Years resolution is to practice writing more than I did this year and get better at that.

  4. Lydia Kiesling
    at 11:33 am on December 8, 2013

    Thank you, kind readers!

  5. Rich H.
    at 12:14 pm on December 9, 2013

    Great piece, Lydia! I re-read your thesis on Hodgson this year in preparation for comps. It was just as good the second time around.

    Hope all is well.

    Greetings from Chicago.

  6. Shelley
    at 10:36 am on December 10, 2013

    And won’t the Steinbeck stay with you longer than the others?

Post a Response

Comments with unrelated links will be deleted. If you'd like to reach our readers, consider buying an advertisement instead.

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments that do not add to the conversation will be deleted at our discretion.