Reading

posted in: Tips and Techniques | 40

In 2016 I read 42 books, ten short of my intention (one book a week).

I blame the knitting. Five jumpers instead of ten books. I suppose that is about right.

In our new holiday home we don’t have the internet and I am intending to spend many weekends there. So this year I intend to read at about the same rate. My resolution has so far been successful with four books already read in January.

In case you are interested in what I read last year I asterixed and provided cover images of the ones I really enjoyed.

January

  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies; A Biography of Cancer
  • *Stephen King, The Green Mile
  • Stephen King, Mr Mercedes
  • Rachel Abbott, Sleep Tight
  • Philip Gould, When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone
  • Marguerite van Geldermalsen, Married to a Bedouin

February

  • Stephen King, Doctor Sleep
  • Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins
  • Keith Houghton, No Coming Back
  • Margaret Atwood, The heart goes last

March

  • Liliana Hart, Dirty Little Secrets
  • Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier
  • John Le Carre, The Night Watchman
  • Ruth Picardie, Before i Say Goodbye
  • Jacky Fleming, The trouble with women

April

  • Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog
  • Danielle Steel, Flowers in the Snow
  • *Veronica Roth, Divergent
  • Veronica Roth, Insurgent

May

  • Kimberley Chambers, Payback
  • William Blacker, Along the Enchanted Way
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

June

  • Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen
  • Michael Frayn, Towards the End of the Morning

July

  • Hannah Rothschild, The improbability of Love
  • Mick Herron, Slow Horses
  • *Nina Sibbe, Love Nina

August

  • *JM Coetze, The Schooldays of Jesus
  • Mick Herron, Dead Lions
  • Sue Monk Kidd, the Secret Lives of Bees
  • Mhairi McFarlane, You had me at Hello
  • *EL Doctorow, The Book of Daniel

September

  • Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project
  • Nina Stibbe, Man at the Helm
  • *Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North

October

  • Elena Ferante, My Brilliant Friend
  • Elly Griffith, The Crossing Places
  • *Ian McGuire, The North Water

November

  • Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

December 

  • Mark Edwards, Because she loves me
  • Nick Alexander, Let the light shine
  • *John Steinbeck, The Wayward Bus

I realise I have rather eclectic tastes – teen fiction, classics, modern prize winners and a couple of light reads – mainly British and US writers. I am OK with that – I don’t have anything to prove over 40 years after my last A Level. I have been reading a few classics to the children, such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and I hope to revisit some of the great books with them.

Finally my overall winner was Ian McGuire, The North Water. Just a great story, well written with an excellent ending.

Anything you have read recently that you would care to recommend please? Just leave a comment below – many thanks!

40 Responses

  1. I loved The True Toad to the Deep North. (In fact much better than All the Light You Cannot See–also good, but True Road was riveting.)

    My kids have loved the Divergent series. It’s also on my list.

    Here are a couple of my favorites from the last year that might be of interest:

    Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel: post plague dystopian fiction but so beautifully written and with such str characters.

    The Water Knife by Paolo Bacagalupi: water crisis in the American West creates chaos–fiction and sort of violent in aces but also well done

    Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles: also dystopian and water crisis related, and sort of weak as far as plot goes–but magical in enough other ways that I loved it despite its flaws. Jiles published poetry for decades before turning to novels, and it shows. Her more recent book, News of the World, is also very good.

    Anything by Hilary Mantel, esp if you have only read the Wolf Hall books. (And of course the new one, the minute it comes out!). A Change of Climate is a brilliant and heartbreaking tale; I have some others in my queue. Also, anything by Ian McEwan.

    Anne Patchett’s books are lovely. Bel Canto is my favorite but I buy whatever she publishes as soon as it comes out. Commonwealth (her latest) is good so far.

    I’m a huge fan of audio books, mostly so I can listen while I knit (or sew). My goal for the year is to read more fiction from around the world, but I do not have a month by month plan, which significantly decreases the likelihood of that happening!

    • I was recommended Station Eleven last year. I’m not usually a fan of anything post apocalyptic but I was really drawn into the story.

    • Many thanks Ellen for taking so much trouble to respond in detail. I shall look all of these up.

  2. If you’d like to step out your Brit and American comfort zone read Americanah by Chimamanda Adiche-Ngozi. I consider that book to be one of the best I have ever read.

    I will check out The North Water when I am next at the library.

  3. The Green Mile is one of my all time favourites. I have pretty diverse tastes when it comes to books too, I’ll read almost anything except horror and things that are too “serious”. I read for escapism mainly, not to have my mind improved!
    I’m currently reading Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan and loving it.

