Reading books in 2023

Trust - Hernan Diaz
A multi-part novel, revealing itself as it goes on. I think I was expecting to not like the first part based on reviews, but I liked it. Vaguely reminding me of To Paradise, but a bit more linked up, although not as great as that book. Still enjoyed it, if not loved it.

This Other Eden - Paul Harding
Shortlisted for the Booker this year. Based on a true story of a small island off the coast of Maine, USA, of a few mixed race individuals in the 1800s - but fictionalised and made into his own story. Some very beautiful (and horrific) moments, some a bit too poetic/descriptive at times, but when the plot was happening it was good. Not sure if it’s Booker winner worthy, but I’ve not read the rest, and wouldn’t be upset if it did win.

Nettle & Bone - T. Kingfisher
This won the best novel at the Hugo Awards recently. Intriguing fantasy book, fairytale-esque and magic, starting off a bit dark and mysterious. I really liked the first half, but it sort of dropped off a bit for me as it went on, becoming less interested in the quest/task as it went on. Nice enough read, but a bit disappointing compared to the start of it for me.

Limberlost - Robbie Arnott
I listened to this as an audiobook, with the faint aussie (I assume) drawl of the narrator, and it sort of felt like it was a book of not too much happening - a coming of age kind of story of hunting for rabbits, wanting a boat, and a few other things. But it did get its hooks into me as it went on, and the hushed speaking of the narrator at the end did give me some feels. Have just downloaded another book of his, The Rain Heron, from the library to hopefully give that a go too.

Started reading The Long Walk by Stephen King. The descriptions of foot injuries are making my skin crawl. Also I can’t stop thinking about this video.


Currently reading this :

The Forgotten Witch

Just over half way through. Enjoying so far. Longer than more recent books I’ve read so that’s a bit of a challenge to keep myself engaged but it is keeping my attention enough so that’s a good sign. Will share more thoughts when finished.

I finished Queenie.

I enjoyed it more than I expected to but it wasn’t really for me.

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Not getting into Chain Gang All-Stars. I’m only 20% in but not one for descriptions of fights at all as i find it difficult to process what’s happening. Is it worth sticking with?

No sack it off. It mistakenly focuses way too much on the mechanics of the world and the fighting, rather than any depth in the interesting thematic stuff


I’m enjoying Groundskeeping by Lee Cole so far.

I don’t usually like writing about writing but it’s been good so far.

I’d say stick with it a little more and see how you get on - if I’m not misremembering there’s a lot less fighting after the early stuff

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Just finished Wellness by Nathan Hill

Probably a bit biased because I love this kind of book (600 page book about a marriage set in ‘modern times’ although I think it’s set before Trump and Covid) and obviously the marriage isn’t going well. It reminded me a lot of Jonathan Franzen

Lots of background to explain f-ed up dynamics but with qurikily written parts to deal with the back story that are (in my opinion) well written.

Did a job job of writing about stuff that often doesn’t work well in book form like facebook and internet relations.

I read The Nix earlier this year (same writer) and I preferred this.

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Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession. Nice read, really enjoyed it.

Finished Biography of X earlier today. I really liked it also, especially the Southern Territory part. It stopped itself from being super great for me because the main character(s) were not that sympathetic, and it felt a bit repetitive at times with each chapter/person being interviewed, but then each one did have something interesting by the end of it. Definitely keen on trying some more books of hers at some point.

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I also finished North Woods by Daniel Mason just now, and I absolutely loved it. Maybe my favourite 2023 release I think. I listened to the audiobook on Spotify and I loved the voice of the main narrator, but several chapters with different characters/settings had different narrators who really fit their sections too. I was already thinking I’d like to get a physical (or ebook) version to read again at some point, as it would be nice to go through it again (especially to make up for any inadvertent brain wondering I do with audiobooks), and then I found out it supposedly has some nice pictures/photos in it too, so that seals the deal. Not read any of his other books either, but will also be planning on doing so.

Some quotes/blurbs:


You’d be surprised by how much Ellroy can reuse plots and characters within his novels. I’ll keep reading that shit but sure

I was just about to start this!

