Reading List 2011

Another year, another list! Here's what I've been mostly reading (excluding isolated stories in journals, online, etc, and the occasional panicky delve into a baby name tome) in 2011, with the most recent conquests at the top. This year I'm going to split it into months, mainly because I've got a nerdish fascination with statistics. If a book is listed in a particular month, that means I finished it that month - I might have actually started it waaaay back when. Oh, and while in previous years, an asterisk meant it was an MA text, this year I've graduated (whoop!) so I'm using asterisks to indicates re-reads. Without any more ado:

December 2011
111. Hey Yeah Right Get A Life, Helen Simpson. Fantastic short short collection. Almost perfect.
110. A Fraction Of The Whole, Steve Toltz. Very long, but very entertaining.
109. Trout Fishing In America, Richard Brautigan. Surreal and funny.
108. Being Dead, Jim Crace. Interesting and very observational. Not sure I liked it, though.
107. Waiting for Sunrise, William Boyd. Disappointing. Bad characterisation. Daft plot.
106. Pretty Monsters, Kelly Link. Brilliant short story collection. Creepy, magical, sad, funny. Loved it.
105. Whoops!, John Lanchester. Non-fiction account of the credit crunch and the banking system. Excellent and terrifying.
104. The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides. Trite, overlong, over-hyped.


November 2011
103. Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 4. I've been dipping in and out of this for months. Lovely stuff.
102. Friction, Joe Stretch. Brett Easton Ellis hits Manchester in this one. Horrible and funny.
101. The Onion Stone, Mandy Pannett. Novella speculating on Shakespeare's true identity.
100. The Carhullan Army, Sarah Hall. Dystopia; an army of women in the Lake District; excellent!
99. Falling Sideways, Thomas E Kennedy. Large cast, interlocking lives, Copenhagen. Great.
98. The Sense of An Ending, Julian Barnes. Enormously underwhelming. Hardly Booker-winning quality, but what do I know?
97. Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels. I keep reading Holocaust stuff lately. Sad. Didn't like it as much as people seemed to think I would.
96. The Beautiful Indifference, Sarah Hall. Short stories. Great stuff.
95. How To Paint A Dead Man, Sarah Hall. Four intertwined narrative. Really vivid. Melancholy.
94. Point Omega, Don DeLillo. I like DeLillo, but I wasn't too keen on this. But I'm also not a huge Douglas Gordon fan, so go figure.
93. Wonderful, Wonderful Times, Elfriede Jelinek. Sharp, funny, shocking.

October 2011
92. Jennifer Government, Max Barry. Comedy/thriller/satire on consumerism. Brilliant!
91. 1Q84 Book 3, Haruki Murakami. Again, too drawn out, but better than Bk1. Overall - meh.
90. 1Q84 Books 1 + 2, Haruki Murakami. Not massively keen. Waaay too long. But picked up in Bk2.
89. All these Little Worlds: Fiction Desk Anthology Vol 2, ed. Rob Redman. Entertaining stories.
88. Never Never, David Gaffney. Light relief after Levi. First novel from flash-fiction maestro Gaffney.
87. If This Is A Man / The Truce, Primo Levi. Sobering, but brilliant.
86. Everything Beautiful Began After, Simon Van Booy. Hated this. A pseudo-insightful bore of a novel.
85. Ragnarok, AS Byatt. Retelling of Norse mythology. Excellent.

September 2011
84. Good Offices, Evelio Rosero. Excellent little novel by Columbian writer. Black humour.
83. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, Yiyun Li. Short stories set in modern China. Interesting.
82. Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens, Jonathan Pinnock. Funny Austen spoof.
81. BBC National Short Story Award Anthology 2011. Five great stories - nice and simple!
80. Any Human Heart, William Boyd. Really enjoyed it. Old fashioned, kinda epic.
79. The Blue Book, AL Kennedy. Disappointing.
78. The World's Wife, Carol Ann Duffy. A rare foray into poetry for me (read it to the baby!) Great stuff.
77. Coraline, Neil Gaiman. Brilliant, scary, smart children's horror. Better than the film.
76. Father! Father! Burning Bright, Alan Bennett. A short story masquerading as a book. Meh.
75. Looking For The Possible Dance, AL Kennedy. @writerer's first novel. Liked it very much.