  4. Wow – so many books, I go through phases of reading and its generally when I am not making, and it will be predominantly gumshoe, some art criticism and other bits. I ordered 4 John Berger books on inter library loan -thought I had ordered only two but four arrived – (I had just reading an interview with him a month before he died and I remembered how much I enjoyed a book of his in college). The books are good, but its a lot of John Berger at once. Bentos Sketchbook has some beautiful moments in it and I know I will scan those pages, so if it was in a library I would recommend a read through it for anyone as it really takes you ‘away’. I am going to revisit this page too in the next few days to make a list of other recommendations from your readers, to add to a few of yours I have jotted down

  5. Amazed that your grandchildren are old enough for the Lion/Witch/Wardrobe….I am perhaps influenced by their appearances on the blog at a younger age? Mine enjoyed having the Hobbit read out loud at bed time, it took us about a year to finish. One of the 2, as an adult, seems to re-read Tolkien in times of stress (which amuses me as that was my pattern for years, but he was completely unaware of that commonality). DNA hobbits? Right now I am immersed in books about trout, the gateway having been one by James Prosek – I came for the watercolors but am now devouring the prose.

    cheers,
    ceci

    • Hmm. Trout? Well I will have to look into that. The 5 year old was 4 when I read the CS Lewis and he really liked the stories. The smaller one just listens quietly as it postpones bedtime.

  6. Hi Kate, here are a few off the top of my head: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, H is for Hawke by Helen Macdonald, Simply Alice by Lisa Genova and I’ve just finished reading Hannah Kent’s The Good People.

    • Kerry – thank you. I have great difficulty remembering any of the titles off the top of my head. Having a Kindle makes them even less memorable as you are not picking up the cover title each time.

      • …and two more to add to the list, both with a dressmaking ‘theme’…The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham (unusually for me, I read it after seeing the movie and still loved it when normally I would be bored already knowing the story) and I’m currently reading The Coat Route by Meg Noonan which is about one! hand made coat and is quite a fascinating glimpse into luxury tailoring. Sorry about the typo in my previous comment – H is for Hawk not Hawke who is a previous PM of Australia (duh). I also find the kindle not good for remembering titles and authors; I don’t think physical books will ever disappear, but there is certainly much more versatility and convenience being able to read an eBook especially when travelling. I’ve actually graduated from my kindle to an iPad mini because I can borrow books from the library on it and I love it. Kx

  7. Last year my memorable reads were all of the Brunelli Venice mysteries, All the Light You Cannot See (wonderful), The Nightingale (heartbreaking), Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (really thoughtful) and a lot of romance novels (sometimes I just want a happy ending!). I’ve started Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

    • Oh, I love the Donna Leon books too, they’re a great light read AND set in Venice, what’s not to like!

  8. At the moment my top two authors are Elly Griffiths and Laurie R King, both mystery writers. Some very enjoyable reads from both of them, especially King.

  9. The best book I read last year was The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. It is gruesome in parts (set in North Korea), but a great story with wonderful writing.

    • Thanks so much for the suggestion Polda Pop. I am fascinated by North Korea and have read a few true stories as well as some fictionalised ones.

  10. Until very recently I was reading less than I used to – I was a voracious if indescriminating reader and much more low brow than high brow. I’ve picked up my reading again and will look into some of the titles in your post and the replies. The one I’m about to start Is Small Island by Andrea Levy, given to me today by a friend.
    I think that one of the things that put me off reading for a while was my Kindle – I enjoy physical books. My resolution is to use my local library – use it or lose it!

    • I enjoyed Small Island, but not that much. I must say I love my Kindle – it’s so light and easy to carry, and easy to start a new book or swap to a different one. I feel libraries have had their day – controversial!

  11. Do you use Goodreads.com? Look me up by my email address to see my reviews.

  12. Cherry Heinrich

    Wow , what a great list! I’m going to track down some of those I haven’t come across before to read this year. Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson and Michael Frayn are already favourites. Elly Griffith I discovered on Audible and then listened to all of hers.

    My suggestions – well firstly what a good idea it is to keep a list. I tend to pass on or donate to a charity shop books that I have finished and at an ahem certain age my ability to remember a year’s worth of books, even one finished last week is a challenge at times. However I also listen to lots of books so that list is accessible. These are books I have read or listened to in the last year and recommend.

    If you like Le Carre then A Delicate Truth. Charles Cumming is a writer of spy fiction I discovered recently. The Trinity Six or A Foreign Country would be starting points. William Boyd’s Restless makes a pleasant change from the boy’s own spy stories.

    We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy-Fowler was a surprise as was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

    Rose Tremain is a reliable author, my favourite is Music and Silence. Anything by Susan Hill. One of my favourites is about books, Howards End is on the Landing: A year of reading from home.

    Ann Patchett, already recommended by others. A State of Wonder is just that.

    As you are in London I wonder if you have come across Ben Aaronovitch and his ‘Rivers of London’ series? Fantasy crossed with Police procedural crossed with comedy, these books are sheer delight in their nuttiness. On Audible they are read by Kobna Holbrook-Smith and his performance of the many varied voices has added to my enjoyment of the series.

    Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healey, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O Farrell, The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, I let you go by Clare Macintosh are all satisfying mysteries of different kinds.

    Books with sewing related themes! The Pink Suit by Nicole Kelby, The last Runaway by Tract Chevalier and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The latter two centre on slavery and are very moving.

    I recently re read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials triology and I wonder if you have read these, starting with Northern Lights. This was my third time round.

    I’m starting a list now for this year, thanks for this post, and thanks too for the comments!

