Maybe it’s too early for a round up of the year. But when I’m feeling low I tidy my flat; and the rest of the flat was already so tidy that today I even got as far as the books piled on the floor. In no order, but in three categories, here’s a lot of what I’ve read in 2016, with some comments that you shouldn’t take too seriously:
Giorgio Bassani: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. The Jewish WWII book that barely mentions the Holocaust. Full of unrequited love, coloured marble monstrosities and tennis.
Han Kang: The Vegetarian. Weird. Korean. Probably so esteemed because the book world was befuddled by that conjunction.
Anakana Schofield: Martin John. I didn’t like this; but I admire it enormously. A benchmark for my writing life.
Anakana Schofield: Malarky. I read this to check out how good she was with her debut. (I am not competitive at all.) The answer: very good.
Siri Hustvedt: What I Loved. Given to me by a beloved friend. She’s too writerly for me; but I like her ambition.
Robert Anton Wilson: Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati. Actually non-fiction; but so loony it’s basically fiction. And research for my next-but-one book.
Peter Robinson: September in the Rain. Fabulously tender evocation of the uncertainty of youth.
Vladimir Sorokin: The Queue. Russian queuing equivalent of Nicholson Baker’s Vox. Without the sex. Proper avant garde writing.
Dan Clements: What Will Remain. Not well-structured. Not really a novel at all. Very compelling on what it’s like to fight in a modern war.
Dan Micklethwaite: The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote. Don’t.
Jemma Wayne: Chains of Sand. Also don’t.
Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life. Unbelievably credible on self-hatred against all the odds. I read it compulsively and in a trance. I use neither of those terms lightly.
Elena Ferrante: The Lost Daughter. Doll stolen on beach. Psychic hell ensues.
Meera Syal: Anita and Me. Growing up Hindu in provincial Britain. Research.
Vladimir Nabokov: The Luzhin Defense. Brilliant book about chess.
Elizabeth Hardwick: Sleepless Nights. Can’t remember a thing about it.
Elena Ferrante: The Days of Abandonment. More psychic hell. Read it.
Elena Ferrante: The Troubling Love. Even more. Read this too. Really. Especially if you were under-awed by the Neapolitans.
Nora Ephron: Heartburn. Must have read this too fast; don’t remember a thing.
Nikita Lalwani: Gifted. British Asian child goes to Oxford to study Maths at age 14. Not a good outcome.
Hanif Kureishi: The Buddha of Suburbia. Another world.
John Lanchester: Capital. A warning to all of us who try to write beyond our own experience.
Anon: Diary of an Oxygen Thief. Cult book about addiction.
Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping. Took some time to get through. Haunted me ever since.
Cynan Jones: Everything I Found on the Beach. Small canvas, wonderful writing.
Cynan Jones: The Long Dry. Largely about a cow. Same wonderful writing.
Jon McGregor: So Many Ways to Begin. A writing hero of mine.
Jon McGregor: This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You. Just how does he do this?
Alex Pheby: Playthings. Fascinating depiction of a certain type of madness. I’m interested in depictions of madness.
Books about writing
Tony Litt: Mutants. On the go. Better than any of the others here. Not light reading. Massively worth it.
ed. Meredith Marah: Why We Write. Some snippets to hoard away.
ed Nicholas Boyle: The Art of the Novel. More snippets to hoard away.
Stephen King: On Writing. If you haven’t, you should.
Lidia Yuknavitch: A Chronology of Water. Revelatory style of women’s writing.
Nicola Morgan: Tweet Right. How to use Twitter. Nuff said.
Ben Judah: This is London. Brilliant. I say no more.
Elie Wiesel: Night. One of the books about the Holocaust. It tore my heart.
Karen Blixen: Out of Africa. Not as romantic as the film. But astonishing as a woman’s life.
Steven Heller: Monsters and Magical Sticks. Lessons from a hypnotist about trance and reality. More research for the next-but-one book.
Norman Doidge: The Brain’s Way of Healing. How to believe you can one day get well from developmental PTSD.
Stanislav Grof: The Holotropic Mind. Odd stuff to do with Jung and LSD.
Caitlin Moran: Moranifesto. Mostly worth it.
Amy Liptrot: The Outrun. Not so interesting on the alcoholism. Wonderful on Orkney and swimming.
Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking. Taught me about artistic permission.
Matt Haig: Reasons to Stay Alive. Inspired me to write my own version. Watch this space.
Adrian Gill: Pour Me: A Life. Addiction memoir plus. Read it for the brace of grouse.
I imagine there will be more read by December. And I conclude I should write this down monthly not annually. So tell me: what have you read? what have I missed?