The other benefit of this blog, of course, is the small but treasured readership of readers that have coalesced around my posts. I thank you again for stopping by from time to time, joining in the conversation, making recommendations. I offer up this list of books I read last year with a deep hope that the conversation may continue. I've linked titles to the posts where I discussed (or even just mentioned) them earlier, and of the rest, I've tried to add a brief comment here and there or at least a link to an Instagram post that showed a worthy quotation from the book.
Ask me questions about any of the books I've only listed, and I'll try to fill you in a bit more, depending what I can remember these months later. . .
1. Michael Connelly, The Wrong Side of Goodbye
2. Dionne Brand, Love Enough
3. Hape Kerkelling, I'm Off then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago. Trans. Shelley Frisch
4. Ben Abramovich, Rivers of London
5. André Alexis, The Hidden Keys
5. Elaine Sciolino, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs
6. Patricia Cornwell, Chaos
7. Ian Rankin, Rather Be the Devil
8. Lawrence Hill, The Illegal
9. Karl Ove Knausgaard, Some Rain Must Fall
10. Jean-Christophe Rufin, L'Immortelle Randonnée: Compostelle Malgré Moi
11. Peter May, The Blackhouse
12. Ulrikka S. Gernes, Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments, trans. Patrick Fresen and Per Brask
13. Donna Leon, Willful Behavior
14. Peter May, The Lewis Man
15. Donna Leon, My Venice and Other Essays.
16. Patrick Modiano, Paris Nocturne
17. Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir
18. Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
19. Ann Granger, Mud, Muck, and Dead Things
20. Donna Leon, Uniform Justice
21. Donna Leon, Doctored Evidence
22. Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life
23. Michael Christie, If I Fall, If I Die
24. Peter May, The Chess Men
25. Roberta Rich, A Trial in Venice
26. Emma Donoghue, The Wonder
27. Lee Child, Night School
28. Tessa Hadley, The Past
29. Lauren Collins, When in French: Love in a Second Language **** Really liked this!
30. Ann Patchett, Commonwealth
31. Rose Tremain, The Gustav Sonata *** Highly recommend!
32. Robert Moor, On Trails
33. Patrick Modiano, Les Boulevards de Ceinture
34. J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy
Honestly, while I thought that Vance's memoir was enlightening about the geography and demography he came out of, I found his analysis of the current political climate and his recommendations for socio-economic policy to be facile and tendentious (the latter is fair enough, I guess, considering it's his book, but the former just gets boring).
35. Diana Athill, A Florence Diary
36. Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London (IG post)
37. Fred Vargas, Quand Sort La Recluse (IG post)
38. Eden Robinson, Son of a Trickster
If you've already read and love Monkey Beach as much as I do, you need to get your hands on a copy of this coming-of-age novel that mixes up First Nations indigenous beliefs and story-telling with the challenging and often hilarious realities of contemporary teen life. Robinson is such a powerful storyteller rooted in her Haisla/Heitsulk heritage and influenced by Stephen King. Really.
39. Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light: A Memoir
40. Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing (link is to IG post; here's another
41. Donna Leon, Blood from a Stone
42. Val McDermid, Out of Bounds (A Karen Pirie mystery)
43. John Farrow, Perish the Day
44. Tracy K. Smith, Duende: Poems
45. Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
I left this comment, late in 2017, on a post at Mardel's Resting Motion:
"I see you read Arundhati Roy's latest novel but didn't mention it in your post. I get that. I read it, soldiered through to the end, and yes, found interesting characters but all in such devastating and difficult circumstances and such a disheartening image of geographies ruined by politics and greed, environmental horrors. All undoubtedly needs to be witnessed, and Roy surely writes brilliantly about it, but I couldn't easily recommend it to anyone that I didn't wish hours and hours and hours of trouble upon. And troubled as I've been by it, it's hard to see what positive action might come from my new knowledge and limited understanding. There are good reasons we turn to the lighter books from time to time..."
46. Hélène Gestern, Eux, Sur la Photo
A very sweet romance develops in this epistolary novel in which a woman tries to solve a mystery about her parents, about her mother's disappearance. I read it in French, but it's also available in English as The People in the Photo. I'd be curious to peek at the English translation just to see how the translator managed the subtle oddity of the continued use of the polite, respectful, but undeniably distancing "vous" even as the two correspondents become closer and closer and. . . well, no spoilers here. . .
