There’s no definitive reading goal, other than to keep reading. Some months, and January looks as if it will be one of them, I might average a book a week. But I also know from experience, there will be months when I’ll be lucky to read one complete book. My life, and my reading life in particular, is like that.
It’s likely that on the list you’ll see a fair smattering of recent publications from fiction, translated works, travelogues and the occasional classic. I usually read or reread one of the truly greats each year. I enjoy the occasional biography, the occasional investigative non-fiction. But I don’t expect they’ll feature that often. And you probably won’t see much “chick lit” on this list—it doesn’t engage me in the way it once did.
In fact, I’ve noticed my reading tastes have changed. A year or two ago I was reading mostly New Zealand/Aotearoa fiction and some Australian fiction. Not so much any more, in fact during 2015 I don’t think I read anything, other than blogs and newspapers of course, from either country. That’s one thing about this list, it’ll help me track my reading habits for the year.
The list works like this:
- Titles are grouped by the month in which I complete them
- Titles appear in the order in which I read them
- Where I can, I include information about how the book came to my attention.
- If a title makes it to my Book of The Month feature I link to that here, too.
- I link to each author’s page, when they have one.
Books read in January 2016
The Story of The Lost Child, Elena Ferrante (Kindle ed)
As I mention in Reading Ferrante, I discovered Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series on the blog love.life.eat. The Story of the Lost Child is the fourth and final in the series and although I’m typing this on the 20th of January, it’s currently the top runner for my book of the month. (In the end it was my book of the month, with A God in Ruins hot on its heels.)
The Art Of Travel, Alain de Botton (Kindle ed)
This was top of the list on Nomadic Matt’s Travel Books in 2015. Alain de Botton is a master of the pithy comment and astute observations and I enjoyed that. But this book didn’t set me on fire the way some other travel books have. (The Open Road, Finding George Orwell in Burma, and Under the Dragon spring to mind here.)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot (Kindle ed)
Recommended by Claire at Word by Word. It was one of Claire’s top five non-fiction reads for 2015, and I can see why.
Henrietta was dying of cancer when a doctor, without her or her family’s consent, took a sample of her cells.Skloot weaves together the story of Henrietta, her family, and the medical advances that were made possible by Henrietta’s cells. Along the way she exposes the ethics that were overlooked and highlights the implications for Henrietta’s family, and for all of us.
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (Kindle ed)
Recommended by a long time writing and reading friend, via Facebook (Hi Steph). This is a companion novel to the highly acclaimed Life After Life, which I also enjoyed. You don’t need to read LAL first but doing so probably adds an extra layer of enjoyment and satisfaction to this novel, especially when it comes time to reflect on the ending.
Books Read in February
It turns out that my comment about how much the amount I read fluctuates was particularly prescient. February was a particularly light month.
Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago: What you need to know forehand, what you need to tale, and what you can leave at home, S. Yates (Kindle ed)
I came across this book while I was looking for the more well-known John Brierly guide to the Camino. I haven’t walked the trail, so I can’t comment about the usefulness of the tips, but I can see it’s easy to read, the information is presented logically, and should I get to walk the trail I expect to be referring to it as part of the preparations.
Smile as They Bow, Nu Nu Yi (Kindle ed)
I’ve read several books, fiction and non-fiction, either set in Myanmar or about the country. This is the first by a Burmese author. There were some challenges, until I became familiar with the idiom and the switches in point of view. Nevertheless, this is a good read, and, for me, it all came together most satisfyingly. Smile as They Bow was short listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. I discovered it via the blog: A Year of Reading the World
Four Stories by Alan Bennett (Kindle ed)
This collection of short stories was a reread for me. And the last of the four stories in this collection The Lady in The Van was my feature for the month. Click on the link to read all about it and view a clip from the movie. Read the story. Go to the movie. They’re both great!
Books read in March
March was a lean reading month and weirdly it was all about “Last Days”.
The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy (Kindle ed)
If you enjoy books about betrayal with foolish protagonists, contrived plots, and plenty of authorial intrusions, this is the book for you. It’s not my cup of tea at all.
Others liked it a lot. It was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book awards in 2014. It was highly recommended by a book loving friend of a friend. I expected more.
The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie.(Kindle ed)
I found this book on the Peru Lonely Planet suggested reading list. It’s my book of the month. And, it’s my first foray into reading about South America. I learned a lot. Machu Pichu here I come!
Books read in April
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami.(Kindle ed)
An intriguing story of the ill-fated Navaez exploration of Florida in the 1500s, told from the point of view of an Arab slave. Highly recommended. This is my book of the month, and one of my favourite reads so far this year. Check out my full review here.
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland (Kindle Ed)
I first learned of this book in a post written by Johna Till Johnson from Wind Against The Current : the Power of Art. It’s a memorable post, check it out!
I was attracted to the book for a whole range of reasons. Brenda swam against the current. She did things her way, divorcing back when it was virtually unheard of and then raising her daughter on her own. And, she was from Minnesota. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know Minnesota is a place in the world that’s claimed a piece of me since I was a girl.
This is a simple, unpretentious book. Ueland’s message is straightforward : write your own truth. Writing, she says, is:
the impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had.
I got a lot from this book. And although my Kindle edition suffered a formatting problem, I’ll be dipping into it again.
Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa (Kindle Edition)
As part of my preparations for our up coming trip to The Americas (four and a half weeks to go!) this year I’ve been reading more about the region. (see The Last Days of the Incas, and The Moor’s Account) This is the first novel written by a Peruvian I’ve read and the second book I discovered on the blog: A Year of Reading the World.
I don’t usually enjoy satire, and there were parts of this book I found exasperating. But it is also very, very funny. The sort of funny that has grown on me even more in the weeks since I finished reading it. It’s based on Llosa’s first marriage and was made into a film.
Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2010. I expect I’ll be reading more of his work before the end of the year, perhaps Death in the Andes; we’ll see.
Books Read in May
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Kindle Edition)
This is a brilliant book I wish I’d never read. It’s about friendship and survival and quite frankly it’s brutal. The abuse scenes, the self-harm scenes, are so sharply written, so accurate and so detailed they were hyper-real to me. By the time I realised how this book might develop I was invested in the characters and, like Jude’s friends, I cared about him, wanted him to make it, and so I kept on reading.
I think, when it comes to harrowing reads, I’ve got a stronger stomach than most, but this was too harrowing for me. I read in the Guardian review that Hanya Yanagihara’s editor suggested she tone it down a bit, “to give her reader a break”. She refused, and fair enough, it’s her book, but I wish she had.
I kept reading because I wanted to know how it all ended, because like Jude’s friends I kept hoping he’d be okay. But don’t take that as a recommendation. It felt, to me, like an abuse of the reader. It’s that old adage, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
The Door by Magda Szabo
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
The Lifes and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr
Infinite Air Fiona Kidman
Victoire: My Mother’s Mother, Maryse Conde
Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Georgia, a novel of Georgia O’Keefe by Dawn Tripp (Kindle Edition)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
How to get writing … Fast by Matthew Wright
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen