It’s been over a year since I’ve written in this blog. Since I’ve been away I’ve moved to London, got a job, and I’m now over halfway through my masters at UCL. This is essentially a quick note to say this blog will be up and running again this year! And a list of everything I read (completed) last year.
Like many people all over the internet and all over the world, last year I set myself the goal of reading 50 books. Quite arrogantly I thought this wouldn’t be an issue, and now here I am having to admit that I completed a total of 49 books. Crud.
I don’t have any reviews coming up on these and will probably continue my usual format this year, but if anyone would like an in-depth review of any of the books mentioned leave me a comment below!
In alphabetical order (by author, because that’s how I wrote them down – multiple titles by the same author will be in the order I read them):
1&2. Things Fall Apart & Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
These are the first and third installments of Achebe’s famous and extraordinary African Trilogy. They don’t follow on chronologically. They are incredible. I recommend.
3. Illuminations by Walter Benjamin
Collection of famous/important essays. Fantastic. How do you pronounce Benjamin? Academics are silently divided on this, and all just say it their own way.
4. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Graphic novel, selection of creepy folky stories. Amazing art. Atmospheric and intense. Short read. Highly recommend.
5. Girls, Goddesses and Giants by Lari Don
Children’s book, with classic myths from all sorts of cultures retold so the girl isn’t always waiting for the boy with the sword to come and save her, but gets herself out of trouble. My favourite is the one where the girl’s brains save the day, but the reason they escape and win the day is because the boy is willing to help and take her seriously. Great collection for any young girl who is sick of having to read about damsels.
6. Sex Criminals vol. 1 by Matt Frachon (writer) and Chip Zdarsky (illustrator)
Two ordinary people with a special power. Every time they orgasm, time stops. They meet and hook up at a party, discovering the only other person they’ve met with this ability. One thing leads to another and they use this power to rob a bank. So good.
7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Whoops. How did that happen. I mean,
Ahem. Outlander is the first in an epic time-travelling-historical-fantasy-romance series. It follows a young woman named Claire, who was a nurse during the Second World War. In the time that follows the war she is having a second honeymoon with her husband in Inverness to rekindle their relationship, but she stumbles accidentally into a magic stone circle and is sent back in time to 18th century Scotland.
There is also a TV adaptation….
8. Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (re-read)
Hilarious suburban goings on. Charles Pooter, middle-aged and middle-class, decides to start a diary.
9. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Etta is 80 years old and she has never seen the sea. So she takes some chocolate and a rifle and decides to walk the 3000 kilometres to the ocean. Wonderful book.
10. Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
Johannes Cabal makes a deal with the devil to get his soul back. He traded it off for some powers or knowledge years ago but now it turns out he needs it, so over the course of a year he has to collect some souls to trade for his own, with the help of the reanimated corpses of some thugs who tried to mug him and his vampire brother, and a carnival.
11&12. Crow & Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes
Poetry collections. Wrote an essay on Crow. I really liked it, sue me.
13. Insanity by Cameron Jace
Self-published, dark re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland. Very enjoyable, quick read. Some clever twists.
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (re-read)
Coming of age story. Joyce is a genius, etc. This is probably his most approachable book and I would recommend it if you want to start reading Joyce. I re-read this for an essay
15. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I don’t want to tell you anything about this book…maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t. Telling you anything would ruin it. That’s why there’s no info on the blurb, only quotes. It’s engrossing. It’s bizarre. It’s painfully honest and yet somehow unimaginable. Maybe go read it. Maybe don’t. I don’t know. But probably do. Then come and tell me what you think.
16. Misery by Stephen King (this was the first book I read last year)
I loved this. So much. As well as being the first book I read last year, it was also my first Stephen King. And what a start! I’d like to read Carrie next. Or the Shining.
17. Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Wonderful play. There’s a great HBO adaptation as well. Probably needs to be seen to be fully appreciated – I read and watched at the same time. Incredible piece of work.
18. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
This, I read in a single train journey (a long one). I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to sleep, but I had to keep reading it. It was intense. I’m gonna slowly gather up all of Ira Levin’s books to read.
19&20. Heir of Fire & The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Heir of Fire is the third installment to Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and The Assassin’s Blade is a set of prequel novellas. The books follow Celaena Sardothien, an 18 year old girl with a shady and hidden past, who also happens to be the most infamous assassin in the land. Great YA fantasy. Lovelovelove.
21. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This is the first installment of the newest YA fantasy series by Maas, a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This was also fantastic – the writing has developed a lot since Throne of Glass and the story is just great.
22. Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The sequel to Wolf Hall. I managed to read this just in time for the BBC series. I really enjoyed. Much more fast-paced than the first but it doesn’t lose too much of the slow-building intensity.
23. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The first of the Lunar Chronicles. This is a retelling of Cinderella, who in this story is a half-cyborg mechanic, living and working in New Beijing. Pretty original, fun, looking forward to reading Scarlet next and finding out what happens.
