What I’ve been reading


I started the year with a round up of last year’s best reads and the thought that I’d record a sentence from each book I read this year in order to remember them better. I haven’t. I’ve just finished my 6th book so far this year, and I haven’t written a word down from any of them. In my defence most of the books were mediocre so by the time I read a couple with sentences worth remembering I’d long forgotten my promise. Nevermind.

So, here’s my January and February in books complete with rubbish reviews (it is my reviewing which is rubbish and not the books).

The Milkman in the night – Andrey Kurkov. Good, 3 stars. I really liked this book and even put a bookmark in a few pages where I thought I might write down a sentence, but none seemed quite stand out enough to bother. I liked the overall absurd satirical humour of the book but felt like it could have gone further with the darkness and light; none of the dark parts made me gasp and none of the silly comedy was quotable or made me laugh out loud.

Intimacy – Hanif Kureishi. ok, 3 stars. This book should come with a sticker warning that if you’ve recently married, or long married, or ever want to marry a man, you should probably not read this book. Succeeded in making me swear about blokes to uncomfortable degree.

My Struggle book 1 – Karl Ove Knausgaard. Great in parts, 3 stars. I picked this up from a charity shop and then immediately afterwards scored a proof of book 5 in this epic series at work, so I guess I’m going to have to read the whole thing. And after book one I suspect I’ll end up saying that one book might have been enough. I loved the first third of the book, where he’s an adolescent, and some of the final third is heartbreakingly brilliant too. The books are basically an autobiography which has been fictionalised to be made better, and it’s certainly the best written biography I’ve ever read, but I’m not sure if my cynical side can deal with such a huge vanity project.

Fine Just the Way it is – Annie Proulx. Hit and miss, but the hits were so great that it’s 4 stars. I hated the two stories set in hell. I keep deleting lame sentences I can think of to write about it; Annie Proulx is insanely good at writing vast, heartbreaking stories which somehow make me believe that people are tiny and insignificant, but also huge and important. She’s great. And some of these stories are right up there with those in Close Range. I need to read “Bad Dirt”.

The Circle – Dave Eggers. 3 stars. I don’t like Dave Eggers. As a thing. I don’t like the whole McSweeney’s hip young American kooky crap. But I was totally drawn in by the plot in this book (plus I got it out of the library and like to read library books I wouldn’t buy, to widen my tastes), and although I found his characters, particularly the female main character, so stupid and lame and cringe-worthy, I did keep wanting to read on to see what happened. I’ve recently started going onto twitter again after a long dry-spell, so found the story of an increasing obsession with social media to an extreme outcome, really topical for me personally – in fact I was filled with absolute dread and sometimes had to stop to remember that it wasn’t real.

The First Bad Man – Miranda July. SO GREAT. 4 stars. Best book I’ve read this year. I loved her short story collection, and I wasn’t at all disappointed by this. I do sort of agree with a review I read which said that her style is more suited to short stories though. I laughed so much, especially as I tried to read the whole thing in her voice in my head. Infinitely better than any of the other writers with a similar-sh style to her which I’ve read. Wonderfully weird. So happy to have finally read a really brilliant book this year.

I’m really behind if I want to read a book a week this year, but the Knausgaard took ages so maybe I’ll catch up.

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