Reading Rainbow 2012: The Things We’re Finally Actually Going To Read This Year

2012 is the year of moving forward without everything that’s holding us back. But sometimes it’s worth looking at whether it’s ourselves holding us back, or at least our reticence to pick up the copy of that book that we borrowed from our best friend or mom or ex and have kept on the coffee table for eight months and really are going to read one of these days. You know what I mean — like the copy of Anna Karenina or The Woman Warrior that you’ve kept through like three different moves but still never opened? Well hey, it’s a new year, and we’re all still bright-eyed and optimistic and the hangover is mostly gone, so why not make it today? Or at least one of the coming 365 days in 2012?  We looked deep inside ourselves in a very honest and searching way, and came up with the books we’ve been meaning to read and are finally going to take the plunge on, or finish the very extended plunge on, depending. Here are our choices. What are you going to read in 2012?

Rachel, Senior Editor


Once Upon a River: A Novel


Gravity’s Rainbow


 Lucky Girls: Stories


Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Carmen, Contributing Editor

Inferno (A Poet’s Novel)


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


Mad About Madeline

Crystal, Music Editor

One Hundred Years of Solitude


The Town and the City



Laura, Contributing Editor

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books


Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

Laneia, Executive Editor

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Riese, Editor in Chief


Zami: A New Spelling of My Name


No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays


This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color


The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011


Glory Goes and Gets Some: Stories

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  1. Laneia, how did you know? I have been meaning to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for literally two years. we can do this together!

    • It’s on my shelf right now! I’ve never read any Woolf before, but I’m hoping Orlando will be a good start.

      • Orlando is very different from Woolf’s other work, so don’t give up on her yet. She had two main phases of work- her early conventional stuff like night and day, and her latter experimental work like to the lighthouse and mrs dalloway. Orlando is in a group all of it’s own. I’m just about to board a plane to London where I am going to study her drafts so I am obviously a massive Woolf fan and this is very relevant to my interests.

        There is also a movie of Orlando which is very good and featuresTilda Swinton looking swanky and elizabethan in drag so you should watch that too.

      • I love Orlando a whole lot, but of all Woolf’s books it is the one I feel the most meh about. Mrs. Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own are so perfect, sometimes I wish I was a bookcase so they could be inside me actually and not just in a weird, metaphorical way

        I think Orlando improves, also, if you’re super into the backstory, which is probably not a very good thing but oh well. When I met my first girlfriend we were seventeen and super into Virginia Woolf and I had this idea that I was Vita Sackville-West and she was Virginia and it was kind of adorable but mostly obnoxious and creepy.

        • I was reading the letters between Virginia and Vita, from around the time Virginia was writing Orlando, and then picked up Orlando – and found it super-interesting, knowing about their relationship, all the references that went into Orlando etc. but I think if I’d just read Orlando I would have found it much more random.

          [PS have you seen ‘Portrait of a Marriage’, about Vita’s marriage + relationship with Violet Trefusis?]

  2. Oscar Wao is great. i read it recently. it’s like poco lit meets geek lit. also it’s very funny. and tells the history of the dominican republic through footnotes and you don’t feel like you’re reading a Historical Novel but by the end you know a lot.

  3. I’ll be finishing up “Colonel Roosevelt” and saying good-bye to my favorite US President. Then it is off to Margaret Atwood’s “In Other Worlds” before finally digging into “The Pale King” (which I’m half tempted to put off reading until April). After that I don’t know what I’ll be reading until mid-March when “Apocalypse” the last in the ‘Fate of the Jedi’ series drops.

  4. This year I will finally purchase and read Annie On My Mind. I haven’t read it yet because the library at school doesn’t have a copy. Other books I plan on reading (that the library does have a copy of!) include:

    – Female Masculinity and The Queer Art of Failure, both by J Halberstam
    – The Well of Loneliness
    – Curious Wine
    – Branded: the buying and selling of teenagers

      • i saw brokeback mountain and finished well of loneliness in the same night
        it was terrible

        however annie on my mind is so nice!

      • Well of Loneliness should only ever be read as a historical treatise of what it was like when Radclyffe Hall was writing it. And to appreciate that we (in the West at least)no longer live in that space and time.

