I am forever using this picture. I just really like it. And it fits for Falling Angel, below
I love reading other people’s best-of lists, and also their stats, so will give a few of mine.
- Of the books I read last year, just on two-thirds were by women, which pleased me very much.
- About half the books I read were published before 2000 and half after –only around 50 of them were published in either 2014 or 2015. For this reason – and as usual - the list below is the best books read last year, and most of them were not published in 2015, it is not a list of new books.
- Almost two-thirds were wholly or mostly-set in the UK, another sixth in the USA – the others roamed around the world.
- About half my reading was crime novels – higher than previous years.
- I read about a dozen books in translation, which is much lower than last year and something I would like to improve on in 2016.
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. My friend Col, of Criminal Library fame, said this was one of the best books he’d ever read, so I got hold of it and was completely knocked out by it. It is gruesome and gory, it would not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you think you can face it then I strongly recommend it. The source of the film Angel Heart.
This one could fit the book above or the book below. White men in suits.
The Man with the Golden Typewriter: the James Bond letters of Ian Fleming I was not a particular fan of Fleming or Bond, and I don’t watch the films, but I found this book completely unputdownable, absolutely riveting, and it has sent me to read the original novels again. Each chapter contains the letters about one of the books, and so I am already re-reading the letters – the relevant chapter as I read each thriller.
Poor Leo, his clothes too hot, and the happy swimmers
Close to Hugh by Marina Endicott Yet again: why isn’t Marina Endicott better-known? Why isn’t she winning literary prizes all over the world? Canada’s finest with a beautiful contemporary novel – her Little Shadows was one of my books of 2013.
The Vagabond steps out, looking for romantic adventures
Beloved Vagabond by WJ Locke I may be the only person to have read this in this century. It was a teenage favourite and I picked it up again this year and was entranced all over again. A classic of Bohemian life from 1906.
easily dismissed as women’s fiction – but so so good
Rosamond Lehmann- a long-time favourite, and this year I re-read Echoing Grove and Ballad and the Source and loved both of them as much as ever.
The Blondes by Emily Schultz This fabulous book is only available as an expensive imported hardback in the UK, and apparently not on Kindle. Such a shame. It is a terrifying, funny, feminist fable on a dystopian future. It’s clever, well-written, and beautifully structured. I loved it, and I had a lot of blog readers asking me how they could get hold of it. Surely someone could get it out to the Brits? My tiny sample says we’d eat it up. And then look carefully at our hair…
Slaves of New York by Tama Janowitz One of the lost writers of the NY 1980s. This was a great success back in the day, but then the author has scarcely been heard of since. I re-read, and 30 years on was highly impressed by its freshness and relevance. She was ahead of her time, and belongs in the world of Lena Dunham and Sheila Heti. And the best list of birthday gifts in any book (see the blog entry).
The awesome Lissa Evans is responsible for two books on this list:
Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive – I don’t know if this is aimed at adults or children, but I did two entries over Xmas on the blog, and fully expect to read it every December from now till the end of time.
Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh – a tremendously affecting YA novel about two young people adrift in London during WW2. A perfect gem of a book.
Which leads me unashamedly to two outright children’s books, favourites of mine for many years, which I re-read this year and loved as much as ever:
Wintle’s Wonders by Noel Streatfeild – a stage school special, much loved by connoisseurs of the genre.
The Clue in the Castle by Joyce Bevins Webb Possibly the best school story EVER WRITTEN – certainly the one with the most elaborate plot. The blog entry provoked a very high response, including (only) one person who had read it too, and many others who now wanted to – tempted by my (in all modesty) most compelling summary of the plot. You really should go and read the blogpost, which I think might be my favourite of the whole year, the one I am most proud of.