Other Bookish Favourites of 2017 and Plans for 2018

After sharing with you my favourite books in translation, my favourite untranslated books, and the best of both translated and English-language crime fiction, including my Top 5 on Crime Fiction Lover, what is left? Well, all the other favourites, of course, which don’t fit into any of these categories. They fall mainly into the fiction category, with a couple of non-fiction mixed into it. (I will discuss the poetry separately, as I tend not to list the poetry books on Goodreads).

Now, what do you notice about this list? That’s right: it’s all women writers. I believe I’ve read roughly equal amounts of male and female authors, but it’s the women who have really appealed to me in this year of finally living on my own.

Rachel Cusk: Outline

Hard to categorise, I see this as a book of ideas, where essay and stories blend, where the narrator becomes a camera recording other people’s thoughts and reactions. A very Anglo-Saxon way of dealing with grief and separation, slightly detached, masking the heartbreak with cold detachment.

Katie Kitamura: A Separation

In many ways, the mirror image of Outline, but with more abandon. Once again, Greece is the backdrop, almost an excuse for a story about break-up and grief and self-recrimination – to a much more self-excoriating extent than with Cusk. A clear story arc, but also a novel of ideas, of reflection, but inwardly rather than outwardly focused.

Helen Garner: This House of Grief

Perhaps it’s not surprising that stories about separations loomed large in my reading this year, but this true crime account of a man who was suspected of killing his children took me to places where I barely dare to tread. Garner has a talent for unpicking not only the personal tragedy but also the judicial system and the way in which a jury’s mind can be made up.

Fiona Melrose: Midwinter

The farming heritage in me thrilled at this story of hard graft and taciturn farmer families.

Jane Gardam: The Stories

Controlled, ironic, melancholy

Alison Lurie: Real People

Writers’ retreats and big egos are an endless source of satire.

Elizabeth von Arnim: The Enchanted April

Delightful escapism, with a real love of beautiful location and a sharp eye for human foibles.

Winifred Watson: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Just as charming, warm-hearted but keeping the eyes wide open and critical.

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Quite simply one of the most quietly menacing, tightly written and brooding books ever!

Helen Dunmore: Birdcage Walk

Perhaps it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I still found it a beautiful read about an uncomfortable marriage and a bid for freedom.

Kathleen Jamie: Sightlines

Non-fiction of the highest intellectual and poetic order.

Liz Jensen: The Rapture

Eco-thriller with rich prose and unusual characters which deserves to be better known (full review coming soon).

Reading Plans for 2018

It looks like I will be reading quite a bit of translated fiction in 2018 – 12 titles are guaranteed, since I joined the Asymptote Book Club. I can’t wait to start getting involved in the discussions and all the special features (interviews with translators and authors, book selections, reviews, pictures and so on). Don’t forget you can join anytime during the year, for either 3 months or 12 months.

I will be continuing with my #EU27Project and spend more time planning to cover all of the countries rather than handling it haphazardly as I have done in the past year. After all, I want to show those Brexit negotiators what it means to be well prepared…

I also want to take part in the by now classic reading events such as January in Japan, Women in Translation Month and German Literature Month, although I make no promise about how many titles I can cover: at least one, hopefully more. Of course, I will continue reading and reviewing crime fiction: it’s a habit I cannot kick (nor do I want to).

Finally, I want to read and review more poetry and take part more frequently in the dVerse Poets Pub or other prompts, both to limber up my writing muscles and also to see what others are writing – always inspiring! Speaking of dVerse Poets, I am delighted to announce the arrival of an anthology of poetry from over 100 dVerse contributors all over the world. Entitled Chiaroscuro: Darkness and Lightthis surprisingly chunky volume is a testament to our friendship across borders and shared love for the well-chosen word.

9 thoughts on “Other Bookish Favourites of 2017 and Plans for 2018”

  1. Hello Marina Sofia
    You will interested to learn that MIDWINTER (by Fiona Melrose) has just been translated into French by a friend of mine Edith SOONCKINDT. The French version will be available in 2018. Fiona Melrose has also published a very different and powerful stream of consciousness novel called JOHANNESBURG. Fiona Melrose uses language in a sometimes astonishing and poetic way.

    1. I haven’t read Johannesburg yet but am looking forward to it! And that’s good news about the translation – look forward to hearing what the French make of it.

  2. So pleased to see Birdcage Walk here, although I’d agree that it’s not her best. Also pleased to see that the #EUProject is continuing. And having enjoyed Johannesburg so much I must get my hands on a copy of Midwinter. Happy 2018 reading, Marina!

  3. So glad you had a good year of reading, Marina Sofia. I couldn’t agree more about We Have Always Lived in the Castle. And you’ve reminded me (for which thanks) that I must read the Garner. I’ve been wanting to for a long time. I wish you well with your 2018 plans! It’s so good to know there’s more attention being made to books in translation. The more we learn about each other’s ideas, the better off we are, I think.

  4. Wow so many great books on that list. The Enchanted April, Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, and We have always lived in a castle are fabulous titles. Brilliant in different ways, books to be savoured and read again. Several of your choices I haven’t read, but I do have Midwinter tbr.
    Very much looking forward to the Asymptote book club, the first book will be my next read.
    I have my own reading challenge starting in a few days. #ReadingMuriel2018 in celebration of Muriel Spark’s centenary.

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