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David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2021

My two top books are both monuments of, and to, scholarship. The much-needed new edition of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy pays respects to a work that is close to my heart in its obsessive, searching, elephantine reach. Many years ago the writer John Crowley recommended two books to me: The Man Without Qualities and The Anatomy of Melancholy. He clearly saw me well. Mary Ann Lund’s book offers a good introduction to Burton if the monster tome itself seems unapproachable.

Susan Bernofsky’s biography of Robert Walser is simply the best literary biography I’ve read in some time, meticulously researched and beautifully written, the result of Bernofsky’s 30 years of deep engagement with Walser. The writing itself is exceptional, making it also the most literary literary biography I have read in many a year.

Otherwise, it was a good year for books, better than 2020 overall, with the exception of comics, where remarkable entries seemed quite thin (at least among established publishers). This possibly owes to the ongoing genteelification of the medium and the concomitant insecurities. But Brecht Evens’s long awaited new work is his greatest yet, beautiful and dense, with stunning use of color.

Keep reading, and happy new year, as happy a one as is feasible.


The Anatomy of Melancholy
Burton, Robert (Author)
Penguin Classics

Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser
Bernofsky, Susan (Author)
Yale University Press


Be as Children (Dedalus Europe Book 0)
Sharov, Vladimir (Author), Ready, Oliver (Translator)

The Wife Who Wasn't: A Novel
Ifland, Alta (Author)
New Europe Books

The Symphonies (Russian Library)
Bely, Andrei (Author), Stone, Jonathan (Translator)
Columbia University Press

Fetch, Muse: Poems
Starks, Rebecca (Author)
Able Muse Press

Kapo (New York Review Books Classics)
Tisma, Aleksander (Author), Williams, Richard (Translator), Rieff, David (Afterword)
NYRB Classics

The Trees: A Novel
Everett, Percival (Author)
Graywolf Press

Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature, 65)
al-Ḥarīrī (Author), Cooperson, Michael (Translator), Kilito, Abdelfattah (Foreword)
NYU Press

At Night All Blood Is Black
Diop, David (Author)
Picador Paper

Here in Our Auschwitz and Other Stories (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Tadeusz Borowski (Author), Madeline G. Levine (Translator)
Yale University Press

Terminal Boredom: Stories
Suzuki, Izumi (Author), Barton, Polly (Translator), Bett, Sam (Translator), Boyd, David (Translator), Joseph, Daniel (Translator)
Verso Fiction

Chasing Homer
Krasznahorkai, László (Author), Miklós, Szilveszter (Performer), Batki, John (Translator), Neumann, Max (Artist)
New Directions

The Notes: or On Non-premature Reconciliation (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Hohl, Ludwig (Author), Cohen, Joshua (Foreword), Lewis, Tess (Translator)
Yale University Press

Brief Lives of Idiots
Cavazzoni, Ermanno (Author), Richards, Jamie (Introduction)
Wakefield Press

Kalevala: The Epic of the Finnish People
Lönnrot, Elias (Editor), Korpela, Jukka (Introduction), Friberg, Eino (Translator)

The Book of All Skies
Egan, Greg (Author)
Greg Egan

We All Hear Stories in the Dark [Trade Paperback 3 Volume Set]
Robert Shearman (Author), Michael Marshall Smith (Author), Lisa Tuttle (Author), Angela Slatter (Author), Steven Moffat (Author), Reggie Oliver (Illustrator), Reggie Oliver (Illustrator)
PS Publishing

The Stone Face
Smith, William Gardner (Author), Shatz, Adam (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Stewart, George R. (Author), Rich, Nathaniel (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Good Behaviour (New York Review Books Classics)
Keane, Molly (Author), Gentry, Amy (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Rakes of the Old Court: A Novel (Northwestern World Classics)
Caragiale, Mateiu I. (Author), Cotter, Sean (Translator)
Northwestern University Press

McGrotty and Ludmilla (Canons)
Gray, Alasdair (Author)
Canongate Canons

PARADISE: Dante's Divine Trilogy Part Three. Englished in Prosaic Verse by Alasdair Gray
Gray, Alasdair (Author), Alighieri, Dante (Author)
Canongate Books

The Life Written by Himself (Russian Library)
Petrov, Archpriest Avvakum (Author), Gluck, Michael (Editor), Brostrom, Kenneth (Translator)
Columbia University Press

Anthology of Tang and Song Tales: The Tang Song Chuanqi Ji of Lu Xun
Victor Mair (Author), Victor Mair (Editor), Zhenjun Zhang (Editor)
World Scientific Publishing Company

The Penguin Book of Spanish Short Stories
Jull Costa, Margaret (Editor), Jull Costa, Margaret (Translator), Bunstead, Thomas (Translator), Bush, Peter (Translator), Phillips-Miles, Kathryn (Translator), Deefholt, Simon (Translator), Maude, Kit (Translator)

