Reading books in 2022

Pine sounds like something I’d love

Bloody love Small Things Like These. I usually read the very jolly The Dead by James Joyce in December (the bulk of it is set at a Christmas party). The end sentence is possibly my favourite from anything (His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.)

Edit: P.S. - the BBC are doing a radio version of The Dark is Rising this Christmas, adapted by Robert Macfarlane.

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I finished Hangsaman this morning (I’d been looking for it for a while and found a copy in the new bookshop that opened, which was doubly perfect bc I wanted to buy something in order to make bookshop crush think I was erudite or whatever). Anyway! It kind of felt appropriate that I’d read a bunch of Jackson’s short stories recently because this - more than any of her novels I’ve read - felt like her short stories, but rendered over a larger canvas.

Starts off with brilliantly observed mundanity - a mounting feeling of unease as the protagonist navigates the kind of relatable loneliness and alienation of starting at university (though her experiences differ a lot from mine, parts of it brought me back emotionally to my anxious 2008/9), which mounting feeling eventually (both gradually and suddenly, somehow) plunges into absolute harrowing nightmare territory. Can’t wait to read this again in the future, with more of a bearing for its languid yet intense twisting and turning.

Next book is going to be Beloved by Toni Morrison, which I’d actually already gotten out of the library before I stumbled across Hangsaman

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I finished The Devil and The Giro the other night. It’s a collection of short stories by Scottish authors so the quality is very variable but there are some really good ones in there.

The Alasdair Grey one (Five Letters from The Empire or something) was the best.

I’m ready Hieroglyphics by Anne Donovan now. I’ve been teaching ‘Zimmerobics’ from this collection for years but this is the first time I’ve reas the whole lot.

These lines from The Inimitable Jeeves pretty much sums up my life philosophy:

‘If there’s one thing I like, it’s a quiet life. I’m not one of those fellows who get restless and depressed if things aren’t happening to them all the time. You can’t make it too placid for me. Give me regular meals, a good show with decent music every now and then, and one or two pals to totter round with, and I ask no more’.

No wonder I’ve always gravitated towards Jeeves and Wooster, feeling that it’s been written for me in mind, identifying with it so strongly.

Wonderful novel. I look forward to working through the entire series.

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Been feeling homesick so I picked up Fintan O’Toole’s We Don’t Know Ourselves for 99p, a collection of essays on Irish culture and politics during his lifetime. O’Toole can be a bit of a wally and there’s some typical newspaper-columnist shtick but it was interesting to see many aspects of home put into context.

Also has a lot of stuff surrounding the Magdalene Laundries, the Church sexual abuse scandal and other unsavoury aspects of Ireland, some of which I knew already but the new information just added to the scale of the horrorshow. Also seemingly a bottomless well of examples of Charles Haughey being a slippery fucker which is always fun.

I unfortunately had to drop Wolf Hall again because for some reason British monarchy shenanigans didn’t seem so appealing. Sorry Hilary I’ll manage it someday!

Finished All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews which was a great read and surprisingly funny and hopeful for a book where the core focus is around suicide.

I pre-ordered the new Cormac McCarthy books earlier this year in the naive belief that by the time they came out I’d have read Blood Meridian and the rest of the Border trilogy.

anyway starting Blood Meridian now.

Native Son - Richard Wright

Just finished Book 1, so roughly 120 pages in, and it has to be one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. The level of shocking violence is contextualised perfectly through the nuanced and rounded characterisation of Bigger Thomas and his experience of life as a black man in 1930s Chicago.

Phenomenal novel. Can see why it was credited with being instrumental in kick starting the early civil rights movement.

I started ‘Interior Chinatown’ - not sure how much I like it yet but I really don’t like the typeface.

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I finally got round to reading it earlier this year for the same reason. I’d previously considered myself a fan with The Road head and shoulders above his rest. Blood Meridian is far and away his best book and one of the best I’ve read in years. Just page after page of the most beautiful prose amongst the darkest stuff you can imagine. Honestly a masterpiece

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Second neapolitan book is also good

Taking me ages to read it though cos not that much actually happens in them. Gonna take a break after this and read something else

I’m about 2/3 through ‘Interior Chinatown’.

I really want a Tsingtao.

read some brendan behan memoirs, he went to borstal in england for being involved with an ira bomb plot as a teenager

nothing really happens in them and he seems to be having a lovely time in jail, all the stories are about how everyone loves him and how he beats up all the bullies and needless to say he has the last laugh, which you think would be shit, but he has such an extraordinary force of personality in his writing its just really joyful and clever and great and i loved them so much.

Finished The Trees by Percival Everett this morning which was a great read. Funny despite dark subject matter of lynching and flew by with the short chapter structure,

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Some travelling reading has been done, some good, some less good.

First up, John Grisham’s The Reckoning.

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Basically a standard legal procedural whydunnit, which was ok, the bits about WW2 were good, but the twist, at the end, left a really nasty misogynistic taste which just won’t go. Would not read again.

Next up, Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Enthralling and terrifying analysis of the Troubles in NI. Lots of deep research, lots of experiences from the participants, esp on the republican side. Very affecting, but a fantastic read. Really want to read other stuff by them now - think the one on the opioid crisis is next on my list.

Finally, Adults by Emma-Jane Unsworth

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Very easy to read, and one where you can telegraph a lot of the action well in advance, but enjoyed it despite that. Not read anything by her before and would like to check out Animals which seems to get a good write up.

Now am on to Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore - TdF in the 80’s, it’s the logical next step after Grisham/Troubles/Instagram addiction…

Once again just buying books instead of reading them.

Haul (inc some trash):

Hex: Darkland, Jenni Fagan
Things We Say in the Dark, Kirsty Logan
What a Shame, Abigail Bergstrom
Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel
Dark Folklore, Mark Norman, Tracey Norman
You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood, Eric LaRocca
You Let Me In, Lucy Clarke
Dark Matters: A Manifesto for the Nocturnal City, Nick Dunn
The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain, Brett Christophers
Monumental Lies: Culture Wars and the Truth about the Past, Robert Bevan
Gentrification Is Inevitable and Other Lies, Leslie Kern
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel, Grady Hendrix
What Moves The Dead, T. Kingfisher

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This was good and also a very short and quick read.

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Latest haul from my local:

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It’s 99p on Kindle today. Will give it a purchase!

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