Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Books I Read in 2013

Thanks to a last-minute push (otherwise known as being really lazy and not leaving the house for a week) I was able to take my 2013 reading tally up to 42.  As is the case every year, I failed to finish a book on Quantum Physics (I seem to buy a new one every year, but then read ten pages and realise I’m just not getting it).

  1. The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World – Alexander Armstrong & Richard Osman. A Christmas gift of fluff aimed at people like me who LOVE the game show Pointless. It was full of typos, and I tweeted Richard Osman to tell him so!
  2. Filthy English – Peter Silverton.  This book introduced me to the Bosnian curse “I hope your mother farts at a school meeting”. Genius! 
  3. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel.  It took a few attempts for me to get going with this, especially as I initially got my Cromwells mixed up and was expecting a civil war to happen at some stage.  Once I got past my own stupidity, I loved this book (and the next) and am now eagerly waiting for Mantel to get the third one out.
  4. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonassen.  A great comic fantasy, marred only by the fact that everyone and his dog seemed to be reading it.
  5. Pure – Andrew Miller.  About a man given the task of clearing a Parisian cemetery – I was reading this while undertaking my own Herculean task of removing asbestos from an old folks home, so felt a good bit of empathy.
  6. The Lost Books of the Odyssey – Zachary Mason.  Ooh this was good!  It played on the fragmentary nature of many of our surviving ancient Greek texts, and presented multiple, non-linear versions of episodes from Homer’s Odyssey – some of which were funny, some made me cry.
  7. The Rachel Papers – Martin Amis.  I remember seeing the film of this, many years ago, with Dexter Fletcher, and thought I would give it a go.  It’s a strangely hollow book.
  8. Nelson – Rob Wilson & Woodrow Phoenix (eds.).  A fantastic idea for a graphic novel (born, incidentally, at the Thought Bubble event here in Leeds) in which different artists all visit the same character on the same day in different years of her life.  Loads of different styles, but a moving and coherent whole.
  9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce.  Another one that everyone was reading in 2013.
  10. Various Pets Alive and Dead – Marina Lewycka.  Purchased as a Mother’s Day gift, then promptly borrowed back.  Fairly fluffy, but still an enjoyable read.  
  11. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn.  I know, I know – trashy, but really gripping!  Sometimes you need to read something like this.
  12. My Animals and Other Family – Clare Balding.  I realise that at this stage in the reading year (April) my reading choices are a bit Heat, Book of the Week, and I shouldn’t be expecting a call from Newsnight Review any time soon. 
  13. Skios – Michael Frayn.  I really didn’t find this particularly funny.
  14. Lost at Sea – Jon Ronson.  I don’t actually remember an awful lot about this – I think it was a collection of his columns.
  15. The Yips – Nicola Barker.  Michael Frayn should read this, and see what a good farce looks like!
  16. Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel.
  17. Going to Sea in a Sieve – Danny Baker.  Oh Christ, committing all of this to the public domain makes me realise how much trash I’ve read this year! 
  18. The Testament of Jessie Lamb – Jane Rogers.  At this point in the year, I had developed an urge for some kind of speculative/alternative history and began casting about for some reasonable sci-fi.  This didn’t quite hit the mark.
  19. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple.  This book was a JOY! Best thing I read all year!
  20. The Universe vs Alex Woods – Gavin Extence.  I hate it when you read a fantastic book and then you have to read something else, and no matter how good it was, this just wasn’t Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
  21. This Book Will Save Your Life – AM Homes.  Even though the plot is pretty static, I really like Homes’ style.
  22. May We Be Forgiven – AM Homes.  So I read another of her books! 
  23. Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter – Carmen Aguirre.  This was fascinating – and a useful reminder of just how appalling it was that Pinochet was allowed to waltz around the UK despite being a brutal mass murderer.
  24. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Corey Doctorow.  Another quest for interesting sci-fi.  This was better.
  25. Big Brother – Lionel Shriver.  It was good until the last few pages, and then I felt quite cross. 
  26. Before I Go to Sleep – SJ Watson.  Gripping, but insubstantial.
  27. The President’s Hat – Antoine Laurain.  I really liked this gentle little book – a tale of Mitterand’s hat, and the power it bestows upon those who wear it.
  28. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen.  By August I was completely floundering, and went back to an old favourite!
  29. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde.  So, 2013 was not a high-brow reading year for me – of that we can be certain – but I was looking for something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I wanted fantasy, but not aliens or brutal technology; I wanted a different world with different ideas.  Jasper Fforde came up in a search for ‘alternate history’ and while it didn’t quite tick all of the boxes, it was funny and clever enough to keep me entertained.
  30. Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde.
  31. The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde.
  32.  The Years of Rice and Salt – Kim Stanley Robinson.  Aha!  Alternate history and then some!; what if the plague had wiped out most of Europe?  An epic exploration of a world where China and the Middle East dominate world history.  Really interesting.
  33. Camp David – David Walliams.  He came across as a bit of a nasty bitch!
  34. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed.  A woman who is really lost in her life undertakes a mahoosive hike with ill-fitting shoes.
  35. When We Were Bad – Charlotte Mendelson.  
  36.  The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver.  This was fantastic.
  37. Joseph Anton: A Memoir – Salman Rushdie.  I had really been looking forward to reading this – the fatwa against Rushdie was almost a backdrop to my teens. If this was fiction, you would praise the creation of an unreliable narrator, unable to see his own flaws and weaknesses.  As it is, Rushdie the man (despite the obvious injustice of his situation) comes across as particularly unlikeable.
  38. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – Helen Fielding.  This has received enough of a critical mauling everywhere else for me to waste much time sticking the boot in, but oh the disappointment!
  39.  Life After Life – Kate Atkinson. Loved it! Clever alternate histories (futures?) of one woman’s life, with really painfully moving writing about life in the Blitz.
  40. The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing.  After Lessing’s death I realised I had never read any of her work, so started (at random) here.  I will be reading more in 2014.
  41. A Hologram for the King – Dave Eggers.  It felt like a modern parable, and my brain hasn’t quite processed what it’s saying to me yet.
  42. Autobiography – Morrissey.  As someone who’s been a vegetarian for 35+ years, this memoir made me resolve to get tickets to a Morrissey gig and throw sausages at him.  It’s like the Rushdie autobiography in the sense that I don’t think Morrissey realises (or cares) that there is subtext running through his words that he is too much of an arse to see.  The long section about the injustice of his legal wranglings is particularly dull.

So that was my 2013 in books.  Feel free to make recommendations for what I should be reading over the coming months!