The Spirit of Controversy: and Other Essays (Oxford World's Classics)
Hazlitt, William (Author), Mee, Jon (Editor), Grande, James (Editor)
Oxford University Press

Samuel Johnson: Selected Works
Johnson, Samuel (Author), DeMaria, Robert (Editor), Fix, Stephen (Editor), Weinbrot, Howard D (Editor)
Yale University Press


Philosophy and Religion in Plato's Dialogues
Nightingale, Andrea (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Expanding Horizons in the History of Science: The Comparative Approach
Lloyd, G. E. R. (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Inwardness: An Outsider's Guide (No Limits)
Ganeri, Jonardon (Author)
Columbia University Press

St. Matthew Passion (signale|TRANSFER: German Thought in Translation)
Blumenberg, Hans (Author), Müller-Sievers, Helmut (Translator), Fleming, Paul (Translator)
Cornell University Press and Cornell University Library

Cassirer (The Routledge Philosophers)
Matherne, Samantha (Author)

Music, Math, and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music
Sulzer, David (Author)
Columbia University Press

The Philosophical Stage: Drama and Dialectic in Classical Athens
Billings, Joshua (Author)
Princeton University Press

Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present
Nirenberg, David (Author), Nirenberg, Ricardo L. (Author)
University of Chicago Press

Plato's Sun-Like Good: Dialectic in the Republic
Broadie, Sarah (Author)
Cambridge University Press

A User's Guide to Melancholy
Lund, Mary Ann (Author)
Cambridge University Press


Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality
Wilczek, Frank (Author)
Penguin Press

The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness
Solms, Mark (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company


Outrageous Fortune: Gloomy Reflections on Luck and Life
Miller, William Ian (Author)
Oxford University Press

Information: A Historical Companion
Blair, Ann (Editor), Duguid, Paul (Editor), Goeing, Anja-Silvia (Editor), Grafton, Anthony (Editor)
Princeton University Press

Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing
Thompson, John B. (Author)

The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution Is Transforming Currencies and Finance
Prasad, Eswar S. (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

The Banks Did It: An Anatomy of the Financial Crisis
Fligstein, Neil (Author)
Harvard University Press


My Seven Lives: Jana Juráňová in Conversation with Agneša Kalinová
Juráňová, Jana (Author), Kalinová, Agneša (Author)
Purdue University Press

Law and the Party in China: Ideology and Organisation
Creemers, Rogier J. E. H. (Editor), Trevaskes, Susan (Editor)
Cambridge University Press

The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Yang, Jisheng (Author), Mosher, Stacy (Translator), Jian, Guo (Translator)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Plokhy, Serhii (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company

Cicero: Political Philosophy (Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought)
Schofield, Malcolm (Author)
Oxford University Press

India and the World: A History of Connections, c. 1750–2000
Markovits, Claude (Author)
Cambridge University Press

China's Leaders: From Mao to Now
Shambaugh, David (Author)

Hobbes's Political Philosophy: Interpretation and Interpretations
Martinich, A.P. (Author)
Oxford University Press


The City of Belgium
Evens, Brecht (Author)
Drawn and Quarterly

Donjon Monsters T13: Réveille-toi et meurs (Donjon Monsters, 13) (French Edition)
David B. (Drawings), Sfar, Joann (Contributor), Trondheim, Lewis (Contributor)

Alberto Breccia's Dracula (The Alberto Breccia Library)
Breccia, Alberto (Author)

Trots and Bonnie
Flenniken, Shary (Author), Hathaway, Norman (Editor), Flake, Emily (Introduction), Hathaway, Norman (Designer)
New York Review Comics

Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise (New York Review Comics)
Panter, Gary (Author), Rudick, Nicole (Afterword), Ruscha, Ed (Foreword)
New York Review Comics

The Fly
Trondheim, Lewis (Author)

Dungeon: Zenith vol. 4: Outside the Ramparts (4)
Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Sfar, Joann (Author), Boulet (Illustrator)
NBM Publishing

Nuft and the Last Dragons, Volume 1: The Great Technowhiz
Milton, Freddy (Author)

When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers
Krimstein, Ken (Author)
Bloomsbury Publishing


Myself and My Aims: Writings on Art and Criticism
Schwitters, Kurt (Author), Luke, Megan R. (Editor), Grundy, Timothy (Translator)
University of Chicago Press

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne: The Original
Warburg, Aby (Author), Heil, Axel (Contributor), Ohrt, Roberto (Contributor), Scherer, Bernd (Contributor), Sherman, Bill (Contributor), Wedepohl, Claudia (Contributor)
Hatje Cantz

David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2020

In this chaotic, surreal, and trying year, books as always provided a source of steadiness and continuity, when there was enough time and space to give them full attention.

My two books of the year are both superior anthologies suffused with the editor/translators’ love and reverence for their authors–inspiring feats in themselves. The third volume of Musil translated by Genese Grill and published by Contra Mundum is a massive and masterful anthology of Musil’s plays and theater writings, the most substantial new Musil volume in years, expertly rendered and annotated. Hannes Bajohr, Florian Fuchs, and Joe Paul Kroll collectively perform an even greater feat in drawing together Blumenberg’s essays across the breadth of his career and finally producing an approachable entry point to his work in English. The introductions to both volumes are superb. The works are old, but Grill, Bajohr, Fuchs, and Kroll are their animating spirits today.

The same goes for Steve G. Lofts’s new translation of Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, a massive undertaking of an underappreciated work by an underappreciated philosopher, the third Davos participant who saw more widely than Carnap and more humanely than Heidegger. A more affordable edition is warranted. And the long-awaited reissue of Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl’s Saturn and Melancholy, done with immense care and comprehensiveness, is a model example of cultural history at a level of depth and intimacy that has always been rare, and is perhaps becoming rarer.

Fantagraphics’s reissues of Alberto Breccia’s stunning work also deserve more attention. I read part of Perramus when Fantagraphics issued it 30 years ago and was blown away by Breccia’s singular style; its’ good to have the whole thing finally. His version of The Eternaut is also remarkable.

I hesitate to mention too many other books for fear of neglecting the others, but I will say that of the science and technology books, several deal with subjects that are currently inundated with popularizations. In my eye, those below are notably superior to the rest of their crowd, though the marketplace of ideas has apparently and frustratingly failed to raise these books above their brethren. To a lesser extent, the same applies to history and politics.

Jacob Burckhardt said that the 20th century would be the age of oversimplification. The 21st has so far been the age of increasingly desperate and defensive oversimplification, across all domains of knowledge. Here’s to the fight against it.

(Final note: for an anthology of short plague-related stories, please check out my little project The Enneadecameron, featuring worthy tales by John Crowley, Irina Dumitrescu, Genese Grill, Alta Ifland, and many more.)


Theater Symptoms: Plays and Writings on Drama
Musil, Robert (Author), Grill, Genese (Translator), Grill, Genese (Introduction)
Contra Mundum Press

History, Metaphors, Fables: A Hans Blumenberg Reader (signale|TRANSFER: German Thought in Translation)
Blumenberg, Hans (Author), Bajohr, Hannes (Translator), Fuchs, Florian (Translator), Kroll, Joe Paul (Translator)
Cornell University Press


Eros, Unbroken
Kim, Annie (Author)
Word Works

The Long White Cloud of Unknowing
Samuels, Lisa (Author)
Chax Press

The Bern Book: A Record of a Voyage of the Mind (American Literature)
Carter, Vincent O. (Author), McCarthy, Jesse (Introduction)
Dalkey Archive Press

Peach Blossom Paradise (New York Review Books Classics)
Fei, Ge (Author), Morse, Canaan (Translator)
NYRB Classics

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: Selected Stories of Nikolai Leskov (New York Review Books Classics)
Leskov, Nikolai (Author), Chandler, Robert (Translator), Rayfield, Donald (Translator), Edgerton, William (Translator), Rayfield, Donald (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Alexandria: A Novel
Kingsnorth, Paul (Author)
Graywolf Press

Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature, 65)
al-Ḥarīrī (Author), Cooperson, Michael (Translator), Kilito, Abdelfattah (Foreword)
NYU Press

Rogomelec (The Envelope-silence)
Fini, Leonor (Author), Skwersky, Serena Shanken (Translator), Kulik, William T. (Translator), Eburne, Jonathan P. (Introduction)
Wakefield Press

Meaning a Life: an Autobiography
Oppen, Mary (Author), Yang, Jeffrey (Introduction)
New Directions

The Lost Writings
Kafka, Franz (Author), Stach, Reiner (Editor), Hofmann, Michael (Translator)
New Directions

Collected Stories
Hazzard, Shirley (Author), Olubas, Brigitta (Editor), Heller, Zoë (Foreword)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Surviving: Stories, Essays, Interviews (New York Review Books Classics)
Green, Henry (Author), Yorke, Matthew (Editor), Updike, John (Introduction), Yorke, Sebastian (Afterword)
NYRB Classics

Lame Fate | Ugly Swans (Rediscovered Classics)
Strugatsky, Arkady (Author), Strugatsky, Boris (Author), Strugatsky, Boris (Author), Vinokour, Maya (Author)
Chicago Review Press

The Third Walpurgis Night: The Complete Text (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Kraus, Karl (Author), Bridgham, Fred (Translator), Timms, Edward (Translator), Perloff, Marjorie (Foreword)
Yale University Press

Death in Her Hands: A Novel
Moshfegh, Ottessa (Author)
Penguin Press

I Live in the Slums: Stories (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Can Xue (Author), Gernant, Karen (Translator), Chen, Zeping (Translator)
Yale University Press

Other Moons: Vietnamese Short Stories of the American War and Its Aftermath
Ha, Quan Manh (Translator), Babcock, Joseph (Translator)
Columbia University Press

Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow (Russian Library)
Radishchev, Alexander (Author), Reyfman, Irina (Translator), Kahn, Andrew (Translator)
Columbia University Press

A Lover's Discourse
Guo, Xiaolu (Author), Guo, Xiaolu (Author), Guo, Xiaolu (Author)
Grove Press

The Selected Poems of Tu Fu: Expanded and Newly Translated by David Hinton
Fu, Tu (Author), Hinton, David (Translator)
New Directions

Egan, Greg (Author)
Greg Egan

The Evidence
Priest, Christopher (Author)

Clarke, Susanna (Author)
Bloomsbury Publishing

Greg Egan (Author)

Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas: A Novel
de Assis, Joaquim Maria Machado (Author), Costa, Margaret Jull (Translator), Patterson, Robin (Translator)


Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art
Klibansky, Raymond (Author), Panofsky, Erwin (Author), Saxl, Fritz (Author), Despoix, Philippe (Editor), Leroux, Georges (Editor)
McGill-Queen's University Press

Michelangelo’s Design Principles, Particularly in Relation to Those of Raphael
Panofsky, Erwin (Author), Panofsky-Soergel, Gerda (Editor), Spooner, Joseph (Translator), Panofsky-Soergel, Gerda (Introduction)
Princeton University Press

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Volume 1: Language
Cassirer, Ernst (Author), Gordon, Peter E. (Foreword)

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Volume 2: Mythical Thinking
Cassirer, Ernst (Author), Gordon, Peter E. (Foreword)

The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Volume 3: Phenomenology of Cognition
Cassirer, Ernst (Author), Gordon, Peter E. (Foreword)

Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe
Grafton, Anthony (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

A Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Music (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World)
Lynch, Tosca A. C. (Editor), Rocconi, Eleonora (Editor)

Wisdom as a Way of Life: Theravāda Buddhism Reimagined
Collins, Steven (Author), McDaniel, Justin (Editor), Hallisey, Charles (Introduction)
Columbia University Press

Time in Ancient Stories of Origin
Walter, Anke (Author)
OUP Oxford

Anger: The Conflicted History of an Emotion (Vices and Virtues)
Rosenwein, Barbara H. (Author)
Yale University Press

Who Needs a World View?
Geuss, Raymond (Author)
Harvard University Press

Comparing the Literatures: Literary Studies in a Global Age
Damrosch, David (Author)
Princeton University Press

Classical Indian Philosophy: A history of philosophy without any gaps, Volume 5
Adamson, Peter (Author), Ganeri, Jonardon (Author)
Oxford University Press

Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers
Misak, Cheryl (Author)
Oxford University Press

Early Modern German Philosophy (1690-1750)
Dyck, Corey W. (Author)
Oxford University Press

Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture
Harvey, Eleanor Jones (Author), Sues, Hans-Dieter (Preface)
Princeton University Press


The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science
Falk, Seb (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company

Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing
Brayne, Sarah (Author)
Oxford University Press

How the Brain Makes Decisions
Boraud, Thomas (Author)
Oxford University Press

The Phantom Pattern Problem: The Mirage of Big Data
Smith, Gary (Author), Cordes, Jay (Author)
Oxford University Press

Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind
Godfrey-Smith, Peter (Author)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Darwin's Psychology: The Theatre of Agency
Bradley, Ben (Author)
OUP Oxford

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn
Richard W. Hamming (Author), Bret Victor (Foreword)
Stripe Press


Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy
Hankins, James (Author)
Harvard University Press

The Invention of China
Hayton, Bill (Author)
Yale University Press

China’s Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism
Mitter, Rana (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe
Herrin, Judith (Author)
Princeton University Press

Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World
Schuman, Michael (Author)

Away from Chaos: The Middle East and the Challenge to the West
Kepel, Gilles (Author)
Columbia University Press

Illuminating History: A Retrospective of Seven Decades
Bailyn, Bernard (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company

Has China Won?: The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy
Mahbubani, Kishore (Author)

The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History
Mikaberidze, Alexander (Author)
Oxford University Press


France before 1789: The Unraveling of an Absolutist Regime
Elster, Jon (Author)
Princeton University Press

The Blind Storyteller: How We Reason About Human Nature
Berent, Iris (Author)
Oxford University Press

What’s Wrong with Economics?: A Primer for the Perplexed
Skidelsky, Robert (Author)
Yale University Press


The Eternaut 1969 (The Alberto Breccia Library)
Oesterheld, Héctor Germán (Author), Breccia, Alberto (Author)

Perramus: The City and Oblivion (The Alberto Breccia Library)
Breccia, Alberto (Author), Sasturain, Juan (Author), Mena, Erica (Translator)

The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud
Tsurita, Kuniko (Author), Holmberg, Ryan (Translator)
Drawn and Quarterly

Marzocchi, Leila (Author), Richards, Jaime (Translator)

Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Chevillard, Hubert (Artist)
Magnetic Press

Infinity 8 Vol.7: All for Nothing
Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Boulet (Author), Kennedy, Mike (Editor), Boulet (Artist)
Magnetic Press

Infinity 8 vol.8: Until the End
Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Killoffer (Artist)
Magnetic Press

Barnaby Volume Four
Johnson, Crockett (Author), Nel, Philip (Author), Robbins, Trina (Introduction)

Winter Warrior: A Vietnam Vet's Anti-War Odyssey
Gilbert, Eve (Author), Camil, Scott (Author)

The George Herriman Library: Krazy & Ignatz 1919-1921 (Krazy & Ignatz)
Herriman, George (Author), Blackbeard, Bill (Introduction)

The Daughters of Ys
Anderson, M. T. (Author), Rioux, Jo (Illustrator)
First Second

Philip Guston: A Life Spent Painting
Storr, Robert (Author)
Laurence King Publishing

Philip Guston Now
Cooper, Harry (Author), Godfrey, Mark (Author), Greene, Alison de Lima (Author), Nesin, Kate (Author), Guston, Philip (Artist), Fischli, Peter (Contributor), Hancock, Trenton Doyle (Contributor), Kentridge, William (Contributor), Dean, Tacita (Contributor), Ligon, Glenn (Contributor), Roberts, Jennifer (Contributor)
D.A.P./National Gallery of Art

Year of the Rabbit
Veasna, Tian (Author)
Drawn and Quarterly

The Phantom Twin
Brown, Lisa (Author)
First Second

Solutions and Other Problems
Brosh, Allie (Author)
Gallery Books

Stuck Rubber Baby 25th Anniversary Edition
Cruse, Howard (Author), Bechdel, Alison (Introduction)
First Second

Paying the Land
Sacco, Joe (Author)
Metropolitan Books

Albrecht Dürer
Metzger, Christof (Editor)

Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës
Greenberg, Isabel (Author)
Harry N. Abrams

Anselm Kiefer in Conversation with Klaus Dermutz (The German List)
Kiefer, Anselm (Author), Dermutz, Klaus (Author), Lewis, Tess (Translator)
Seagull Books

Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual – Revised and Expanded Edition
Gamwell, Lynn (Author), Tyson, Neil deGrasse (Foreword)
Princeton University Press

Books of the Moment

The George Herriman Library: Krazy & Ignatz 1916-1918
Herriman, George (Author)

Cane (Penguin Classics)
Toomer, Jean (Author), Hutchinson, George B. (Introduction), Clemmons, Zinzi (Foreword)
(Penguin Classics)

Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison (Author)
(Vintage Books)

Mojo Hand: An Orphic Tale
Phillips, J. J. (Author)
(City Miner Books)

Plan B
Himes, Chester (Author), Fabre, Michel (Author), Skinner, Robert E. (Author)
(Univ Pr of Mississippi)

Goines, Donald (Author)
(Holloway House)

Hue and Cry: Stories (Art of the Story)
McPherson, James Alan (Author), Jones, Edward P. (Introduction)

Oreo (New Directions Paperbook)
Ross, Fran (Author), Senna, Danzy (Introduction), Mullen, Harryette (Afterword)
(New Directions)

Bloodchild and Other Stories
Butler, Octavia E. (Author)
(Seven Stories Press)

Stuck Rubber Baby 25th Anniversary Edition
Cruse, Howard (Author), Bechdel, Alison (Introduction)
(First Second)

The Known World
Jones, Edward P. (Author)

Erasure: A Novel
Everett, Percival (Author)
(Graywolf Press)

David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2018

To be a true reader or writer today is to exist primarily in a state of longing and loneliness (sehnsucht, in the German term), because the vast majority of one’s closest associates are dead. Over the course of the 20th century the world of letters separated rather violently from the world of consequence, and so loving writing as writing requires either myopic self-delusion or an absurd appreciation for the spiritual residue of artistic impact. I don’t have the former in me, so it is the latter that drives me.

A remarkable amount of excellent archival issues came out this year, particularly in fiction and literature. The two placed in the pole position are not necessarily more deserving than many others. Rather, I chose them because they seemed to be most resonant with this year, despite being written decades ago. Both are very unorthodox Cold War retrospectives, both vaguely “documentary”-like, and yet animated by almost opposite sensibilities.