        • “historical treatise of what it was like when Radclyffe Hall was writing it”

          That is why I want to read it. I read The Rebel of the Family by Eliza Lynn Linton for a similar reason, to see how lesbians were portrayed in a book from the 19th century. Also, Linton was a well known anti-feminist, which makes her portrayal of outspoken female characters even more interesting. However, this is all coming from someone who ran across We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics today at the library and immediately wanted a copy :)

  5. Queer Fairy Fiction: I am so excited that this is a thing.

    I’m planning on reading The Magicians and Split: A Counterculture Childhood.

  6. I just bought myself a copy of “The Celluloid Closet” book, and hopefully I’ll get around to reading my copy of “Manifesta.” Also, the “Non-Required Reading” books are basically my favorite thing ever invented. I’ve got to read more this year; I’m a joke of an English major.

    • Ooh, I didn’t know that The Celluloid Closet was a book! Weirdly, I watched the documentary first. I’m going to go check that out ASAP.

  7. This year I will not be reading anything I actually want to because SCHOOL SCHOOL SCHOOL. But afterwards, I will get my hands on a copy of “Baby Remember My Name” by Michelle Tea and I will not put it down until I’m done with it.

        • Have you read Valencia? Thoughts?

          I feel terrible admitting that while I appreciated it, I wasn’t exceptionally fond..

          Though now I believe I will try to find a copy of The Beautiful.

    • i have a copy of “baby remember my name: anthology of new queer girl writing” on my shelf that i almost put on this list but then didn’t. if i had, you could’ve been like “RIESE! this year i also will be reading baby remember my name”

  8. On Jan 8, when I finish my second degree, I will continue reading ‘The Queer Art of Failure’ by Judith Jack Halberstam. Basically Halberstam links queerness with a refusal to succeed by heteronormative capitalistic standards (thus making queerness a kind of conscious failure) and uses the concept to propose more creative alternative way of being in the world. But it’s very funny and easygoing and Halberstam uses Spongebob Squarepants to talk about the revolution. In conclusion, it is win.

    Can you tell I am up procrastinating my essays… ugh ugh academic torture.

    • I somehow did not know this was a book yet? I’ve read essays & interviews on this concept with great interest — onto the reading list it goes!

  9. I just put in a requrest for “The Complete Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi at my school library. Autostraddle, you read my mind. I’m determined to read more than a few sections of the Norton Anthology of Literature By Women: The Tradition in English. It’s a giant book but it can’t be beat for convenience: Audre Lorde, Mary Wollstonecraft, Adrienne Rich, and nearly any other female author you can think of are included in the book. SWEET.

    Also looking forward to reading some Halberstam and maybe some more Kate Bornstien. Also REALLY excited for Alison Bechdel’s next book. Finally, I am dead set on reading at least 50% of Infinite Jest by the end of the year. EVEN IF IT SERIOUSLY MAIMS ME.

    • I’m in the midst of Infinite Jest now! It’s not an easy book at all, but I’m definitely enjoying it.

    • Persepolis is amazing! I think you will love it. The movie is also worth watching when you are done with the books.

      Also, Alison Bechdel has a new book coming out?? Wonderful! I don’t even need to know what it is, it’s now on my list.

      • I’m really excited for Persepolis. It looks fascinating. And I had no idea it was a movie too, I’ll definitely have to check that out.

        Alison Bechdel is coming out with a book about her relationship with her mom and it looks great. I may or may not be looking forward to it more than the Hunger Games movie.

  10. So many great books! I’ve added some of those to my list =]

    *Extremely loud and incredibly close! I’m jealous of people that will read it for the first time because they will be able to experience all the cagillion feelings and thoughts I did as I read it! Oscar Wao is another great read,although I may be biased since I’m Dominican.

    Some random books I’ve been meaning to read:
    *Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America
    *Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude
    *She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff (Omgz!!)


    • *Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude

      This sounds intriguing. Who’s it by?

      I’ve been reading 2 excellent memoir/travelogues combo recently, by Jenny Diski, a British writer I accidentally discovered. The first I took out from the library just because of the title:
      Skating to Antarctica. The other one: Strangers on a Train (about her train journeys in US). She comes across as a deeply solitary person, LOVE her writing.

