The Reading Life: 2015

December 31, 2015 | No Comments

It’s New Year’s Eve, 10.30pm, and I’m struggling to stay awake for the bells. What a year it was. What a year it’s been. I’m knackered, discombobulated. Happy and sad. We moved (again) from one country to another, and moreover, moved back home to Scotland. Exciting; challenging; such massive upheaval is not conducive to long stretches of languorous reading, so my book count is way down. Once again I’m disappointed by my low intake of poetry — dammit — and I let the literati/twitterati sway me more than it should about choices I made, because although I enjoyed some outstanding new releases, I failed to do as I’d planned — which was to try to alternate between a new release and books already published in earlier times / centuries. Therefore many gaps in my reading remain embarrassingly un-plugged.

In case you’re curious, I’ve decided to reacquaint myself with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers from the very beginning of their output — purely as an excuse to collect fresh editions because I made the disastrous decision to ditch copies years ago. Patrick Modiano, on the other hand, could be judged medicinal; I’m trying to ‘take’ one Nobel Prize winner a year on the assumption that it might be good for my health. I enjoyed his three novellas very much but I’d hesitate to hazard aloud as to what they’re about. Reading them felt akin to watching a foreign noir with Hedy Lamarr without the benefit of subtitles; the plots were indecipherable and mottled with dark alleys and aliases, and a plethora of Parisian street names… like a very elegantly-written Michelin, but, but…

What a lot of to-do about gender this year. I never think about a writer’s gender while I’m immersed in the page nevertheless I was curious to see, for the first time, how my unconscious selection had panned out. Of the 57 books below, 31 were written by women, making a 54%/46% split between women and men. Golly.

Those marked with an asterisk are heartily recommended — as you can see, it was a very good year — and those in bold are in my top ten. I’ve never attempted such a daft thing before, and I could just as easily have had a top fourteen, and included Lily King’s Euphoria, Anne Enright’s The Green Road, her nibs Virginia’s diary, and Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother. That would put two by Cusk in my top whatever. Heck, Cusk could well be my writer of the year, and Outline the best of the best… But ‘Best of the Best’s’ are kind of naff, aren’t they? So let’s not go dabbling our toes in those waters..


  • &Sons by David Gilbert
  • Night by Edna O’Brien*
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey*
  • Amongst Women by John McGahern*
  • I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  • Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
  • Bark by Lorrie Moore
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright*
  • The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastien Barry
  • The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan*
  • The Radetsky March by Joseph Roth
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante*
  • The Fall of Ireland by Dermot Bolger
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk*
  • The Perfect Place by Sheila Kohler
  • The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer*
  • Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  • The Devil I Know by Claire Kilroy
  • The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
  • Who Moved My Blackberry? by Lucy Kellaway
  • Euphoria by Lily King*
  • By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
  • Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes
  • Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe
  • Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin*
  • Blackhouse by Peter May
  • TransAtlantic by Colum McCann*
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler*
  • Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas by Patrick Modiano*
  • A Closed Eye by Anita Brookner
  • Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid


  • Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio*
  • H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald*
  • A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk*
  • The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
  • Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris*
  • The Missing by Andrew O’Hagan
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  • The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard*
  • Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane*
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates*
  • The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst*
  •  Virginia Woolf’s Diary*
  • Country Girl by Edna O’Brien
  • Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year by Laurie Lee*


  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine*
  • The Collected Works of Robert Lowell*
  • Selected Poems of Carol Anne Duffy*
  • What Work Is by Philip Levine*
  • News of the World by Philip Levine*
  • These Islands, We Sing: An Anthology of Scottish Islands Poetry edited by Kevin McNeil*




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