Reading List 2019

Another year, another list! (The TBR pile never gets smaller.)

84. Patience, Toby Litt. Phenomenal book.
83. Constellations, Sinéad Gleeson. Beautiful essays.
82. The Life and Times of a Tea Boy, Michael Collins. Funny & violent & sad.
81. The Pen Friend, Ciaran Carson. Tender and (obv) poetic.
80. The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell. Booker winner from 1973. Fantastic.
79. The Heather Blazing, Colm Toibín. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, as ever.
78. Endland, Tim Etchells. Review here.
77. Winter Papers, Vol. 4. Just in time for Vol. 5 at Christmas! (Lost this one in the house for MONTHS.)

76. The Topeka School, Ben Lerner. Really compelling and astute. My favourite of his so far.
75. Ducks, Newburyport, Lucy Ellmann. I've been reading this for months and feel bereft now. A phenomenal achievement.

74. Girl, Edna O'Brien. Review to follow.
73. Tinderbox, Megan Dunn. Totally bonkers non-fiction about Ray Bradbury and the closure of the Borders chain of bookstores and what it's like to fail as a writer.
72. Trans, Julie Jacques. Memoir - interesting stuff.
71. Girl, Woman, Other. Bernardine Evaristo. Fantastic book. Review to follow.
70. Angel Caging, Martin Reed. Flash fiction, some longer pieces. Great stuff. Here's a taster.

69. The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner. Really absorbing.
68. Notes Made While Falling, Jenn Ashworth. Cannot praise this highly enough. Memoir/essays about health, writing, trauma, memory, embodiment. My friend Thom described it as 'lacerating' and that's spot on.
67. O. Henry Prize Stories 2019. Vested interest - I've got a story in it. But it's a great collection and has introduced me to several new (to me) writers.
66. Selfies, Sylvie Weil. Innovative memoir, exploring image & self-image, memory & exile. Review to follow.
65. The Red Word, Sarah Henstra. Powerful novel about rape culture. Review here.

64. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut. A reread for work; great on time, trauma, etc.; depressingly terrible on gender.
63. Sudden Traveller, Sarah Hall. Stunning and heartbreaking collection. Review to follow.
62. Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger. Reread. I loved this as a teenager and I love it for different reasons now: what a takedown of the Average White Guy.
61. Perfidious Albion, Sam Byers. Satire on Brexit-esque politics and technology - sharp but characterisation felt very much secondary to plot. Preferred Egger's The Circle on tech.
60. Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld. Pride & Prejudice redux. Uninspiring; don't get the fuss.
59. The Wall, John Lanchester. Brexit meets Waiting for the Barbarians. A quick, good read.
58. The Quelling, Barbara Barrow. Creepy twins and their way creepier psychiatrist...

57. Home Remedies, Xuan Juliana Wang. Stories set in China, the US and France. Review here.
56. Leonard and Hungry Paul, Rónán Hession. Tender and optimistic and savage funny (screw the 'up-lit', you want to read this.)
55. The Transmigration of Bodies, Yuri Herrera. Romeo & Juliet reimagined, plague and all.
54. Clever Girl, Tessa Hadley. One person's life-story - like a better William Boyd.
53. Everything You Know, Zoe Heller. Sharp and funny.
52. Convenience Store Woman, Syaka Murata. Sweet and bizarre. Great ending.
51. The Green Road, Anne Enright. Fantastically voiced family story.
50. Sweet Home, Wendy Erskine. Excellent short story collection set in Belfast; review here and my podcast interview with the author here.

49. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng. The plotting was way too deliberately laid out.
48. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, Denis Johnson. Fantastic stories. Apparently meandering but really taut and compelling.
47. Ghost Town, Patrick McGrath. My first of his - I've definitely been missing out.
46. Night Boat to Tangier, Kevin Barry. Review to follow.
45. Minor Monuments: Essays, Ian Maleney. Brilliant essay collection. Review here.
44. Kintu, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Muktu-generational Ugandan saga. Compelling.
43. Common People, ed. Kit de Wall. Anthology of Working class writers. Diverse and interesting non-fiction pieces. Review here.

