2018 – Books and Things

I always spend a few days at the end of a year thinking about the books I’ve read, and what I enjoyed and why. This year, I’m going to keep track of the books I’m reading as I go, making much more of an ongoing reflection than previously it has been!

  1. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie – fast, entertaining read. Not her best, with rather less quirks of Poirot as I would expect (He doesn’t complain much about the heat in the desert and the impact it will have on the ‘little grey cells? Or how the dust will ruin his shoes? Hmmm). Much better than the run I was otherwise going to do…
  2. The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land In Between by Hisham Matar – The very precise writing in this memoir gives a very human and rational (perhaps too rational at times?) insight into experiences faced by those living under Gaddafi. Documenting the author’s journey to learn whether his kidnapped father is dead or alive, allusions to torture, controlled frustration at British politicians, and farcical interactions with Gaddafi’s son feature, with the author trying to come to terms with both the lack of certainty about his father and the fact he doesn’t fully belong in any one country.
  3. 13 reasons why by Jay Asher – Really didn’t like this young adult book at all. Tbh, I’m unsure why of my friends recommended it – but wish I could remember who so I ignored their recommendations in future… Tbh, screw anything that ends up broadly glamourising suicide in such a way.
  4. Among the Russians by Colin Thubron – Had higher hopes for this than it ended up delivering. Have really enjoyed lots of Thubron, and a fascination for both what was the USSR and what is now Russia. However, I found the writing a little too heavy at times, and was frustrated that much of this felt a little bit like “An English Man goes abroad and has some thoughts…”, rather than providing a more complete picture of the place and and people.
  5. Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon – Clearly on a bit of a detective theme at present in books. Not sure if it was this translation or the fact it was the first in a series, but wasn’t a big fan. Shall try to find a book from later in series before I give up on Simenon entirely.
  6. Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie – Can’t go wrong with a Ms. Christie novel when feeling slightly rundown and wanting a Friday lazy night read.
  7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Wow. One of those books which suddenly gives you an insight into other ways of being. Wish I had watched it before.
  8. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – Anachronistic (language seemed off for the period) and seemed to spend too much time enjoying and showing off knowledge of Cambridge (and yet not bizarrely other arts of the country in which the UK was based).
  9. The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane – This book made this former country bumpkin fall back in love with the countryside again. While not quite being sure of the ‘inner journey’ the author is doing on through this book, the descriptions of the landscapes visited are glorious rich and vivid.
  10. Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes – Ordinarily I love this author, but I couldn’t cope with this book. His way with words kept me reading to the half-way point, but having got just past the 100 page mark I couldn’t cope any longer and skimmed to read the end. Terrible and weird ending, really jarring representation of women, unenjoyable story – it’s a piece of his very early work and it shows. Avoid.
  11. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – A book that makes me want to apologise for my ancestors, causes me to curse Christianity as a tool of colonialism, and that I want to hand to everyone who tells me the British Empire was a glorious thing. Jaw dropping, with an outstandingly subtle transistion to the perspective of the District Commissioner.
  12. I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill – Just found it a slog. Couldn’t get past the first few chapters.
  13. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – I never felt a true connection to, or with, any of the characters – although I was fascinated with hints and much that was left under- , or un-, stated: how Yun Ling survived the war, learning about Aritomo. War, colonialism, terrorism, and questions about memory and forgiving/forgetting. All to a gorgeously described backdrop of Malaya – which giving me cause to learn more about the history of this place.
  14. I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti – Someone called it ‘A nightmarish fiarytale’, and that’s a fair summary. The author captured perfectly the feeling of long, sun drenched summers that last forever, and of the battles and disagreements between children. Dark, claustrophobic feelings – and the whole affair is given an additional level of complexity when you realise that one of the village sings Bella Ciao (a song sung by Italian anti-fascists in WW2 – who knew my love of Manu Chao would help me understand a throwaway reference in an Italian book).
  15. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – 3 stars. I was fascinated by the premise, but found the parallels between the two women too heavy handed to be interesting, with the story feeing more Mills & Boon in places that a Booker Prize winner tends to.
  16. Half a Life-Time Ago by Elizabeth Gaskell – None of the characters are pleasant, yet it’s a reminder of the impact our life choices have upon the shake of our lives, and a reminder to be less stubborn.
  17. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. If you dig beneath the perhaps hard to parse stream-of consciousness, you find words that are true and honest – ones that I found hard to read, as it brought past times home to me hard. The author can only be a woman who has experienced desperation, anxiety, and depression. It’s sad, hard, uncomfortable reading, but a fascinating book.

3 thoughts on “2018 – Books and Things

      1. I think it’s a good idea to have a post you update as you read! A few years ago, I kept up with a blog page of all the books I wanted to read and then read, and I also like adding to the reading challenge you can update on Goodreads.

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