It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2019’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2020! More than two dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read in the new year! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!
This year’s Guest List episode features selections from 25 of our recent guests (and one upcoming guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
About our Guests
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Christopher Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Caleb Crain, Joan Marans Dim, Boris Fishman, Katelan Foisy, Mort Gerberg, Eva Hagberg, Peter Kuper, Kate Lacour, Liniers, Kate Maruyama, Edie Nadelhaft, Sylvia Nickerson, James Oseland, Dawn Raffel, Witold Rybczynski, Frank Santoro, Ersi Sotiropoulos, Karl Stevens, James Sturm, Frederic Tuten, Chris Ware, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The episode was recorded at stately Virtual Memories Manor on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of my 2019 books by me. It’s on my instagram.
Alphabetical by author:
- I Will Be Complete: A Memoir – Glen David Gold (podcast)
- Essays After Eighty – Donald Hall
- A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety – Donald Hall
- James Merrill: Life and Art – Langdon Hammer (podcast)
- The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World – David Jaher (podcast)
- Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade – Walter Kirn (podcast)
- An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic – Daniel Mendelsohn (podcast coming 2020)
- House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row – Lance Richardson (podcast)
- A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel – Amor Towles (podcast)
- My Young Life – Frederic Tuten (podcast)
- The Cold Song: A Novel – Linn Ullmann (podcast 1 and 2)
- Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance – Jeff VanderMeer
- The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany – Donald Westlake (ed. Levi Stahl) (podcast w/Levi)
I started this on a whim, Christmas Eve, looking over the list of Every Book I’ve Finished Since 1989. These are the books that have stuck with me most over the decade, or continue to rise up in my thoughts. Given recency bias, a bunch of them are reads from the past few years.
I thought about ranking them, but they’re so different from one another that it seemed futile. If pressed, I’d put those two Donald Hall essay collections at the top, followed by Daniel Mendelsohn’s memoir on teaching The Odyssey.
It’s only prose, not comics. I don’t keep a list of comics I’ve finished, and I’m not at home while I write this, where I’d be able to refer to my library.
I read a ton for the podcast, but much of it is non-fiction, so I get minimal exposure to contemporary novels & stories. Hence only 3 novels to 10 non-fiction works. Also, I barely read poetry. I’m glad that memoirs didn’t outweigh history/biography, as I fear that’s a bias of mine.
This was the decade in which I finished reading Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts(podcast), and in which I discovered/read Stefan Zweig (esp. Chess Story), The Peregrine by JA Baker, The Leopard by Giuseppe Lampedusa, Bruce Jay Friedman’s short fiction(podcast), Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Which is to say, a lot of pre-2010 work made a huge impression on me, which maybe crowded out some of this decade’s work, in terms of stature/relevance.
Yep, all 12 authors are white, and yep, it’s 11 male to 1 female author. I’ll try to do better next decade.
There would be a whole bunch of honorable mentions, but that’s a whole new can of worms to open up. To quote the late Tom Spurgeon, “If I missed your book, it’s because I hate you.”
“The thing about Tom was, he wasn’t necessarily interested in everything you were interested in, but he was interested in learning about WHY you were interested in it. That sort of curiosity is rare, and it’s part of what made him a special person.”
Today (Dec. 16) would have been Tom Spurgeon‘s birthday. To honor my best friend after his untimely death, this mini-episode has my remarks from his memorial service this past weekend at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, OH. Give it a listen! And go support your favorite artists, whether by Patreon, direct donation, or buying some of their artwork!
“Tom provided support, raised attention to injustices in the field, directed people to lesser-known creators who he thought deserved a look, and — I know it sounds hokey — tried to make a better world for people. And he did it without expectation of financial reward.”
“His combo of intellect, passion, sociability and lack of an angle is not going to be seen again, and I dread what the years ahead will look like for that field.”
“Since we mainly communicated by e-mail over the decades, we got to try to be closer to our ideal selves for each other.”
“A few nights ago, when I was trying to write this, I thought, ‘Man, I should zap Tom a draft of this. He’d know how to make it work.’ So if it sucks, blame Tom.”
Credits: These remarks were recorded at Tom Spurgeon’s memorial service at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Tom by Meghan Ralston. Photo of me by Amy Roth.