August 2011
74. Now That You're Back, AL Kennedy. Short stories, a couple of brilliant ones in there.
73. The Pale King, David Foster Wallace. Clearly unfinished, flawed, but vast and interesting, still.
72. Ballistics, Alex Keegan. Short story collection. Polished and all, but left me cold.
71. The Book Of Other People, ed. Zadie Smith. Excellent short story anthology.
70. Pricksongs + Descants, Robert Coover. Horrible, hilarious, brilliant short stories.
69. True Murder, Yaba Badoe. Eleventear-old girls get caught up in murder and divorce.
68. The Cat's Table, Michael Ondaatje. Interesting novel about a shipboard murder.
67. Room, Emma Donoghue. Moving, but less convincing as it went along.
66. Villa Pacifica, Kapka Kassapova. Uninspiring creepy story set in South America.
65. Comes The Night, Hollis Hampton-Jones. Flawed story of a teenage girl's disintegration.
64. The Other Hand, Chris Cleave. Brutal story about a Nigerian refugee. Fantastic book.
63. Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman. Booker longlistee; child narrator; immigrants; a good read.
62. A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan. Funny, readable, interesting set of linked stories.
61. Then, Julie Myerson. Pretty hardcore emotional dystopia, to coin a genre.

July 2011
60. Is This What You Want? Asham Award Anthology, 2007. Nice diverse collection, all by women.
59. The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, Jane Rogers. Thought-provoking near-future dystopian stuff.
58. The Outcast, Sadie Jones. Moving, very sad, but a little predictable.
57. The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman, Bruce Robinson. Funny coming-of-age story.
56. On Canaan's Side, Sebastian Barry. Another lyrical, but very sad, tome.
55. Spoiled, Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan. YA light relief from the Fug Girls! (Cheers, Orla!)
54. The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry. Very depressing, beautifully written. Not sure if I like it or not.
53. The Stranger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst. This really grew on me. Interesting look at storytelling.
52. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett. Excellent novel set on the Brazilian Amazon.
51. East Of Eden, John Steinbeck. Amazing. Stunning. No wonder he got the Nobel.

June 2011
50. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin. Fascinating look at Aboriginal culture in Australia.
49. Hungry, The Stars and Everything, Emma Jane Unsworth. A rollicking love-story; immensely readable.
48. Various Authors: Fiction Desk Anthology, Vol 1. Mixed bag of short stories.
47. The Thing on The Shore, Tom Fletcher. Creepy horror story set in a Cumbrian callcentre.
46. The Nimrod Flip-Out, Etgar Keret. Fantastic short stories. Hilarious and weird and sad.
45. The Vintage And The Gleaning, Jeremy Chambers. Impressive Australian debut. Very bleak!
44. The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer. Epic, brilliant novel about Hungarian Jews in WWII.

May 2011
43. Realms of Gold, Margaret Drabble. Good solid storytelling, and very funny.
42. Cold Light, Jenn Ashworth. Dark tale about teen friendship, bioluminescence and flashers.
41. Baltasar and Blimunda, Jose Saramago. Normally a fan, but couldn't get into this at all.
40. The Subject Steve, Sam Lipsyte. Funny and odd, but liked it less as I went along.
39. The Rain Before It Falls, Jonathan Coe. Boring, boring, boring.
38. Perfume, Patrick Suskind. Excellent; very funny and rather horrible.

