2017 was a good year of reading for me – 43 books, of which 24 were written by women! Although I’m still using my Kindle quite a lot, a job move in the summer meant that I was in close proximity to a good Blackwells with lots of enticing 3 for 2 offers. I love a good 3 for 2, and I never quite forgave Waterstones for shunning them; I love that I will buy two books that I really want to read and then use the third book as an opportunity for a bit of literary risk-taking.
The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry This received a LOT of hype and, while I enjoyed it, there wasn’t that much going on with it. It sort of fizzled out for me.
Fun House – Alison Bechdel An inspired birthday present from Chris, who reckoned that this would be a good choice for a graphic-novel loving feminist; he was completely spot-on with this. I’d heard of the Bechdel Test, but hadn’t realised that Alison Bechdel is a great writer and artist. Totally recommend this!
Absolute Pandemonium – Brian Blessed YOU CAN READ THE WHOLE BOOK IN BRIAN BLESSED’S BOOOOOMING VOICE!
Jerusalem – Alan Moore This was a bit of a whopper – slightly concerning when the reviews had been mixed, at best. I really enjoyed this, despite the fact that it needed a more thorough edit. There are some fantastic ideas in this book, and the characters and imagery have stayed with me.
The Story of a New Name – Elena Ferrante I read the first volume last year on Kindle and then requested all of them for my birthday. I’ll say more on them later…
The Power Naomi Alderman – I enjoyed this, but it’s not as substantial as reading Atwood.
Thatcher Stole My Trousers – Alexei Sayle
So Much for That – Lionel Shriver
The Noise of Time – Julian Barnes This is a fictionalised account of Shostakovich’s struggles under Stalin. Very moving.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay – Elena Ferrante
Huey Morgan’s Rebel Heroes – Huey Morgan
Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History – Richard Evans I’m still a bit obsessed with alternate history, so went all meta on my own ass!
Middlemarch – George Eliot I had never read this, or any George Eliot for that matter, and really enjoyed it.
An Abbreviated Life: A Memoir – Ariel Leve
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 – Lionel Shriver This was a great apocalyptic romp!
Wind/Pinball – Haruki Murakami
The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante I enjoyed the quartet as a whole; loved the growing politicisation of the characters and the increasing anger at the patriarchy. The final novel felt a bit rushed (perhaps I just wanted to spend more time with the characters).
American Gods – Neil Gaiman I enjoyed this, and also the TV series.
Number 11 – Jonathan Coe
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
The Underground Railroad – Colston Whitehead
This Must Be the Place – Maggie O’Farrell
The Lauras – Sara Taylor
Dominion – C.J. Sansom
Swing Time – Zadie Smith I had really been looking forward to this. I was a bit disappointed – it lacked depth.
In Search of Lost Time. Volume 1: Swann’s Way – Marcel Proust Surprisingly readable! I was hooked from the first page; Proust describes a particular experience of falling asleep that I had thought was just one of my own peculiarities. To be fair, I became less engrossed as I waded through; it’s a bit of an endurance test.
Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone – Olivia Laing
Garden Cities – Sarah Rutherford
Alan Partridge: Nomad – Alan Partridge
Autumn – Ali Smith
A Horse Walks into a Bar – David Grossman I think this was my least favourite – not funny, just bitter and a bit pointless.
The Allegations – Mark Lawson
Man with a Seagull on His Head – Harriet Paige
A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip – Alexander Masters
Wake Up, Sir! – Jonathan Ames
How to Survive a Plague – David France I think that this was my favourite book of the year! It looks at the AIDS crisis of the 1980s from scientific, historical, and personal perspectives. The utter abandonment of the gay community by the US government should never be forgotten; likewise the grit and determination of young AIDS activists – many of whom had non-scientific backgrounds – is an example to us all in these dark days. I really can’t recommend this enough.
Forest Dark – Nicole Krauss
All at Sea – Decca Aitkenhead
Northern Lights – Philip Pullman
At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails – Sarah Bakewell
Women and Power: A Manifesto – Mary Beard
Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel
So, that’s my 2017. How did you do? Any recommendations for me?