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.”
This is one of those Must-Hear episodes of The Virtual Memories Show, people! I know I love all my kids, but I admit this one’s pretty special; give it a few minutes and you’ll understand why.
“What I’m passing on to people is . . . the capacity to have fun. To have a life that you can build around. Not branding, and not the demands of the marketplace, but what you really think and what you want.”
After a remarkable 40-year career, publisher Malcolm Margolin is retiring from Heyday Books in Berkeley. He joins the show to talk about the liberation of being unimportant, building a roundhouse to fall apart, the “dress code” necessary to make things palatable to a mainstream audience, his efforts to chronicle California Indian culture, his next act(s), and more! Give it a listen!
“In some ways I feel regret; the irony is that I was so active in preserving other people’s cultures and languages, but I let mine go.”
We also talk about the craziest golf foursome ever, the two-week-plus run of LSD that may have changed his life, his hatred of salesmanship (and environmentalists), the publishing revolution of the ‘70s, how we learn to live in a world bigger than our capacity to understand it, the inscription he’d want on his headphone e’d what drew him to publishing all those years ago (the beautiful women)! Give it a listen!
And become a patron of this podcast via Patreon or Paypal to get access to bonus conversation with Malcolm and a list of all the books we talked about! (Also, here’s a free bonus page of all the great quotes from our conversation.)
“I’m an emotion junkie. If I can go more than a few hours without breaking into tears, it’s a wasted day.”
About our Guest
Malcolm Margolin is an author, publisher, and the founder and executive director of Heyday Books, an independent nonprofit publisher and cultural institution in Berkeley, CA. In 1974 he founded Heyday with the publication of his book The East Bay Out: A Personal Guide to the East Bay Regional Parks. Malcolm is the author/editor of eight books including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the 20th century by a western writer. His essays and articles have appeared in a number of periodicals including The Nation, Small Press, National Parks, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times. He retired from his role as publisher at Heyday Books this year.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the offices of Heyday Books on a Zoom H2n digital recorder (because I screwed up with my main recorder). I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photos of Malcolm by me.