Above: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Young Girl Reading
My reading ranges from literature to political theory, Islam. Some highlights of my reading are logged below. For more detailed discussion of specific books, you can consult my YouTube series of reviews of new poetry books. Longer lists books I recommend are here.
Update: check out my film reviews on at MUBI
It’s been a year since I last posted about my reading! Of course I have read a great deal in the interim. Just to note a few highlights: Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Windfell Hall, Harem by Armenian writer Raffi, and two books for my forthcoming book Sex and the State: Kate Bolick’s Spinster and Michael Cobb, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled. Plus many amazing movies, the best of which are Karim Aïnouz’s THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURIDICE GUSMÃO and Alexandre Rockwell’s SWEET THING, and Sean Baker’s TANGERINE. I’ve started rating the films I love at MUBI and plan to add more detailed reviews soon.
Marie Silkeberg, Damascus, Atlantis: Selected Poems.Translated from the Swedish by Kelsi Vanada. This is an innovative collection, that brings together different voices into a visual collage of Damascus during war. I had some questions about the co-authorial relation that remained unanswered by the end. But it is highly recommended! You can read my review of the collection here.
Ibn Arabi, Translator of Desires, translated from the Arabic by Michael Sells. A classic text by a masterful translator. Read my review here.
Threa Almontaser’s The Wild Fox of Yemen (2021), an exciting debut collection by a Yemeni-American poet. You can read my review of this collection here. Here is my video review of Almontaser’s book:
Nathaniel Tarn, The Hölderliniae (New Directions, 2021) I was lucky enough to get access to this two months prior to publication.
I have written up my impressions of this book here, and have also created a video review of the book.
Hafez: Translations and Interpretations of the Ghazals, trans. Geoffrey Squires (Miami University Press, 2014)
Marina Tsvetaeva, Dark Elderberry Branch, trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine (Alice James Books, 2012)
Agha Shahid Ali, Rooms Are Never Finished: Poems (2001). This magnificent work was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in poetry.
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Dalia Sofer, Man of My Time. A brilliant chronicle of the aftermath of the Iranian revolution for Iranians abroad and in Iran.
Andrew March’s The Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought (Harvard UP, 2019)
Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love. An historical novel about Rumi and Shams Tabrizi.
Nietzsche, “The Uses and Abuses of History for Life” (1873). Rereading this remarkable essay.
Edward Said, On Late Style. Reminds me that there were so many facets to Said not represented by the polemical Orientalism.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
For Rushdie: Essays by Arab and Muslim Writers in Defense of Free Speech
Ilya Kaminsky, Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004)
Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884)
Wislawa Symborska, Maps
Eavan Boland, Domestic Violence (reading in honor of the poet’s passing in April)
Zadie Smith, On Beauty (great bathtub reading!)
Borges, The Craft of Poetry
Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor
Richard Yates, The Easter Parade (Always stunned by the brilliance of this underrated novelist.)
Robert Duncan, Root & Branches
The Secret Barrister
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Richard Yates, Disturbing the Peace (the more I read by Yates, the more awed I am. Would love to write about him someday)
Charlotte Bronte, The Professor (am working on an essay about this book and Bronte in Belgium)
Friedrich Holderlin, Letters and Essays (brilliantly translated by Richard Sieburth)
Jason Rezaian, Prisoner (thinking of my last trip to Iran in 2016).
Kafka, Letters to Milena (I also read Kafka’s Letters to Felice, but the letters to Milena were much more striking and easier to relate to).
Joakim Garff, Kierkegaard’s Muse: The Mystery of Regine Olsen (Princeton, 2017). A strangely painful, but also riveting, read.
The poetry of Robert Duncan, a pioneering visionary poet whom I am pleased to have encountered, if rather late in my life as a reader.
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road (unbelievable how long it’s taken me to discover this masterpiece!)
Houria Bouteldja,’s Whites, Jews, and Us Toward a Politics of Revolutionary love (MIT Press, 2017), a provocative critique of the whiteness of leftist politics, and a call to revolutionary action. Moves beyond many of the cliches that continue to structure postcolonial theory.
Heavily immersed in Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies. A classic tomb. One of those books that make one wonder how one managed to get through life without reading it.
I’ve been mostly immersed in reading poetry, and am pleased to have discovered the work of Ada Limón, Nathanial Mackey, and Carmen Giménez Smith, among many others. American poetry is flourishing more than I realized, and seemingly more than American fiction.
G.A. Cohen, If You’re Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? (2000)
- a great work of political philosophy by a Marxist thinker close to my heart
This is turning out to be a great month for plays. So far I have seen (links to reviews where available):
Shakespeare, Richard III (Bristol Old Vic)
Tennessee Williams, The Two Character Play (Alma Tavern Theatre)
Caroline Williams and Reem Karssli, Now is the Time to Say Nothing (Bristol Old Vic)
The Holocaust and the Nakba: A New Grammar of Trauma and History Edited by Bashir Bashir and Amos Goldberg (2019)
Adrienne Rich, Poetry & Commitment (2006); Essential Essays
- classic texts, that diagnose current predicaments in American politics (and poetics)
Siri Hustvedt, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women (2011)
- scintillating reflections on sexuality, desire, and aesthetics from one of the best living novelists
Edward Said, Beginnings (1975)
Jean Bodin, Methodus (1566)
Jeremy Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech (2012)
Ronald Dworkin, Justice for Hedgehogs (2011)
John Boswell, The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance (1994)
- brilliantly written & important reflections on conceptions of paternity and childhood. I look forward to reading his work on medieval same-sex desire.
Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (1988)
Perpetual Reading Projects
Over the years, I have created working bibliographies on a range of topics I have researched on Worldcat. A great and under-utilized resource!
I have highlighted some of the texts I turn to for pleasure reading on Goodreads.