Books That Shook

I tried to live cautiously — or eventually learned to live — in a spirit of regret prevention, and I could not see how Bonnie could accomplish such a thing in this situation. Regret — operatic, oceanic, fathomless — seemed to stretch before her in every direction. No matter which path she took, regret would stain her feet and scratch her arms and rain down on her, lightlessly and lifelong. It had already begun.

I like a lot of books, but truly love only a few. Or maybe that’s not quite right. The thing is that there are only a few books that I would choose to re-read. It’s easy to re-watch movies you simply liked, but fully re-reading a novel or story collection or book of nonfiction can be a serious investment of time and mental energy, especially if you, as I do, have difficulty reading multiple books at the same time. While Nabokov famously spoke about the importance of closely revisiting literary texts, re-reading, for someone like me, always wanting to dip into something new, something fresh, some author’s work I haven’t yet read, can be a tiring labor of love. There are, of course, books that I find are worth the effort. These are the books that have shook me. I read three such books this year: Nox by Anne Carson, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, and the devastating Bluets by Maggie Nelson. The two Lorrie Moore books I’ve read (A Gate At The Stairs, Birds of America) have each shaken me. I’m in the process of re-reading A Gate At The Stairs, my favorite novel from 2009, which still shakes.

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