      • Hey, Skating to Antarctica sounds pretty awesome, I added it to my list as well. mwahaha.

        Celebrating Time Alone: Stories Of Splendid Solitude is by Lionel Fisher and it has collection of personal stories of time alone and how it was awesome for those authors. It has great reviews on Amazon, and my introvert self is looking forward to it.


  11. I would love to finally actually read Inferno because I love Eileen Myles, but alas my parents will wonder why their ‘straight’ daughter is ordering lesbian books in the mail. No local bookstores have it; I even tried Strand when I was in NYC; they were helpful and knew what I was talking about but didn’t have any of Myles’ books. For shame!

  12. Such good lists! My sister has been trying to get me to read Bonnie Jo Campbell for ages, Rachel–maybe I should finally do it.
    At the very top of my list for this year is The Art of Fielding, which seems like it might have been written just for me (Melville! Baseball!). I also want to finally read History of the Conquest of Mexico, which is 1,000 pages long and has been weighing down my shelf since I moved to Mexico.
    But my biggest reading goal for the year is to read more stuff in Spanish. I’m going to consider this year a success once I read (and understand) Javier Marías’s Corazón tan blanco. I read and loved it in English a couple years ago (as A Heart So White–everyone should read it!), and now I want to try it in Spanish. I don’t understand how people learn to read in a second language–it’s totally outside of my abilities. But this will be the year that changes!

    • I want to read The Art of Fielding really bad too! I got into a mini-fight with someone recently because they were like “ugh it’s just one of those white male books, ugh ugh sports, i hate that it’s getting so much attention” but i think it’s fairly queer and also probably good, no? We should read it and discuss.

    • Yeaaahh, Javier Marias! Almost forgot about him. For a while I was reading a bunch of his books. Totally recommended.

  13. Riese! I have to/get to read Zami: A new spelling of my name for a class this semester! We can read it together!

    • oh good! i found it at a used bookstore i think, and was like ‘oh i have always been meaning to read this’ (this is pretty much how all of my books end up on my shelves) and i have taken it with me on like THREE TRIPS and still haven’t read it. this is the year for us, darcy, THIS IS IT

  14. This is a leap year, so all of you have an extra day to finish up Reading Lolita in Tehran and move on to Madeline.

  15. I’ve heard Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks is amazing.

    Also I’m finally going to read Middlesex, which I’ve been resisting only due to its length

    And I’d like to read Mean Little Deaf Queer, heard that’s amazing too

    Everyone who listed Eileen Myles’s Inferno above, her essays are also amazing: ‘The Importance of Being Iceland’


    • Where can I find ‘The Importance of Being Iceland’?!?! I know it sounds weird but I was there last year and now I am Iceland crazy. If Eileen Myles wrote about it, that would be just swell.

      • i randomly found it at Pulp Fiction, an awesome bookstore in Vancouver, but on the back it says it’s put out by SEMIOTEXT(E) distributed by MIT Press. I think you could find it online, or try to find a used copy on amazon?

        yeah it’s partly about iceland. she travels to iceland several times and there are beautiful parts about eccentric artists there and the landscape. generally it’s a collection of her art commentary. everything she writes makes me laugh, so i recommend.

        (also her earlier book of fiction ‘cool for you’. so good.)


  16. I feel like if I write it down, it will actually happen. So. Someone call me on this shit.

    Atlas Shrugged
    The Life of Pi
    and large chunks of The Norton Anthology of Poetry.

    Bam. Said it. Gonna make it happen.

  17. I read “A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Father” by Michael Holroyd. You all should read it! It is excellent. Comic, sad, true and about famous lesbians (Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West).

    • Way good choice. I also suggest “Neverwhere,” which I find a bit more lighthearted but equally as fantastic, if not better.

      • Neverwhere! That was my first Gaiman novel, and I really enjoyed it. American Gods was interesting, and actually pretty thought-provoking.

        This year, I’m finally going to read Annie On My Mind! I feel like a bad lesbian because I’ve never actually read it.
        I’m going to give Michelle Tea another shot. I didn’t like Valencia. There, I said it!
        I’d like to re-read The Ethical Slut, and The New Bottoming Book.
        And maybe some more “classic” literature as well? I’ll probably just look through all of Autostraddle’s reading lists and go from there.