Ironically, I found Anniversaries to be a gloomier tale than Kolyma Stories, in the same way that gray is a gloomier color than black, or Faith is more enervating than Closer. Likewise, Johnson’s self-appearance in Anniversaries is more despairing than Shalamov’s varied appearances in Kolyma, because there is a certain abdication of moral authority Johnson took on in writing Anniversaries that is either disingenuous or terrifying. I think it’s the latter.

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David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2017

While the world went mad this year, I retreated a bit and did more reading than I had in some time. I have seen the pendulum of public sentiment cycle from complacency to hysteria and back twice now, and I am more fatalistic than ever about such cycles having to take their course. (My description of Thomas Pynchon’s “decoherence events” applies just as well to the Trump presidency as it does to September 11, 2001.) Being part of the collective public discourse this year was unhealthier than in any time I have ever seen.

I believe all the titles below deserve attention. The top books have been chosen based on personal significance and relevance. Appiah’s As If is a plea for a cosmopolitan pluralism (of provisional viewpoints, not of truths) based on a reading of the great Hans Vaihinger. It is a theoretical work that has far more relevance to technology than it first appears, as I try to explain in my forthcoming Bitwise: A Life in Code. Földényi’s Melancholy is a Burton-inspired chronicle that bests a thousand other intellectual histories of its kind. It spoke to me of what it is to be the sort of person who feels the need and drive to read all these books in the first place, and of the intangible benefits I gain from them. And the purportedly final version of Tom Phillips’ A Humument is a thing of beauty, drastically different from its previous editions in many regards, and one of the deepest texts of our time, fifty years after its first publication.

The greatest novel I read this year was Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, the right novel for the right moment, but not one published in 2017.

In an attempt to provide a bit more apparent order, I have created a few subcategories for nonfiction. These are quite approximate; some books could have easily gone under a different heading. They are there to break the lists down into more manageable chunks.

When it comes to books, my eyes are bigger than my…eyes. Books under “Of Interest” are there either because (1) they are too out of my areas of knowledge for me to feel comfortable recommending them, (2) I have sufficient reservations about their content but feel they are too significant to ignore, or (3) I just haven’t read enough of them. I would feel terrible not noting Slezkine’s The House of Government, but I did not have time to read most of its 1100 pages.

Be well, read much, take care.


As If: Idealization and Ideals
Appiah, Kwame Anthony (Author)
(Harvard University Press)

Melancholy (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Foldenyi, Laszlo F. (Author), Wilkinson, Tim (Translator), Manguel, Alberto (Foreword)
(Yale University Press)

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (Sixth)
Phillips, Tom (Author)
(Thames & Hudson)



Into the Cyclorama
Kim, Annie (Author)
(Southern Indiana Review Press)

Symphony for Human Transport
Samuels, Lisa (Author)
(Shearsman Books)

The Golden Cockerel & Other Writings
Rulfo, Juan (Author), Weatherford, Douglas J. (Translator)
(Deep Vellum Publishing)

Homesick for Another World: Stories
Moshfegh, Ottessa (Author)
(Penguin Press)

The World Goes On
Krasznahorkai, László (Author), Szirtes, George (Translator), Mulzet, Ottilie (Translator), Batki, John (Translator)
(New Directions)

The Manhattan Project
Krasznahorkai, László (Author), Rotem, Ornan (Photographer), Batki, John (Translator)
(Sylph Editions)

So Much Blue: A Novel
Everett, Percival (Author)
(Graywolf Press)

Katalin Street (New York Review Books Classics)
Szabo, Magda (Author), Rix, Len (Translator)
(NYRB Classics)

Beasts Head for Home: A Novel (Weatherhead Books on Asia)
Abe, Kōbō (Author), Calichman, Richard (Translator)
(Columbia University Press)

Blackass: A Novel
Barrett, A. Igoni (Author)
(Graywolf Press)

The Essential Fictions
Babel, Isaac (Author), Vinokur, Val (Translator)
(Northwestern University Press)

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr
Crowley, John (Author), Newcomb, Melody (Illustrator)
(Gallery / Saga Press)

Gap Gardening: Selected Poems
Waldrop, Rosmarie (Author)
(New Directions)

Judgment: A Novel (Northwestern World Classics)
Bergelson, David (Author), Senderovich, Sasha (Author), Murav, Harriet (Author)
(Northwestern University Press)

Found Life: Poems, Stories, Comics, a Play, and an Interview (Russian Library)
Goralik, Linor (Author), Morse, Ainsley (Editor), Vassileva, Maria (Editor), Vinokour, Maya (Editor)
(Columbia University Press)

Remains of Life: A Novel (Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan)
Wu He, Wu (Author), Berry, Michael (Translator)
(Columbia University Press)

Nest in the Bones: Stories by Antonio Benedetto
Di Benedetto, Antonio (Author), Broner, Martina (Translator)

