Monday, January 4, 2016

My (Previous) Year in Reading: 1 to 10

…in chronological order.

2015 has been a great year when it comes to reading books for me. During it, according to Goodreads, I have gulped down 212 volumes that were not only novels for adults but also volumes that belonged in many other genres: YA, graphic novels, poetry, children's stories, short stories and books in translation. This has also been a year that I stopped writing reviews since I had much else occupying my mind and time, so below I'll give you no more than a few words about the books I have read. I hope some of my choices echo yours and I look forward to an exciting new year of reading.

So here it goes:

1) The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. I have been reading about this author in newspapers, blogs and elsewhere for a long time now, so I've decided to read something of hers to find out what the buzz was all about. And I wasn't disappointed. Ferrante is a fine storyteller and a master at diving into the abysmal depths of the human psyche. She's on my reading list for the new year as well.

2) Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. Truth to be told I am new to YA fiction but I think this is one of those special books that can capture the heart of young and old alike. Perhaps the world described here differs a lot from my own experience but it also sounds familiar in a way I can't quite pinpoint. But that doesn't matter. What counts is the story, and this is a very good one.

3) Grandma's Poetry Book by Di Castle. I really loved this book. It's fun and tender, and I remember smiling again and again whilst reading it. These poems are full of memories, past and present, and rich in emotions. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone.

4) Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb. I love discovering "new" authors just as much as I love reading about Japan. This is an outsider's tale. The tale of a young woman that feels happy to return to the land of her birth, but whose happiness turns to sorrow as time passes by and she finds out that she no longer belongs there. Perhaps she never did. As the pages turn, her psychological portrait is built before our very eyes, and bit by bit she (and we) discovers things about herself that look foreign to the self that once was. A short novel that carries a lot of weight.

5) There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. I bet that this is not an easy book to stomach for western readers. You have to be willing to let go of your own perspective of the world to fully appreciate the one that inhabits the stories of this collection. Melancholy seems to be the prevalent feeling here, but that shouldn't surprise us since we all know what they say about the Russian soul. That though doesn't necessarily mean that there's no joy to be found in these stories. There is. A lot. And then there are the stories themselves, small masterpieces in the puzzle that we call humanity. An amazing book.

6) Dreaming of Elizabeth by Camilla Läckberg. A single short, as they call them, this is the story of Malin and Lars. They sail together on a boat, but that's just the background. The story itself is mostly a story about suspicion and fear, about the paranoia that grips people every now and then and never lets go. I've enjoyed reading it but didn't like it as much as this very good author's novels.

7) Evening by Anna Akhmatova. This is the first collection that I've read by this great poet, and it so happens that it is also the first one she published. I am no poetry critic but when I like something I tend to shout it out loud. And I did REALLY LIKE this one. Akhmatova had a way with words that decades after her death still sounds current and even urgent. It's as if her voice was meant to last for the ages. And it did.

8) Thunderstruck & Other Stories by ElizabethMcCracken. A collection of short stories can traverse through a range of lives and emotions and gift the reader with pure moments of narrative magic that speak to his own soul. And this one does just that as it explores loss and grief, loneliness and love, serenity and regret. A job very well done by the author.

9) Bristly Hair and I Don't Care by Nadia Budde. This is a funny book about a very serious subject matter for a lot of people, the way they look. We all say that looks don't really matter, but most of us don't really mean it. Well, this little volume tries to change that with some hilarious rhymes and the help of an uncle that's all the money. Lovely.

10) Art by Yasmina Reza. This is one of those little books that I pick up by chance every now and then, and which most often than not come to surprise me in a pleasant way. What we have here is a story about friendship, and about the differing views that people often come to hold about a subject, object, emotion or whatever else comes to mind. A delight to read.

To be continued...

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