goodreads 2018.jpgSince 2014, I have set and maintained a relatively modest reading target on ‘Goodreads‘ of 50 titles a year. I find this website invaluable at the end of year when it comes to reviewing the books I’ve read.

Being gifted, and being thoroughly absorbed by, Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ led me to a reappraisal of the Nobel Prize Winner. Up until then, I’d read only ‘Remains Of The Day’ and hadn’t been particularly drawn to his other novels. The slow, deliberate pace and absence of colloquial language put me off but now this actually drew me in. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Ishiguro skillfully takes the reader deep into the mind and, above all, the memories of his characters. The only novel of his I haven’t read is ‘The Unconsoled’. Aside from the uncharacteristically messy ‘When We Were Orphans’, I rated all of his works very highly.

Getting fixated on this male author sabotaged my resolve to read more female writers this year. By the end of the year only 20 of the 50 were by women. Of these, my two favorite novels, one old and one new, were Sarah Waters’ quietly subversive ‘Fingersmith’ and Gail Honeyman’s funny/sad study of loneliness : ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’.

I read a number of books on music, art and film. I was highly impressed by Jon Savage’s masterly study of ‘1966: The Year The Decade Exploded’ but largely disappointed by Rob Young’s long overdue biography of Can (All Gates Open). The self-indulgent and highly selective appraisal of the life and work of David Lynch (‘Room To Dream’) was also a major let down. I was, however, fascinated and entranced by Marina Abramović’s extraordinary memoir (‘Walk Through Walls’) and awestruck by Simon Callow’s ‘Road To Xanadu’; the first of his exhaustive four volume study that puts the larger than life figure of Orson Welles into a clearer perspective.

I admired the honesty of Viv Albertine’s ‘To Throw Away Unopened’ that inadvertently said more about the #Metoo generation than the overly hyped Booker prize winner ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns which I found more irritating than insightful. For studies of women’s role in the real world Olivia Laing’s poignant ‘The Lonely City’ and Rebecca Solnit’s timely ‘Men Explain Things To Me’ struck me as essential reading.

To understand where the world is heading, Yuval Noah Harari’s ’21 Lessons For The 21st Century’ provided plenty of scary truisms although added little to what he’d already covered in the far superior ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’. Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ presented a more practical and less pessimistic vision of how the future might turn out but I fear that her intelligent analysis will not be heeded until it’s too late.

My target for 2019 is, you guessed it 50, and my early resolution is that at least half of these will be by women. Time will tell of course. As Robbie Burns and John Steinbeck mansplained, the best laid schemes of mice and men are apt to go awry.

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