Most of the best books I read this year I was reading for at least the second time. Among them: Tristram Shandy, Max Beerbohm’s And Even Now, the essays and letters of Johnson and Lamb, the stories of Bellow and Cheever, among others. Judging from most of the books mentioned in the Wall Street Journal poll, I made the right decisions. Little sounds interesting, though I do want to read Oliver Sacks’ Hallucinations and Artemis Cooper’s Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure. I don’t need to know anything more about Lyndon Johnson. What books published in 2012 did I read and enjoy? In no particular order:
Olives, A.E. Stallings.
What Happened to Sophie Wilder, Christopher Beha.
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956, Anne Applebaum.
Bewilderment, David Ferry.
When I Was a Child I Read Books, Marilynne Robinson.
The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia, Roger Kimball.
John Keats: A New Life, Nicholas Roe.
And best of all, Essays in Biography by Joseph Epstein, an admirer of William Hazlitt, who writes in “On Reading Old Books”:
“When I take up a work that I have read before (the oftener the better) I know what I have to expect. The satisfaction is not lessened by being anticipated. When the entertainment is altogether new, I sit down to it as I should to a strange dish, -- turn and pick out a bit here and there, and am in doubt what to think of the composition.”