My year in books

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The past 12 months have been pretty slow on the reading front, gradually dragging myself kicking and screaming through War and Peace. Now I’ve reached the epilogue (longer itself than some books I’ve read) it’s time to look ahead to the next read, which will hopefully be an easier one, and back at a contrasting year when I managed to get through 101 books more than I did last year.

I won’t bore you with the full list, but there were some worthy of a special mention here that might not necessarily be on most people’s radar. Next time you need something to fill the time on the tube in the morning, or a quiet weekend afternoon, here are some possibilities:

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)- everyone’s heard of Love in the Time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude, but this less well-known slim volume outshines both for me. A thoughtful look at the idea of inevitability and fate.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), Dracula (Bram Stoker)- you know the story, or at least think you know the story, from its permeation into culture at large. You might not know how brilliant the original books are, and it won’t cost you much to find out.

The Golden Section (Pernille Rygg)- Scandinavian mystery writing has never been more popular, but eventually you’ll run out of Stieg Larsson books to read. Pernille Rygg isn’t a household name but should be.

Running With Scissors, Dry (Augusten Burroughs)- everything an autobiographical work should be. Emotional, funny, scarcely believable in places, engrossing throughout.

Imperium (Ryszard Kapuściński)- the late Polish journalist has apparently written many excellent books, made up from his reports over his career travelling around the world. So far, this- a look into the mysteries of the former Soviet Union- is the only one I’ve read and I can only back up the claims on this evidence.

The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler)- one of the classic crime novels, and basis for a classic film and the subsequent marriage of Bogart and Bacall. Just read it.

Empire State (Colin Bateman)- a down-and-out Irish American hits rock bottom, and then miraculously bounces back. I’m a big fan of Bateman’s style and sense of humour, this is probably the best example I’ve come across so far.

The Factory of Light (Michael Jacobs)- a feel-good tale of the early stages of Jacobs’ new life in a small Andalucian village. Truly exceptional characterisation make this a real page-turner.

Dance Dance Dance (Haruki Murakami)- more even than the rest of his work, this takes a bit of getting your head around but Murakami’s vivid style make it more than worthwhile making the effort. Jay Rubin must be a true master of the art of translation, or possibly just a brilliant writer in his own right.


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