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December 30, 2015


Dear Beth,

Here is my reading list for 2015. Changing jobs - and commutes - in February gave me more time to read, reflected in the higher number of books, but also with more depth, perhaps. The highlights were finishing my journey through Virginia Woolf's novels (the most enjoyable 'Mrs Dalloway', the most perfect 'The Lighthouse', the most astonishing 'The Waves', all of which are re-reads) and working through 'The Brothers Karamazov' in the the autumn. This book had been in my consciousness since about 10, when I came across Linus reading it in a Peanuts strip, and the pleasure it gave was worth the anticipation: a mad, hysterical, profound work of deep conviction. I'm now on an intellectual par with Linus...

The other notable book is the prosaic 'The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer' which got me through the London Marathon. Similar in effort and achievement to a Dostoevsky novel!

Thank you for sharing your list, as always. Your breadth of reading, focus on certain writers, and internationalism is always inspiring.

40, Canongate
The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy
The Principles of Uncertainty, Maira Kalman
The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer
Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing
The Cat's Table, Michael Ondaatje
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Feet in the Clouds, Richard Askwith
Shopping for Buddhas, Jeff Greenwald
A Time to Keep Silence, Patrick Leigh Fermor
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
Orlando, Virginia Woolf
The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer, Whitsett, Dolgener, Kole
Another Great Day at Sea, Geoff Dyer
Keeping Faith, Fenton Johnson
Burying the Wren, Deryn Rees-Jones
The Waves, Virginia Woolf
Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall
The World Beyond your Head, Matthew Crawford
Vertigo, W.G. Sebald
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
The Years, Virginia Woolf
The Face: A Time Code, Ruth Ozeki
Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf
What Matters Most, James Hollis
The Essays: A Selection, Montaigne
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, Zadie Smith
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
After Me Comes the Flood, Sarah Perry
Travels with Epicurus, Daniel Klein
Slade House, David Mitchell
Snake Lake, Jeff Greenwald
Laurus, Eugene Vodolazkin


I am impressed that you got through 1984, I couldn't. Lately I find that all I enjoy reading is mysteries but that could change. I seem to have lost my patience with literature and now just want an enjoyable story. I couldn't get into A Spool of Blue Thread though years ago I read all of Anne Tyler's and loved them. I also read Woolf, the Russians and a lot of magic realism. And I read tons of YA which now seems simplistic and silly.
Anything dark and Scandinavian goes over well in this household of Swedes and a Finn though!

Glad "Glimmerglass" found a place in your year. Thanks!

I'm looking forward to better eyes and more reading next year. Reading Robert Walser now....

And thanks for the audiobook recommendation. I already use LibriVox for older books.

Huw, what a great and extensive list for you this past year! You inspire me to finish the Woolf novels I haven't read yet, and there are a bunch of other titles on your list that I'd like to read or re-read. I'm curious: what did you think of the Zadie Smith essays? And the Ruth Ozeki? Thank you very much for sharing your list with me and the readers here.

Sharyn, there are so many great Scandinavian crime fiction books, I don't think you will run out anytime soon! I like Jo Nesbo but haven't read extensively in that genre, maybe I should.

And Marly, good to hear from you, and I wish you strong healthy eyes in the coming year. Mine need more rest now than they used to, which is another reason why I probably read a little less.

I really enjoyed the Zadie Smith essays. I've never clicked with her fiction but think she's an outstanding essayist; this is a great collection. And the Ruth Ozeki is also good, although only a short piece (possibly a Kindle single?); again, I've not read any of her novels.

Woolf's 'The Years' isn't read much these days but was her most popular work when she was alive. It's not as distinctive as the others but still very enjoyable and definitely worth reading.

Murakami haunts me, and I can't stop thinking about him and his work.

A House for Mr Biswas - yeah, we don't have to concern ourselves solely with this year's books do we?

And something I haven't read by Orhan Pamuk, a great human being, amusing with it too. Heard him speak at the Hay Festival, rushed off to the bookshop, bought Snow, joined the long, long signing queue and realised after ten minutes I'd never make it in time with someone already imminent on my schedule (It may have been Seamus Heaney)

How many people are going to pick up the cross-reference to Orhan's title would you say?

I did not keep a list of books, but I stumbled across Arnaldur Indridason's mysteries (sorry I don't have keyboard that allows me to type the specialized Icelandic d with a cross), which I have liked a lot. I recently reread Terry Windling's The Wood Wife and enjoyed it as much as the first time. It is about poetry, painting, myth, and shape shifting in Tucson. I believe she may some day write a sequel. I hope so.

PS I just bought Annunciation at the Norwich Bookstore annual sale so they don't have inventory it sale. I have enjoyed what I have read so far. I am dipping into it rather than reading the poetry straight through.

You and me both, Hattie.

Roderick, I'm glad to hear that you like Pamuk. I've read pretty much everything he's written, and always look forward to something new. But you're way ahead of me on the title - I had to look it up, and found the reference to Schiller's 1795 paper "On Naive and Sentimental Poetry" as well as a recent piece by the opera composer John Adams that plays on the same phrase. Good for you!

Kathryn, thanks for your comment and the good suggestions about Indridson's and Windling's books. I haven't read either and appreciate the recommendations. And thanks so much for buying a copy of "Annunciation"! I hope you'll like it. Your way of reading it is really what was intended - I think it's a book one probably can and should dip into slowly, a bit at a time.

I'm hoping to get my own booklist for 2015 up within the next week or two, and I thank you for posting yours so efficiently! I'm especially pleased to hear from another convincing reader of IQ84. I haven't tackled it yet, but I loved both The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, and I've been working through the running memoir the past few months (perfect to have on the Kobo in my bag for dipping into when I'm in line-ups or public transit).
I found Mr. Biswas so poignant when I read it many years ago in a Commonwealth Lit class when I went back to finish my first degree. I love seeing books from "the backlist" on reading lists -- too often wonderful books are too quickly occluded by the new.
But speaking of the new, I'm loving Annunciation, although the poems in it are having to wait for me to finish finally reading Gjertrud Schnackenberg's Heavenly Questions. Isn't it wonderful that we will never ever be caught up on our reading?!

Thanks again for you annual list. I am on Vancouver island at the moment so can't provide my list from my memory alas. Anyway I have so many books around I can 't remember sometimes whether it was this year not last year I read a particular book. A problem you don't seem to have so maybe you keep track with notes or journals.Kawabata's book sounds interesting ,not familiar with this writer so worth checking out,but I have to confess here on the island here I have Halldor Laxness' Under the glacier,a previous recommendation,still unread. I have also read Murakami's' What I think about when I think about running' V.S. Naipaul . I read a part of his 'A writer's People' which is also here on the island. I am aware of his nasty fight with Paul Theroux although have not read 'Sir Vidia's Shadow'. So far I have stayed away and just a few a couple of days ago read Christopher Hitchen's review of Patrick French's biography of Naipaul.Hitchens says rightly we should not judge writers by their private and personal shortcomings,a problem I grapple with.But there are limits hitçhens says.Naipaul was cruel to his wife in the usual ways but most terribly he was cruel also by undercutting her sense of self worth. How do you separate the writing from the man? I think I will wait some more on Naipaul. Incidently I have the same problem with Jose Saramago. I read in a Clive James book Saramago joined the communist party late,1968 I think. I remember being in Wenceslas square Mayday 1969 and saw a protest against the crushing of 'Prague spring' the year before being broken up by arrests with tanks and troops in the sidestreets everywhere.So who do you stand with? I get Hitchens admonishment and I understand it intellectually. Getting the head to follow

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.