47. Deirdre Kelly, Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams.
Francophiles and fans of the city of light will enjoy this book, but also those fascinated by the world of dance, of theatre, of journalism. Kelly was a journalist who covered dance, style, theatre, celebrities, etc., for a Canadian newspaper, travelling often to Paris, seeing it through different lenses as she built her career, developed romances and dalliances and grand passions, and especially as she worked through a relationship with her mother.
48. Sara Blaedel, The Forgotten Girls (a Louise Rick mystery)
49. Sara Baume, Spill Simmer Falter Wither
50. Michael Finkel, The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit
51. Julia Keller, Last Ragged Breath (a Bell Elkins mystery)
52. Steve Burrows, A Cast of Falcons (a Birder Murder mystery)
53. Steve Burrows, A Shimmer of Hummingbirds.
54. Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being. (link is to IG post, not blog post)
55. Christopher Brookmyre, When the Devil Drives
56. Elly Griffiths, The Crossing Places (A Ruth Galloway mystery)
57. Georges Simenon, Le Chien Jaune (a Commissaire Maigret mystery)
58. Tracy K. Smith. Life on Mars: Poems
59. Ann Mah, Mastering the Art of French Eating
Haven't quite finished reading this to Paul as he cooks dinner for me, but we're both enjoying it very much. An American ex-pat living in Paris, cooking and eating. . .
60. Chris Bookmyre, Flesh Wounds.
61. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, The Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter
62. Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
63. Victor LaValle, The Changeling
an odd, but very readable fantasy, a sort-of Fairy Tale for/of the Modern Day -- set in contemporary New York. . .
64. Nicci French, Saturday Requiem
64. Georges Simenon, Maigret à New York
Loved this especially for the imagery of 50s New York, of the arrival by ship, the mid-century communication technology, the way hotels used to operate. . . and of course M. Maigret....
65. Sherman Alexie, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me,
I admire this work so much, and wish I'd found time to write about it -- a memoir of loss and love and alienation and troubled cultural connections that structure a writer's life. Alexie writes in beautiful and playful and moving prose, often rhythmic, almost singable, about his relationship with his difficult mother. He acknowledges her strength, mourns his loss of her, as mother, to death, as well as earlier, in life, because of their alienation -- but also mourns her loss as speaker of a dying language, a language that linked human to salmon to water to word . . .
66. Chris Brookmyre, Where the Bodies Are Buried
67. Elly Griffiths, The Janus Stone
68. Alison Watt. Dazzle Patterns
69. Cynthea Masson, The Flaw in the Stone
70. Christopher Brookmyre, Country of the Blind
71. Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies
I haven't seen the TV show, nor have I read any of Moriarty's other books, but I will now. Thoroughly enjoyed this for airplane reading!
72. Sara Nović, Girl at War
A fictional account of effects of the civil war in Yugoslavia on a young girl living with her family in Zagreb. The story is told by the woman the girl becomes, moved to the U.S. after trauma ended her childhood. I found the novel engaging and moving and credible enough for someone who doesn't know much about Zagreb or that particular war, but would like to be better informed. Anthony Marra agrees with me, but Ooooh, this reviewer in the Irish Times cuts no slack at all. Just nasty.
73. Christopher Brookmyre, Quite Ugly One Morning
74. Donna Leon, Through a Glass Darkly
75. Gillian Flynn, Dark Places
76. Lisa Ko, The Leavers
A Reader recommended this, and I'm grateful -- a sad and gentle and loving look at immigration and adoption and cultural integration. A young Chinese-American boy whose mother seems to have abandoned him in New York City adjusts to a supposedly life in a small college town with his adoptive parents but . . .
77. Ali Smith, Autumn ****
A friend recommended this, and what a book to end the year on. Set in a just-post-Brexit Britain, a clever and engaging tale about the relationship between a young girl (and the woman she becomes) and a much older neighbour. Stellar -- do read this one! Here's a link to my Instagram post of a quotation from the book.