May Reading/ Halfway Through the Year

farfromtreeThis is a post to wrap up not only my reading for May, but also a half year’s worth of reading. I am happy to report that I’m just over halfway through my Goodreads reading challenge of 150 books for 2014, so this might be a good point to take stock of which books have really astounded or delighted me thus far.

First, the May summary. It’s been a month of very diverse reading and 6 out of 15 have been foreign books.

3 Non-Fiction:

The brilliant ‘Far from the Tree‘ by Andrew Solomon, the puzzling ‘The Fly Trap‘ by Fredrik Sjoberg and the riotous memoir of the 70s and feminism by Michele Roberts ‘Paper Houses’. I have really found a kindred spirit in Michele Roberts and hugely admire her courage and sacrifices in order to focus so single-mindedly on her writing.

1 Poetry Collection:

Father Dirt‘ by Mihaela Moscaliuc – Hard-hitting and heart-breaking

5 Crime Fiction or Thriller:

ColdStealSpy thriller by Stella Rimington ‘The Geneva Trap‘, the short story anthology ‘In a Word, Murder’, ‘Cold Steal‘ by Quentin Bates, the domestic psychological drama of ‘All the Things You Are’ by Declan Hughes and the unputdownable ‘Cry Baby’ by David Jackson.

6 Other Genres:

Frothy satire of writing courses ‘Writing Is Easy‘ by Gert Loveday

Long-winded and ominous, but not as illuminating as a real Greek tragedy ‘The Secret History‘ by Donna Tartt

Satire that seems even more apt and sinister in the wake of the European elections ‘Er ist wieder da’ (Look Who’s Back) by Timur Vermes

Painful depiction of the breakdown of a toxic marriage ‘Une affaire conjugale‘ by Eliette Abecassis

A family saga of post-war Japan – a reinterpretation of Wuthering Heights for the modern world ‘A True Novel‘ by Minae Mizumura

A graphic novel with a rather similar theme of family secrets and growing up in post-war Japan ‘A Distant Neighbourhood’ by Jiro Taniguchi

CryBabyMy favourites this month? ‘Cry Baby’ in crime fiction, because I found it impossible to stop myself from reading it all the way to the end. A rarer quality than one might suppose, even in thrillers. This links to the Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme hosted at Mysteries in Paradise.

And, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the stately pace and melancholy of ‘A True Novel’. [I am not including the non-fiction or poetry here, but they deserve a special mention, for they were all outstanding.]

Now for the half-year round-up. I’ve read 79 books this year (yeah, it’s been a slow couple of months at work, so I’ve had more time for reading). If I’ve added up all the numbers correctly, here is the balance of the year so far (some books fit in more than one category, so the totals won’t make sense).

Japanese edition of Volume 2 of A True Novel.
Japanese edition of Volume 2 of A True Novel.

8 books in French, 3 in German and 19 translations – so 38% of my reading has been foreign. Surprising result, I expected it to be much more! Curious to see if this changes by the end of the year. I’m very pleased I managed to stick to my plan of reading at least one book per month in French, though (since I am living in France and need to improve my French).

43 books have been of the crime fiction and thriller persuasion, so about 54% of my reading. This is less than last year, although I have continued reviewing crime for Crime Fiction Lover website. I have also read 5 poetry books, so about one a month, which is essential (and the absolute minimum) for a working poet. I have also read 9 non-fiction books (11%) – one of the highest proportions in a long while. So it would be fair to say that my reading has broadened this year, quite deliberately.

InvestigationAnd which books have truly captured my imagination thus far? I have liked, even loved quite a few of them. I was struck by the almost visceral power of ‘Mother Mother’ by Koren Zailckas and Claire Messud’s ‘The Woman Upstairs’, fell under the spell of William McIlvanney’s prose and Mahmoud Darwish’s or Brenda Shaughnessy’s poetry. But the five books that really stayed with me are:

Jung-Myung Lee: The Investigation – neither crime nor prison saga, but a tale of the triumph of beauty over despair

Pierre Lemaitre: Au revoir la-haut – moving portrayal of the harshness of post-war society

Minae Mizumura: A True Novel – perhaps because this book encapsulates my love affair with Japan

Mihaela Moscaliuc’s debut poetry collection: Father Dirt – because it’s part of me and gives me power to explore more in my own poems

Andrew Solomon: Far from the Tree – a book that had me thinking and talking about it for days and weeks afterwards, which forever changed certain of my ideas






17 thoughts on “May Reading/ Halfway Through the Year”

  1. Marina Sofia – What impresses me so much about your reading thus far this year is its variety. You’ve really sampled from all sorts of books! I’m glad you’ve found a lot to like, and you’ve reminded me that I want to read Cry Baby. Thanks for the nudge.

  2. I just can’t believe how much you’ve read and the target you’ve set yourself for the year! I up my Goodreads target every single year and this year I’m up to 70 (for the year!) and you’ve read that now. I wish I could read faster as there are just so many books I want to read. I also loved Cry Baby. It has to be my favourite book this year.

    1. Too much reading and too little writing, methinks! (or competent handling of administration – I just went in person today to the tax office to hand in my tax return and ask a few questions because I just couldn’t figure out what to fill in).
      By the way, you were the one who pointed me in the direction of Cry Baby. You mentioned it in your interview, I bought it and then I thought I’d just have a quick peek at it (I was supposed to be reading other things). When I next looked up, it was morning and I had just had a sleepless night!

  3. Well done – I’m particularly impressed by the fact that you’ve read so many in their original language. I’m aiming for about 140, but am only at 56 according to Goodreads, so need to do some catch-up. But since you’re so far ahead of your target, you’ll be able to add even more to your TBR! 😉

    1. No, no, no more, as I have about 80 books on my shelves waiting to be read, plus goodness knows how many on my tablet. I just can’t resist libraries though…

      1. Am crossing my fingers that one of them is my latest, and that you like it when you get to it!

        1. Is it out yet, Cathy? I love your series – wine, food and mysteries are just my cup of tea – or should that be glass of Kir Royal!

        2. Oh heck – my publisher told me they’d sent you an ARC months ago! THE CORPSE WITH THE EMERALD THUMB? Set in Mexico, at a tequila-producing agave plantation? Corpse of a florist on the second page? Ringing any bells? If you didn’t get it I am terribly sorry! Let me know where I can send an epub copy and I’ll do it. Oh poo! 😦

  4. Wow! I’m very impressed by the number of books you’ve read this year, and such a diverse and interesting selection, too. I’ve bought the first Laidlaw, and I’m looking forward to trying McIllvaney. I’m intrigued by the premise of A True Novel, so I’m off to investigate further.
    Thanks for taking the time to write and share this round-up.

  5. awesome diversity! Just finished Au revoir là-haut: for once, I think the book really deserved the Goncourt. Can’t wait for English speaking readers to discover it in 2015. Good idea to do a half of the year recap

    1. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of it, that it wasn’t worthy of a Goncourt – only if a Goncourt is a snobbish affair (which I suppose most of the time it is).

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