The Last Book We Loved

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We present to you all of the “Last Book I Loved” entries to date, a library of lovers, the anthology of all our little darlings. Indulge.

David Ebershoff on City of Thieves: “I loved it for a simple, yet powerful reason: it transported me.”

Justin Taylor on Bleak House:Reading it, you feel like Dickens was at the top of his powers at every level, not just as a prose-stylist and/or a storyteller but also as a social critic.”

Maddie Oatman on Divisadero: “I loved this book because the details of one story haunt the next one, creating a palimpsest of love stories and lost opportunities.”

Deb Olin Unferth on The Log of the S.S. the Mrs Unguentine: “This is one damn weird love story. This is one strange quest. This is one bizarre boat.”

Lincoln Michel on Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: “Antrim has the talent and humor to meld these innovations into a propulsive narrative that climaxes in the most amazingly twisted ending I’ve read in years.”

Josh Bearman on The Incredible Yanqui: “A romantic tale of imperial adventure!”

Jenny Davidson on Yes, My Darling Daughter: “It turned out to be the most angelically written and chilling novel about murder and reincarnation and haunted little girls… “

Beth Lisick on You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again:“If you want to read a totally epic, out-of-control memoir by one of those drug addicts who is so scarily brilliant and idiotic at the same time, and has no boundaries, check this shit out.”

Todd Zuniga on Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned:It was cracking me up, in a way that I’d become convinced that only George Saunders could do.”

Ari Messer on The Changing Light at Sandover: “Few poems can touch the dynamism of Merrill’s pun-tastic romp through a spirit world representing our entire emotional spectrum and then some.”

Chellis Ying on The Glass Castle: “Her story, about climbing out of extreme poverty, is unique because there are no “bad guys.”

Joel Arquillos on The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: “Sure, say what you want about the most misunderstood, butt-of-every-joke state, but this book reveals the true heart of most first generation Hispanic/Latino American’s experience in Jersey.”

Kevin Sampsell on Another Bullshit Night In Suck City: “I loved the shifting timelines, short chapters, and hard but empathetic tone of Nick Flynn’s writing.”

Aimee Bender on Runaway:There’s mystery and spaciousness everywhere and yet everything she’s dealing with is made up of our most basic and familiar nuts and bolts loves and hates”

Ellen Sussman on Olive Kitteridge:The stories seem to develop, twist, turn, and then suddenly the character’s life has shifted on its axis — and yet, we never sense the writer at work here.”

Alina Simone on Unlovable: “Tammy really is unlovable — a terrible student, a social climber, devoid of empathy, clinging to hollow friendships and the first to heap abuse on any other wretched asswipe that comes her way.”

Michelle Tea on The Braindead Megaphone:The kind of journalism I really love, where the writer is right there in the story, and it works especially because this writer is so funny and compassionate and inquisitive and revealing.”

Scott Hutchins on The Easter Parade: “I read it in two sittings. How could such friendly prose contain such dark depths?”

Jen Sullivan Brych on The Road: “Instead of focusing on the how and why of the unnamed catastrophe that has reduced the earth to dead trees and ash, The Road centers on one father’s quest to protect his young son in this new and terrible world.”

Amy Letter on Rubyfruit Jungle:It’s a tiny book full of literal LOLs and jaw-dropping no-she-didn’ts – a perfectly paced and structured page-turner with an ingenious, confident narrator whose humor brings the world’s most frustrating absurdities into focus, then kicks them down like a pack of cards.”

Damion Searls on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Collected Stories: “Keep turning to one story after another in a crescendo of astonishment and gratitude.”

Sean Kim on Last Evenings on Earth: “For [Bolaño], exile is a life lived in existential crisis, only the feeling isn’t so much desperation as it is an endless, numbing ennui.”

Padma Viswanathan on Dancing With Cuba: “Guillermoprieto is abjectly honest (or gives that appearance) and turns clear eyes on herself, her companions and her host country, paralleling her inadequacies as a visitor and teacher with one of the early public failures of the Revolution, the zafra, an attempt at a 10 million ton harvest of sugar cane.”

Robin Romm on The Fixer: “The book centers on Yakov’s time in prison and quickly becomes one of the most beautiful meditations on suffering that I have ever read.”

Juliet Linderman on Civilwarland in Bad Decline and Pastoralia: “Reading Saunders isn’t like reading at all, it’s more like consuming—or being consumed, sucked into a world almost the same as this one but a little bit stranger, darker, funnier, more devastating.”

