Reading List 2014

Another bloody year, eh? Honestly, they don't stop. Here's my Reading List for 2014. I'll link to this post in the sidebar and if you're at all interested in what I've been reading, you'll be able to keep up to date. So, same deal as usual: I'll include only books I've finished (these days I'll give it fifty pages and if it's not doing it for me (with the exception of review books or work-related stuff) I'll toss it on the refuse/charity shop pile), with a little (e) to denote e-books (I still have the Kindle and I still rarely use it), an * for a reread, and I'll also generally mention if a book is something I've read for my PhD. I'm not including lit journals, unless I've read them cover to cover, or academic text-books. Oh, and also I've joined a local book club, so I'll note what books are for that. Last year I vowed I'd read a graphic novel each month, which I did, and which was a resounding success that has resulted in a change in my reading habits that I'm really happy about; I've still got a bunch of books left to read on the list a couple of friends compiled for me, but I won't be so consistent as to do one a month this year because I've got a lot of other stuff to get through. Still, every other month, at least. This year (partly motivated by my research) I'm going to read Proust, one volume a month, so I should have nailed it by the summer. I didn't get as many books read as usual last year (105, which I know is a lot, but I do usually read more) and I think that's from a combo of studying and child-wrangling; the studying will probably be even more time-consuming this year, so I expect it to be a slow-ish year, books-wise. Anyway, enough preamble. In reverse chronological order, the books I have read in 2014 are:

85. 10:04, Ben Lerner. Novel about poetry, reality, the future - more readable than I'm making it sound!
84. Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon. Took me a while to get into it, but then loved it; unexpectedly brilliant on midwifery!
83. Shelter, Jayne Anne Phillips. She's a great stylist but this one dragged for me.

82. Haweswater, Sarah Hall. Heartbreakingly brilliant. (A lot better than The Electric Michelangelo.)
81. Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga. Really excellent novel about a Rhodesian family struggling under colonialism.
80. The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson. Great collection.
79. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson. Book-club read. A Swedish Forrest Gump minus the sentimentality. Overlong.
69. The Electric Michelangelo, Sarah Hall. Interesting idea/setting but the story didn't grab me.
68. Eat the Document, Dana Spiotta. Novel about former Vietman-era terrorists. Not as interesting as I'd hoped.
67. Shiloh, Bobbie Ann Mason. Stories - not as good as the others of hers I've read.
66. Academy Street, Mary Costello. Beautiful, sad novel.
65. Feather Crowns, Bobbie Ann Mason. Fantastic novel about the parents of quintuplets in Kentucky in 1900. Really slow but brilliantly evocative of the era. Out of print, which is such a massive shame.
64. We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo. Not bad; a bit predictable, but a good ending. For my book club.

63. Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr. Outstanding stories, beats the Mantel (shock!).
62. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel. Again, flawed but interesting. And disaster books/films are always worth a go!
61. Greetings, Hero, Aiden O'Reilly. Stories. Flawed but interesting.
60. The End of Alice, AM Homes. Very intense. memorable, but can't say I found it very interesting.
59. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler. A really interesting topic, though not sure the book itself, style-wise, is all that memorable.
58. BBC National Short Story Award 2014. Short anthology. Interesting.
57. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Mantel. Stories. As good as you'd hope.

56. Davy Byrnes Stories 2014. Anthology of winning/shortlisted stories for a very fancy Irish story prize. Very good indeed.
55. David Boring, Daniel Clowes. Excellent! I love Dan Clowes.
54. Speedboat, Renata Adler. Very fragmented novel; this one was just as good as the hype.
53. The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer. Decent but not brilliant; the fuss seems unwarranted...
52. Someone Else's Skin, Sarah Hilary. Crime novel that challenges gender norms. Good stuff.
51. *A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor. Pretty much impossible to beat.
50. For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander. Didn't like his novel, but really liked most of these; the title story is excellent.
49. Stranger Things Happen, Kelly Link. Good, though more predictable (fairy-tale rewrite stuff) than her later work, which I much prefer.

48. Best British Short Stories 2013, ed. Nicholas Royle. A mixed bag, generally good.
47. Their Lips Talk of Mischief, Alan Warner. Great stuff on relationships and guilt.
46. The Possessed, Eif Batuman. Non-fiction, about Russian literature: fascinating and funny.
45. A Better Angel, Chris Adrian. Short stories. Brilliant.
44. Gob's Grief, Chris Adrian. Completely mental, but worth it.
43. The Zone of Interest, Martin Amis. Awful stuff. Review here.
42. The Truth Commissioner, David Park. Excellent look at post-conflit issues in Northern Ireland. Beautiful prose.
41. The Children's Hospital, Chris Adrian. Huge and sort of sloppy, but completely heartbreaking.

40. The Great Night, Chris Adrian. Fantastic. A Midsummer Night's Dream by way of Kelly Link.
39. Tabloid Dreams, Robert Olen Butler. fantastic short stories. Surreal, but beautiful and gritty at the same time. Am annoyed I'd had this for months without reading it.
38. Harvest, Jim Crace. Elegiac and brutal novel about the enclosing of the commons in an isolated village. Not so sure about how he portrays women, but the language is stunning.

