The best books I read in 2016

I’m going to do a slightly different end-of-year books roundup this year, because I’ve (mostly) been keeping track each month, so just listing all the books I’ve read would be… pretty repetitive.  Anyway, you can find all of them on goodreads, and mini reviews of most of them under “books“.  So, instead, here are the best books I read this year…

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The Lonely City, Olivia Laing
If you haven’t read this yet, go. I’ll wait here till you have, and then we can cry about David Wojnarowicz together.  I sobbed my way to Edinburgh on an easyjet flight to this, and it was totally worth it.  This was, by far, the best and most important book I read this year. So, so good.

The Dead Ladies Project, Jessa Crispin
More non-fiction, I read this for the #WLClub, and loved it.  I loved seeing glimpses into other people’s lives, through the lens of Crispin’s own travels, and how those other people affected her.

Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
This was Obama’s book of the year last year,and he’s got good taste in books. People are always their own people, with their own inner lives and secrets, regardless of how well you know and/or love them, and this novel shows that beautifully.

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami
If a boy breaks up with you and then immediately gives you book presents, and the present is Murakami, keep them around because they have good taste in books and you can inherit boxes and boxes of good books from them when they move to America.

All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
More crying. Totally worth it. I read this in Crete, where I ate my body weight in fava and spent four days in the sun reading a huge stack of books.  This was stunningly written, and I’ve recommended it to everyone.

Honourable mentions:
Hold Your Own, Kate Tempest; We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo; The Girl With All The Gifts, MR Carey; Deer Michigan, Jack C. Buck; What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi, How to be Human, Paula Cocozza (this isn’t out until 2017, so I debated including it here, but it’s good, so look out for it!)

 

 

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Reading… Deer Michigan

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twitter: @jack_c_buck

Jack C. Buck’s micro fiction is some of my favourite, and since publishing his story, write talk-talk if you have no one to talk-talk with, in the third issue of Severine, I’ve seen his writing appear all over the place.  A couple of months ago, I spotted on Twitter that Truth Serum Press would be publishing a collection of his fiction at the end of this year.  Jack asked if I’d like to review Deer Michigan, so I got it early (yay!), but you can get a copy from next week.

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A collection of 60 pieces, Deer Michigan is  Jack’s writing weaves so many stories into such a short space that each piece feels much longer than it is – and I mean that in the way that micro fiction can sometimes feel a bit wanting, like there’s not quite enough story, and that’s why that has to be the medium.  Here, the writing is wound tightly around the core of each story, giving a snapshot of a place, a person, but with just enough time to really look at them.

Once of my favourite things about flash and micro fiction is that it doesn’t have the space to introduce a ton of characters, or to spend five pages describing the scene, so instead, you’re just dropped in to the centre of whatever’s happening, and you have to figure it out for yourself.  It’s much more like being a fly on the wall.  Deer Michigan throws you into the centre of relationships, between lovers, families, friends, places, and lets you figure out the dynamics.  The stories are mostly quiet, their narrators sincere, and many of the pieces read like poetry, but they are rich, and full of life and love.

I’ll be tweeting when Deer Michigan is available to buy, but keep an eye out!

August & September Books

It’s a bumper two-in-one book post this time, because I didn’t have time to do August’s books at the end of August, and then I barely read anything in September because I was busy dying of the lurgy. Anyway, there are books now! Yay!

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David Mitchell, Ghostwritten –  Ghostwritten is David Mitchell’s first novel, and it’s sat in my bookcase for years, and I’ve no idea why I hadn’t read it yet.   I really enjoyed it, I like that his first novel is the last one I’ve read (so now can there be new David Mitchell to read please), because you can see how it works, how it’s building up to something like Cloud Atlas, how the characters and their stories are separate but overlapping, how the world is being built.  This was a good one.

Sloane Crosley, The Clasp – I’ve picked this up and put it down again in so many bookshops that I decided just to buy it.  I’ve not got far yet, but I’m liking it so far.

Kate Tempest, Hold Your Own – I saw Kate Tempest at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August, and she was phenomenal.  I basically walked out of the tent, over to the bookshop, and bought all of her books.  Hold Your Own is based around the story of Tiresias, and it’s very, very good.

Jack Kerouac, Lonesome Traveler – Just a little quick one, as I’d only read On The Road otherwise.  Kerouac is canon for a reason, and (sorry) it’s not really his masterful storytelling. This was fun, anyway, but… not anything overly exciting.

Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed – This is Atwood’s retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as part of Hogarth’s series.  I’m seeing her talk about it next week (YAY!), when the book is released.

Jessa Crisipin, The Dead Ladies Project – I loved this.  DLP was September’s book for #wlclub, and it was so so good.  Crispin travels to different cities in Europe, following the lives of particular women (and a couple of men) who’ve lived there.  I’ve now got a billion books I want to read about these women, and a billion pictures on my phone where I’ve taken pictures of paragraphs I want to remember.

Jorge Amado, Dona Flor and her Two Husbands – I picked this up because I was intrigued and I liked the cover, and it’s very good.  Dona Flor’s gambling, womanising husband dies suddenly at 31, and she remarries a man who’d very different: offering her stability, but not much passion.  NOT TO WORRY; hubs number one comes back as a sex-starved ghost, so its all ok.  Ha.

Margaret Atwood, Surfacing – I got halfway through this before I realised that I’ve actually bought it before, so now I have two copies.  Ah well, there are worse things.  I’ve got a nice Virago cover now.  Also, I took this picture in a coffee shop and a man laughed at me and asked what on earth I was doing, because instagramming flatlays looks a bit odd when you’re in a coffee shop on your own. Who knew.

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Scant on the magazine front this time around.  Don’t worry, October’ll pick back up 😉
Drift, Oh Comely, and Ladybeard.

As always, all my books are on instagram and goodreads, if you want to see more of them!