Hello again. It’s the semi-obligatory end of year post. Thanks to the semester break in my academic year, I’m even more prone than the average person to take stock of the calendar year that’s ending and think about tweaks large and small to the way I do things. I used to write a year-in-reading post on the blog, with the productivity post coming in January. But given my sparse blogging over the last couple of years and my almost-as-sparse reading, I figured I’d do what I did last year and combine them.
I read more than last year, thank goodness. I managed 30 books this year, which is still a low number by my historical standards but better than the 18 (!) I read last year. My early reading was shaped by a presentation I gave on the works of Arundhati Roy, which led me to read more of her nonfiction and revisit her two novels. I was lucky enough to meet her in person when she came to St. Louis, and what a lovely opportunity that was. She is gracious, soft-spoken, and fierce, and I felt fortunate to have the chance to talk with her after reading her work for so many years. Her Booker-winning novel is better known and more widely praised, but my personal favorite is The Ministry of Utmost Happiness; it throws you into the middle of Old Delhi and takes you all over the map emotionally, geographically, and sociologically. It’s not as “polished” as The God of Small Things, but it immerses you just as thoroughly in a world. I also strongly recommend sampling her nonfiction, which is quite different but excellent for the myriad insights she provides into contemporary India.
There wasn’t much of a pattern to my reading, although in looking at my chronological list I went back and forth between reading literary fiction and taking a break with mysteries (Simenon, Mick Herron, and le Carré, Higashino and Kirino in translation) and romance/romantic novels (a few Burchells and the latest Sarah Morgan). The only non-work nonfiction I read was Adrian Tempany’s And the Sun Shines Now, which is about the Hillsborough disaster (Tempany is a Hillsborough survivor) and the search for justice as well as the corporatization of football that characterizes the modern game. It’s a bit disjointed at times but very worth reading.
In literary fiction I had a few standouts:
- Telephone by Percival Everett (Version B, I think?)
- A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark
- Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
- The Paper Lantern by Will Burns
- Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta by James Hannaham.