Find Part I here.
19 ⤜ Men Explain Things To Me, by Rebecca Solnit
A favourite writer covers a favourite (if only it weren’t so necessary) topic.
20 ⤜ Skyfaring, by Mark Vanhoenacker
A pilot’s musings on flying. Sparkling writing and another favourite non-fiction read of the year. Read it on board an aeroplane, if you can, for extra submersion in its absorbing subject matter.
21 ⤜ The Gustav Sonata, by Rose Tremain
A heart-warming and endearing portrayal of two boys, turned men, in wartime Switzerland.
22 ⤜ A Spool Of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
An engaging family drama in Tyler’s endearing, relatable style.
23 ⤜ H Is For Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
Another favourite of the year, again for its glittering style and ability to make birds of prey interesting to this…generally disinterested…gal. Almost primal in its appraisal of the natural world, painful to read in parts due to its portrayal of grief, it is the kind of book you read with a lump in your throat, the kind of book you can’t put down.
24 ⤜ The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing
25 ⤜ The Tidal Zone, by Sarah Moss
Favourite novel of the year? Quite possibly. A gripping patchwork-quilt of a story, sewing together the bombing of Coventry Cathedral during the second war and the narrator’s worries for his ailing daughter. Unusual and beautiful prose. I’m planning to read the entire Sarah Moss canon next year. (Her blog is also lovely.)
26 ⤜ Girl At War, by Sara Novic
A novel about a family struggling to survive during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, this was entirely readable, but slightly lacking in accuracy and character development. A good beach read, certainly.
27 ⤜ My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
It took me six months of stopping and starting to really get into this (having heard such high praise), but once I struggled through the first 50 pages, I was hooked. A fascinating journey into the dark, pulsing heart of postwar Naples and its inhabitants, seen through the eyes of a young, working class woman. I loved its emphasis on class, dialect, language and female friendship.
28 ⤜ The Story Of A New Name, by Elena Ferrante
29 ⤜ Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante
Halfway through as we speak. Best in the series, yet.
30 ⤜ A World Gone Mad, by Astrid Lindgren
Before Pippi Longstocking, Lindgren was an ordinary mother of two in Stockholm, practising her diary by writing a war journal in the 1940s. Unsettling and fascinating, particularly after the tumultous year Europe has had. (It really puts it into perspective.)
31 ⤜ By The Book: Writers On Literature And The Literary Life, ed. Scott Turow
32 ⤜ Big Magic, by Liz Gilbert
33 ⤜ Unless, by Carol Shields
34 ⤜ Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
35 ⤜ I Capture The Castle, by Dodie Smith
Somehow this escaped my ordinarily well-tuned reader’s radar during my teenage years, but I’m so glad I made the time to read it this year, aged twenty-five (and close enough to my teen years to feel empathy for Cassandra’s trials and tribulations). Full of whimsy and a peculiarly English eccentricity, I hope to re-read it every year.
36 ⤜ Adventures In Human Being, by Gavin Francis
Full of pithy insights about the human body woven into wider tales about patients and doctors, this is skilfully written. I loved the strange facts interwoven – did you know titanium hip replacements are collected from crematoria (with permission) and recycled for use in aeroplane parts and factory turbines? The dedication – to life’s enthusiasts – wooed me from the get-go and things only got better from there.
My 2017 reading resolutions? Working my way through the volumes I’ve not yet tackled on this list of the 100 best books written in English), reading more German fiction in its original form, and making better use of my local libraries (for what wonderful and unparalleled institutions they are in this cruel neoliberal era.)
Go on, then, your turn! Give up your secrets – what did you read and love, or loathe, this year?