November/December Summary and Plans for January


I hope that you’ve had a wonderful 2014 and are looking forward to the year ahead. 2015 promises to be an exciting year for me and I look forward to letting you know how my new business progresses. I plan to continue book blogging, but will spend less time writing about the books I didn’t enjoy. I’ll still mention most, but full reviews will probably be reserved for books that I really appreciated. 

Books of the Month:

 The Book of Strange New ThingsCooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Books Reviewed in November/December: 

Cooked by Michael Pollan 

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber 

I’m Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti 

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada 

The Lake District Murder by John Bude 

The Day Of The Owl by Leonard Sciascia 

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hirade 

Plans for January

I’ve tried all the books in my sidebar so will give you a brief summary of them soon. I abandoned most, but there were a few gems amongst them. I wonder if you can guess which ones I loved?

I also plan to try the following:

Minor Angels by Antoine Volodine

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Ben, in the World by Doris Lessing

The Sweetest Thing by Fiona Shaw

Have a wonderful start to 2015!

16 replies on “November/December Summary and Plans for January”

Happy New Year to you too, Jackie.
I bought the Michel Faber on the strength of your review and hope to get to it this month. I’ve read a couple of books by Fiona Shaw (‘Tell it to the Bees’ and ‘A Stone’s Throw’) and find her readable but unremarkable – they’re quick reads but not memorable ones. I’ll be keen to see what you make of the Doris Lessing as my only experience of her (‘Mara and Dann’) wasn’t good, but her reputation makes me think I should give her another try some day.

November and December produced three five-star reads for me which all made my top ten novels of the year:
‘Great Expectations’ was the first “proper” Dickens I’ve read – I love ‘A Christmas Carol’ and have read it many times, but I’ve always been put off his long novels. Well, GE took me a ridiculous eleven days to read but I loved every page of it and reckon I’ll probably try to read at least one Dickens novel each year from now on.
‘Border Country’ by Raymond Williams, published in 1960, is a wonderful story about a railway worker in rural Wales and his relationship with his son, set against the backdrop of the 1926 General Strike – it deserves to be much more widely read.
‘Nobody is Ever Missing’ by Catherine Lacey is an American debut novel (UK edition due in February from Granta) that I thought was superb: a woman suffering from depression leaves her marriage in the US and flees to New Zealand where her mental state becomes increasingly unstable reflected by the increasingly dangerous nature of her travels – I would hope to see it on the Women’s Prize longlist this year.

Other very good reads: Emily St John’s ‘Station Eleven’ is a quiet and thoughtful take on a post-apocolypse that isn’t perfect but is one of the most enjoyable books I read in 2014; Penelope Fitzgerald’s ‘The Beginning of Spring’ took me a while to get into the rhythm of, but I ended up admiring it a great deal and now want to read more by her; I finally got around to reading ‘Olive Kitteridge’, having read Elizabeth Strout’s other three books and thought it was a lovely short story collection; Alan Warner’s ‘Their Lips Talk of Mischief’ is pure fun with typically sparkling dialogue; ‘Up at the Villa’ was my first taste of W. Somerset Maugham and has made me hungry for more; ‘When Mystical Creatures Attack!’ by Kathleen Founds is nominally a short story collection (it made the New York Times’ Notable Books list) but reads as a novel and is another brilliant (and funny) tale about manic depression; J. Robert Lennon delivered another great book with his story collection ‘See You in Paradise’, as did Kirsty Gunn with ‘Infidelities’.

There were a few disappointments too: having read ‘Sunstroke’ I still disagree with popular opinion and think Tessa Hadley is a better novelist than she is a short story writer, although it does contain a few very good stories; ‘The American Lover’ failed to convince me about Rose Tremain, an author who I’d had a lukewarm response to in the past; ‘Adult Onset’ by Ann-Marie MacDonald was a bit ordinary in comparison to her other novels; likewise ‘The Freedom in American Songs’ by Kathleen Winter felt like it could have been written by a completely different author to the wonderful ‘Annabel’; ‘Your Fathers, Where Are They?…’ was my first Dave Eggers and whilst I raced through it and enjoyed it, it did tend to read more like a series of discussion topics than a novel; ‘Every Day is for the Thief’ by Teju Cole was good as far as it goes but didn’t reach the high bar that he’d set himself with ‘Open City’; and ‘Punishment’ by Linden MacIntyre (winner of the Giller Prize a few years ago for ‘The Bishop’s Man’) was a good story but a very typical – almost stereotypical – Newfoundland novel that didn’t really go anywhere his earlier trilogy hadn’t already been.

My plans for January: well, I’ve just started reading ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ and am hooked. I’ve wanted to read Paul Scott’s quartet for years but the TV version has been still too vivid in my mind, but I just felt like reading it now. Hopefully I’ll read the other three books over the next few months. And I was given a copy of Xavier Herbert’s 1975 Miles Franklin Award-winner ‘Poor Fellow My Country’ for Christmas which I’m very keen to read but at 1440 pages of quite small print I suspect it will take me weeks to read, so I may save it for a bit or read it alongside other things as an ongoing project. Other than I’m just going to go where the fancy takes me.

David, I’m pleased to hear that you’ve bought Faber’s book. I think you’ll enjoy it, but I’d be interested to hear if you have any issues with it as it is quite controversial in places.

Ben in the World is the sequel to The Fifth Child, which I loved. I haven’t read any of Lessing’s other books, but I suspect I’ll struggle with a lot of them. I think she writes with different styles so it is well worth trying a few different books before writing her off.

I’m glad you’ve discovered Dickens. I read Great Expectations about 8 years ago and loved it. I haven’t read any of his other books, mainly because I feel I know the stories already. But I really should read them anyway as I love his writing so much.

Nobody is Ever Missing sounds like a fantastic book – I’ll keep an eye out for that one and try to read it before the prize longlists are announced.

Sorry to hear that you weren’t that impressed by Adult Onset. I have a copy here and was looking forward to it.

I’ve been wanting to read The Jewel in the Crown for ages too. I have the quartet here and haven’t seen the TV version. I really should start it. Perhaps I’ll dig it out later this week!

Good luck with ‘Poor Fellow My Country’ I hope it is worth the time you invest in it. Have a wonderful 2015!

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