    • I wanted to update, I read American Gods and loved it. Basically my next move is to read every other book that Gaiman has written.

  18. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Unlike everyone else I’ve ever met, I never read it in middle school, and I feel like I should before I leave high school. I admit I don’t have hella high hopes for it, but maybe I am wrong maybe it will make me feel ~infinite~

    • It’s so beyond awesome! I read it last year. I hope that nobody has spoiled the ending/giant plot twist for you yet.

    • I read it during my 2nd year of college. I related to the main character a lot, but overall, I didn’t love the book. Sorry, universe. :(

    • it says “the coming 365 days of 2012” and it was published on the 2nd of january.

      my hair is a bird your argument is invalid.

      • Ohhhhhh I see. I considered that but it’s the 3rd here so I dismissed it. Forgot about time zones etc.

  19. Every time I think I’ve got a grip on what I need to read, this happens. Time to put the ds down and pick up the book. (or actually kindle…damn)

  20. i really want to read jonathan strange and mr norrell this year, and jeanette winterson’s new one.

    • YES Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Such a fantastic book. When people come into my work looking for something to get their teenage/ya offspring to keep reading and they loved Harry Potter then I immediately get them a copy of this book. It deals with magic, history, and abso-fucking-lutely heart-rending stuff. BRILLIANT. The Jeanette Winterson book is also great, but then I love her writing so I was biased.

      Warning – both of these books will make you cry.

  21. i will most definitely read:

    – virginia woolf, to the lighthouse (i LOVED mrs. dalloway and A room of one’s own)
    – samuel beckett, three novels (molloy, malone dies, the unnamable)
    – eileen myles, inferno
    – ernest hemingway, a farewell to arms

    just finished jonathan franzen, how to be alone
    i feel like i should read one of his novels now.. the corrections maybe?

    also, i really want to read something by gertrude stein, what would be a good start?

    • I have not read a ton of Stein, but Three Lives is very very nice and funny and also extremely readable — they’re still recognizable narratives though characteristically Steinian, and short too. Her autobiography, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is a little harder to get through mainly due to length and a lot of namedropping of people we no longer know, but is a fun slice of history and a pretty sweet, oblique picture of her relationship with Toklas.

  22. I need to read more literature. I’m gonna be 25 in a few weeks, and I’m just reading Catcher in the Rye, now! Also on my to-read list are:

    -Lord of the Flies

    -Brave New World

    -The Metamorphosis

    -The Scarlet Letter

    -Les Miserables

    -Slaughterhouse Five

    -Naked Lunch

    -On the Road


    I also need to read the Hunger Games books. ALSO…I’ve NEVER read a Harry Potter book…

    • lots of good classics – you can put several of those on your Kindle for free, if you have one. I loved the Slaughterhouse Five, Les Mis, On the Road, and The Scarlet Letter…the rest on your list are good reads although I felt ‘meh’ about Brave New World, to be honest. The Hunger Games are a must – I’ve finished the first two books and sort of don’t want to start the third right away because then they’ll be over! The trailer for the first movie looks amazing. Oddly enough, I never read any Harry Potter either. I feel like with that many books in the series it’s too much of an investment now, like if I read one I’ll have to read them all. Then I’d probably want to watch the movies, which again there are several.

      Happy reading!

    • Nina, read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (if you haven’t already of course)… it’s the 21st Century Catcher in the Rye!

  23. Can someone read Extremely Loud and Incredibly close for me? I like the sound of the title, but I got stuck about 10 pages into Everything is Illuminated and hated it.

    • i really loved extremely loud, and went right on to read everything is illuminated and was confused/disappointed.. it’s not bad but for me didn’t come close to extremely loud. so i guess my point is, just read extremely loud, they are very different books

    • There’s also a really great audiobook version of it, if you are into audiobooks. That’s how I ‘read’ it.

  24. I’m currently 2/3 of the way through Oscar Wao and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I really like the voice/writing style and all the info on the Dominican Republic, but overall I feel kind of meh about it.

  25. After I finish reading the Hobbit (for the 4th time) in preparation for the movie I am going to randomly pick something from this list and read it, I always need new books, I finish them waaaay to quickly.

