Tag Archives: books

2021 books

Happy new year! It’s the first snow of the season for me today and everything looked beautiful early this morning but quickly turned slushy here in NYC. As is my tradition, here’s the list of 40 (!) books I read in 2021 (I managed to squeeze the last two in due to the amazing number of Little Free Libraries in Berkeley, CA, where I was visiting). Some old favorites, and plenty of books ranging from poetry to nonfiction to middle grade and young adult fiction, some of which I read for work. A few particular favorites this year were Barbarian Days, Mouthful of Birds, and Memorial.

1. What You Can See from Here- Mariana Leky, translated by Tess Lewis
2. Interior Chinatown- Charles Yu
3. The Vanishing Half- Brit Bennett
4. Virtue- Hermione Hoby
5. Dust & Grim- Chuck Wendig (MG)
6. Real Life- Brandon Taylor
7. Mexican Gothic- Silvia Moreno-Garcia
8. Songs in Ursa Major- Emma Brodie
9. Machinehood- S. B. Divya
10. Ruthie Fear- Maxim Luskotoff
11. Orwell’s Roses- Rebecca Solnit (NF)
12. City of a Thousand Gates- Rebecca Sacks
13. Miss Iceland- Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
14. LaserWriter II- Tamara Shopsin
15. Peaces- Helen Oyeyemi
16. Barbarian Days- William Finnegan (NF)
17. Vagabonds!- Eloghosa Osunde
18. An Arrow to the Moon- Emily X.R. Pan (YA)
19. World of Wonders- Aimee Nezhukumatathil (NF)
20. The Unsinkable Greta James- Jennifer E. Smith
21. A Tip for the Hangman- Allison Epstein
22. Whereabouts- Jhumpa Lahiri
23. The Glass Hotel- Emily St. John Mandel
24. Time Is a Mother- Ocean Vuong (Poetry)
25. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone- Jaclyn Moriarty (MG)
26. Disorientation- Elaine Hsieh Chou
27. Borges and Me- Jay Parini (NF)
28. Sea Wife- Amity Gaige
29. Tam Lin- Pamela Dean (reread)
30. The Edge of Summer- Erica George (YA)
31. Memorial- Brian Washington
32. Mouthful of Birds- Samanta Schweblin
33. Bitter Medicine- Mia Tsai
34. Forbidden City- Vanessa Hua
35. Golden Ax- Rio Cortez (Poetry)
36. Great Circle- Maggie Shipstead
37. Let Me Tell You What I Mean- Joan Didion (NF)
38. The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again- Catherine Price (NF)
39. The Castle of Llyr- Lloyd Alexander (reread)
40. Taran Wanderer- Lloyd Alexander (reread)


Popping in to say I’ve got a new flash fiction piece called Ocean up at Bracken Magazine!

It’s been a busy half year back from Asia: I’ve started working on a novel that is obsessed with all things fish and ocean life related, catching up on all the reading I hadn’t been able to do in Asia (my gosh, so many great debut books!), visiting family and friends, and just getting back into NYC life with all its readings and art openings and cool events.

Speaking of cool events, I’ll be reading at a speculative literature literary salon in January! More info on that soon.

I also received my copy of the Pushcart Prize anthology and it is huge! So excited to delve into it and read all the great work that’s come out the previous year.

A Pushcart Prize!

First off, I wanted to let everyone know that my story, A Flock, A Siege, A Murmuration won a Pushcart Prize! I’m really honored to have been nominated by Bennington Review and excited that the Pushcart Prize committee chose it to receive a prize! You can read it online here or buy a print copy of either the Bennington Review issue or the Pushcart Prize anthology coming out this autumn.

A lot of changes these past few months—writing up presentations on pigeon racing and finishing up classes in Taipei, snorkeling and rock climbing (Taipei rock gyms are HARD but the people are crazy nice), traveling and researching in China on a series of islands, visiting relatives, and catching up with L—but now I’m back in New York and finally settling back in. It has been less than a month but my life in Asia already feels somewhat dreamlike, especially since I never have to speak Mandarin here. But I miss my sweet potato guy and my pigeon-keeping neighbors and the mountains and plants and birds there.