    • Hi Cherry – thanks so much for your list. I have got the stage in life I need to write down what I have read or I find I buy the same book again sometimes….I loved We are all completely beside ourselves. Fantastic. Also I read His Dark Materials, having heard a reading from one of them at a funeral, and loved them. I read the Pink Suit – and reviewed it here – and got a sweet letter from the author as a result. And I have read a few by Rose Tremain including Music and Silence. Otherwise it looks like your taste is similar to mine so I am going to look up all of these titles. Many thanks – I really appreciate you taking the time and your palpable enthusiasm.

  13. I have read some awesome books lately (yay for summer holidays with limited access to technology!):
    Mother of Pearl – Melinda Haynes
    Three Junes – Julia Glass
    Funny Girl – Nick Hornby
    The Flying Troutmans – Miriam Toews
    Just Kids – Patti Smith
    and currently reading the most curious book my sister loaned me, Glittering Images – Susan Howarth

    Your reading list looked very interesting Kate, and how wonderful to have no internet access at the holiday home.

  14. Rather than list any others I think I will work my way through most of your list. Some of them look like wonderful reads. What a great retreat to go to your new home and curl up with a good book.

  15. I’ve read your list with interest, and in particular would like to know what you made of A Little Life! Here are some suggestions – like you, I aim to read a book a week over the year. I’m aware that there isn’t much humour here, so I also recommend Nancy Mitford’s novels, which are delightful for some light relief. Do have a look at the Persephone list, too.
    Andrew Hurley, The Loney (spooky)
    Ben Judah, This is London (reportage, and very up to the minute re migration)
    Jenny Diski, In Gratitude (picking up on the cancer books you read last year)
    Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch (just a satisfying long read)
    Salley Vickers, Cousins (I’ve read this twice since hearing her on Radio 4 talking about it in Nov/Dec – have recommended it to loads of friends, one of whom described it as engrossing and moving)
    John Berger, A Seventh Man (the book he was proudest of; again, very apposite as it’s about European migration)
    Marilynne Robinson – start with Housekeeping
    Do hope there’s something here! But I have to disagree with you about Kindles – I can’t get on with the lack of a ‘heft’ to the physical book in my hands.
    All the best!

    • christine_a

      I would second Ben Judah – This is London – it really dragged me out of my comfort zone when I realised what is going on all around me. About Libraries – do you really think their time has gone Kate ? I think they could be so much more than just a place where you borrow books – ours is developing into a community hub – free wifi, lots of PC’s and IT courses – I even had a personalised half hour course before Christmas. So I don’t think they’re a spent force yet.

      • I know that some boroughs and cities have reinvented their libraries to become learning hubs and, with sufficient resources, I believe these could provide adult and community education, skills training, access to jobs, voluntary work opportunities etc. But if we are short of money we need a digital solution, in my opinion.

    • Dear Catherine – Thank you for taking the time and trouble to provide me with such a stupendous list. I will check out each and every suggestion. I have only read The Goldfinch on your list – which I loved. I am sure you will see many of your suggestions on my reading list at the end of 2017.

  16. Amitav Ghosh, the Ibis trilogy, if you’ve not read them. Absolutely absorbing!

  17. Joyce Latham

    Lots of recommendations! once I made it a goal to read classics, one a month. One of the best things I ever did for myself! Now, as you know, I have the Ladies Good Book Club, and that is where I get my reading list for the year.
    I can…read a book on my iPad…and I do love the benifits of the dictionary etc, at a touch of the finger..but I prefer…a real book with pages. I do enough reading on line…it’s nice to feel the texture of the page, the weight of the story.
    And now…I shall turn a page or two of The Invention of Wings….a good read or not? We shall see. No one reads the same book….I’m glad you enjoy reading too….isn’t that what country weekend homes are good for! Enjoy your page turning :- )
    Joyce from Sudbury.

  18. What a great list, I have a similarly eclectic taste.

    The book that stood out for me recently, and may appeal to you as a Londoner, was Ben Aaronovitch’s “The rivers of London”. Mystery with a bit of magic and local history, what’s not to like?

  19. Riches! I’m bookmarking this page with comments for some help while searching for audible books I check out electronically from my library. It can be a miserable process looking if you don’t have a few authors or titles in mind when you start out. I have enjoyed quite a few of the books on your list, so I figure those I’ve missed and these suggested will be likely enjoyed as well

    • I so agree with you Barb. Looking for a good book is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I always ask for recommendations from friends and people I feel an affinity to.

  20. We seem to have read a number of the same books last year. The one I particularly enjoyed which is nor on your list was ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull – unexpected and truly wonderful. It was loaned to me or I would send it to you. Another couple of long time favourites are Flour Babies by Ann Fine (hilarious, it was taken off me while reading in public by my embarrassed daughter) and Tim by Colleen McCulloch.
    I am still a user of libraries but am using their ‘e-book’ service more now – and audio books from this source are free (if a little limited at present) so I’m saving on an Audible subscription for while I knit 🙂

    • Thanks for the super suggestions Kim (I am just getting around to ordering them all!). I think it would be great if libraries made audio and ebooks available to all – in fact free books would be one of my policies if I were the Prime Minister.

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