  26. This year I am finally going to read/finish:

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (and then maybe Year of the Flood?)

    since I have had both of these books for years and have actually read to about halfway through Oryx and Crake. I just keep picking up something else.

    • did you see the documentary narrated/hosted by sue perkins in which she reads from a book that appears to span the majority of anne lister’s life? that is not what you get with the most commonly available edition, more like only the first half of the interesting parts. just fyi

      • YES, I saw it after having watched the movie with Maxine Peake, and I totally loved it. Sue Perkins is the bessssst ♥ After that I went on a massive online investigation trying to read parts from her diary. Wish I could get the books by Helena Whitbread! :C

  27. So happy to see that ladies are reading Middlesex. It is seriously good. This year I will read lots of boring books for school, but that’s only until May. Then I shall read lots of good fiction/non-fiction/poetry/graphic novels! I am stealing big chunks of this list and adapting it as my own to sound smart and literature savvy.

  28. I bought Fahrenheit 451 when I was still in high school. I’m over halfway through college. I WILL READ THIS BOOK.

  29. These are all amazing books, I’m going to check them out and add them to my goodreads and get to reading! I’ve been reading James Patterson’s Toys!

  30. Ok so I was looking at the preview for Queer Fairy Fiction, and it is edited by Steve Berman, but at first glance I read it as Steve Buscemi and I nearly lost my mind.

  31. I’m going to read:

    -Kafka on the Shore (Christmas present!)
    -Game of Thrones (at least the first)
    -The Hunger Games (borrowed from an aunt)
    -Many Years From Now (bio of Paul McCartney)
    -Fab (bio of Paul McCartney)

    Both the last two I was supposed to read last year and never did and both are enormous books. D: Also I have to finish Dune because I started reading it again and am halfway through and I have to finish it! I love that book.

  32. So far this year I have read “The Silence” “Santa Olivia” “The Devil’s Gentleman” and “Water Logic”. Started “The Will of The Empress” earlier….hope to have it done by morning. I am shooting for an average of 1 book per day, as long as the insomnia holds out…

  33. STOP IT
    I have about 15 billion books to read, and now there’s all this stuff from this list I want to read, like you are not a gadget, queer fairy fiction, inferno a poet’s novel, etc.
    I must read Fables. been meaning to for ages.

    and others I mean to read:
    Some of shakespeare, like Julius Caesar
    The mists of Avalon
    running with scissors
    catch 22
    gravity’s rainbow
    The Mortal Instrument
    the infernal devices

    should I read the well of loneliness? how about sarah waters?

    I have a doubt, I just added several here to my wishlist, but when I buy them,I should come back here and click through so autostraddle will get the credit right?
    and does it matter if I buy them with a giftcard? I don’t have a credit card so I want to buy a giftcard to buy some of the books in my ever-growing wish list

  34. Well, I just spent money that I don’t have. Curse this Kindle that makes book shopping so easy!

  35. currently I am hoping to read middlesex, inferno, & the hunger games books. I even recently pulled out middlesex & inferno and placed them near my bed hoping that will entice me to read them sooner.

  36. Love love love: Fables and The Hunger Games.
    Totally excited to learn about: Queer Fey Fiction, The Bridge and others…

    FWIW, I did NOT love The Magicians. I had a friend who loved it a lot, so I struggled through the whole thing. I found it way too privileged-white-dude-has-exestential-angst-over-his-own-excessive-priviledge. C’mon, man, you have magic! Where’s the joy?

    Has anyone read the second one? I want to hope it gets better (ha), but am nervous to pick it up.

  37. Cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s new graphic novel ARE YOU MY MOTHER: A COMIC DRAMA comes out on May 1, 2012.

    I can’t wait to get my hands on it! If you haven’t read her previous novel: Fun Home, go out and get it now. It’s brilliant.

    This one concentrates on the women in her life, including her mother. I am so looking forward to it.

  38. I’ve been meaning to read The Best American Nonrequired Reading forEVER and still haven’t gotten around to even purchasing it. Also, now that I’m enrolled in my first Women’s/Gender/Sexuality Studies course, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to delve into some appropriate literature. Whew. I’m also still trying to plod through Game of Thrones…fantasy and me…big mistake. It’s just too slow. What I should really do is go back to the borderline-smutty Firestorm and just call it a day…

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