I’ll stick to the books this time and make no comments about other aspects of 2016. But even so, I have to admit it’s been a bit of an atypical year. I’ve read 167 books, Goodreads tells me, and have a couple more weeks to reach 170 or so.
But it’s not a race.
I’ve had moments of furious reading, and some months of disruption, when reading was in scarce supply. The proportion of crime fiction seems to be lower than in other years. My Top 5 Reviewed Crime Reads will appear as usual on the Crime Fiction Lover site, so I thought I would look at other books here on my blog, particularly those which were released before 2016.
I wonder if the format for reading them also added to their memorability: most of the ones featured were physical books (only four were e-books).
My overall percentage of translated fiction was perhaps roughly 40%, and the books in this category have proved memorable and contributed considerably to my ‘best of’ list (8 out of 17). Likewise, I may feel that I don’t read as much poetry and non-fiction as I would like to, but they tend to stick with me and so appear quite a bit on the list. 10 out of the 17 books were written by women, 10 of these were published before 2016.
It’s been an emotional year, so I’ve gone for visceral response rather than careful analysis of literary merits. However, most of the books below show evidence of both. Sadly, not all of them have been given the review they deserve. I’ve found that I often struggle to review those books which have meant most to me and which I want to reread. For those I haven’t reviewed, I just give a short quote from the book itself.
Tiphanie Yanique: Wife
Laura Kasischke: The Infinitesimals
Small boy running through the center of the park, un-
zipping summer straight down the middle as he runs until
all the small boys come tumbling out.
My voice is strangled. I’m awake. I shout
I know there’s something I must do today
and I can’t do it. You must write me out.
It’s not my part and this is not my play.
Sharon Olds: The Wellspring
Antoine Leiris: You Will Not Have My Hate
Asne Seierstad: One of Us
Elif Shafak: Black Milk
Olivia Laing: The Lonely City
Colin Niel: Ce qui reste en foret
Liz Jensen: The Uninvited
Pascal Garnier: Too Close to the Edge
Sarah Moss: Signs for Lost Children
Romain Gary: Promesse de l’aube
I had no right to refuse her help. The myth of my future was what kept her alive. For the time being, I had to swallow my pride and continue my race against time, to try and keep my promise towards her, to give her absurd and tender dreams some reason for being… I don’t feel guilty about that. But if you find that my books are cries for dignity and justice, if they all talk to such an extent about human decency, it’s perhaps because until the age of 22, I lived off the back of an exhausted and ill woman. I owe her so much.
Knausgaard: Some Rain Must Fall
Jenny Erpenbeck: Gehen ging gegangen
Julian Barnes: The Noise of Time
Patrick Ness: A Monster Calls