Is it a hard read? In the sense that… I haven’t really read a whole book for fucking ages, so is it a good book to ease myself back into the habit of reading or is it a bad entry point? :sweat_smile:

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It’s kind of like short stories, throughout a big time period with different characters, but with a thematic link or following a side character or something at a later point. So it might depend on whether you’re fine with that or if you want a proper book following the same character(s) all the way through. It is very beautifully written anyway, and I wouldn’t think that it’s a hard book.

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Thanks - that was my understanding and I’m really into that format so it sounds ideal

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I’ve also read this. I wouldn’t say it’s a hard read at all, but I did think the opening segments were the worst - not terrible in and of themselves, but there’s loads better to come. If you get past the first fifty pages you’ll have a good time

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Ooh, promising

Yes, nice, saw the author do a talk at Cheltenham last month not having heard of him before but it sounded interesting so went along. Got North Woods on my Christmas wish list now so fingers crossed for a copy soon

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November reading, once again big thanks to people who keep posting links in the discount thread.

Chilean Poet - Alejandro Zambra - I’m a big fan of a lot of South American stuff having studied it quite closely for my degree, and have since become quite a fan of Bolano. This is a book that both pokes fun at, demystifies, and tenderly recalls a lot of his ilk - and there are a lot of stereotypes referenced throughout. It’s full of in jokes and I’m sure there are a lot that went over my head but it was still laugh out loud funny and really poignant.

Children of Paradise- Camilla Grudova - Totally devoured this and found myself, despite all the weirdness that takes place there, being able to visualise the Paradise vividly. There’s a lot of personal feeling and some really gnarly bits in there but the main thread I took away was around the loss of cultural spaces and the uniformity of the high street.

Instructions for a Heatwave - Maggie O’Farrell - This was my third O’Farrell - having absolutely loved Hamnet and tolerated The Distance Between Us. I enjoyed the family dynamics in this more than the general vibe of TDBU but on the whole it was closer to that than Hamnet. I’ve found in both this and TDBU that there are plots I focus on that never get closure and just fade away out of focus into the distance. Maybe that’s intentional but it doesn’t work for me.

Collected Short Stories - E. M. Forster - At this point I don’t think Forster is for me - I’ve still got a Passage to India to go but I found most of these stories quite flimsy, and told in a different voice they could have lasted a page or two rather than twenty - I kept thinking of Borges - what if Borges had told some of them! The economy of words can be a powerful thing.

The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver - The first BK I’ve read - got Demon Copperhead loaded up too. Really enjoyed relaxing into a mini family saga with little to no violence and no fantastical elements at all. Just the sadness and hopefulness of normal human life. Was very invested in the story and look forward to Pigs in Heaven now, which I’ll get round to at some point.

Cuddy - Benjamin Myers - This is absolutely brilliant - 5(I think) stories orbiting around the central figure of St. Cuthbert and the city of Durham. They link up so intriguingly and it’s told in prose, poetry, play, non-fiction and historical record, making for a richly realised world. I found it intensely profound. If you struggle with the first 20% or so of the book I’d still recommend pushing through as I found the payoff magnificent. Straight to number one on the updated Monk/Nun chart (see below).

A visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan - This might have suffered because I read it after Cuddy, which really is one of my favourite books I’ve read in a long time. I found it pretty easy going but incredibly skittish - I couldn’t really get my teeth into any of the characters. As soon as I wanted to know more about a point in time it was gone. Will still read the sequel, though.

The Vanishing Half - Brit Bennett - Really absorbing easy to read family drama about the identities we choose for ourselves and the people around us.

Updated MONK/NUN chart:

8 - Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett

7 -The Western Wind - Samantha Harvey

----Relegation Zone

6 - The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

5- Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

4 - An Instance of the Fingerpost - Iain Pears

----European Qualification

3 - Q - Luther Blissett

2 - Narcissus & Goldmund - Herman Hesse

1- Cuddy - Benjamin Myers