Reading List 2011

This year I have been reading:

December

55. The Christmas Truce, Carol Ann Duffy. Thought I’d end the year with a bit of festive poetry.  A beautifully written, touching book. Wonderfully illustrated. A Timely reminder of what Christmas is all about.

54. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. Re-read. Haven’t read much of Dickens since university (except for my regular dips into Sketches By Boz). Amazed and in awe all over again.

53. Notes in Music, Rosamund Lehman. Could not get on with this at all. Got quite confused as to who was who and the links between the characters. Isn’t it strange how reactions to different books by the same writer vary so wildly.

52. Women’s Fiction Between The Wars: Mothers Daughters and Writing, Heather Ingham. Research reading. Ingham is a very accessible writer. Great book for anyone writing or research the construct of the mother-daughter relationship on the page.

November

51. Dusty Answer, Rosamund Lehmen. Sublime! Was totally blown away with this. Switching from third person to second person POV and back again, one sentence after another and still managing to make it read seamlessly. In awe!

50. The Nightwatch, Sarah Waters. Brilliant story set during WW2 that unravels backwards, starting in 1947 and ending in 1941. Her writing is so vivid, it seems effortless.

49. When God Was A Rabbit, Sarah Winman.

48. The Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinghurst. Was totally enthralled by Part 1 of this book and then it just seemed to drop off and became too much like hard work. Too many characters I think.

October

47. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson. Wow! Was totally blown away by this book. A brilliant crafted, unique story about a family of mothers and daughters through pre and post war generations up to the present. Loved the wry, witty narration of the protagnoist, Ruby Lennox and was actually moved to tears at the revelation towards the end of the book.  Definitely on my reading recommendation list.

46. The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold. Shocking  portrayal of a woman who kills her mother and the events that have led up to it. Great exploration of the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship.

45. Writing Mothers and Daughters, ed. A. Giorgio. Research reading. A series of interesting essays exploring the way in which twentieth century, European female fiction writers have written about the mother daughter relationship in literature.

September

44. The World of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes. Book to accompany the second series. What can I say: I am obssessed.

43. The Edwardian Country House, Juliet Gardiner. Another non-fiction book which was written to accompany the Channel 4 series of the same name (which I have not watched). Explores the social calendar of a ficitonalised wealthy Edwardian family and provides details descriptions of the day to day activities involved in running a country house. A reality version of Downtown Abbey if you will. Great for Edwardian enthusiasts such as myself.

42. The English Countryside: Amazing and Extraordinary Facts, Ruth Binney. Non-fiction research reading. Lovely, interesting, accessible book .

41.How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran. Very, very funny.If you have a vagina, you should read this. (Can’t believe I have just written the ‘v’ word!)

40. Visibility, Graham Mort. Beautiful poetry of the standard that makes you think ‘is there any point me even trying?’

39. The Legacy, Katherine Webb. Phenomenal writing. Totally hooked from page one. Loved the structure of this flitting between past and present, first person and third person. And this her debut (published) novel. Can’t wait to read her next one. Seems I’m having a bit of a run on very readable books. Yay!

38. The Somnambulist, Essie Fox. Really enjoyed this. Her descriptive passages area fantastic, transporting me to the thrumming streets of Victorian London effortlessly. Loved the cover art too. Looking forward to her next one, Elijah’s Mermaid.

August

37. The Haunted Woman, David Lindsay: More interwar lit. Very strange haunted house tale that has a disasterously sad ending. Left feeling a bit confused. Pockets of good description but a few repetitions of same / similar phrases and found myself skim reading the last few chapters. Make of that what you will.

36. Mothers and Daughters in the Twentieth Century, Edited and Introduced by Heather Ingman. Research reading. Looks at how the role of motherhood and daughterhood has shaped some of the world’s most prominent female writers lives and ulitmately their writing. Engrossing, interesting read that inspired me to pick up some Toni Morrison, Jean Rhys and Charlotte Mew.

July

35. Hungry, The Stars and Everything, Emma Jane Unsworth. Warning: Do not read this book if you are feeling hungry. Completely unique type of love story that meshes food and physics against a northern backdrop and some brilliant humourous moments. Loved it.

34. The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Sparks. An odd little book set in post second world war, London. Full of little repetitive character motifs that are obviously part of Sparks’ style, which, although I found slightly irritating, work well to reinforce the monotony of the girls’ lives.

