My 2021 reading year was brightened by the discovery of three new authors, who illuminated my year in bursts of glory.
Novelist Nicola Barker – endlessly inventive, wildly creative, completely original. Thus far I’ve read and loved: 5 Miles from Outer Hope, I am Sovereign and The Cauliflower. I can’t wait to read more of her work.
Humorist Ben Schott – who has written two brilliant homages to the Master of British humour: P G Wodehouse. I own Jeeves and the King of Clubs and Jeeves Takes a Chance. Schott has channelled The Master’s style, frothy plots and witless characters; and of course featuring the brainy Jeeves. Both books were a tonic in a difficult year.
SF Writer Becky Chambers – her Wayfarer series has provided hours of entertainment, plus intriguing ideas, fresh possibilities, with future scenarios peopled by vivid characters. Her series has a strong feminine slant, and not a raygun in sight. This is thoughtful, philosophical young writer with a fresh take on the Universe. She has taken SF writing into a fresh dimension.
On the Non Fiction side, I discovered Robert MacFarlane, via his wide ranging book, Underland, which is a rich and varied reading experience. I knew RMF was a Nature writer, but I had no idea that his approach was so eclectic, including elements of History, Myth, the Anthropocene, and Travel, to mention but a few. His book is both literary and scholarly (it took ten years to write) but the writing is lyrical, vivid, thrilling …. I shall treasure and re-read the book.
And the Misses? I decided to let them sink quietly into the depths of my hard-drive. Of course I had Did Not Finish and Definitely Not for Me reads during the year, but after a hard year I’ve no wish to re-visit past disappointments.
Ten Terrific Reads
- Motion of the Body Through Space – Lionel Shriver (novel) #1
- Little Family – Ishmail Beah (African novel)
- Hum if you Don’t Know the Words – Bianca Marais (South African novel)
- The 100 Years of Lenni and Margo – Marianne Cronin (novel)
- Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett (novel)
- Word Freaks – Stefan Fatsis (Non-Fic) Scrabble
- The Salt Path – Raynor Winn (NF) memoir
- Look at Me – Nataniel (NF) memoir
- Vesper Flights – Helen MacDonald (NF) nature writing
- The Library Book – Susan Orlean (NF) Libraries!
My book of the year. After some agonising I am nominating the novel Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke. Apart from the strange and wildly original story, the book itself is a thing of beauty with the metallic copper lettering on the black cover, plus a dust-jacket executed in the same black/copper theme, plus an elegant faun playing his Pan Pipe, atop a slender classical column.
The book offered a missing person mystery as a sub-theme, but the major theme was : the existence of a different corporeal reality, into which people from our world are inserted. Followed by another theme: what is personal identity ? and another question: what constitutes mental derangement? A haunting read. .
Wishing my readers an enormous pile of gift wrapped books during the Festive Season, and another splendid reading year ahead in 2022. May we all be safe, and be well.