marie helene bertino

Some Short Stories I'm Teaching This Semester
  1. “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel
  2. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
  3. “Work” by Denis Johnson
  4. “We Didn’t” by Stuart Dybek
  5. “The Lady with the Little Dog” by Anton Chekhov
  6. “The Dead” by James Joyce
  7. “Wants” by Grace Paley
  8. “How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore
  9. “Octet” by David Foster Wallace
  10. “Sam the Cat” by Matthew Klam
  11. “A Rich Man” by Edward P. Jones
  12. “Jon” by George Saunders
  13. “The Gingerbread House” by Robert Coover
  14. “The Bear That Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro
  15. “Pet” by Deb Olin Unferth
  16. “Something that Needs Nothing” by Miranda July
  17. “L. Bard and Aliette” by Lauren Groff
  18. “Screenwriter” by Charles D’Ambrosio
  19. “Virgins” by Danielle Evans
  20. “White Angel” by Michael Cunningham
  21. “Safe Passage” by Ramona Ausubel
  22. “You Look Like Jesus” by Jamie Quatro
  23. “Antarctica” by Laura van den Berg
  24. “North of” by Marie-Helene Bertino
  25. “Sun City” by Caitlin Horrocks
  26. “You Drive” by Christine Schutt
  27. “Hell-Heaven” by Jhumpa Lahiri
  28. “Member/Guest” by David Gilbert
  29. “Swimmer” by John Cheever
  30. “A Romantic Weekend” by Mary Gaitskill
  31. “In the Reign of Harad IV” by Steven Millhauser
  32. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
  33. “Coitus” by David Means
  34. “Kindness” by Yiyun Li
A Very Overdue List of Books Read in 2015

It was a difficult January. That’s my only excuse for why I’m so late with this list. But maybe now you’ve had ample time to digest everyone else’s year end lists and you can enjoy this one with a renewed voracity. 

Anyway, here it is.

2 AM At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene BertinoFun and unexpected and frequently charming. 

I Await The Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLaneAn odd, intense little diary, but not as outrageous or dark as I hoped. Honestly, a bit tedious for me.

Don’t Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli – Far out of my comfort zone, with a few surprisingly delightful moments and clever lines. I expected to hate it and I didn’t. That’s all I can say.

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt – Gorgeous and multi-layered and rich. A novel for poets and artists. I loved it completely.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Writers, alcohol, and spoiled rich lovers. Perhaps my favorite Fitzgerald thus far! 

Goodbye to All That edited by Sari Botton – I’m not sure if anyone who hasn’t lived in New York, or hasn’t loved it deeply, would enjoy this collection, but I have and I do, so I did.

The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich – I read this on a train. It was perfect.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – After I read this book, I bought about 12 other Margaret Atwood novels. I didn’t want this to end. Riveting and dark and beautifully written.

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan – I was reading this outside on a bar patio, and the man beside me said “oh hey, my old coworker wrote that book.” We talked about her for a while. It’s a fascinating memoir about the terrible power of illness and madness.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron – Somehow I didn’t expect this to be as good as it was. I devoured it in a park, stretched out on a picnic blanket. I can’t decide if I want a friend like Nora or to be her myself. I was absolutely charmed.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting – Not for the faint of heart. Not for a lot of people, actually. Stunningly dark, brilliantly shocking, made me sick to my stomach, but I tore through it anyway. 

Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston – Ok, I have to admit something. I couldn’t finish this one completely. I read almost the entire thing and then gave up with 20 pages to go. For a book about voodoo, zombies, and folklore, it’s amazing it was so tiresome.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy – Light and witty with a great deal more plot (and plot twists) than I expected. I’d like to watch it as a movie, I think. Film critics would call it a romp, I’m sure.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I didn’t dislike the Goldfinch (although it was certainly no Secret History), but I found it unevenly paced, with long stretches of placidity and sudden bursts of action. The vast majority of its brilliance was squished into the last few pages. Still, there was some magic there.

Hood by Emma Donoghue – Not awful, just disappointing and ultimately forgettable. I love Emma Donoghue anyway.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole Leblanc – There are SO many characters in this true story, ten years in the making, but their stories are so gripping, I didn’t want to put it down. Drugs, jail, violence, welfare, and the endless cycle of poverty in the Bronx. I think about this book often.

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn – A poetic meditation on the untimely deaths of starlets. Frank and imperfect, but I appreciate the attempt to poke holes in the Hollywood machine.

Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton – Ugh. I wanted this to be good so badly! It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure novel for adults. It was stupid, but it could have been so brilliant. Maybe I’ll write my own. 

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg – An exploration of the dreary realities of the way people transform and families grow apart.

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir – Three stories about what it means to be a woman, to be a wife, to be a mother, to get old, to go crazy, to be abandoned. Dark and honest and compelling.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – I read this in an airport, which is exactly where you should read a page-turner like this. A deliciously creepy mystery.

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume – I started this on an airplane, which is exactly where you should not start a book about plane crashes. For all its calamity, I remember it as an oddly quiet, comfortable book about coming of age.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – An engrossing dystopian survival story. The world is so well-built and whole, so starkly real. I’m looking forward to reading the others in this trilogy, and seeing it come to life in the upcoming HBO series.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – I’ve been recommending this to everyone. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t enjoy a good old-fashioned, spooky story, taking place in a (possibly haunted) mansion, with a darkly mysterious love interest who may or may not be hiding something from his past! I loved every word.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner – Yikes. This was very unexpectedly bleak and alarming. A graphic novel based on the author’s own teenage years, it is unflinchingly honest, heart-breaking, and (for those of us with tamer teenage experiences) truly shocking.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion – A razor-sharp, carefully worded descent into emptiness, detachment, and the loss of oneself.

New York Stories by Edith Wharton – Tragic little moral tales with twist endings. I love the New York that exists on these pages.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – I loved one or two of these depressing interconnected stories. Others only made me tired.

Books I Read in 2014

In the order in which I read (or reread) them. My favorite reads are the year are in bold. I hope to read a few more books before the year ends…

  1. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore (reread)
  2. Like Life by Lorrie Moore (reread)
  3. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (reread)
  4. Bark by Lorrie Moore
  5. Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis
  6. The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo
  7. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (reread)
  8. Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra
  9. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore
  10. Mating by Norman Rush (reread)
  11. Snow in May by Kseniya Melnik
  12. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  13. Sam the Cat by Matthew Klam (reread)
  14. The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
  15. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
  16. Redeployment by Phil Klay
  17. My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum (reread)
  18. Bluets by Maggie Nelson (reread)
  19. The White Album by Joan Didion (reread)
  20. Darkness Visible by William Styron
  21. Duplex by Kathryn Davis
  22. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison 
  23. Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
  24. Mother of Sorrows by Richard McCann
  25. The Glacier’s Wake by Katy Didden
  26. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  27. All That Is by James Salter
  28. Motherlunge by Kirstin Scott
  29. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  30. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  31. Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge by Peter Orner
  32. The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey
  33. The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock
  34. The Facades by Eric Lundgren
  35. The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
  36. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
  37. Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
  38. 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
  39. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
  40. Family Life by Akhil Sharma
  41. Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken
  42. The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
  43. The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson
  44. The Color Master by Aimee Bender
  45. Middle Men by Jim Gavin
  46. A History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson
  47. One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin
  48. King of Cuba by Cristina Garcia
  49. Parnucklian for Chocolate by B.H. James
  50. 10:04 by Ben Lerner
  51. The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
  52. Sea of Hooks by Lindsay Hill
  53. The Boy by Lara Santaro
  54. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
  55. Abroad by Katie Crouch
  56. MY STRUGGLE book 3: BOYHOOD by Karl Ove Knausgaard
  57. Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  58. Euphoria by Lily King
  59. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  60. Dusk by James Salter (reread)
  61. Taipei by Tao Lin
  62. Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucoult
  63. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  64. The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov
  65. The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil
  66. A Story for a New Name by Elena Ferrante
  67. The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
  68. Paper Lantern by Stuart Dybek
  69. Your Face in Mine by Jess Row
  70. The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora (forthcoming in 2015)
  71. Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya
  72. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
  73. The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim
  74. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  75. Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant (reread)
  76. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
  77. The Hazards of Good Breeding by Jessica Shattuck
  78. The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham
  79. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (reread)
  80. On Immunity by Eula Biss
  81. Schroder by Amity Gaige
  82. American Innovations by Rivka Galchen
  83. Five Days at Memorial by Sherri Fink
  84. Haussman, or The Distinction by Paul La Farge
  85. Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy (reread)
  86. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  87. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
  88. Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  89. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle 
  90. Moby-Dick, or The Whale by Herman Melville (reread)
  91. Loitering by Charles D'Ambrosio
  92. Veronica by Mary Gaitskill (reread)
  93. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
  94. Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey
  95. The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum