Book List

List of books I’ve read. Date is the start date, if the start dates are close together then I’ve probably ended up reading more than one at a time.

08-08-2012 - The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt

05-08-2012 - Anansi Boys  - Neil Gaiman

28-07-2012 - The Turin Shroud Secret – Sam Christer

13-07-2012 – The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

23-06-2012 – Racing Through the Dark – David Millar

01-06-2012 – V for Vendetta – Alan Moore & David Lloyd

10-05-2012 - Snuff – Terry Pratchett

26-04-2012 – Black Hole – Charles Burns

21-04-2012 – Misery – Stephen King

At the heart of Misery is a brutally simple idea; Paul Sheldon, a writer, is trapped in a room by his number one fan and forced to write a new novel.

Annie Wilkes is a monstrous creation, one of King’s best. From the moment she forces her fettered breath in to Paul’s lungs, forcing him back to life after a horrific car accident, there builds a sense of disquiet and unease around her. She is petulant but easy to flatter, stubborn in some ways, entirely unpredictable in others. She is Nurse Ratched if Nurse Ratched was an insane child given the power to play God. King has build a career creating horrifying monsters, but in this horror novel the monster is entirely human.

10-04-2012 – Valley of Dolls

01-04-2012 – Submarine – Joe Dunthorne

28-03-2012 – Pattern Recognition – William Gibson

26-03-2012 – The Complete Essex County – Jeff Lemire

Love, loss, isolation, family. Simple, powerful, emotionally draining. If you ever thought graphic novels couldn’t match up to those novels that make up the ‘Great American Novel’ canon, you were wrong.

20-03-2012 – The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris

14-03-2012 – Bright Shiny Morning – James Frey

06-02 to 18-02 2012 – A Fraction of the Whole – Steve Toltz; Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis (still to be finished), Hunger Games – Susanne Collins; Salem’s Lot – Stephen King; Walking the Amazon – Ed Stafford

11-01-2012 – Grow Up : Ben Brooks

02-01-2012 – I Kill Giants :  Joe Kelly & J. M. Ken Niimura

DECEMBER – - I dallied with a number of books, starting and stopping with alarming  alacrity (Christopher Isherwood : A Single Man and China Mieville : Looking for Jake and Other Stories were among the fatalities). Various collections of DMZ were also read, but these from cover to cover.

15-11-2011 - 1Q84 – Book 3 : Haruki Murakami

27-10-2011 – 1Q84 – Books 1&2 : Haruki Murakami

15-10-2011 – The Maze Runner : James Dashner

28-09-2011 – The City of Shifting Water & The Empire of a Thousand Planets : Jean-Claude Mezieres and Perre Christin

      

25-09-2011 - Grandville Mon Amour : Bryan Talbot

27-09-2011 – Mr Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer : Russell Hoban

25-09-2011 – Grandville : Bryan Talbot

As pointed out in an earlier post (here), Bryan Talbot likes to pepper his work with references to an amazing assortment of cultural references (pop and otherwise). Half the joy in this graphic novel is appreciating the skill with which these references are interwoven, and the other half comes from a well plotted anthropomorphic tale of good guys versus bad guys, all played out in a world similar, but strikingly different, from our own.

It’s a steam punk badger crime thriller. What’s not to like?

21-09-2011 – Jaws : Peter Benchley

Jaws opens with an unsettling description of the silent, primitive ‘fish’ and five pages later a woman is dead and the fish is gone. In one sense Jaws is a pulp thriller, in another it’s a study of local politics and the clash of social classes, in a third it’s a book about infidelity. But, at the end of it all, all you remember is a sleek grey shape cutting through dark waters, and row upon row of white razor sharp teeth. Thrilling.

20-09-2011 – About the Author : John Colapinto

A writer (soul of a writer, though has trouble putting pen to paper) narrates his life experiences to his flatmate, a lawyer. Lawyer then appropriates said experiences for a book he’s writing on the sly. Lawyer dies in a bicycle accident. Writer takes manuscript, changes the name on the cover, and passes it off as his own. And that’s all in the first 30 pages or so.

Well written, good dialogue, believable characters. There were a couple of moments that felt slightly too pat (discussion of literary frauds at a dinner party?), and the plot swerves started to feel slightly frantic at the end, but it all held together and, all told, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

11-09-2011 – Atmospheric Disturbances : Rivka Galchen

I’ve stopped reading this for the moment. It’s good, but inside I’m crying out for something a little less literary and with a little more speed. So I’m reading Jaws and a few other things instead. Will come back to this. Probably.

05-09-2011 – Londonstani : Guatam Malkani

Superb opening chapter, verbal, visceral, compelling. The rest of the novel held my attention easily, even if the characters became slightly cartoony (though Malkani has said that for certain characters this was the intention). The tumble of poor grammar, text speak and slang heighten the immediacy of the writing, and even though traditional grammar is ignored, another set of similarly structural rules replace it and ensure that the text remains fluid. The ending is a shock, and not really in a good way, but the rest of the book is good enough, and for a début it’s an assured and absorbing piece of work.

26-08-2011 – Maybe This Time : Alois Hotschnig

18-08-2011 – Fight  Club : Chuck Palanuik

I’ve read this a dozen times, maybe more, but I haven’t read it for a while. I can see why my younger self loved it, and as a (slightly) older reader I still think it’s a great, great story. The chorusing of sentences and phrases, and the short, bullet sentences make it a fast paced read, but one that gets under your skin. On the surface Palaniuk’s characters and descriptions are bone crunchingly good, but underneath the mischief and the mayhem there is an underlying anguish over masculinity and the emasculation of men (though commercialisation, through a loss of identity in a matriarchal society). There’s a lot more to the novel than just men pounding on each other in grubby basements and bars, but even if it was just men pounding on each other Fight Club book would still be streets ahead of its competitors.

08-08-2011 – League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 : Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neil

07-08-2011 – Kraken : China Mieville

A giant squid goes missing from the Natural History Museum and it’s up to Billy Harrow (curator) to find out why. In doing so he finds himself deep in a side of London that remains unknown to most Londoners; Cults, criminals, magic and a load more besides. At the end of this complex and enthralling story I have in my mind Miéville as a grown up Neil Gaiman (i.e denser prose, slightly more complex plotting, but same fantastic elements and engaging characters). Have already bought two more of Miéville books.

31-07-2011 – The Secret History : Donna Tartt

I’ve know about The Secret History for a while but, it being published when I was about 5 years old, I had missed the hype that I’m told accompanied it. Whatever preconceived notions I had about the book (informed, or misinformed, in large part by my knowledge of friendship between Tart, Easton Ellis and McInerney), it wasn’t this. Excellent. Split in to two parts, the pre and the post, the novel is perhaps slightly stronger in the first half, introducing characters of an intelligence and bearing that are rare to find, rarer still to find in a campus novel. The motivations, descriptions, characters and story are beguiling and the psychology and actions of each scene, each character moves the story along very quickly. I finished it way too quickly.

27-07-2011 – Invincible Vol 1 : Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley

More childlike in its artwork than a lot of the comics I’ve read (which isn’t that many really), but halfway through the story line grabs you by the throat and keeps you reading till the very end.

25-07-11 – Jarhead : Anthony Swofford

20-07-11 – Electric Literature #5

16-07-11 – One Day :  David Nicholls

Read so quickly it didn’t even make it in to the ‘Reading . . .’ side bar. A very neat idea for a book (one year covered by each chapter), easy to read, and a love story. No wonder it was a huge hit.

Liked it more than I thought I would but towards the end, really towards the middle, Nicolls’ habit of explaining exactly a characters thoughts (Example: ‘At twenty-seven Emma wonders if she’s getting old. She used to pride herself on her refusal to see two sides of an argument, but increasingly she accepts that issues are more ambiguous and complicated than she once thought’) got increasingly annoying.

A quick, easy, beach book of a read. Pick it up in your local Oxfam (like any Dan Brown novel they’ll definitely have a copy, probably more than one).

04-07-11 - The Walking Dead : Words,  Robert Kirkman;  Art, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard

In length, detail and imagination this is epic story telling. Zombies everywhere, survivors try to survive; not a new idea, but very well done. The story turns dark on occasion, very dark on other occasions, and the monochrome illustration adds a further touch of bleakness, but it’s not dark for dark’s sake. Character’s relationships are foregrounded and the psychology and motivation of each character is expertly illustrated in their actions. Gripping to read, don’t let the length put you off - an inch and a half thick and this is only compendium one – but I want more already.

27-06-11 - London Triptych : Jonathan Kemp

This has disappeared somewhere in my flat, and had been great up to the point it vanished. One Day is filling the gap for the time being.

21-06-11 – The Blue Afternoon : William Boyd

A book that splits in two, the first a story of the daughter, the second a story of the father. Though the book opens with the daughter’s story it seems almost inconsequential to the narrative, placed first only to act as springboard to the far more detailed, far more engaging read that was the life story of the father. But Boyd has a knack of making everything interesting, and once he got going with this story it became, like everything else I’ve read of his, absolutely captivating.

12-06-11 – The Moon’s a Balloon : David Niven

Niven is a epitome of a gentleman rogue; a man with sharp wit who knew everyone worth knowing. The stories about his time serving in the military almost top the tales of the Hollywood greats Niven finds himself amongst, and with the first person conversational tone throughout it’s incredibly easy to read. No surprise he wrote a second volume of memoires (Bring On the Empty Horses) as everyone who reads The Moon’s a Balloon is left wanting more.

08-06-11 – To Have and Have Not : Ernest Hemingway

One of the few Hemingway books I’ve read, but one I’ve read many times. Harry Morgan seen from three different narrative points, in three different stories (two short stories and a novella), over three different time periods. The change you witness in Morgan tells you everything you need to know about the story, but there’s also fishing, smuggling, shooting, double crossing, drinking, and Hemingway’s famously stripped down prose.

One of Hemingway’s least favourite novels but in my, admittedly incomplete, view, one of his best.

22-05-11 – Full Dark, No Stars : Stephen King

Four short stories, novellas. The first is a letter of confession from a man sentenced to death. Dark and horrific, the strongest in the collection. The second was  a cosy tale of revenge. The devil appears in the third bringing with him a litany of bad luck. And the fourth looks at a relationship and a revelation and the horror that it brings. All the stories shy away from the fantastic elements of King’s longer stories, instead they look at the creeping horror that comes from the everyday and the mundane. Not as good as his first collection of novellas, Different Seasons, but not bad at all.

19-05-11 – Tomorrow Pamplona : Jan Van Mersbergen

A story of two very different men thrown together as they make their way to Pamplona for the running of the bulls. A road movie in book form, an examination of masculinity with moments of quiet reflection. See the full review here.

13-04-11 – Spilling Ink Vol 1 : ed. Amy Burns

11-04-11 – The Mysteries of Pittsburgh : Michael Chabon

The book that launched Chabon’s career. Through the intertwining relationships, both opposite and same sex, of Art Bechstein, Chabon captures the sense of exploration and excitement that comes from emerging from college and having a single summer of freedom stretching out ahead of you. That Art’s the son of a renowned mobster could be stretching credulity, but the relationship between father and son pulls this back from farce and is never less than believable. Great read.

04-04-11 – The Talented Mr Ripley : Patricia Highsmith

The titular hero is fantastically well drawn; thoughtful, charming, quick witted, impulsive, amoral, uncaring. There’s an emptiness in him that, combined with his unpredictable nature, means that he’s capable of almost anything. The defining moment of the book happens almost on a whim; imagined, considered and implemented in the space of only a couple of pages.

I couldn’t stop reading. Need to get hold of Ripley Under Ground now. . .

17-03-11 – Palo Alto : James Franco

There are some good stories in here, and the book opens with the best; ‘Halloween’ is a thoughtful piece that manages to convey a sense of the impersonality and indifference that affects the studiedly nihilist characters of this collection. I was less impressed by a number of the other stories however, with some of them seeming to try too hard (and ‘Chinatown’ in particular feeling like an attempt to retell Selby’s superior ‘Tralala’ - Last Exit to Brooklyn).

Palo Alto is an interesting first collection, but I suspect that had Franco not been a young, renowned star of the screen, the book may not have found a publisher quite so easily (and especially not Faber and Faber).

09-03-11 - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell : Susan Clarke

Frankly I’ve given up on this. The hundred and however many pages I’ve read promise a good read and I’m sure I’d enjoy it to the end – but it’s a fucking brick and I just don’t have the time right now.

04-03-11 – Cujo : Stephen King

When he’s at his best Stephen King writes books that are so easy to read and so gripping you find yourself skipping to the bottom of the page in your haste to find out what happens.

I read once that Cujo was written at around the time that King was battling drug addiction (cocaine?) and that the rabid, slavering Cujo was the best way King’s tired mind could explain the trapped feeling of addiction; a subconscious scream for help on the page.

While The Shining remains my favourite King book (and Misery my scariest),  Cujo is up there with the best.

01-03-11 – Scoop : Evelyn Waugh

Funny enough, but not really my kind of thing. And try to ignore the racist undertones while you’re reading it.