I am expecting masses of hardbacks as a Christmas gift – the bonus of cycling to work means that I mainly read at home and therefore don’t have to worry about carrying them – so this books of the year list is not going to feature many published this year. Instead I’ve had a look through what I actually read.
Here are the stats:
Total read – 45 1/2
Total pages – 13,735 (not including the half a book)
Male/ female ratio – 14/31 (and another male for the half book I’ve not finished yet.)
But here’s what struck me. For a start, I don’t seem to have enjoyed many of the books I read this year. Some of this is because of inflated expectations – I may be the only person this year to have read Elena Ferrante and not raved about her but how can anyone live up to that billing? Reviews and press also gave me higher expectations of Sarah Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood, AD Miller’s Snowdrops, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (link contains spoiler) and Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. And even Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests, which I did like, was a little disappointing.
There were two themes to this year’s reading. The first was the amount of memoirs I read. I usually stick to fiction so any non-fiction is a minority but five memoirs, three and large chunk of a fourth, were about growing up. I enjoyed all of them very much: Testament of Youth, Tom and Romany, Springfield Road, Between Here and Knitwear, and The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing.
The other theme was books of short stories that were all linked to tell bigger stories. I really want to write a book like this and enjoyed all of these very much indeed: Perfect Lives (Polly Samson), When it Happens to You (Molly Ringwald) and Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout).
My favourites this year?
Ragtime – EL Doctorow (quite possibly THE Great American Novel.)
The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing – Darina al-Joundi (raw, uncomfortable, powerful, amazing.)
My 2016 reading will contain some classics – my reading group has picked The Go Between, Brave New World, 1984, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, none of which I’ve read before. (Slightly embarrassed to be my age and not read 1984 but there you go.) So there’s a start.