I’ve just started writing again, though, and it brings the places I’ve been back to life for me. I’m really excited about what I’m currently working on even though I’m not quite sure where it will go. It’ll have crabs and windmills and the green sea in it for sure though.

Apocalyptic inspiration

I have a story in Flame Tree Press’s new anthology, Endless Apocalypse, coming out this March so they asked us authors to tell them what inspired our stories. My story is a reprint of “Away They Go or Hurricane Season” which was first published in Acappella Zoo. Take a look!

It’ll be a beautifully-made book and I’m excited to read the other stories in it—if you’re interested, you can pre-order it here.

Since I’m currently reading Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires, weather has definitely been on my mind. It’s a fascinating read and interesting to see how much of the Midwest’s weather in the 19th century was thoroughly impacted by farmers (to their detriment!) Here in Taipei, there was incessant gloom and rain for a week (and two earthquakes) but today was so hot that I wore shorts and took a wander through the botanical garden. Rhododendrons are in bloom and suddenly everyone is selling strawberries. And tomorrow is the big lantern festival in Pingxi where waves of sky lanterns will be released—I’m sure it will be beautiful but hope it’s not too environmentally unfriendly!

Wonderland in Day One

Firstly, my story Wonderland is in the last issue of Day One! It was inspired by a trip to an abandoned amusement park on the outskirts of Beijing that I went to one fateful Thanksgiving several years ago. You can read it here.

Right before the new year began, right after taking my midterms, I took a quick jaunt down to Taroko Gorge on the eastern side of Taiwan with ijl. I’d actually been before, about 5 years ago. Beautiful, of course, with its marble gorges and that clear blue water, but I’d forgotten how short the hikes were and how they peter out. This time the Baiyang trail was closed but the Shakadang trail was fully open–we dipped our hands in the water and watched tadpoles swim in a shallow pool on top of one of the giant boulders. We used our easycards to board the 302 bus which was much less crowded than the Taroko Gorge shuttle and cheaper too. We stayed near the national park itself, in Xincheng, which doesn’t have too much going for it, but we did end up stopping by the beach just to see the Pacific Ocean from this side.

We watched the fireworks from Taipei 101 from my roof. It didn’t last long so it was nice not to have to brave the crowds for a view. In the alley below, one of the small shop owners shot up some fireworks, their whistles screeching into the air, the colors blooming directly overhead.

I didn’t read enough in 2017 but there were some gems. I just recommended Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing to my Chinese teacher actually! Here’s my list:

1. A Thread of Sky- Deanna Fei
2. Sweetbitter- Stephanie Danzer
3. The Girls- Emma Cline
4. When Watched- Leopoldine Core
5. A Chemical Wedding- Christian Rosencreutz (Small Beer Press & John Crowley’s version)
6. The Vegetarian- Han Kang
7. Do Not Say We Have Nothing- Madeleine Thien
8. Soft Split- Szilvia Molnar
9. Four Books- Yan Lianke
10. Lincoln in the Bardo- George Saunders
11. Notes from a Small Island- Bill Bryson (NF)
12. In A Sunburned Country- Bill Bryson (NF)
13. The Wangs Vs. The World- Jade Chang
14. The Blue Sword- Robin McKinley (re-read)
15. The Paper Menagerie- Ken Liu
16. Monkey Business, issue 4
17. Upright Beasts- Lincoln Michel
18. The Refugees- Viet Thanh Nguyen
19. Isadora- Amelia Gray
20. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia- Mohsin Hamid
21. The Great Passage- Shion Miura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
22. Goodbye, Vitamin- Rachel Khong
23. In the Country- Mia Alvar
24. POC Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination- edited by Nisi Shawl
25. Journey to the Centre of the Earth- Jules Verne
26. Butterflies in November- Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
27. The Leavers- Lisa Ko
28. Dreaming in Chinese- Debra Fallow (NF)
29. Alternative Remedies for Loss- Joanna Cantor
30. Fast Food Fiction Delivery- edited by Noelle Q. de Jesus & Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
31. Chemistry- Weike Wang
32. Pachinko- Min Jin Lee
33. Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century- Richard McGregor (NF)
34. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate- Peter Wohlleben (NF)

Happy 2018!


Quick note to say I’ll be reading (along with 8 other amazing writers) at the Center for Fiction next Thursday! Gorgeous venue, a diverse group of writers, and wine afterwards. RSVP here. I really can’t believe almost the entire year of my fellowship has gone by already…

I just went to a great reading/talk tonight by DW Gibson on his book, The Edge Becomes The Center: An Oral History of Gentrification in the Twenty-First Century. It focuses on gentrification in New York City which I feel is a pretty hot topic these days. Here’s an excerpt that was published in New York Magazine. He’s also the director of Writers Omi at Ledig House, the residency I attended last year upstate. You know, the one with the pigs and horses and sculptures? Yeah, that one.

A year of reading

(and writing and applying…)

Hey, 2014 has been a pretty good year. Here are a few numbers* (it’s that time of year, right?)

1 move (to NYC)
2 stories published (White Snake, Green Snake in Fairy Tale Review and What Is Lost in Interfictions)
12 stories/projects in various stages (around 6 finished but probably in need of editing)
1 residency at Omi International Arts Center
1 fellowship at The Center for Fiction
3 readings (2 upstate, 1 in NYC)
5 states visited (RI, MA, CA, PA, DE)
18 job interviews
2 jobs
2 interviews (here & here)
15 blog posts (including this one!)
1 bicycle
1 Chinese conversation meetup attended
2 upstate hikes (Harriman State Park, Cold Spring) + more SF hikes
1 cat fashion show attended
2 bowling nights
6 plays seen (Stage Kiss, The Killer, Indian Ink, The Cottage, Wicked Frozen, Pocatello)
3 movies seen in theaters/does Central Park count? (American Hustle, Interstellar, The Royal Tenenbaums)
7 museums visited (The Met, MoMA, The Brooklyn Museum, Noguchi, Sculpture Center, Rubin, Museum of Chinese in America…I have a feeling I’m forgetting some…)
many new-to-me parks and gardens (Riverside, Astoria Park, Socrates Sculpture Park, Gantry State Park, Prospect Park, McCarren Park, SF Botanic Gardens, Oakland’s Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens)
65 books read! Here’s this year’s list:

1. Five Star Billionaire-Tash Aw
2. Tenth of December- George Saunders
3. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt- Aimee Bender (re-read)
4. A Natural History of Dragons- Marie Brennan
5. Soul Mountain- Gao Xingjian (didn’t finish)
6. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.- Adelle Waldman
7. The Color Master- Aimee Bender
8. The Magician’s Assistant- Ann Patchett
9. The Isle of Youth- Laura Van Den Berg
10. Tyrannia- Alan DeNiro
11. Ha’Penny- Jo Walton
12. The Defining Decade- Meg Jay (NF)
13. Love in the Time of Algorithms- Dan Slater (NF)
14. Super Sad True Love Story- Gary Shteyngart
15. Maddaddam- Margaret Atwood
16. Love Minus Eighty- Will Mcintosh
17. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- Ransom Riggs
18. On Such a Full Sea- Chang-rae Lee
19. The Interestings- Meg Wolitzer
20. Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather- Gao Xingjian (didn’t finish)
21. The Love Story of a Young Monk- Wang Zengqi
22. Fairy Tale Review- 10th anniversary Emerald Issue
23. The Corpse Exhibition and other stories of Iraq- Hassan Blasim
24. A Thousand Morons- Quim Monzo
25. Gone to the Forest- Katie Kitamura
26. The Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai
27. The Tiger’s Wife- Tea Obreht
28. Boy, Snow, Bird- Helen Oyeyemi
29. East, West- Salman Rushdie
30. 2013 Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellows Anthology
31. The Cat’s Table- Michael Ondaatje
32. Soy Sauce for Beginners- Kirstin Chen
33. Running in the Family- Michael Ondaatje (NF)
34. Free Food for Millionaires- Min Jin Lee
35. Arcadia- Tom Stoppard (re-read)
36. Hark! A Vagrant- Kate Beaton
37. The Longshot- Katie Kitamura
38. The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold- Kate Bernheimer
39. Horse, Flower, Bird- Kate Bernheimer
40. The Enchantress of Florence- Salman Rushdie
41. Bellweather Rhapsody- Kate Racculia
42. The Snow Child- Eowyn Ivey
43. Fourth of July Creek- Smith Henderson
44. Prayers for the Stolen- Jennifer Clement
45. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle- Haruki Murakami
46. Cementville- Paulette Livers
47. The Enchanted- Rene Denfeld
48. The Beautiful Indifference- Sarah Hall
49. I Capture the Castle- Dodie Smith (re-read)
50. The Great Glass Sea- Josh Weil
51. Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal- Ava Chin (NF)
52. 2014 Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellows Anthology
53. Whistling Vivaldi- Claude M. Steele (NF)
54. In Persuasion Nation- George Saunders
55. State of Wonder- Ann Patchett
56. Dataclysm- Christian Rudder (NF)
57. Disgrace- J.M. Coetzee
58. Bossypants- Tina Fey (NF)
59. Chocolat- Joanne Harris
60. The Reprisal- Laudomia Bonanni, translated by Susan Stewart & Sara Teardo
61. This Is Where I Leave You- Jonathan Tropper
62. Stone Mattresses- Margaret Atwood
63. The Emerald Light in the Air- Donald Antrim
64. The Land of Steady Habits- Ted Thompson
65. The Invention of Exile- Vanessa Manko

*numbers may not be completely accurate due to author’s imperfect memory. Random additions or subtractions may be added.

Happy new year!

The Center for Fiction (in 3 parts)

I. Once, at night, with friends. D. plays the baby grand in the dark, watched by the marble busts crowned with santa hats. B. exclaims over the architecture but the building is creepy at night, empty as it is although the others profess to love the stacks at libraries. It’s a type of old grandeur that one cannot find in the newer buildings of the city. Afterwards, the Rockefeller tree although it hadn’t yet been lit.

II. At the First Novel Fete, S. and I pose with the future first novel prize winner for a photo because, as Tiphanie says, “we’re the most diverse group in the room.” And it’s true. We are starved and so, we head off to the other side of the room, in spite of (or perhaps because of?) the “sexual tension” D. says is there. There is no sexual tension but more potato chips and almonds and of course, wine. It takes the edge off our disappointment.

III. I wear borrowed heels a size too small for the Center‘s benefit dinner. Thankfully, the rain stopped before the dinner began. Right before, a quarrel between the MTA and I but that happens. And before that, an acceptance to a residency in Shanghai in 2015. George Clooney may (will!) be there. I will be there. We will be friends. (This is obviously just wishful thinking except for the fact that I will be there.) It has been a day of ups and downs. I talk to a lady about Chongqing. I’m in love with the people around me at my dinner table, Cynthia Bond and her lovely mother as well as Pamela whose last name I’ve forgotten. Across the table, a famous writer who spends most of the dinner speaking to the older man seated next to him, or looking at his phone. He’s a co-host so I’m surprised he never has to get up and speak nor does he need to interact with the rest of the table. There is champagne, there is Tiphanie winning (the only one of the shortlisted authors I’d met the night before), there’s dessert and free books and trying to get everyone together for photos and afterwards, wondering if all the other parties at the New York Athletic Club are also over and finding out that yes, they are done too.

Writing-wise, a productive week. One story that I’ve been stuck on finally moving forward, a quick 500 word story written for a contest. I’ve also just found out I’ve received a small grant for this book and to hold a public reading (with other Queens writers!) next year at an awesome location. 2015 is going to be exciting. Happy holidays & happy new year!

