Art is cool!

I like hearing about the art that other people like. Maybe you will like hearing about the art that I like?

Books That I lurv

I started journaling in 2016. This was the year my partner Maya and I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, so I could attend the Helen Zell Writers' Workshop. It was a simultaneously a dream come true and a really hard time; we had to say goodbye to so many friends, start over again in a new place, the program was intense, and our University of Michigan undergrad neighbors had a fondness for pumping bass at two in the morning. Maya started keeping a ‘gratitude journal,’ where she wrote three things she was grateful for every day. I shamelessly began to copy her.

Over time, the three quick “I am grateful for…” entries grew into longer, more traditional journal entries. At the beginning of the journals, I started keeping track of books I had finished. Whenever people ask, “What have you read lately?”, I tend to draw a complete blank. This way, at least, future Jeff Henebury historians will have a record that I did in fact know how to read.

handwritten journal with list of books read
handwritten journal with list of books read
This one has my thumb in it! You can click these to make 'em bigger.
handwritten journal with list of books read

For the Excel lovers, here is a spreadsheet representation of some recent reads.

Title Author Deep Thoughts
Either/Or Elif Batuman Is Elif Bautman the most interesting brain in North America? I want to hear Selin talk about her classes for 1,000 more pages.
Anansi BoysNeil GaimanI always start with a lot of "how does this world work?" questions when I read Neil Gaiman. But then it's all so darn interesting that I forget those questions and go along for the ride. This one features tricksy spider god people!
Jesus' SonDenis JohnsonI heard that one time, Denis Johnson visited the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and some very conservative donors came there for his reading, so he purposefully chose the most filthy material he had. I can't write like Denis Johnson, but I wish I could. I'm not grizzled enough.
Mdnight's ChildrenSalman RushdieAfter the attack on Salman Rushdie I wanted to revisit his work. 'Satantic Verses' is one of my favorite novels; I was supposed to read it for a college course, failed to do so, but did hold on to the book. Several years later I took it off the shelf. 'Midnight's Children' was quite interesting; for anyone else it would be a masterpiece, but when I compare it to Satanic Verses, it feels like a warmup for the themes and obsessions he would go on to revisit so spectacularly in that later novel.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyDouglas AdamsSo wry and witty. It's so short, which I did not expect; most sci-fi tends towards the very long. This, however, reads like a very tight sci-fi standup comedy routine.
The Dutch HouseAnne PatchettI, too, wish I had a big fancy house.
The Inheritance TrilogyN.K. JemisinThe version I have from the library is all three giant books smooshed into one (plus a bonus long novella!), and the result is the fattest paperback I've ever encountered. N.K. Jemisin is SO talented, I want to grow up to be her.
EarthlingsSayaka MurataSayaka Murata is really kooky in a great way. I haven't read much like this. A great lesson in following your story's own logic to wherever it's going to take you.
IntimationsZadie SmithPlease don't tell anyone, but Zadie Smith is my literary crush. Fiction-wise, I think 'N/W' is one of the best books I've ever read. I think this was nonfiction about the pandemic? I think I really liked it? This wasn't that long ago. Time, she is a blur.
All Systems RedMartha WellsDelightful science fiction about a killer cyborg who would rather just watch soap operas. There's humor, but also really a strong mystery element to Martha Well's work; I find the voice delightful, but I keep reading this series for the satisfying space whodunnits.
CrossroadsJonathan FranzenToo stressful for me.
Useless Landscapes, or: A Guide to BoysD.A. PowellMy wife and I read each other a poem a night before bed. When did this start? We both wanted to read our friend Katie Willingham's book of poetry at the same time, and that was the comproise, and the habit stuck. One of the better things to come out of the pandemic.
Little Fires AnywhereCeleste NgCeleste Ng is so great at plot. She's a big fan of drawing crazy plot diagrams; I've adopted the technique from her and have found it super helpful. Also, she went to the same MFA program as me. Go Celeste! Go blue!
CryptonomiconNeal StephensonIs this the best book ever written?
KudosRachel CuskRachel Cusk is one of those writers I have to be careful of: every time I read her, I try to write like her. It's not a conscious decisiion; she just has such a unique style. But when she does it, it's hypnotic; when I do it, it's a major snooze-fest. Oh well.

Records I'm Listening To

Al Green
Al Green's Greatest Hits
John Coltrane
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme