Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Book Diary 2016

Following on from 2015, 2014 and, ahem, 2012, I'll be keeping my Book Diary up this year.

Goals are to keep up the energy of Diverse December and read more diversely.

I'm also now the co-editor of the Read Women account, so you can expect lots of women's writing here as per usual. Some men do tend to slip in...!

And remember, if you want to add the books I've written to your own Book Diary, you can!

Greta and Boris: A Daring Rescue

The Boys on the Bus

EVB Short Story Anthology

EVB Essay Collection

So. The Diary...

The Heart to Artemis: A Writer's Memoir, Bryher: (new) I love Bryher. I've been fascinated by her for years. And yet apart from poems here and there, I'd never really read her. This is such a great memoir. She had an extraordinary life.

Margaret the First, Danielle Dutton (new): I'm reviewing this for 3am Magazine and it's excellent.

A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf (re read): like much of Woolf, I hadn't read this since university. It's so fascinating and depressing how much of it is true today - re women and poverty, lack of social mobility in the arts, and the devaluing of women's stories. It's definitely worth a re read if, like me, you read it when you were 19.

The Old Man and Me, Elaine Dundy (new): imagine my joy that the author of The Dud Avocado had written more than that! This is a pacy, blackly funny read with London all sordid and seedy and a heroine worthy of Sally-Jay.

Frenchman's Creek, Daphne du Maurier (re read): I love this book. I love it! I read it every year. And every time I wish the last page would be different. And it never is. I love the equality of their relationship.

Lady of the Rivers, Philippa Gregory (re read): my favourite of that series.

Hotel, Joanna Walsh (new): hoping to review this more fully but just to say, this was like reading my life. In all wonderful and painful and revelatory ways. Really brilliant book that defies genre and brings together Freud, Katherine Mansfield, the Marx Bros and more.

At Hawthorn Time, Melissa Harrison (new): I adored this. I loved all the detail about nature and wildlife, and the slow reveal that brought all the strings together.

The Loney, Andrew Michael Hurley (new): Chilling! In all the best ways. Takes gothic tropes and does something clever and twisty and chilling with them. A must read.

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (new): Atkinson is so good at bringing violence into the domestic. She's so good at writing war. I'm so glad it won the Costa. When I read the end I shot upright in bed and yelled 'shit!' because I couldn't believe it. A lump in my throat just thinking of it.

How to build a girl, Caitlin Moran (new): Just started this, a. because I love Caitlin and b. I heard there's some Dolly Wilde referencing going on and she's my interest right now.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor (new): Taylor is a writer I have been meaning to read for a long time and a kind friend on Twitter posted me two books to read. Wow oh wow. She's really something. If like me you haven't got around to reading her before, do it now.

Claudine in Paris, Colette (re read): I needed a distraction.

In a summer season, Elizabeth Taylor (new): I'm so glad to have been introduced to this fascinating and subtle writer.

Ladivine, Marie Ndiaye, trans. Jordan Stump (new): I'm reviewing this troubling and extraordinary book so watch this space.

Three Powerful Women, Marie NDiaye, trans. John Fletcher (new): It's a troubling, frightening book, in all the best ways.

All my Friends, Marie NDiaye, trans Jordan Stump (new): An excellent collection of short stories.

Physical, Andrew McMillan, (new): I'd forgotten to add this in! Wow oh wow this made me feel why I love poetry again. It is SO GOOD.

Loop of Jade, Sarah Howe (new): I'm reading this at the moment. It's stunning. I am so so loving re-discovering poetry.

Unmastered: A book on desire, most difficult to tell, Katherine Angel (new): It was so intensely refreshing to read an honest book about women's sexual desire and pleasure. Some of it was almost uncomfortably intimate, in the ways I related to it. But refreshing, in that discomfort. Good work!

Angel, Elizabeth Taylor (new): The discover of this brilliant writer continues apace!

Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann (re read): BECAUSE. Because. I love it. Filthy, I know.

The Lonely City, Olivia Laing (new): Laing's new book is utterly superb. It is just so honest, so beautiful, such a fantastic exploration of loneliness and art and city.

Ladies of Lyndon, Margaret Kennedy (new): Started this last night, mainly because I liked the cover.

Pond, Claire-Louise Bennett (new): This really is the most extraordinary book I've read for a long time. It's stayed with me, the voice and her words. What she does with language. A must must must read.

Glass and God, Anne Carson (new): This is stunning. I mean, absolutely stunning. The Glass Essay took my breath away. If you haven't read her yet, do do do!

Claudine at School, Colette (re read): I've been reading all these super-intense twisty tricksy books by awe-inspiring women writers. Which is great but means I can't get to sleep. So Claudine became my bedtime reading.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (re read): Started re reading this last night as a consequence of reading The Glass Essay.

The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry (new): Absolutely stunning, a glorious gorgeous delight. I can't wait to see what Sarah does next!

Flaneuse, Lauren Elkin (new): Brilliant read on women walking through cities in literature and life. Elkin is such a fine writer, critic and memoirist - love her.

