Well, so last year it seems I read substantially fewer books than usual: that's the grim side-effect of the PhD, once again. Who knew research was that time-consuming? But also maybe it's to do with my lessening patience for bad books; I started quite a lot of books that I abandoned after fifty pages - Fay Weldon, Hanif Kureishi, I'm looking at you - which makes for a sizeable amount of 'wasted' time. And my 'project' (cue sheepish expression) of reading all of Proust? Well, I got two books in. That's good, right? I will read the rest, I swear. But, this year? Eh, I want to start clearing off the scary pile of unread books so that I can reclaim some shelf-space upstairs - I made a start at this in November, when I was off sick for a couple of weeks - but that's about it. The plan is to submit my PhD in September, so I don't really need any more resolutions on top of that. I'm still reviewing and I'm still in my local book club, so that accounts for a fair bit of my reading anyway. I've already started the year well, with Skippy Dies, so that's either a good omen of things to come or a very early pinnacle...
80. Winter Pages, Volume 1. Excellent new arts anthology from Ireland.
79. The Devil I Know, Claire Kilroy. Not bad.
78. Lila, Marilynne Robinson. Intense and very moving.
77. Paulina & Fran, Rachel B. Glaser. Intense novel about female friendship/
76. Cockfosters, Helen Simpson. Decent collection, but preferred her earlier work.
75. Getting it in the Head, Mike McCormack. Short stories. Pretty gruesome, definitely interesting...
74. The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan. Really strongly voiced.
73. spill simmer falter wither, Sara Baume. Stunning debut novel - descriptions to die for.
72. Congregation of Innocents: Five Curious Tales. Ghost stories! Particularly liked Richard Hirst's contribution.
71. Short Fiction Issue 9: Awful Plumage. Short story journal, art by David Shrigley.
70. The Best Small Fictions 2015, ed. Robert Olen Butler. Anthology, mixed, some stellar pieces.
69. Undermajordomo Minor, Patrick deWitt. Wasn't keen, but still want to read The Sisters Brothers.
68. The Mark and the Void, Paul Murray. Really funny; a banker and a novelist meet in the midst of the Irish financial collapse.
67. We Don't Know What We're Doing, Thomas Morris. Story collection from the editor of The Stinging Fly. Great stuff.
66. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert. Fascinating, if very depressing, non-fiction read about how humans are making everything extinct...
65. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton. Fantastic: so sharp, witty and sad.
64. American Gods, Neil Gaiman. I guess this is heresy online, but I was half-hearted. I love Stephen King and Terry Pratchett, etc, but this never really took off for me.
63. The Making of Zombie Wars, Aleksander Hemon. Disappointing.
62. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson. Creepy, compelling, brilliant.
61. *Accidents in the Home, Tessa Hadley. PhD reread. Great book.
60. A Kind of Compass, ed. Belinda McKeon. Short stories. Very diverse.
59. The North Water, Ian McGuire. Brutal, haunting, and visceral historical thriller on a whaling boat. Ian's my PhD supervisor, so I'm biased, but this is a fucking brilliant book.
58. The First Bad Man, Miranda July. Oddball, funny, very moving novel.
57. The Girl Missing from the Window, Paul O'Reilly. Short stories. Deceptively powerful.
56. Beatlebone, Kevin Barry. Pretty odd, great prose, not sure about structure.
55. Noonday, Pat Barker. Last book in the Life Class trilogy. Pretty good.
54. Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin, Órfhlaith Foyle. Story collection.
53. This Party's Got To Stop, Rupert Thomson. Another memoir, also great.
52. Giving Up The Ghost, Hilary Mantel. Memoir. Beautiful and sad. There's no beating Mantel, dudes.
51. The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber. Weird. A missionary in an alien world.
50. All Over Ireland, ed. Deirdre Madden. Story collection; not a patch on Town & Country, its predecessor from a couple of years back.
49. Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott. I'm not one for inspirational manuals, but this is a bloody excellent book on the frustrations and rewards of writing.