Alison Tyler on Born Standing Up: “I’ve been carrying the book around with me for weeks, just flipping through to re-read passages whenever I feel like slipping back in time.”

Rabih Alameddine on Microcosms: “Microcosms may not be as good as Danube, Magris’ masterpiece, but it might be more charming, and more moving.”

Benjamin Sarlin on I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: “Edison’s memoirs read like a Forrest Gump of sleaze.”

Rachel Kramer Bussel on Too Big to Miss:Odelia’s spunky and funny and Jaffarian’s plots are intricate enough that after three books, I haven’t figured out any of the murderers yet.”

Isaac Fitzgerald on the first half of The Night of the Gun: “Carr seems almost as surprised as the reader by what he finds while investigating his history.”

Jonathan Kiefer on What’s Not to Love?: “It’s true that some of his subjects–compulsive sexual fantasies, bodily embarrassments, lashing social humiliations–are salaciously hooky, but never is the presentation mawkish or cheap. ”

Ainsley Drew on Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics: “I know what you’re thinking, “But this is a cookbook. You don’t read a cookbook, unless you’re cooking.” Wrong.”

Ariane Conrad on The Emperor of Scent: “Luscious writing from Burr, and an outstanding lead in Luca Turin as he’s caught in the intrigues of the perfume industry and scientific community.”

Jack Pendarvis on In A Lonely Place: Hughes’s “book manages to be gripping and elliptical at the same time, very cool like chromium, with just a splash of purple here and there.”

Reese Kwon on The Modern Element: “Its essays discuss poets from Geoffrey Hill to Czeslaw Milosz so lucidly, so thoughtfully, that it’s as much of a joy to be guided into a greater understanding of a poet as to find myself arguing with a critical interpretation.”

Zak Smith on Viriconium: “The history, geography, and rituals of Viriconium bend to the need to understand this or that quiet corner of human psychology, not the need to pump out a plot that will allow us to tour the author’s marvelous inventions or pretend to kill exotic animals.”

Lorelei Lee on Away: “Amy Bloom totally gets heartache and perseverance and the god-damned difficulty and absurdity and absolute beauty of human relationships.”

Monica Shores on Madeleine is Sleeping: “Bynum’s sentences are precise and compact (”Beatrice is enraptured by rules, especially those of her own making”) and the world they create operates with such inarguable dream logic that even a fat, flying woman is a plausible character in both the sleeping and waking realms.”

Robert Mailer Anderson on 2666: It is clearly the work of a genius, but one with a huge, sensual heart that pumps blood in equal parts joy and sorrow.”

Jason Roberts on Soon I Will Be Invincible: “The real story is told through two inevitably-converging arcs, that of a freshly-minted heroine and an escaped villain, rebooting his career from scratch.”

Josh Tyree on Rodinsky’s Room: “Treating Rodinsky as a haunting presence, the writers investigate vanished elements of their city.”

Michelle Orange on Stop-Time: “Something about Conroy’s memoir of a have-not boyhood spent in New York and Florida with a selfish, enigmatic mother and itinerant, grifting step-father, demanded not clinging passion but care and commitment.”

Andrew Foster Altschul on Atmospheric Disturbances: “What Galchen does is make us feel as invested as the characters in Leo’s unraveling, and in the possibility, however dim, of his return to lucidity.”

Karan Mahajan on The Centaur: “Updike may make his trademark lapses in describing women, but the book is relatively unsexed, and so all the more sympathetic when it dramatizes the self-pity, both hilarious and sad, that keeps the schoolteacher father going year after year, storm after storm.”

Jesse Nathan on How the Soldier Repairs the Gramaphone: “It’s explosive, a text that’s sinewy and daring. It tears open the marks left on the narrator during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s.”

Brian Spears on The Wordy Shipmates: “I love it because Vowell’s feelings toward religion are ambivalent at best, and lesser writers would have let that color the way they presented these fascinating historical figures.”

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Art by Laurenn McCubbin.


Maddie Oatman has interviewed musicians and writers for The Rumpus. She's the research editor at Mother Jones, where she also writes. A Boulder transplant, she can often be found on her bike, skis, or cooking with vegetables, and she wrote her English thesis on a gay red-winged monster and Billy the Kid. Follow her on Twitter or read occasional musings on her blog Oats. More from this author →