Mahrya's Top 10 List

Photo of Mahrya Carncross
Mahrya Carncross
Hometown: Platteville, WI
Colleges: Beloit College, University of Washington
Favorite Book: The Island by Aldous Huxley
Favorite TV show: Northern Exposure
Favorite Movie: Fargo

The last 10 books I've read

Because I hate picking favorites, I’ll write about my recent reading. They are in order from just finished to finished a few months ago.

10. A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. With all the television makeover press this has been getting, I decided it was high time I read it. Life in this post-democracy is bleak, especially for women, but there are possibilities for small acts of resistance.

9. American Pastoral by Phillip Roth. The narrator struggles to understand a neighborhood sports hero from childhood. Verbose, funny, but digressive and loooong.

8. 10th of December by George Saunders. This is the last book in my recent Saunders spree. It’s a collection of short stories, mostly about people caught in embarrassing and dehumanizing situations, struggling to retain some dignity in an undignified world. Critiques of modern capitalism run high. Saunders has an unparalleled ability to embody a character’s voice, be it a teenage track star or a wage slave jotting away in a diary.

7. In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders. More Saunders short stories in the same vein. Also great.

6. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I read this on a whim, and I have fallen in love with Saunders’ writing in a way that I haven’t in a long time. There are excellent comprehensive reviews out there, but at its core, this book is about reckoning at the end of a life. It also features fantastical ghosts. Oh, and Abe Lincoln, of course.

5. Life with Full Attention by Maitreyabandhu. This is an 8-week course on living life in a less scattershot way. Give it a try if you’re feeling a bit frayed after a long semester.

4. East, West by Salman Rushdie. The writing is so lush. If you don’t have an oversized velvet cocoon at your disposal, read some Rushdie instead. The effect will be similar. East, West is a collection of short stories, some of which take place in India and some in the United States. As a whole, the book reveals specificities about each culture and their intersections.

3. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. This is a book about growing up mixed-race in England. Between flashbacks, the narrator helps her white pop star boss start a charity in Africa. She experiences identity displacement like you wouldn’t believe.

2. The Complete French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke translated by A. Poulin, Jr. Did you know that Rilke’s full name is René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke? Like his poetry, intense!

1. Health and Longevity by Joseph G. Richardson, M.D. This is a book of everything, clocking in at a couple thousand pages and with chapter titles like “Healthy Dwelling Houses,” “Diseases from Impure Waters,” “Softening of the Brain,” and “Ideal Home Medicine Chest.” Published in 1910, one imagines this manual for modern living taking its rightful place next to the family bible. I read portions of this every few months to maintain maximum vigor of life.

Picture of man who is obese on left and same man who is thinner on the right. Sample page from the chapter “Evils of Over-Exercise.
Sample page from the chapter “Evils of Over-Exercise.” Proto-Photoshop?