Reading Books in 2017

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Here are the twenty books I enjoyed most in 2017. Sorry. That’s a lie. Some of these books I didn’t enjoy at all. They infuriated me. They demanded much of me. They lodged in the back of my head like raspberry seeds stuck between my teeth and would not go away. They made me think differently. They made me think better. They began great conversations with some people and ended conversations with others. They left me wanting to be a better, more fearless writer/activist/thinker/human being. In short,.they did exactly what good books are meant to do: each one of them destroyed me in its own peculiar way.

They weren’t all written in 2017. Hardly any of them were. Once again sorry. Not sorry at all. Have found myself increasingly irritated by all these best books of the year list. I’m competitive by nature. I get anxious when I think there are books out there which I should have read, and haven’t. I Am trying to teach myself how to read what I need, want and have to read when I need, want and have to read it. I’ve come to appreciate the way one book will signpost me towards the next. I like the idea of journeying through literature, letting the books suggest where and who I should focus my attention on next. This year I’m going to try and resist the desire to frantically read all the books I’m supposed to read, quickly before the next unmissable book is published. I’m going to read a lot of unfashionable books. I might even continue working my way through the Agatha Christies.

Like what you like folks and don’t be swayed by what everyone else is hailing as the best book ever. If a book’s actually as wonderful as the hype it’s generating it’ll be just as wonderful next year or ten year’s from now. I’m attempting to stop being a competitive reader so I can re-remember how to read for pleasure, challenge and sustenance. This will mean I read slower. It may mean buying fewer books and making my way slowly through the enormous pile of unread novels sitting beside my bed. I might re-read old friends. I might only re-read old friends. I’ll probably read fewer books and miss out on the books of the moment and won’t have any insightful things to say in literary discussions. I think I’m ok with this. I’ll probably get round to reading the best ones eventually. This year. Next year. Post-retirement. Who cares. The very best books always wait for you to catch up with them.

The Twenty Books I’m Carrying With Me Out Of2017

(In no particular order)

  1. Luke Kennard- “The Transition”
  2. Leontia Flynn – “These Days”
  3. Max Wright – “Told in Gath”
  4. Sara Baume – “A Line Made By Walking”
  5. Margaret Atwood – “On Writers and Writing”
  6. Jennifer Egan – “A Visit From The Goon Squad”
  7. Phil Harrison -“The First Day”
  8. Sarah Moss – “The Tidal Zone”
  9. Joan Lindsay – “Picnic at Hanging Rock”
  10. Edna O’Brien – “In the Forest”
  11. Frankie McMillan – “My Mother and the Hungarians”
  12. Rebecca Solnit – “The Faraway Nearby”
  13. Ocean Vuong – “Night Sky with Exit Wounds”
  14. Joanna Moorhead – “The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington”
  15. Ed. Paul Kingsnorth – “The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry.”
  16. Sally Rooney – “Conversations with Friends.”
  17. Donald Antrim – “Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World.”
  18. Lucia Berlin – “A Manual for Cleaning Women”
  19. Bonnie Nadzim – “Lions”
  20. Ben Lerner – “The Hatred of Poetry”

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