Country Living at Omi

At Omi, the weather is changeable but the wind often howls outside the windows, high as we are, on a hill overlooking the sculpture park. Young frogs cheep loudly, both during the day and at night, and when the sun sets, it outlines the Catskills in the distance in orange and pink. After dinner, we drink wine and talk by the fire. Once, while it snowed, we drove through winding unlit roads to a bar in a Victorian, neon Budweiser signs in the window. Inside were floral curtains and garlands of fake flowers for Easter, drinks almost half the price of ones in the city. How long has this bar been open, we asked its owner of 37 years. Since the end of Prohibition, she said, and we were the first to sell hot wings around here. On the trip back, three deer bounded across the road, their eyes reflecting our headlights back at us.P1110545

During the day, our home is a converted barn. My room has two twin beds turned into a king, a large wooden table as a desk. In the bathroom, the water smells of sulfur, most strongly when you shower. My room is warmer than the rest of the suite. Upstairs, the rooms have loft spaces to sleep in. During the summer, when this place is for artists, they sleep two or three to a room but in the spring, the writers have more space and less company. Ants wander freely through the kitchen in the main house and once, a hawk soared overhead, barely out of reach. I take runs in a 3.5 mile loop, passing pig pens and cows, beautiful young horses and an occasional groundhog, its small pointed face wary as it watches me from a hole by the pumphouse. In the barn is a silo where we lose ping pong balls in its dark depths and also, studios, some completely empty but for birdshit, and some full with pottery equipment, bicycles, strange machinery. IMG_20140421_134146 P1110595

The sculpture park is set on swampland and there are patches of skunk cabbage everywhere. I sometimes write in the Visitors Center cafe but mostly in my room or the main house. I’ve been here for over two weeks now and have written two pieces: one a longer story set in Harbin, the other a piece of flash fiction adhering closely to the Searching for the Sun folktale. There’s so much here that I’d like to read, not only the books in the library with books by previous residents including Kiran Desai, Gary Shteyngart, and others, but also the books written by the other residents who are here with me. On the weekends so far, we’ve gotten guests from publishing houses, first Jill from Archipelago Books and this weekend, Chad and Kaija from Open Letter and the blog, Three Percent. Both these presses deal mostly with translated work since we have a fair number of translators in residence here and it’s been fascinating hearing about the process of translation and its place in publishing.

This weekend, we did a poetry reading at the Chatham bookstore, many of the works read in different languages. It was a fun gathering and included a young boy who recited a Latin “rage-vent poem” which was amazing. I read my poem, If/then, which I thought was somewhat suitable since it’s about Chinese although I wish I’d had something to read in Chinese since so many people were speaking other languages and it was just fascinating to hear.

The time has been going very quickly, despite what seem like fairly long unstructured days. I’m hoping to get several more first drafts of stories done before I go. It’s a good thing I have ~2 more weeks!

Books of 2013

I’ve decided that I’d like to keep track of all the books I read in 2014 so I started noting down the books I remembered reading in 2013 while in China and then the books I read once I came back to the States. I, unfortunately, didn’t read much in English (besides articles/stories on the internet) while in China so this year’s amount definitely isn’t the norm. I’d always wondered how many books I read a year, though! Anyway, here’s the partial list for 2013.

1. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
3. Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Karen Russell (loved this one!)
4. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, Karen Russell
5. Little, Big, Jonathan Crowley (re-read)
6. The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure (non-fiction)
7. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
8. The Glass Ocean, Lori Baker (lovely and sad, written by my thesis advisor at Brown)
9. In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Matt Bell
10. Pow!, Mo Yan
11. Factory Girls, Leslie Chang (non-fiction)
12. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
13. Ninety Percent of Everything, Rose George (non-fiction)
14. North American Lake Monsters, Nathan Ballingrud (so so dark but also amazing. Published by the awesome Small Beer Press!)
15. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
16. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong

This year, so far, there’s been Tash Aw & George Saunders & Aimee Bender. I’d love to read more non-fiction as well but could use some recommendations! I actually saw George Saunders in conversation with Ben Stiller last night at McNally Jackson Books in NYC and was surprised to find out that they’d been friends for 17 years and to hear about the things they had in common. This is one of the great benefits of living in New York–these opportunities that you can’t find elsewhere.