April 2011
37. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters. Massively creepy ghost story. Excellent read.
36. Badlands, Cynthia Reeves. Very sad, beautiful account of a marriage and a woman's death from cancer.
35. Poppy Shakespeare, Clare Allan. Sub-par Cuckoo's Nest. Didn't like it.
34. The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam, Lauren Liebenberg. Novel set in the last days of Rhodesia. Some beautiful imagery but the plot wasn't up to much.
33. Piggy Monk Square, Grace Jolliffe. Didn't like this at all, prose too simplistic, plot lacked tension.
32. The Man Who Walks, Alan Warner. Surreal, beautiful language - as always.
31. Strangers, Taichi Yamada. Creepy Japanese ghost story.
30. Born Free, Laura Hird. Dysfunctional family life in Edinburgh. Graphic and gritty. Love it.
29. Legend of a Suicide, David Vann. Really, really beautiful.
28. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer. Great. And incredibly sad.
27. The Pregnant Widow, Martin Amis. I've rarely been so bored. Repetitive, misogynistic crap.
26. Diamond Star Halo, Tiffany Murray. Rock'n'roll and incest in Wales.

March 2011
25. The Birth of Love, Joanna Kavenna. Nice exploration of childbirth, love and creativity.
24. How I Lost The War, Filippo Bologna. Disappointing Italian novel.
23. City of Bohane, Kevin Barry. Surreal, poetic and savage novel.
22. The Coincidence Engine, Sam Leith. Pynchon-esque maths conspiracy thriller thingy. Meh.
21. The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan. Excellent supernatural thriller.
20. Hotel Iris, Yoko Ogawa. Resonant Japanese novella about an S/M relationship.
19. Spurious, Lars Iyer. Funny, odd novel about Kafka, mould and man-bags.
18. Great Days, Donald Barthelme. Strange little stories, just like you'd expect.
17. Monsters Of Men, Patrick Ness. Final installment of the Chaos Walking trilogy (see below).

February 2011
16. The Ask and The Answer, Patrick Ness. Sequel to below. Still excellent.
15. *The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness. Excellent YA stuff, massively readable and scary.
14. Breathers: A Zombie's Lament, SG Browne. Really funny zombie rom-com.
13. Burley Cross Postbox Theft, Nicola Barker. Epistolary novel. Didn't like this at all.
12. The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease, ed. Sarah Eyre, Ra Page. Some excellently creepy stories in here.
11. Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine. Brilliant debunking of the pseudoscience supporting the gender inequality status-quo. Everybody should read this.
10. Sunnyside, Glen David Gold. I really enjoyed most of this and I'm not even a Chaplin fan. Poignant.

January 2011
9. 6S, Vol 2. Flash fiction anthology. I'm in this and I only finished reading it now, after two years. Shame.
8. Some Rain Must Fall, Michel Faber. Nice, diverse collection of short stories.
7. Darkmans, Nicola Barker. Confused the hell out of me and I thought it was over-long, a la Zadie Smith.
6. A Widow's Story: A Memoir, Joyce Carol Oates. Veeery long.
5. Voice of America, EC Osondu. Short stories about Nigeria and Nigerian emigrants. Meh.
4.* Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood. Re-read. One of my all-time favourites, it blows me away every time.
3. We Had It So Good, Linda Grant. Excellent novel. Go get it.
2. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.  Can't say I loved it, but parts of it were downright hilarious (and sad).
1. Granta 113: The Best of Young Spanish Novelists. Interesting anthology; see if you agree with the choices.

2 comments:

Lucy said...

That Granta Spanish issue is one of the ones burning a hole in my bookshelf. I've just finished Santiago Roncagliolo's Red April and really enjoyed it (as much as you can enjoy a story about serial killings) so as far as I'm concerned he deserves his place.

Congratulations on your other news by the way!

Valerie O'Riordan said...

hey Lucy!

Roncagliolo's story was a good one - I'll have to check out Red April. Nothing wrong with fictional serial killings!

And thanks :-)