What I Read in 2018

Back again! Here’s another list of books I’ve enjoyed this year, although I doubt anyone actually reads these pages anyway. Titles in [square brackets] are books which I started, but didn’t finish. Links to my reviews/thoughts are underlined.

Perchance to Dream and Other Stories by Charles Beaumont (collection of horror/science fiction short stories which are excellently eerie. Would certainly recommend.)

Wise Children by Angela Carter (I thoroughly enjoyed The Bloody Chamber, and this was a rollicking read too. They are very different books, but Carter’s humour really comes to the fore in this theatrical novel.)

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (I’m trying to challenge my thoughts and opinions more, and what better way than through an existential crisis? This book confused me but I felt something. It’s difficult to put a finger on it.)

[Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I really tried with this book, but only managed half of it. Too heavy for me right now – I need Wendy Holden instead.]

The Death of Grass by John Christopher (A random pick from the library – apocalyptic and highly addictive. Murders! Guns! Dangerous viruses!)

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (Finally got round to reading this. Drugs, alcohol, swearing, sex. Very raw, in an I’ve-got-a-hangnail kind of way. Gets under the skin.)

[A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (I wanted a laugh, but didn’t get it. Disappointed. Premise was intriguing (eighty year old bloke, thirty year old, ‘tartish’ new wife), but execution was too forced. Got halfway through, then skipped to the end.)]

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (a speedy read to just support some of the ideas in an essay I’m writing. Glad I finally read it.)

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (I understand why it won the Man Booker. I want to read it all over again, because it’s innovative and tender and makes you think about love and life and loss.)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Drawn by the words ‘Chinese-American’ on the blurb. Has rapidly become one of my favourite books, ever – resonates particularly with me due to my ethnic origins. Laughed and cried in equally measure, and articulated many of my own emotions in regards to my relationship with my mum.)

Porno by Irvine Welsh (1. Don’t leave this book out on your kitchen table, as it will lead to excruciating conversations. Didn’t particularly enjoy it – flashes of humour and a lot of sex – but somewhat interesting if you enjoyed Trainspotting.)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (I loved it. Sent shivers down my spine. Eerily enjoyable. Burns at you.)

Women and Power by Mary Beard (Perhaps my favourite manifesto ever? A thought-provoking, inspiring little book about women and power and politics and the system. Will read again.)

The Crossing by Andrew Miller (My 50p ‘lucky dip’ hardback, and much better than expected. Intriguing and with boats.)

The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman by H.G. Wells (Somewhat surprised by how much I loved this novel. Feminism, marriage, and a hostel/tea shop empire. Would highly recommend.)

[Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I thought I would love this novel. I didn’t. Didn’t even finish it – was irritated and cranky, and didn’t really get into any of the characters. Shame.]

1984 by George Orwell (Because technically, this counts as typicality revision. If you’ve not read it, start immediately. Even now, on my third re-read, there is something that makes me think, with one of those strange sudden flashes of recognition.)

Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant (A Penguin Little Black Classic, when I was finding it exceptionally hard to get into a full length novel. Enjoyable, and short stories!)

Todos Deberiamos Ser Feministas by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Yes, I read ‘We Should All Be Feminists in Spanish, because I like to think I’m cool and bilingual. Also because this technically counts as Spanish revision. An absolute must-read. Please. For everyone.)

Like Mother by Jenny Diski (One of my favourite books of the year this far. Still mentally working my way through it.)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (I have so many things to say about this collection of essays. So many things. It almost made me cry, and is helping in my exploration of what the hell it actually means to be mixed race.)

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (I am nurturing a love of literature about climbing and mountaineering. Haven’t climbed a mountain in my entire life, but I do know that if I don’t spend an hour outside I go mad.)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Christ. If I could write anything like Fitzgerald, I would be happy. His metaphors are actually perfect.)

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (glorious, elegant and intriguing. Like Gatsby, left me with an emptiness deep inside)

The Body and other stories by Hanif Kureishi (I rather liked this collection of short stories. I didn’t realise this was a collection of short stories until I actually finished The Body (about what could happen if you cut your brain out and whacked it into a younger body) and thought ‘blimey, that’s a bit short’. Decent.)

The Complete Works of Philip Larkin (Cover to cover. No shame. My love for Larkin is unbounded.)

Streetsmart by Nicholas Coleridge (Murder of a magazine editor. A speedy read that’s surprisingly good.)

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks (Was told to wait until after exams before reading this, but oh well. Intriguing and it has murders! disappearances! questions the nature of truth and perspective!)

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (I read this a couple of years ago, but it’s changed rather significantly for me. I sense more of the tragedy now – American glitz and glamour, tainted.)

The Temp by Serena Mackesy (Because why not prepare myself for my future? Funny.)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuro Ishiguro (I’m not sure if I really enjoyed this novel or not?)

After Dark by Haruki Murakami (Murakami does it again! Whimsical, weird and really bloody good.)

The Trial by Franz Kafka (still not sure if I actually enjoyed this, because it’s very wordy and red tapey – thus his point – but that ending!!)

Marriage by H.G. Wells (Didn’t like this too much owing to the materialism of one of the protagonists, but oh my does this get good. Persevere to the end, because it’s worth it. Marriage and sacrifice and love and the roles of men and women. Fantastic.)

Saturday Night at the Greyhound by John Hampson (Pub! A deceptively simple slow-burner, which hits hard. Is also set in a pub. Pub!)

Who Is Mary Sue? by Sophie Collins (poetry and prose, ‘fictave-factive miniatures [which] deploy original writing and extant quotation’. I didn’t know what extant meant until I read this. About women and ‘the idea that men invent while women reflect‘. The first book I’ve actually wanted to study since leaving school. Google everything Collins mentions.)

Stoner by John Williams (Outwardly quiet life of an English lecturer. Elegant, tender and devastating. I’d forgotten how much I love this novel.)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (another re-read, and although I initially thought Holden was a little bitch, ultimately not so bad. I get what they mean by ‘coming of age’.)

Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 by Garrison Keillor (another coming-of-age novel, which is actually rather funny. America, 1956, 14 year old narrator who refers to himself as ‘Mr Tree Toad’. Entertaining and touching (even better if you enjoy baseball).)

My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munroe ed. by Jeffrey Eugenides (I read the majority of the short stories here; a couple I read half of, and promptly thought ‘no thank you‘. A lovely anthology, although I still don’t think that true love exists.)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (bloody hell. Still thinking about this book, documenting the murder of four members of the same family in 1959. Chilling and worth the acclaim.)

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (never felt a strong interest in hawks – give me a good ol’ pied wagtail instead – but this is one of the most beautiful books on nature. Eloquent, and I cried within the first five pages. And now I can tell the difference between a goshawk and, well, other hawks.)

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (nature! alcoholism! Wainwright prizewinner! set up north to us southerners, and the Orkney Islands to everyone else, Liptrot returns to her childhood isle following a hedonistic lifestyle in London. simple and beautiful.)

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (I know I was three years late to this party, but christ alive was this a book. Imaginative and filled with secrets, 17th Century Amsterdam, and weird artisan sending weirder creations and notes. Fantastic.)

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (the BBC series was amusing, and so is the book.)

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Books? Barcelona? I fell in love and am still reeling. Literary thriller? Romance? Supernatural? blimey. )

Money by Martin Amis (American Psycho-y, but with less blood.)

Waterland by Graham Swift (mmm more nature writing!!! and set in the Fens, which hopefully I’ll be seeing a lot more of in the next few years. It’s beautifully written, and sparks lots of thoughts about a person’s relationship with (natural) history and sense of place)

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Epic prose poem?? epic in the sense that it’s composed of nine books, yes. Enjoyed it, especially RE: thoughts about female independence and the role of women. Worth it if you’re into feminism and the development of literature)

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (I’ve been wanting to read this for a while because of all the hype, and it didn’t actually disappoint. Not just a chick flick, as I’d thought, but touching and hopeful. A winner.)

Disgrace  by J.M. Coetzee (first discovered as part of an unseen prose essay, but the novel is so much more than ‘teacher employs dubious techniques in order to seduce teenage student’. Power, race and relationships. Very good.)

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (everything I’d hoped for, and more. Isabel Archer, you had me at ‘hello’. Elegantly written)

The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson (pirates! the American Wilderness! Scotland! an exciting though tragic read with an absolute bastard of an antagonist.)

In Memoriam by Tennyson (lol rip me, although I am genuinely in love with this elegy)

The Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane (it’s a very slim book, but it still counts as a book, right? an essay on reading and gifting and it made my heart go warm)

CURRENTLY READING

Middlemarch by George Eliot (Big enough to kill a man? yes. Big enough to kill me? potentially.)

Ulysses by James Joyce (buying the big print version doesn’t make it any easier, folks)

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (because a girl needs to relax in ways other than binge-drinking)

 

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