About this time a year ago (or perhaps a little while before that) it struck me that I wasn’t reading enough. My to-be-read pile was getting higher and higher and there were still loads of things out there that I felt I really ought to read in whatever time was left to me. So I started reading more, and according to my stats I managed to read
89 90 91 books last year. I didn’t keep very good records, so it’s entirely possible that one or two of those may have been read in 2012, but I think it’s close enough.
Here’s the full, completely un-star-rated, list:
|Aldiss, Brian (ed)||A Science Fiction Omnibus|
|Auslander, Shalom||Hope: A Tragedy|
|Boyce, NP||Veronica Britten|
|Bray, Carys||Sweet Home|
|Brown, Dan||Digital Fortress|
|Burroughs, Augusten||Running with Scissors|
|Cameron, Ash||Confessions of an Undercover Cop|
|Carter, Angela||The Bloody Chamber|
|Casselle, Paul||Blue Skies Over Dark Days|
|Chabon, Michael||The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay|
|Child, Lee||The Visitor|
|Conan Doyle, Arthur||A Study in Scarlet|
|Conan Doyle, Arthur||The Sign of Four|
|Conan Doyle, Arthur||The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes|
|Conan Doyle, Arthur||The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes|
|Conan Doyle, Arthur||The Return of Sherlock Holmes|
|Defoe, Gideon||The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists|
|Defoe, Gideon||The Pirates! In an Adventure with Moby Dick|
|Defoe, Gideon||The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists|
|Defoe, Gideon||The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon|
|de Witt, Patrick||The Sisters Brothers|
|d’Lacey, Joseph||Blood Fugue|
|Fisher, Carrie||Wishful Drinking|
|Fleming, Ian||Casino Royale|
|Fleming, Ian||Live and Let Die|
|Flynn, Gillian||Gone Girl|
|Fox, Kate||Watching the English|
|French, Mike||Blue Friday|
|Frost, Toby||A Game of Battleships|
|Garfield, Simon||The Error World|
|Glashan, John||John Glashan’s World|
|Govinden, Niven||Graffiti My Soul|
|Grimwood, Terry||Soul Masque|
|Hamid, Mohsin||The Reluctant Fundamentalist|
|Harrod, Andy||Living Room Stories|
|Harrod, Andy||Tearing at Thoughts|
|Higgs, JMR||The Brandy of the Damned|
|Hogart, Simon and Monk, Emily||Don’t Tell Mum|
|Honoré, Carl||In Praise of Slow|
|Horsley, Ross||My First Dictionary|
|Hunt, Stephen||The Court of the Air|
|Ishiguro, Kazuo||When We Were Orphans|
|James, Christina||In The Family|
|James, Clive||The Dreaming Swimmer|
|Joyce, Laura Ellen||The Museum of Atheism|
|Kerr, Calum||Lost Property|
|King, Claire||The Night Rainbow|
|Larsen, Reif||The Selected Works of T S Spivet|
|Lee, Harper||To Kill a Mockingbird|
|Mahmutovic, Adnan||How to Fare Well and Stay Fair|
|Marek, Adam||The Stone Thrower|
|Mason, Amy||The Islanders|
|McGregor, John||This Isn’t the Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You|
|McMillan, Ian||Dad, the Donkey’s on Fire!|
|Okotie, Simon||Whatever Happened to Harold Absalom?|
|Page, Ra (ed)||Lemistry|
|Parikian, Lev||Waving, Not Drowning|
|Parker, Matt||The Exploding Boy|
|Pendragon, Arthur and Stone, CJ||The Trials of Arthur|
|Ridgway, Keith||Hawthorn & Child|
|Ronson, Jon||Out of the Ordinary|
|Ronson, Jon||Lost at Sea|
|Rowling, JK||The Casual Vacancy|
|Royle, Nicholas (ed)||Murmurations|
|Saunders, George||Tenth of December|
|Schlosser, Eric||Reefer Madness|
|Singh, Simon||Fermat’s Last Theorem|
|Smyth, Richard||Bum Fodder|
|Stack, Steve||21st Century Dodos|
|Stack, Steve||Christmas Dodos|
|Tarrant, Padrika||The Knife Drawer|
|Taylor, Jonathan (ed)||Overheard|
|Townsend, Sue||Adrian Mole: The Capuccino Years|
|Townsend, Sue||Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction|
|Weaver, Dave||Jacey’s Kingdom|
|Wener, Louise||Goodnight, Steve McQueen|
|Wheen, Francis||How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World|
|Williams, Tony||All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten|
|Wodehouse, PG||Carry On, Jeeves|
|Wodehouse, PG||Very Good, Jeeves|
|Wodehouse, PG||Thank You, Jeeves|
|Wodehouse, PG||Right Ho, Jeeves|
|Wodehouse, PG||The Code of the Woosters|
I don’t propose to make many recommendations (some of the people here are my friends, for heaven’s sake) but there are one or two things that are worth saying.
