Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Season's greetings; best books of the year; reading ideas for 2016

The best fiction books I've read this year are:
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories by Lev Tolstoy- Penguin, especially "The Death of Ivan Ilyich", "The Forged Coupon" and "Polikushka" 
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
(in the order in which I read them)
You might have noticed that among the ones left out are Daniel Deronda by George Eliot and Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, but I'm glad that I have read them. 
As I usually don't talk about books read in the year, it's hard to say if it's a good year or not. Well, bad in the sense that once, a long time ago, I thought of a Norwegian literature challenge (in which nobody participated) and have failed completely. Because you all ignored me, that's why. Okay I just kept postponing and procrastinating till I realised, in the last 3 months, that it was too late and so I just abandoned it altogether. Isn't that a shame? But it's also a good year as I read Middlemarch, universally acknowledged as George Eliot's greatest novel and recently ranked as the greatest British novel according to the rest of the world; discovered Henry James (= read another bad marriage novel); read The Moonstone, the 1st detective story in English, and read people's thoughts on Jane Austen's Emma, undetectable detective fiction; and read 3 classics everyone has heard of but very few have read- Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Bram Stoker's Dracula, only to discover that they were rather distorted by popular culture. 
Jazz was an interesting read, I hadn't read Toni Morrison for quite a long time, but its significance is the fact that it's linked to jazz music, which I started loving just before summer. 
Corregidora by Gayl Jones, read in March, is now in the list of 5 novels by female writers that I hate or dislike the most. The other 4 are The Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyer, The Tattooed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Kitchen or Asleep or both by Banana Yoshimoto. This adds to another shame of mine- a post I intended to write, with explanations and such, after reading Jennifer Weiner's excellent, persuasive, well-argued article about gender and literary criticism, to show how hopelessly brainwashed I am by the patriarchy (or perhaps to prove that I'm actually not female). Now I'm too lazy to write an elaboration on my hatred (though if you ask, I'll answer). 
Reading ideas for 2016:
1/ Still prioritise reading deeply over reading broadly: Tolstoy (The Cossacks, Hadji Murat), Dostoyevsky (at least another novel), Gogol, Turgenev, Nabokov... And perhaps reread Madame Bovary
2/ Read more Dickens. Top priority: Bleak House.
3/ Read more 19th century American literature. Read more of Henry James. Probably read Hawthorne and Wharton. Top priority: Moby-Dick
4/ Get acquainted with the French writers of the 19th century, especially Zola and Stendhal. 
5/ Read Norwegian literature. I won't start another challenge (I mean, what if I fail a 2nd time?), but I'll try. Not Knausgård, however. 
6/ Read ****: The Anatomy of Melancholy by Matthew Selwyn- I've been impolite enough to the guy (sorry Matthew). 
7/ Read more of Faulker, Woolf and Nabokov, perhaps early James Joyce- build up for Ulysses
No, I must stop myself here. To continue I would write so much that I may not even fulfil in 10 years. 
So that's it. What are the best books you've read this year and what are your plans for next year?

A present for you all: as these days I've been listening to Patti Smith, here is a Christmas song performed by her.

Thank you all for all the lovely comments and interesting discussions here. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, folks! <3 


  1. Di,

    Great list of books: both for 2015 and 2016.

    Thanks for providing the link. It's a special one for me as it was my Dad's favorite carol.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    1. Hey. Thank you.
      How was Christmas? Did you do anything? Did you get anything?

    2. Di,

      Christmas was quiet: usual books, CD, aftershave etc.

    3. Oh for me it's different this year. And it was lovely.

  2. Season's greetings! Any particular reason for Dracula not making it to the list?

    1. My posts on Dracula:
      Maybe the simple reason is that I wasn't very scared.

    2. Fair enough. :) I, on the other hand, was really spooked, a scary book, all right.

      Thanks for the links. I will try to read them all and then get back to you.

    3. lol. I arrive at the last link and it says: "Nope. Whatever you are looking for is not here. Try again?" :)

      But maybe you were right when you wrote, "Should I read faster and consume it whole instead of taking it slowly and critically?" Maybe that you didn't is the reason you weren't spooked.

  3. Those are some good books.

    More James and Wharton for me, too, in 2016. More Americans.

    1. Hey. How was Christmas?
      I intended to read Washington Square after Portrait of a Novel, and started, but stopped after some chapters. In the wrong mood, I guess.