42. Normal People, Sally Rooney. A very clever dissection of two students' relationship.
41. Murmur, Will Eaves. Confoundingly beautiful. Review here.
40. Quarantine, Jim Crace. Tense novel set in the desert near Jericho, starring a dude called Jesus... I admired it more than I enjoyed it, which is often how I feel about Crace's work.
39. Noctuary, Niall Campbell. Poetry again; this time about parenthood and home.
38. Us, Zaffar Kunial. Poetry, in part about growing up with a dual heritage.
37. Wetlands, Charlotte Roche. Interesting (Julia Kristeva would have a field day here) but the ending was a total cop-out.
36. The Children's Hospital, Chris Adrian. Also a reread. Totally bizarre and totally compelling and very sad.

35. We Were Strangers, ed. Richard V. Hirst. Excellent story anthology based on Joy Division's album Unknown Pleasures.
34. Gob's Grief, Chris Adrian. A reread for work; love it just as much as when I first read it five years back
33. Trust Exercise, Susan Choi. Clever stuff. Review to follow.
32. Gingerbread, Helen Oyeyemi. Disappointing. Review here.
31. How To Break Up With Your Phone, Catherine Price. Yeah, not my usual genre. But depressingly useful.
30. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers. So moving.
29. Charlie Savage, Roddy Doyle. Review here.

28. Number One Chinese Restaurant, Lillian Li. Grew on me as it went along.
27. Supernatural Tales, Vernon Lee. Old-school creepiness.
26. The Surface Breaks, Louise O'Neill. Feminist reimagining of The Little Mermaid. Pretty didactic (it's YA) but powerful stuff.
25. Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss. Incredible. Review here.
24. Lanny, Max Porter. Creepy and lyrical and nicely scathing. Review here.
23. This Paradise, Ruby Cowling. Debut story collection - fantastic stuff.
22. Ironopolis, Glen James Brown. Reread. Still fantastic: intricately plotted, beautifully descriptive, fiercely political.
21. Slip of a Fish, Amy Arnold. Innovative and disturbing (that's my bag).
20. Let Me Be Like Water, SK Perry. Novel about grief and mourning: a sneaky hard-hitter. Very moving.
19. Allegiant, Veronica Roth. Well, I can see why these were so popular: massively simplistic morality systems, cutout characters, awful dialogue, a ridiculously convoluted plot... oh, hang on. (I did not enjoy these books.) (I read them for work-related reasons.)
18. Insurgent, Veronica Roth.
17. Divergent, Veronica Roth.
16. The Butcher's Wife, Li Ang. Feminist Taiwanese novella from the 1980s. Gruesome but compelling.
15. See What Can Be Done, Lorrie Moore. Great collection of reviews and essays; review here.
14. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon. Re-read; still very good.

13. You Know You Want This, Kristen Roupenian. Stories: some great. Review here.
12. Rules, Cynthia Lord. Kids' novel about disability, autism, inclusion and acceptance.
11. My Coney Island Baby, Billy O'Callaghan. Novel about a long-term love affair. Review here.
10. X, Vona Groarke. Superb poetry collection.
9. Chess, Stefan Zweig. My first Zweig (and the second novel I've read all about chess obsessives?!); compelling and terse novella.
8. Paralogues, Evan Jones. Poetry collection by a friend, colleague and fellow Manchester PhD alumna.
7. Firestarter, Stephen King. Frequent and casual misogyny aside (grr), a good old page-turner from an old reliable.

6. Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li. Incredibly moving meditation on a writer's son's suicide. Review here.
5. Jellyfish, Janice Galloway. Reissued story collection. Review here.
4. For The Good Times, David Keenan. Novel about an IRA member. Superb. Review here.
3. The Mental Load, Emma. Graphic essays on feminism and socialism. Excellent. Review here.
2. Mongolian Travel Guide, Svetislav Basara. Very odd novel in the vein of Flann O'Brien (but more sexist). Review here.
1. The Gunners, Rebecca Kaufmann. Coming-of-age novel (sort of). Definitely not for me. Review here.


TM Upchurch said...

Happy New Year! I love your reading lists, sometimes use them to pick my next read. I'm currently slogging through Milkman (which is amazing but I'm only getting to it late at night when my brain has seized up - I need to restart it really to do it justice). Congrats on the job and hope you're having a fab 2019.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Aw, thanks! Gainful employment is definitely a good way to launch the year... Yeah, I really liked Milkman, but it's one that needs some concentration or you'd lose the thread completely! I think if I'd put it down halfway I'd definitely have had to start over. Happy New Year to you too!