Why, oh why, have I never read any of the Jeeves and Wooster books before? Utterly sublime. I think “The Code of the Woosters” may well be the funniest book I’ve ever read. I have most of the rest queued up, and I’m looking forward to continuing with them in 2014.
Gideon Defoe’s “Scientists! …” are wonderfully daft, and I’ve read all but one of them this year.
The Bond books are bloody weird, aren’t they? “Casino Royale” reads more like a cry for help than a spy novel. Still, they seem to be getting better, and I’m going to carry on for a while.
I’ve read most of the Holmes books before, in a fragmented way several decades ago, but it’s nice to read through them in sequence. They still hold up pretty well, although hasn’t “A Study in Scarlet” got an odd structure? Didn’t expect that at all. Suspect Conan Doyle hadn’t quite worked out his formula yet.
I hadn’t read an Adrian Mole book for years, although I’d picked up a copy of “The Prostrate Years” cheap a while back. I was just about to pick this one up when I realised I needed to catch up with the previous two. “The Capuccino Years” was a bit of a disappointment but “The Weapons of Mass Destruction” is a wonderful return to form, as is “The Prostrate Years”, which was my first book of 2014. They’re brilliantly balanced between humour and pathos, and it’s extraordinary how Townsend makes you care about a character who frankly needs a slap most of the time. I really do hope he’s OK.
Things I should have read aeons ago that turned out to be every bit as good as I expected
“To Kill a Mockingbird”, obviously. See also Jeeves and Wooster above.
Yes, there were a few. “Capital” was full of clichéd characters with implausible motivations. I really wanted to love “T S Spivet”, but it fell apart completely at the end. “Hope: A Tragedy” started so well and had such a brilliantly tasteless premise, but I got highly irritated by the main character by the time I’d finished. Maybe I was supposed to. And I really didn’t engage with “The Bloody Chamber”, I’m afraid. I really found it a struggle to wade through all those dialogue-free pages. I’ll try more Carter in 2014, though. I really want to like her work.
“The Casual Vacancy” had me riveted. Yes, it takes a while to get going, and yes, some of the adult characters are a bit clichéd, but it’s the kids that carry the story and if there’s anyone who knows about how to write adolescent characters, it’s JKR. Lanchester, take note please. This is how to write a fat, state-of-the-nation novel.
The best thriller I read this year was “The Visitor”. Child has a very spare, uncluttered writing style. I like him a lot and will read more of him.
I loved “Hawthorn & Child”, despite seriously divided opinions among Twitter folk I follow. It’s kind of an anti-detective story. Go into it with no pre-conceptions about what a story should do and you’ll learn something. Then again, you may hate it.
“The Sisters Brothers” was pretty magnificent, too, so two scores to Granta Books there.
Oh, and George Saunders is a genius. I didn’t know this before, but I do now.
There are probably things I’ve failed to mention, but feel free to comment, put me right or laugh at my bizarre tastes.
[UPDATE: Just realised that with stupendous irony, I managed to leave out Susan Cain's "Quiet" in my initial list. One of the most important books I read all year, which genuinely gave me a new perspective on life.]
[UPDATE #2: Also realised I forgot John Glashan. One of the greats of cartooning.]