The lists are appearing. The best books of the year for those that measure this amongst books published in the last twelve months. And the more personal, and more interesting, lists of the best books individuals have read this year irrespective of publication date. This post popped up in my Twitter timeline yesterday, and I stopped to read it twice. Anthony is horrified where I am sad but our feelings about the current state of our worlds match, and have deprived us both in some measure of the regular pleasures of our reading lives.
Since the election, I have begun reading five books that I have abandoned. All of these books had a tremendous amount to give, but I was not in a position to receive. I kept returning to the political conversation instead. And promised myself I would return to that Guy de Maupassant, that Javier Marias, that Anne Carson later when my head was in a more receptive state. But then I found a book that healed me a bit, that left me so grounded in what I fundamentally believe that I read it twice in a row - Upstream by Mary Oliver. Consoled me with words like this:
"In the first of these—the natural world—I felt at ease; nature was full of beauty and interest and mystery, also good and bad luck, but never misuse. The second world—the world of literature—offered me, besides the pleasures of form, the sustentation of empathy (the first step of what Keats called negative capability) and I ran for it. I relaxed in it. I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything—other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness—the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books—can re-dignify the worst-stung heart."
Is there a book that has especially touched you recently?