Heroines, Kate Zambreno (new): This is probably the most important book I've read in a while. It's part lit crit, part memoir, part feminist polemic. I was constantly photographing and tweeting sections - scribbling furious notes. And, fittingly, (as you'll see if you read it) it's brought me in touch with a whole host of awesome heroic women to talk books with.

The FlameAlphabet, Ben Marcus (new): Sometimes I read books by men...! And this one is definitely worth a read. Dystopic, threatening, gloriously intelligent. Do read.

The Queen's Fool, Philippa Gregory (re read): My favourite Gregory novel and not only because if I had a time machine I'd travel back in time purely to have a fling with Robert Dudley.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory (re read): Because I love her.

Vertigo, Joanna Walsh (new): Complex, twisty, thought-provoking - all the things that make Jo such a fascinating and interesting writer.

Luxe, Amy Key (new): I loved the wealth of objects and detail in this marvellous wonder.

A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel (re read): You know why I read this, right? Because we're living in a period of political upheaval that makes the backstabbings of the French Revolution seem comparatively tame. I do feel like we are stuck in an awful nightmare.

Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller (new): looking forward to chairing an event with Claire this Thursday.

Hera Lindsay Bird, Hera Lindsay Bird (new): This fantastic poet - she's inspired me to try and write poems. I love it, it's so raw and visceral and honest.

History, Elsa Morante and trans by William Weaver (new): This book is something else. It's very long. It's very dreamy. It reminded me at times of Dostoyevsky. It is horrible and frightening and dreamlike.

Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel (new): This was an interesting read although by its very nature (she's a top NYC therapist) all the case studies were very wealthy. Be good to have heard from some other case studies from other backgrounds.

I love Dick, Chris Kraus (new): both thrilling and problematic in equal measures. I want to read it again, right now! In its most wonderful bits it is truly inspiring. I feel like it will take a while for me to process it.

The Joyce Girl, Annabel Abbs (new): I've reviewed this for OD 50:50 so you can find out more when that goes live but suffice to say it was great. I am continually angry with the big guys of modernism.

The Beauty of the Husband, Anne Carson (new): Oh my god I love her so much. I would happily spend the rest of my life reading Anne Carson, on a loop, forever. "Beauty convinces. You know beauty makes sex possible./Beauty makes sex sex."

Life begins on Friday, Ioana P├órvulescu, trans Alistair Ian Blyth (new): this is such a remarkably clever novel, an historic fiction set in fin de siecle Bucharest. I loved her characterisation of Nicu!

Bluets, Maggie Nelson (new): I really enjoyed this. I've heard a lot of mixed things about Nelson but this was so perfectly formed, thought-provoking and beautiful.

The Complete Stories, Clarice Lispector, trans Katrina Dodson (new): I haven't read them all! But am dipping in and out with joy.

Chelsea Girls, Eileen Myles (new): Muscular, exhilarating writing. I wish I had read this book when I was a young woman exploring my bisexuality. Still ecstatic aged 31 though. Want to devour her work.

The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (re read): Because me, Sarah and Caroline kept talking about it on Twitter, so I had to have a read. Cried, as ever.

Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively (re read): such an elegant novel and also much tear-jerking.

Been re-reading I Love Dick for a review.

Post-Capitalism, Paul Mason (new): started at the weekend in my occasional "sometimes I read books by men" series.

The Taste of Apple Seeds, Katharina Hagena, trans Jamie Bulloch (new): My lovely Read Women colleague Alexia sent me this from Germany. I liked it but I wonder if the translation was a bit uneven in points.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (re read): The annual re read!

Travels with myself and another, Martha Gellhorn (new): I adore her. She's so fabulous and bad ass.

A stricken field, Martha Gellhorn (re read): Everyone should read this book, now, during another refugee crisis. It was written in 1939 and could have been today.

Rare Earth, Paul Mason (new): A pacy, tightly-plotted thriller with added surprises!!!

Paris France, Gertrude Stein (re read): I read this because I thought it had the thing about too much fathering going on in it. But that's Everybody's Autobiography! Still, it's such a joy, this book. So no hardship to revisit it even by mistake.

Middlemarch, George Eliot (re read): Because why not?

Autumn, Ali Smith (new): Ecstatic. Here's my full review.

My Antonia, Willa Cather (re read from the past): I read this as a student, remembered very little. It really is an extraordinary novel especially to read now with everything happening re immigration in the USA.

Claudine in Paris, Colette (re read): You know it.

Guapa, Saleem Haddad (new): Loved this, reviewing it for Open Democracy

Joy in the Morning, PG Wodehouse (re read): makes me LOL.

Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford (re read): felt like I was overdue some time with Cedric.

The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot (new): Good and beautiful illustrations but why frame it via Perkins-Gilman was the question I was left with.

The Trouble I've seen, Martha Gellhorn (new): incredibly moving, far too relevant for current times.

Live Working or Die Fighting, Paul Mason (new): this was fascinating. I'm now obsessed with learning more about Louise Michel.


Tune in for Book Diary 2017... which I think is going to kick off with more Gellhorn and Penelope Fitzgerald...

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