Incredibly brief reviews of what I’m reading month by month. This does not include all the stuff I read for research, unless it’s also hugely pleasurable (sometimes it is)
Coronavirus reading list
I kept a list of the books I read during the Coronavirus Lockdown; I recommend them all:
The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed
1666 by Rebecca Rideal
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Emma by Jane Austen
The Skin We’re in by Desmond Cole
Witches, witch hunting and women by Silvia Federici
London by Ian Sinclair
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwige Danticat
Krick Krak by Edwige Danticat
Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado
I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux
The Power Of Now by Eckardt Tolle
The Shape We Are In by Sarah Boseley
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
Interesting Women by Andrea Lee
The Red Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk
The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
Isza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
Ooh I have not done much updating so here’s my brief list of what I enjoyed reading this year, 2019.
First, my New Yorker print subscription. Yes it costs me $200 a year that I could spend more wisely, but the writing is so good I feel I deserve it.
“The Last Girl,” Nadia Murad’s autobiography
“Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” Carl Jung’s autobiography
“You know you want This” Kristen Roupenian short stories.
“Bad Behaviour” Mary Gaitskell short stories.
Graham Greene’s Complete Short Stories and “The Third Man”
“Natives” Akala’s critical memoir.
“The Five” by Hallie Rubenhold, a completely different perspective on the ‘jack the ripper’ case.
it’s not true that I have not read anything since November – I have been reading a lot of research books, especially philosophy books about the Sublime.
For sure I dislike theory books, compared to books about art history.
Other than that thank god for my New Yorker subscription which helps keep me sane and gives me a new fiction story every week to enjoy. #readprintmagazines
This is the best book of fiction I have read in a long time (and I am sorry it did not win the Man Booker prize). Absolutely beautiful writing.
I read a great Vancouver-set novel called LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS by Sam Wiebe. Totally recommend it.
I re-read A Tale of Two Cities, partly because I am writing about Sophia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette.
This month I am going to read vol.2 of Viv Albertine’s autobiography TO THROW AWAY UNOPENED [I read it; it was harrowing but worth it]
I read ADRIFT ON THE NILE by Naguib Mahfouz the Egyptian novelist who is one of my favourite authors. It was made into a superb film by the great Hussein Kamal which pathetically is hard to get though I ordered the DVD from the USA.
Any of Naguib Mahfouz’s books are worth reading. Aside from the Cairo Trilogy, which is one of he great works of world literature, I love Miramar, Harafish and Midaq Alley, but frankly all of them that I have read are great.
ADRIFT ON THE NILE does need a bit of knowledge of Egyptian history though. But not more than a scan through Wikipedia. Enjoy!
I’ve been reading THE OPTICKAL ILLUSION by Rachel Halliburton. It’s a novel about the painter Benjamin West and is a wonderful portrayal of the 18th century London art scene around the Royal Academy – all the rumours, gossip, infighting and so on brought to life (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!). It is a novelised version of a true (and odd) story, and I love that. Have not finished it yet, but am loving it.
I’m continuing to read David Olusoga’s book Black and British: A Forgotten History. I got it for my research and read the ‘bits’ I needed for the chapter I am writing but I am so captivated by his writing and the urgency of the subject that I am reading it all, slowly to absorb it all. I recommend the book but you can also read more of his writing in the Guardian. There is also a TV series available online that is excellent but trust me, Olusoga’s writing is worth getting the book.
Was all about this amazing book:
My god, it is good! In Ruins, by Christopher Woodward. Read it.
I finished The House of Mirth. It was really gripping and I had to read the last couple of chapter all at once, hair standing on end, very emotionally engaged. Brilliant.
My digital book on the go now is David Olusoga’s Black and British: a forgotten history. I’ve bought a biography of the painter Johan Zoffany, by Penelope Treadwell, which I am looking forward to. German-born Zoffany became a big star artist in London and painted many great families. His style is really engaging and beautiful; he is a marvellous colourist and depicter of character. But he also travelled to India and was shipwrecked.
I’m reading The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, loaded onto my kindle app; reading it mostly on transport, though somewhat slowly. I’ve got Norse Myths by Neil Gaiman on the go, and I listened to The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad on audiobook, read quite thrillingly by David Threlfall. One night though I had a dream I was a member of an anarchist cell – thanks Conrad!
I finally treated myself to a subscription to the New Yorker, so new short stories every week!
Finally finished Aust’s book about Baader-Meinhof. Exhausting, depressing, hardcore. Worth it though.
For fun I am now reading ‘A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES, FROM Their first Rise and Settlement in the Island of Providence, to the present Time.’ by Captain Charles Johnson 1724. Juicy. Yes I’m a Treasure Island fanatic and Black Sails fangirl 🙂 Arrrrr!
And plowing through Delacroix by Simon Lee; I tried to read Delacroix’s own writings but my French just not good enough, and I was just too slow. Must rectify that. I did read Baudelaire’s art criticism, esp of Vernet – ooh so bitchy and fun.
[which reminds me i need to finish the short film i am making about Baudelaire… ]
I started the definitive book about the Baader-Meinhof Group The Baader-Meinhof Complex by Stefan Aust.
Found a book about painter Horace Vernet after terrible fruitless search. Horace Vernet and the Thresholds of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (2017)
Read John LeCarre’s The Mission Song (2006), which was pretty dark but gripping.
I read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I laughed and cried, it rings true. Lots of pithy insights. Not too keen on the writing style, but the content makes up for it.
I read Making Time a book about Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon by Maria Pramaggiore
I have never been a massive Kubrick fan (I like some of his films but not others) but this book made me appreciate his work more and offered many valuable insights into the one film of his I absolutely adore, Barry Lyndon.
I was on holiday and I read THE ESSEX SERPENT by Sarah Perry which was pretty good; recommended.
I read the John LeCarre, nothing much to say about it but it filled a gap.
FEBRUARY AND MARCH 2017
Well those two months flew by … I didnt read anything quite as mesmerising as The Goldfinch which is a pity. I read many books on film theory and film history which I won’t go into here. I also read The Antinomies of Realism by Frederic Jameson which was interesting. I was not all work and no play – I went to see The White Devil at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
However for April I have an old John LeCarre ready to read.
I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. A big sprawling story, often very funny and sad, very much a snapshot of the present age. I was totally captured by Tartt’s world; when I put the book down I was almost amazed to find myself in London in January and not New York or the scruffy suburban fringes of Las Vegas …
The Sellout – Paul Beatty – totally Los Angeles. I could smell LA in those pages. Funny but sad, in a way. I won’t pretend [or patronise] to ‘relate’ to Beatty’s perception but I am glad he has shared it. Worth reading.