33. Hotel Savoy, Joseph Roth. More interwar. This time, based in Russia. Bit depressing. Can be read in a day.

32. Jamrach’s Menagerie, Carol Birch. This is it. If you only read one book this year, read this one. Go and buy it now. How this woman did not win the Orange prize this year is beyond me.

June

31. The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters. Creepy enough to make me glad my husband was at home whilst reading this. Brilliant writing.

30. A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh. Another bit of interwar fiction charting the breakdown of a marriage between a shallow woman and a boring man in 1930’s Britain. Made slightly more depressing due to the fact that it was based in part on the disintegration of Waugh’s own marriage.

29. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Sparks. Quirky, humorous little book about a very odd teacher and her ‘girls’ during the 1930’s.

28. The Distant Hours, Kate Morton. Huge doorstop of a book full of her usual brilliant past – present narratives, only this one was a bit harder going than the previous two. Although since meeting her in person, the woman can do no wrong. Even  her hair makes me envious – like she just stepped out of a salon.

27. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton. Quite possibly one of my favourite books. Ever. Definitely in the top ten.

26. How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves, Paul John Eakin. Fascinating theoretical book about how the ‘self’ is formed in autobiographical literature but sheds some interesting light on how identities are created in fictional narratives. Inspired me to write a very boring essay about identity and the body in ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. What?! I know. It’s the MA darlings, what can I say?

May

25. The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton. This woman has the knack for storytelling or ‘spinning gold from straw’ as she herself puts it in this book. Also, she makes it seem effortless. Brilliant writing as usual and this keeps you hanging on to the very end – much like Jenn Ashworth’s Cold Light does.

24. Cold Light, Jenn Ashworth. An uncomfortable, unputdownable read, even more so if you come from Preston, which I do.  Her characters are so real, it’s frightening and I mean actually scarey. I may never visit Avenham Park or Cuerden Valley again.

23. The Thirties: An Intimate History, Juliet Gardiner. Background reading for new book. Brilliant. A history book I did not want to put down – don’t think I’ve ever said that before in my life.

22. Below Stairs, Margaret Powell. Background reading for new book. Brilliant memoir of living and working in service during the 1930’s.

21. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolfe. Oh man, I sooo wanted to be a Virginia Woolfe lover but this  book just mashed my head. If you’re a fan of writers who start a sentence on one page and finish it two pages later, this book is for you.

April

20. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman, Nora Ephron. I actually read this in January but forgot to list it after finding it in a charity shop. A laugh out loud funny set of essays from the master essayist.

19. Solar, Ian McEwan. His usual brilliance. Very funny. Worrying insight into the way men think.

18. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender. A bit odd in a good way, very readable.

17. Mariana, Monica Dickens. One of Persephone Books classics. Love this interwar fiction. If you haven’t discovered www.persephonebooks.co.uk yet, go and do it now!

March

16. Travelling Light, Tove Jansson. A collection of short stories all of which made me feel a bit sad, particularly ‘A Foreign City’.

15. Snowdrops, A.D. Miller.

Feburary

14. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. Sublime.

13. Literary Theory: A Short Introduction, Jonathan Culler.  Surprisingly readable.

12. The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry. Bought this for my dad at Christmas and nicked it back off him. Have been dipping in and out of this since Christmas.

11. Whitsun Weddings, Philip Larkin. Bought this for my dad at Christmas knowing it would spend most of its time at my house. Love, love, love.

10. Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form, Philip Hobsbaum. If you’re considering writing poetry, this explains the technicalities.

9. Atonement, Ian McEwan. Re-read. Amazing.

8. The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter. Fantastical collection of dark and twisty short stories. Stupendous description.

7. Language in Literature: An Introduction to Stylistics, Michael Toolan. Literary theory for first timers. Still hard to get your head around.

6. The Object of Beauty, Steve Martin. Moves along at a glacial pace with scenes cutting from one to another like a film. This is Amercian art history wrapped up as fiction. Interesting. Loved the inclusion of lots of works of arts in colour plate format.

January

5. How Music Works, John Powell. Research reading. About how the brain processes music.

4. Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks. Research reading. Interesting non-fiction book about neurological conditions connecting to music.

3. The People of Paper, Salvador Plasencia. Amazing, complicated and strange.

2. Comfort and Joy, India Knight. Really wanted to like this but… Love her journalism though.

1. The Girl With Glass Feet, Ali Shaw. Beautiful and bleak. Ending was not to my liking, but still good.

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