48. Howards End, EM Forster. Much funnier than I expected.
47. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, Dave Eggers. Interesting/funny portrait of a disenfranchised madman, but something of a one-trick-pony throughout.
46. Only Ever Yours, Louise O'Neill. Gripping dystopian novel that totally dissect male/female sexual power relations.
45. For The Love of a Good Woman, Alice Munro. Brilliant (of course).
44. Indiana Review, 37:1.
43. The Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus. Completely mental story collection.
42. The Incarnations, Susan Barker. Really gripping story/stories of China thorough the ages.
41. Waiting for the Bullet, Madeleine D'Arcy. Short stories. Terse, funny, sharp.
40. About Grace, Anthony Doerr. Beautiful prose. Family, fate, fear.
39. Unthology 7. Short story anthology - a mix, a couple of great ones.
38. Hope, Laura Hird. Short stories. Pretty grim.
37. Ground Control, Anna Minton. Non-fiction about the control of public/private space in New Labour Britain (and beyond): super-depressing!
36. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin. Very tender. Took me a while to settle into it; worth the effort. Great dialogue.
35. Outline, Rachel Cusk. Though-provoking.
34. Family Life, Akhil Sharma. Good - better than I expected.
33. In Search of Solace, Emily Mackie. Disappointing.
32. All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. Amazing. Beautiful, beautiful prose.
31. Pond, Claire-Louise Bennett. Short stories - if you like Lyda David, Jenny Offill, Renata Adler, Nicholson Baker, then you'll like this. Top stuff.
30. In Real Life, Chris Killen. Funny stuff.
29. Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro
28. The Wolf Border, Sarah Hall. Good stuff, though not quite my favourite of hers.
27. H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald. Superb non-fiction account of grief and falconry.
26. The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction 2015-2015, ed. Dermot Bolger, Ciaran Carty. Some brilliant stories in here.
25. All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews. Tragic and a half. Very good.
24. The Long Falling, Keith Ridgway. A family drama played out against the backdrop of Ireland's X Case in 1992; not my favourite of his books.
23. History of the Rain, Niall Williams. Didn't enjoy it at first, but was captivated by the end. The style is very...exuberant.
22. On the Edge of the Cliff: Selected Short Stories, VS Pritchett. Great stuff.
21. An Evening of Long Goodbyes, Paul Murray. Brilliant - A Confederacy of Dunces meets Brideshead Revisited meets Dan & Becs.
20. The Isle of Youth, Laura van den Berg. Again, fell a bit flat for me.
19. Aquarium, David Vann. Disappointing.
18. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell. Kinda dull, then excellent second half.
17. Get in Trouble, Kelly Link. Very good short story collection.
16. The End of Vandalism, Tom Drury. Liked it better as it went along; very dry, low-key wit.
15. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton. For my book club. Twee. Very book-club-tastic; not my style.
14. Sunstroke, Tessa Hadley. Short stories. Sharp, precise, incisive.
13. Accidents in the Home, Tessa Hadley. Excellent: parenthood, affairs, families, all very non-cliched.
12. Ghost Story, Toby Litt. A couple struggle after they lose a child in late pregnancy. Wasn't keen.
11. The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney. Brilliant début.
10. How to Speak Money, John Lanchester. Excellent non-fiction book on money/economics.
9. Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill. Again, interesting: aphoristic novel about a marriage.
8. The Stinging Fly, Issue 27, Vol. 2 (Spring 2014). Interesting selection.
7. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris. Not my favourite of his, but it shows again the breadth of his range - amazing.
6. Twenty Under Thirty-Five, various. Story anthology from 1988 - very, very mixed bag.
5. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer. Superb story collection.
4. A Song for Issy Bradley, Carys Bray. Beautifully sad. Reminds me a lot of Ann Patchett.
3. Poor Souls' Light, Curious Tales. Scary Christmas stories. Tom Fletcher's and Richard Hirst's tales were SUPER creepy.
2. SHORT FICTION 7, various authors. Especially liked Frances Gapper's and Jenn Ashworth's pieces.
1. Skippy Dies, Paul Murray. Superb - great plot and characters and fantastic style. High five, Paul!