Newcomers: Book One
Kovacic, Lojze (Author), Biggins, Michael (Translator)

Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China
Guo, Xiaolu (Author)
(Grove Press)

Sisters of the Cross (Russian Library)
Remizov, Alexei (Author), Keys, Roger (Translator), Murphy, Brian (Translator)
(Columbia University Press)

Xue, Can (Author), Gernant, Karen (Translator), Zeping, Chen (Translator), Khakpour, Porochista (Introduction)
(Open Letter)

The Construction of the Tower of Babel (WAKEFIELD PRESS)
Benet, Juan (Author), West, Adrian (Translator), West, Adrian (Introduction)
(Wakefield Press)

The War Nerd Iliad
Dolan, John (Adapter)
(Feral House)

Drilling through Hard Boards: 133 Political Stories (The German List)
Kluge, Alexander (Author), Hoban, Wieland (Translator)
(Seagull Books)

Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922 (New York Review Books Classics)
Tsvetaeva, Marina (Author), Gambrell, Jamey (Translator)
(NYRB Classics)

Balcony in the Forest (New York Review Book)
Gracq, Julien (Author), Howard, Richard (Translator), Howard, Richard (Foreword)
(NYRB Classics)

Go, Went, Gone
Erpenbeck, Jenny (Author), Bernofsky, Susan (Translator)
(New Directions)

The Collected Poems of Li He (Calligrams)
He, Li (Author), Frodsham, J.D. (Translator), Rouzer, Paul (Preface)
(New York Review Books)

Chinese Poetic Writing (Calligrams)
Cheng, Francois (Author), Riggs, Donald (Translator), Seaton, Jerome (Translator)
(New York Review Books)

The Complete Old English Poems (The Middle Ages Series)
Williamson, Craig (Translator), Shippey, Tom (Introduction)
(University of Pennsylvania Press)

The Book of Disquiet: The Complete Edition
Pessoa, Fernando (Author), Pizarro, Jerónimo (Editor), Costa, Margaret Jull (Translator)
(New Directions)



Melancholic Habits: Burton's Anatomy & the Mind Sciences
Radden, Jennifer (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Warburg Years (1919-1933): Essays on Language, Art, Myth, and Technology
Cassirer, Ernst (Author), Lofts, S. G. (Translator)
(Yale University Press)

Dystopia: A Natural History
Claeys, Gregory (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Rift in The Lute: Attuning Poetry and Philosophy
de Gaynesford, Maximilian (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

David Jones
Dilworth, T (Author)
(Jonathan Cape)

The Messages We Send: Social Signals and Storytelling
Ferrari, G. R. F. (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Mind of the Book: Pictorial Title-Pages
Fowler, Alastair (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Natural and the Human: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1739-1841
Gaukroger, Stephen (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Changing the Subject: Philosophy from Socrates to Adorno
Geuss, Raymond (Author)
(Harvard University Press)

Res Publica and the Roman Republic: 'Without Body or Form'
Hodgson, Louise (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Epic Distilled: Studies in the Composition of the Aeneid
Horsfall, Nicholas (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

I, Me, Mine: Back to Kant, and Back Again
Longuenesse, Béatrice (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Art and Myth of the Ancient Maya
Chinchilla Mazariegos, Oswaldo (Author)
(Yale University Press)

Wilfrid Sellars and the Foundations of Normativity
Olen, Peter (Author)
(Palgrave Macmillan)

The Subject of Experience
Strawson, Galen (Author)
(OUP Oxford)

The Emotions in Early Chinese Philosophy (Emotions of the Past)
Virág, Curie (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Hercules Segers: Painter, Etcher, A Catalogue Raisonn
Segers, Hercules (Artist)
(nai010 publishers/Rijksmuseum)



Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
Sapolsky, Robert M. (Author)
(Penguin Books)

After Digital: Computation as Done by Brains and Machines
Anderson, James A. (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Lazy Universe: An Introduction to the Principle of Least Action
Coopersmith, Jennifer (Author)
(Oxford University Press)



Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy
Amadae, S. M. (Author)
(Cambridge University Press)

The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class
Currid-Halkett, Elizabeth (Author)
(Princeton University Press)

Marx's Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital
Roberts, William Clare (Author)
(Princeton University Press)

A Brief History of Economic Thought
Roncaglia, Alessandro (Author)
(Cambridge University Press)

Paths to Fulfillment: Women's Search for Meaning and Identity
Josselson, Ruthellen (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Timeliness of George Herbert Mead
Joas, Hans (Editor), Huebner, Daniel R. (Editor)
(University of Chicago Press)

The Enigma of Reason
Mercier, Hugo (Author), Sperber, Dan (Author)
(Harvard University Press)

Shame: A Brief History (History of Emotions)
Stearns, Peter N. (Author)
(University of Illinois Press)

The Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came From
Corballis, Michael C. (Author)
(University of Chicago Press)



Russia's Path toward Enlightenment: Faith, Politics, and Reason, 1500-1801
Hamburg, Gary M. (Author)
(Yale University Press)

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
Danielle S. Allen (Author)

The Water Kingdom
Ball, Philip (Author)

False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East
Cook, Steven A. (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Eisen, Lauren-Brooke (Author)
(Columbia University Press)

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America
Fitzgerald, Frances (Author)
(Simon & Schuster)

The Causes of War and the Spread of Peace: But Will War Rebound?
Gat, Azar (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

A History of Judaism
Goodman, Martin (Author)
(Penguin Press)

The Killing Wind: A Chinese County's Descent into Madness during the Cultural Revolution
Hecheng, Tan (Author), Mosher, Stacy (Translator), Jian, Guo (Translator)
(Oxford University Press)

One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps
Pitzer, Andrea (Author)
(Little, Brown and Company)

The Habsburg Empire: A New History
Judson, Pieter M. (Author)
(Harvard University Press)

The Transformation of American Liberalism
Klosko, George (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Politics in the Roman Republic (Key Themes in Ancient History)
Mouritsen, Henrik (Author)
(Cambridge University Press)

Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China
Ransmeier, Johanna S. (Author)
(Harvard University Press)

Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror
Sebestyen, Victor (Author)

Classical Greek Oligarchy: A Political History
Simonton, Matthew (Author)
(Princeton University Press)

The Cold War: A World History
Westad, Odd Arne (Author)
(Basic Books)



Poppies of Iraq
Findakly, Brigitte (Author), Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Dascher, Helge (Translator)
(Drawn and Quarterly)

Vehlmann, Fabien (Author), Kerascoet (Illustrator)
(NBM Publishing)

It Don't Come Easy
Dupuy, Philippe (Author), Berberian, Charles (Author), Dascher, Helge (Translator)
(Drawn and Quarterly)

The Green Hand and Other Stories
Claveloux, Nicole (Author), Smith, Donald Nicholson (Translator), Clowes, Daniel (Introduction)
(New York Review Comics)

Voices in the Dark
Lust, Ulli (Author), Brownjohn, John (Translator), Knight, Nika (Translator), Beyer, Marcel (Draft Writer)
(New York Review Comics)

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
Ferris, Emil (Author)

Sfar, Joann (Author), Gauvin, Edward (Translator)
(Uncivilized Books)

Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb'l Burb'l
Marder, Larry (Author), Marder, Larry (Illustrator)
(Dark Horse Books)

The Interview
Richards, Jaime (Translator), Manuele Fior (Author)

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion
Anderson, M.T. (Author), Offermann, Andrea (Illustrator)

Demon (4 Book Series)
Shiga, Jason (Author), Shiga, Jason (Illustrator)

Olympians: Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt (Olympians, 9)
O'Connor, George (Author)
(First Second)

The Customer is Always Wrong
Pond, Mimi (Author)
(Drawn and Quarterly)

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
Bui, Thi (Author)
(Harry N. Abrams)

The Don Rosa Library Gift Box Set #4: Vols. 7 & 8
Rosa, Don (Author), Gerstein, David (Editor)



The School of Montaigne in Early Modern Europe: Volume One: The Patron Author
Boutcher, Warren (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The School of Montaigne in Early Modern Europe: Volume Two: The Reader-Writer
Boutcher, Warren (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

How the Mind Comes into Being
Butz, Martin V. (Author), Kutter, Esther F. (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Making Minorities History: Population Transfer in Twentieth-Century Europe
Frank, Matthew (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Herder's Hermeneutics: History, Poetry, Enlightenment
Gjesdal, Kristin (Author)
(Cambridge University Press)

Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy
Haskel, Jonathan (Author), Westlake, Stian (Author)
(Princeton University Press)

The Quantum Revolution in Philosophy
Healey, Richard (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941
Kotkin, Stephen (Author)
(Penguin Press)

Pompey, Cato, and the Governance of the Roman Empire
Morrell, Kit (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost
Nolan, Cathal J. (Author)
(Oxford University Press)

A History of Law in Europe: From the Early Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century
Padoa-Schioppa, Antonio (Author), Fitzgerald, Caterina (Translator)
(Cambridge University Press)

The Cambridge History of Communism: Volume 1, World Revolution and Socialism in One Country 1917–1941
Pons, Silvio (Editor), Smith, Stephen A. (Editor)
(Cambridge University Press)

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution
Slezkine, Yuri (Author)
(Princeton University Press)

No Future: Punk, Politics and British Youth Culture, 1976–1984
Worley, Matthew (Author)
(Cambridge University Press)

The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848
Israel, Jonathan (Author)
(Princeton University Press)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales
Zipes, Jack (Editor), Frank, Natalie (Illustrator)
(Princeton University Press)

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