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The Reading Life: 2014

December 28, 2014 | No Comments


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What a year of reading it has been! An embarrassment of riches, and I’ve marked with an asterisk those books I particularly recommend. Fiction favorites include How to Be Both by Ali Smith, the memorable debuts Young Skins and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing from Irish writers Colin Barrett and Eimear McBride, Bob Shacochis’s monumental The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, Susan Scarf Merrill’s haunting Shirley, Damon Galgut’s moving portrayal of EM Forster in Arctic Summer, and three worthy classics:  Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson and The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald. Though I revisited favorite poetry this year, I read very few new collections – and, yes, I feel ashamed. Two highlights are the mesmerizing debut River Legs by Jen McClanaghan and Robin Robertson’s collected works Sailing the Forest. It was an excellent year for non-fiction, and I’m trying to catch up on my education in this most versatile of forms. Four standouts are My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner, The Object Parade by Dinah Lenney, On Immunity by Eula Biss, and William Gass’s fluid rumination On Being Blue.

This was my first year of reading some books in a digital format; not by choice, but because I either couldn’t get hold of physical copies or publishers sent a file rather than a hard copy  for review. One of the downsides is that I’ll miss the pleasure of slotting these books into my library – miss the pleasure of running my hands over covers and spines and remembering the words within. It also means, I fear, that I might be less likely to pull these books ‘off the shelf’ to read again. In the coming days the (physical) heap of glory listed below will be shelved, leaving a gap for next year’s riches. How wonderful….and already the options are accumulating (thank you, Santa…). The great joy of reading, surely, is the knowledge that your well will never run dry.

Fiction:

  • The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald*
  • Fever by Mary Jane Keane
  • The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers
  • The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith
  • Hello Mr. Bones / Goodbye Mr. Rat by Patrick McCabe
  • Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrill*
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson*
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • The Red Road by Denise Mina
  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
  • A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride*
  • The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector
  • Room by Emma Donaghue
  • Money by Martin Amis
  • Frog Music by Emma Donaghue
  • Young Skins by Colin Barrett*
  • Astray by Emma Donoghue
  • Slammerkin by Emma Donogue
  • Chess by Stefan Zweig
  • A Delicate Truth by John Le Carre
  • Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut*
  • The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis*
  • Angel by Elizabeth Taylor*
  • Lost For Words by Edward St. Aubyn
  • The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson*
  • Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  • Toby’s Room by Pat Barker
  • You by Nuala Ni Chancier
  • The End of Alice by AM Holmes
  • The Great House by Nicole Krauss
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker
  • The Keep by Jennifer Egan
  • The Plague by Albert Camus*
  • All Saints by Christine Schutt
  • The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Thora Neale Hurston
  • Mother America by Nuala Ni Chonchuir
  • Every Single Minute by Hugo Hamilton*
  • Poor Things by Alisdair Gray
  • Ghostlight by Joseph O’Connor
  • Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 by Susan Townsend
  • The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
  • Never Mind by Edward St. Auburn
  • Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill*
  • The Closet of Savage Mementos by Nuala Ni Chonchuir
  • The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins
  • The Professor of Truth by James Robertson
  • Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • The Children Act by Ian McEwan
  • A History of Loneliness by John Boyne
  • How To Be Both by Ali Smith*
  • Farewell Miss Julie Logan by JM Barrie
  • The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson*
  • Nora Webster by Colm Tobin*
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Pearl Fishers by Robin Jenkins
  • Academy Street by Mary Costello

Non-Fiction:

  • Artful by Ali Smith*
  • MFA vs NYC by Chad Hardback
  • Another Great Day at Sea by Geoff Dyer
  • My Life As A Foreign Country by Brian Turner*
  • Maggie and Me by Damien Barr*
  • Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy
  • The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin
  • The Object Parade by Dinah Lenney*
  • The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
  • On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss*
  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  • The Illiterate by Agata Kristen
  • Blue Mythologies by Cathy Mayer
  • On Being Blue by William Gass*
  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
  • Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

Poetry:

  • Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds*
  • River Legs by Jen McClanghan*
  • Sailing the Forest by Robin Robertson*
  • I Like This Poem: An anthology of poetry for Children edited by Kaye Webb*

* Highly recommended.

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