24& 25. King Rat & London’s Overthrow by China Mieville
This was partly for an essay, partly for fun. Loved King Rat, I’d only read Kraken before this which I had loved, and I wasn’t disappointed. Trying to read The City & the City at the moment but it’s not grabbing me in the same way. I’ll persevere.
London’s Overthrow is actually the printed version of an online essay by Mieville which I will link here if anyone wants to check it out.
26. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
I found this book on the tube, then I read it. It’s about a teenage girl whose sister died, and how she works through her feelings, her guilt and grief, while normal life continues to happen around her.
27. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (sob)
This book devastated me. It’s probably one of my favourite books of the year, if not all time. I finished this book on the bus, crying for the last 20-odd pages. It was crowded, it was awkward.
Conor, a 13 year old whose mother is terminally ill, is visited by a monster who insists that Conor summoned him. He tells Conor that he will visit him and tell him three stories that will help him. And in exchange, Conor must then tell him his own story.
28. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer’s highly acclaimed and wonderful memoir/self-help book. I just….really enjoyed this.
29. Studies In The History of the Renaissance by Walter Pater
Pater’s essays on renaissance artists et al. Aestheticism, woop. I wrote an essay on this too.
30. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I don’t know what I expected going into this, but I loved it. I enjoyed the first half more than the second, but that’s only because the first half was SO GOOD.
31&32. Soul Music & Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Dipping back into Terry Pratchett. I was familiar with Soul Music thanks to the remarkably faithful animated adaptation which I have watched many times. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his, but definitely don’t feel like I’ve read enough. Aside from these I think I’ve only read Mort? Any recommendations for the quintessential Pratchett very welcome. I think The Wyrd Sisters is what I would like to read next.
33. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
Great novel (novella?) about a young woman living independently in Paris in the 1920s (I think). I loved the tone of Rhys’s writing in this book.
34. Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet
Self-published book about Reapers, Grim’s assistants who collect the souls of the dead and live among Gods and creatures of various underworlds so that they can send the souls to the correct afterlife. Great idea, well-executed, fun characters and good use of mythology.
35. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (annual re-read)
The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day One. Comfort reading. A world I’m happy to fall into any time. Intending to re-read The Wise Man’s Fear this year. Everyone read this. Please. Everyone. I haven’t met anyone who has read this and doesn’t love it.
36. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Coming of age story. The main character writes fan-fiction and has a dedicated following online, the book follows her first year at university – romances, friendships, difficulties. Really fun, immersive read. Great characters.
37. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
There is more than one London. There is Grey London – the one we know – and Red London, where there is magic, and White London, where magic rules. And Black London. But nobody goes to Black London. The main character can travel between these realms. So good.
38. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
So I felt this one needed its own block even though I’ve grouped the same authors in some of the previous listings. Vicious is the story of two boys at university, when they are best friends, experimenting with near-death experiences to try to give themselves superpowers. It is also the story of the same boys ten years later, when they are enemies.
The anti-hero is strong with this book. I loved it.
39. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
A twist on the classic star-crossed lovers story. And a twist on the classic angels vs demons story. Great worldbuilding and characters, excited to continue with the trilogy.
40-44. Saga volumes 1-5 by Bryan K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (illustrator)
Graphic novel series following a couple who had been fighting on opposite sides of a war, narrated by their child from the moment of her birth. Funny and full of originality, and my favourite cat-sidekick of all time, Lying Cat.
In fact, we’re just gonna pause for a minute here while I post some excellent Lying Cat moments.
Heheh. And this, more serious one:
And finally, confused Lying Cat:
Ahem. Thanks for bearing with me on that one. Moving on….
45. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This took me an embarrassingly long time to get to. But I was given it for Christmas, so I read it on Boxing Day. I freakin LOVED it. I’ve been describing it as having an ethereal mutedness that I didn’t expect.
It’s an anti-war novel, lingering in particular on the Dresden Bombings.
46-47. Rat Queens volumes 1 and 2 by Kurtis J. Weibe (writer) and Roc Upchurch/Tess Fowler (illustrators)
Another graphic novel series I’ve been loving. A band of kick-arse mercenary women face evil, have sex, and….kick arse. Hilarious, well-designed, reads like a D&D session. Love it. Cannot wait for more.
48. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
This is a YA novel about being transgender. Neatly put together, an easy and important read for young people. The characters didn’t grab me particularly but the story did.
49. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Suburbian life is hard. We all think we’re special but maybe we’re not. We make plans we never follow through and don’t want to admit we like the stability of a boring job…
This book is so intimately painful to read – in like, a good way? – with beautifully observed truths throughout. It was intense. My only criticism is the ending, which I thought was a cop-out. Feel free to disagree
BONUS: the first book I read in 2016, which I should have just read on New Years Eve since it took all of ten minutes
50. A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Alex Goodwin and Tess Gammell
I have nothing negative to say about this at all.