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September/October Summary and Plans for November

The summer was so busy that I didn’t read much, but things have been a lot quieter since my boys returned to school. This means I’m back to my usual level of reading and am getting through the stacks again. I’ve read a nice selection of books, but my favourite read, by a long margin, was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I think it will be difficult to find a better book this year. In fact I don’t think I’ve read another book with such an intensity of emotion. I highly recommend you give it a try!

Book of the Month:

A Little Life

Books Reviewed in September/October:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler 

The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans 

Educating Ruby by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas 

Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L Allen 

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh 

Soil by Jamie Kornegay 

Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks 

The First Bad Man by Miranda July 

Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel 

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 

Plans for November

I’ve recently finished the following books and hope to review them soon:

News from Nowhere by William Morris

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla

The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts

I then plan to read most of these:

Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Black Milk by Elif Shafak

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The Postman by David Brin

I hope you have a wonderful November!

10 replies on “September/October Summary and Plans for November”

I don’t know, it looks like you got through a fair few books even if you were busy! ‘A Little Life’ is definitely a book I’m finding myself remembering the positives of more than the negatives. I’m looking forward to your review of ‘Everything is Teeth’ – the fact it is written by Evie Wyld means it appeals to me, but for me a graphic novel is primarily about the illustration and I’m just not keen enough on the style to buy a copy.

My September and October reading was largely dominated by the Giller Prize longlist/shortlist (just one of the twelve titles still to go). I’d already read four when the longlist was announced but had another four on my tbr pile.

Michael Christie’s ‘If I Fall, If I Die’ I liked aspects of but thought the blend of thoughtful psychological insight and children’s mystery adventure was a bit of a car crash. Rachel Cusk’s ‘Outline” I admired more than liked. Heather O’Neill’s collection ‘Daydreams of Angels’ was a rarity: “adult fairy tales” that I actually enjoyed. Clifford Jackman’s ‘The Winter Family’, a sort of Western Noir, was thoroughly enjoyable, but full of clichés and occasionally clunky writing. Russell Smith’s ‘Confidence’ (short stories) I liked a great deal for the way it poked fun at a certain kind of ultra-hip city dweller but had a real compassion for them too. Patrick DeWitt’s ‘Undermajordomo Minor’ is probably the most out-and-out enjoyable book I’ve read this year – I’m not sure there was any deeper point to it but I bet DeWitt had huge fun writing it. Samuel Archibald’s ‘Arvida’ (stories) I wasn’t sure about – many of the stories started strongly but then went off into opaque metaphysical stuff that left me scratching my head, and one story about a sadomasochistic cult was easily the most disturbing thing I’ve read in a long time. Anakana Schofield’s ‘Martin John’ (about a flasher obsessed with Euston station and the Eurovision Song Contest) is brilliant for the way it is written and the way it gets inside the protagonist’s mind – I’d be happy to see this one win.

Away from the Giller I read a couple of the books on this year’s National Book Award shortlist (I’d already read ‘A Little Life’ and Karen E. Bender’s ‘Refund’). Adam Johnson’s six stories in ‘Fortune Smiles’ are wonderful – varied, inventive, moving – and probably my pick for the prize. Angela Flournoy’s ‘The Turner House’ is a decent example of the American family saga, but I didn’t think it brought much new to the genre.

I’d been looking forward to Pat Barker’s ‘Noonday’ for months, but found it – whilst enjoyable – a disappointing conclusion to the trilogy she began with ‘Life Class’. I had a similar reaction to Elizabeth Hay’s ‘His Whole Life’: I’d loved her previous novel but this one was a bit pedestrian. I read my fifth of the late Christopher Koch’s novels – his Miles Franklin Award-winner ‘The Doubleman’, about a folk rock band and faery lore set in 60s Australia: its not my favourite of his books (that accolade goes to the stunning ‘Highways to a War’) but it was still very good and further confirmed him as one of my favourite writers. And I also very much enjoyed David Storey’s 1960 debut, ‘This Sporting Life’ despite my having zero interest in rugby – it’s perhaps a tad dated and kitchen sink, but very well written.

The stand-out book of the last couple of months for me though was Richard Yates’s 1962 story collection ‘Eleven Kinds of Loneliness’ – absolute genius. Now I see why people rave about Yates. I think I’ll be reading a lot more of his work in the coming months and years.

Right now I’m reading (and loving) Truman Capote’s ‘Complete Stories’ (mis-titled, given the recent release of his previously unpublished ‘Early Stories’!).

Hope you have a great November of reading, Jackie.

David, Yes, I’ve got through lots of books in the past few months – a big change from June/July/August when I was busy!

I think you’re right to be cautious about ‘Everything is Teeth’ It is very different from her novels. I really enjoyed it, but it is more about the artwork than the words. I hope to review it soon.

I’ve read a couple of the Giller list and it looks as though our opinions are matching on them (Outline, If I Fall). I hadn’t heard of ‘Martin John’ but that sounds appealing – especially your comments about getting inside the protagonist’s mind. It isn’t out here yet, but I’ll keep an eye out for it next month.

I still haven’t read any Yates, but I bought a few recently. I really should get around to reading one of them soon.

Thanks for letting me know about all the wonderful books you’ve read recently!


I just thought I’d mention (though perhaps you already knew) that And Other Stories will be publishing Martin John in the UK, Europe, etc etc in February. Sorry to keep you waiting so long, but I can guarantee it’ll be worth it. Plus, And Other Stories subscribers will be able to get their hands on it later this month…

Also, I’m really intrigued by this discussion – I haven’t read it, but people at my book club last night were really divided in their opinions (we got side-tracked in our discussion of the book we’d actually been reading).

I really need to go on and dive into A Little Life. I keep passing it over because of the length and the hype, but it might be time. You have some great reading ahead of you with The Good Earth! Loved that book.

Andi, A Little Life really divides opinion, but I think all the hype is justified. Fingers crossed you feel the same way!

The Good Earth is amazing too. Hopefully I’ll get a review up soon 🙂

A Little Life is on my list. Maybe I can get to it when I start getting longer reading sessions. Soon-ish? Even Good Earth is on my list but I never seem to get to it.

Oh, have you read the Elizabeth Goudge book before? I think I read it around the same time I read I Capture the Castle, and for the same reason, because JK Rowling praised it. ICtC was wooooonderful, and The Little White Horse — not quite as much. But I’ll be interested to see what you think of it.

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