37. *Hawthorn & Child, Keith Ridgway. PhD re-read. Stories. Good stuff.
36. Any Other Mouth, Anneliese Mackintosh. Linked stories: brutal, funny, semi-autobiogrpahical. Well worth a read,
35. Caribou Island, David Vann. Pretty bleak stuff; great descriptions of scenery, but not as compelling as Legend of a Suicide.
34. Oblivion, David Foster Wallace. Stories. Have been dipping in and out of this since last July. I think I might be Walllaced out for the time being.
33. Apple Tree Yard, Louise Doughty. Not my usual thing but recommended by friends Excellent crime thriller - brilliant discussion of the gender politics of sexual abuse.
32. Ten Things I've Learnt About Love, Sarah Butler. Beautiful examination of love and loss.
31. Burial Rites, Hannah Kent. For my book group. Historical murder story. Wasn't keen initially, utterly gripped by the end. Beautiful imagery throughout.

30. The Flame Alphabet, Ben Marcus. Viscerally brutal. And madly clever.
29. Stoner, John Williams. John McGahern meets Marilynne Robinson meets Richard Yates in a campus novel. Very sad, beautiful prose, a fairly staid story-arc.
28. The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth. A family saga, sort of, set before WW1: satirical and touching and very funny.
27. Dear Life, Alice Munro. Good - not entirely up with her best, but with some standout moments. The last five pieces were fantastic.

26. Our Kind, Kate Walbert. A PhD read, but very unimpressive. First person plural stories.
25. *As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner. Brilliant, of course. My favourite of his (so far). I should reread this more often.
24. Flash, Vol. 5, No 2. Flash fiction lit journal.  So-so. Some great stuff, some bland.
23. Animals,  Emma Jane Unsworth. Excellent. Dirty and funny and full of brilliant writing.
22. Sonnets to Orpheus & Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. Again, not quite my thing, but interesting - the letters more so than the poems themselves. (Fell free to disagree...)
21. Orpheus: A Version of Rilke, Don Paterson. Sonnets. Not really my thing, but interesting.
20. How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez. PhD read. Good. One of the best last lines ever.
19. House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Well. That was creepy. Don't read it alone at night or in a corridor.
18. In Search of Lost Time ,V.2, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Marcel Proust, trans. James Grieve. For my uni reading group. I preferred volume one and wasn't keen on some of the translation.

17. Rebel Cities, David Harvey. Non-fiction critique of how capitalism has determined urban/common spaces. Excellent.
16. The Driver's Seat, Muriel Spark. April book club read. As weird and pithy as I expected...
15. Emerald City, Jennifer Egan. Short stories. Good, but not Goon Squad good.
14. The Invisible Circus, Jennifer Egan. A girl tries to find out about her sister's last days. Took a while to get going, but latter half was really engaging.
13. The Palace of Curiosities, Rosie Garland. Book-club choice. Not bad - a bit flowery for me, but interesting, especially the second half.
12. A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, Eimear McBride. Astounding. Formally innovative, brutal with the subject matter, and really, really hard to read without crying. Best and most interesting book I'll read all year (she says, in early March. Still, though.)
11. Original Bliss, AL Kennedy. Hmm. My ambivalent relationship with ALK continues ambivalent. I didn't like the shorter stories here, but the novella at the end drew me in against my will.

10. Triangle, Hisaki Matsuura. Baffling.
9. The Crow Road, Iain Banks. Just about the most tedious coming-of-age novel I've ever read, and pretty misogynistic on top of that. Thumbs down!
8. Thirty Girls, Susan Minot. An American writer travels to Africa to cover kidnappings in Uganda. Disappointing.
7. Ulysses and Us, Declan Kiberd. A sort-of analysis of Joyce and how his work relates to everyday life, not the elite few... Academia-lite.
6. The Safety of Objects, A.M. Homes. Story collection - some really excellent pieces.
5. Little Failure, Gary Shteyngart. Excellent, poignant, hilarious memoir (and I don't generally like  memoirs).

4. In Search of Lost Time ,V.1, The Way By Swann's, Marvel Proust, trans. Lydia Davis. A much more enjoyable read than I expected.
3. Lightning Rods, Helen DeWitt. Funny workplace satire, but didn't ultimately go anywhere.
2. A Tale For The Time Being, Ruth Ozeki. January's book club read. Very good stuff, and a fortuitous connection to my Proust plans. Deserved Booker shortlistee last year.
1. A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel. Very long, but very engaging book about real folk during the French Revolution. Especially interesting as a forerunner of her later technique with Wolf Hall, etc.


tu said...

Wow, you and Jon Pinnock have clocked a combined 200+ books... I'm in awe. (How? With kids?!) I suppose mine would look similar if I included my REAL reading list (Little Rabbit Foo Foo, Timmy Failure, The Stick Man). My TBR pile for 2013 comes up to my waist now; windowledge plus shelf. Like I said, awe.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Ha, thanks... I dunno - some weeks I get nothing read, then others I race through stuff and get very lax in my child supervision! Don't mention the dreaded TBR pile - the sheer amount of stuff I need to get through this month alone (for university mainly) is enough to get me too stressed to read!