Planning the pages: 2023 edition

It’s a new year, so it’s that time again… time to figure out what I’m going to spend the year reading. Here’s the list.

Chonk? Chonk.

After thinking about this for a while – this list has gestated as a note on my phone for a couple of months – I’ve decided that this year’s list will be a bit of an aspirational selection. Most of the books, you’ll notice, are longer works. This is intentional, as I’ve been hanging around on #booktwitter a bit too much, and now need to inhale some MIGHTY TOMES.

I also figure it’ll mean that I feel less guilty about choosing shorter works for interstitial reads. I’m hoping that this will let me power through some less weighty (but still worthy, natch) books along the way, as I’m hopefully going to read list and random books alternately.

(The numbering doesn’t matter in this list: I just used it to ensure I had 23 entries, even though there’s a load more titles in there.

  1. John Barth: The Sot-Weed Factor (reread)
    I first read this a long time ago, and have good memories of it. It’s the sort of wanky thing – a shaggy-dog satire in archaic language – that I’m completely into.
  2. Thomas Pynchon: Mason & Dixon
    Though I haven’t read it, I am a big Pynchon fan, which is a requirement for membership of the Lit Wankers club. It’s basically the same thing as the first entry on this list.
  3. Alan Moore: Jerusalem
    More than 1200 pages from a mad genius who worships a Roman snake god? BRING IT. I’ve had this since release but haven’t managed to crack it yet.
  4. Carlos Fuentes: Terra Nostra
    The Mexican behemoth – a thing of Joycean excess – has been on my shelf for a long time. I haven’t read much about it because I want to go in as blind as possible.
  5. John Hersey: Hiroshima
    I bought my copy of this at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during my first visit. It’s the story of atomic survival – originally published in The New Yorker – that shocked the world. I’m not expecting fun times here.
  6. Maya Deren: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (reread)
    While Deren is known more for her films (especially Meshes of the Afternoon), this book is one of the fundamental tomes in the study of Haitian vodou.
  7. Laurent Binet: HHHh
    Several friends have recommended Binet’s work to me – this seems to be as good a place as any to begin.
  8. Matthew McIntosh: TheMystery.doc
    This 1600-page chonk has been both loved and hated, it seems. That seems to be a pretty good indicator that it’s worth checking out.
  9. Laurence Sterne: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
    The stream-of-consciousness OG! My copy was given to me by a dear friend more than 20 years ago, and it feels like it might be time to read it. (I mean, their Infinite Jest recommendation turned out OK, so I imagine this will too.)
  10. Minae Mizamura: A True Novel
    Wuthering Heights in Japan? What’s not to love?
  11. Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death’s End
    A holdover from 2021’s list. A SF trilogy I’m keen on reading, even though the author appears to be a bit of a dick.
  12. Antony Beevor: The Second World War
    After finishing a history of the First World War, I figure it’s time to learn about the sequel. This one-volume history comes very highly recommended.
  13. Rodrigo Fresán: The Invented Part, The Dreamed Part and The Remembered Part
    Now that his Lynchean trilogy is finally finished, it’s time to give it a whirl. These are meant to be best described as hallucinatory, which would suit me just fine.
  14. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (reread)
    I read this when I was in university. Having heard from many how complex it is, I’m wondering whether I missed the point entirely. I guess this is the time to find out if I was right or not.
  15. Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon (reread)
    Supremely detailed historical fiction/techno-thriller that I remember devouring despite its length. And you know, the title is a pisstake of Necronomicon so there’s that.
  16. Mark de Silva: The Logos
    I don’t think I’m going to understand this.
  17. James Joyce: Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (reread), Ulysses (reread) and Finnegans Wake
    In which I revisit the works of noted porno letter-writer Joyce, before hopefully mustering enough oomph to make it through his final novel. I think Ulysses is a) great and b) a lot more fun than it ever gets credit for being, so I’m looking forward to this.
  18. Tex Gresham: Sunflower
    So it seems this is Pynchon with genital torture? I guess that works.
  19. Kaoru Takamura: Lady Joker Volume 1 and Lady Joker Volume 2
    A crime behemoth that’s still (at time of writing) being readied for print. This is an incredibly detailed work which I needed as soon as I heard it existed: granular detail and more than fifty years of narrative time? BINGO.
  20. Herman Melville: Pierre; or The Ambiguities
    Another recommendation from a friend. They just said it was very me, and I’m loath to find out any more than that. I loved Moby-Dick so I’m assuming this will be another cracker, though perhaps with a lot less sperm.
  21. Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d’Arthur
    At university I read excerpts from the Vinauer edition of Malory’s tale. It’s time to read the whole thing in an edition that’s not going to make my eyes explode with effort.
  22. Naguib Mahfouz: The Cairo Trilogy
    I know fuck-all about Egyptian literature, and I’m very keen to learn.
  23. Doíreann Ní Ghríofa: A Ghost in the Throat
    A mysterious biography, written by a poet, in her car. The book has evoked rapture from some reviewers, and I hope I feel the same way.

Plus, with question marks added?

Outside this list, which forms a kind of framework for the year, I’ll read a bunch of other things. As ever, there’s always the items listed on my TBR page – they’re just begging to be read, some from years back. (Everything on this list will be added to that page as well, to enable easier review access.)

On top of those books, though, are a load of art and theory books filling up my iPad, a Kindle full of random texts, a Calibre library full of purchased ebooks and several bookshelves of esoteric texts.

Some of these other possible reads include:

Let’s face it, there are a thousand books in the next room alone that could be up next, and any potential reads are dependent on my mood. I’m under no illusion that I’ll read all of these – or even most – but the point is to try and give myself a fighting chance at a little structure.

I’m excited.

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