I suprised myself with the number of books I read last year. I didn’t set out to smash any records (and let’s face it, it’s not what I’d call prolific), but twenty-one books in fifty-two weeks seems reasonable.
I won’t bore you with the full list (or do you want it? let me know) but here are some of the stand-outs:
- The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz. I didn’t know this book was a “thing” until I saw the comments, but I read it last summer while we “did” the Abel Tasman Great Walk. I remember thinking about the different agreements as we hiked, and the process of reading something quite insightful, and then ruminating on what I’d read during the day as we walked in the heat, baked-in a lot of what I read. The agreement that “it’s not about you,” was one that I still repeat to myself whenever I get hurt or confused by the way other people behave.
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck. I’d tried to read this when I was younger, and I think the expansive voice and slow unfolding pace was hard for me to enjoy back then. But this time around I persisted, and was rewarded with this great tale about an entire generation of people who were displaced by the industrial “machine”. Living in a country that has an expansive social net, it’s hard to imagine what life was like for people who had no backup when the rug was pulled out from under them. Also, the chapter on people cobbling together cars was one of the zaniest things I’ve ever read!
(OK, I’m just distracted right now by a huge white tail spider that has crawled out of my window when I opened it. I tried to grab a bit of paper to sort of sweep it away from the house, but it responded by crawling into the crack of the next window down, and now I’m worried it’s biding its time and will come out in the night and visit my ear canal, like the guy in the news the other day who had a cockroach in his ear for three days.)
- Piranesi, Susanna Clarke. I got this for Christmas in 2020, after requesting it (heh). My copy is a beautiful hardback with gilt cover. (Does a nice gilt cover make everything more readable? I think so.) Another slow-starter, but Piranesi soon became a bit of a mystery-thriller, with the question of where on earth the narrator is, why he’s there, and who are the other mysterious people he comes across? It’s truly dreamlike and lovely (hate that word, sorry!), and explaining more might ruin it.
- The Fifth Season, NK Jemisin. Another one I was late to the game with. This had a pretty dark start to it, and I nearly put it down. (Child death is something I struggle to read about or watch on TV after having one of my own.) But a weird and wonderful world emerged, with some genuinely interesting characters. I’m one one to fangirl about magic systems (the story has to be interesting first and foremost) but at the same time I really loved Jemisin’s look at geologic-magic and thought it was really well-done. Living in NZ we’re acutely aware of tectonics, and I guess that really resonated with me.
- Railsea, China Mieville. Mieville can be a little hit-or-miss for me. I loved Perdido Street Station, but struggled with Kracken. Railsea looked cool at the library and so I nabbed it. Oh, man. Did I love this book. Probably my favourite of the year. Everything about it was fab: the setting, the weird and wonderful bestiary of monsters, and the voice! The voice was truly wonderful, flippant and breezy but knowing and 100% authentic. Even after I finished it I was sorry to have to return it. So good.
- A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny. Hm, or was this my favourite book of the year? I’d been meaning to read this one for so long. Gawd, it was incredible. A “Game” between Dark and Light, in which players converge on a certain location every October, in order to bring forth (or stop) an Elder One. Half the fun is in figuring out who everyone is, but the cherry on top is that the story is narrated by Jack the Ripper’s dog. Also this article and this article are great on the book as well.
- Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
- The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
- Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Patricia McKillip
- Trouble is What I Do, Walter Mosely
- Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
- Beyond the Pale, Mark Anthony (as well as the follow-up, Keep of Fire)
I didn’t track my reading in Goodreads this year, preferring to just keep a list at the back of my Hobonichi. I’m trying to get “out of the internet” for as much as I can right now.