Reading Books in 2021

I’ve not read it but The Girls by Emma Cline was very well reviewed, it’s inspired by the Manson family.

Maybe The Secret History by Donna Tartt? Not about a cult as such, but about a group of friends who get caught up in a kind of group madness.

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Just finished Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee. Struggled at first thinking it was very overwritten but then I got accustomed to it as a kind of prose poem, and some of it is very good. Really interesting portrait of a lost world, kind of weird to consider that up until the First World War rural life in England had barely changed in many respects for hundreds of years.


just finished Station Eleven - absolutely loved it. Hadn’t really clocked it was a pandemic novel so, that was a fun discovery, but it felt like a nice sort-of bookend to everything that’s happened given that one of the first lockdown films I watched was Contagion :smiley:

it’s so descriptive and sets the scene so well without getting bogged down in details, easy to read but still hits hard, very nimble in all the changes of locations, POV, timeline. The end of one of the first chapters was just a really fucking amazing piece of writing and understatement, something that creates a whole new world and intrigue with so few words: “Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He did three weeks later on the road out of the city” - chills

Felt it ended a little abruptly, was definitely expecting another 50 or so pages when I was approaching the end but they killed off The Prophet so fast. It’s not a bad move per se, but given how clearly dangerous he was, how far his reach had spread, and the reveal of who he actually was … felt like there was more to explain there. Nearly felt like a novel that could justify a sequel, which I very rarely feel

Any recommendations for which of her books to go to next? Don’t know a single thing about any of them. Also there’s a miniseries of Station Eleven in production?? Very intrigued by this


I read this a while ago so memory is a bit hazy on a lot of it - really enjoyed it and agree it was very descriptive and well written.

I have her new one on my Wishlist at the moment, might get it next actually I am due to buy a few.

Not by the same author but have you read Nod by Adrian Barnes? Find it was similar in a way and imagine you’d enjoy if you liked Station Eleven.

not even heard of it but am intrigued … added to the endless list!

I finished Iain Banks’ Whit recently, which has a fictional cult up in Scotland. It was quite good!


I really didn’t like Station 11 but really enjoyed The Glass Hotel.

The chat above encouraged me to walk into town and pick up a few as I was in need after finishing Exhalation last night.

Went for
The Glass Hotel - Emily St John Mandel
The Dispossessed - Ursula K Le Guin
Tess of the d’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales form the cafe - Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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I read that fairly recently as well. Prose poem is a good way of describing it, it’s not really a narrative as much as it is a sustained evocation of a particular place and time. The follow ups, about him going to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, are more straightforward but also good reads.

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I was reading it when the coronavirus first started getting in the news, which was a weird experience!

I really liked the two books of hers that I’ve read - The Lola Quartet and The Glass Hotel. In both cases they’re less sci-fi-y, but really breezily readable while doing the same sort of jumping around perspectives and points in time. Hoping to read the others sooner rather than later actually

I loved Station Eleven too. Really should read her other books.

The Stranding by Kate Sawyer is out tomorrow, and is another really good post-apocalypse book that has at least some inspiration from Station Eleven (though is less sci-fi focused).

(She is my sister, but seemed the sort of book you would be interested in).


This is a very blatant but also very valid suggestion :smiley: will read up on it


yeah it’s good isn’t it. agree very much on your bartender point.

Slowed down with the reading recently but recently read The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. Really enjoyed it on reflection, however found it a bit jarring at the time with the switch of style in part 2, had to leave it a bit and perhaps should’ve spent more time with that part but overall a great read.

Also tonight read To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers after the recommendation from @whiterussian a really enjoyable sci fi novella which left me wanting more about somaforming and her writing style. Shall be checking out her Wayfarer series at some point.


oh do it! It’s similar to TBTIF but loads better. Some of the absolute best modern sci-fi plus warm hearted without being sappy.


Great to hear, shall pick up a copy at the weekend.

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Just read this - having enjoyed My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, I saw this recommendation months ago and resisted clicking the spoiler :slight_smile:

Thought this was pretty great - I love things like this where the reader is dragged so fully into the narrator’s mind. Agree with the comparison to Shirley Jackson (definitely We Have Always Lived In The Castle) - also reminds me of Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. The central mystery made me think of Twin Peaks as well - it has the same small town dynamic, even down to a suspect called Leo.

I don’t think Death In Her Hands would work so well if it were definitely occurring entirely within her imagination, the fact that there is something going on, or could be something going on, gives it something extra - it feels like she might eventually connect to the rest of the world. There are lots of possible ingredients for a murder mystery (the creepy neighbours, the disfigured store owner, the dog seemingly going mad), I guess we only see how her mind assembles these ingredients.

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I totally agree re yr spoilered bit, it’s really smartly done the balance between suggestive details and her interpretations of them

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Read Savage Detectives earlier in the year and had the same issue. Loved the first part (which I think was about 1/4 of the book, roughly 200 pages) then struggled with the middle part. Some sections of that were good but some I really struggled with - and I really just wanted to get back to the main guy and found out what happened to him.

I think I admired the scope of the whole thing rather than actually enjoying it.

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As I was reading it I mentally crossed a number of people off my list of people I could recommend it to because I knew they would hate the fact that there is no definitive explanation / resolution.

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