Monday, 2 December 2013

Books, books, books!

I've read quite a lot this year. Reading is something that's pretty difficult to do with a baby around, so in the evenings I try to read as much as I can. Travel is another thing it's harder to do with a baby, so I seem to have been reading books set in places I like to visit. Mainly, the US, it seems! Looking at my Kindle – much preferred way of reading these days, espesh with synching iPhone app! – I seem to have read lots of debut novels set in Brooklyn.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman sees a female author painting a pleasingly barbed portrait of a twenty something male author struggling to do the right thing in a postfeminist world. Note my use of sarcastic italics. This whole book should have been written in sarcastic italics. I loved it.

A more austere but absorbing Brooklyn-based novel, The Affairs of Others: A Novel by Amy Grace Loyd. A young widow tries to lock her grief away in the apartment building she owns, but slowly she starts to enmesh with the lives of her tenants.

From debuts to a much awaited new release, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch landed a couple of months ago, so everything else was summarily dropped. Her writing is so intense I found it almost stressful to read, finding myself flicking forward through the pages to see what happened next...within the first chapter! Powerful writing. Also set in two familiar favourites, Manhattan and dirty Las Vegas, the plot (and some characters, actually) seemed implausible in parts but enough to keep you holding your breath and second guessing.

Summer's top read for me was Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – an epic love story set across decades and continents, also in some of my favourite places; Los Angeles, Rome, tiny windswept Italian coastal towns. Craving the scented summer heat of southern France, I also read Bonjour Tristesse for the first time – major literary oversight on my part, yo! Languid summer teenage plotting with a sting in the tail.

I like pulling this book out at this time of the year, and having it around to dip into. Dickens has got Christmas on lockdown, and makes the grey London December days a bit more cosy and romantic.

Another cosy winter read that I pull out at this time of year is The Andy Warhol Diaries. This is an old favourite that I've been dipping into for nigh on, ooh, six years? And a welcome break from fiction post Goldfinch. Mr Warhol feels like an old friend. There's something so comforting about entering his dual world of daily mundanity, gossip and glamour. His work ethic and success are so inspiring and impressive to nosey at, too. I'm getting worryingly close to the end though, March 1985...

On my Christmas list is Eminent Hipsters, the memoirs of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen. I can't wait for tales of  1980s east and west coast hedonism, supplied with a shot of muso geekery. One reviewer described reading it as 'blissful'. I can't wait.

What have you all been reading? Help me be a bit more adventurous and venture away from North America and Mediterranean Europe? My resolution for 2014. (Eek!)

Top photo by sfgirlbybay


  1. Wow, haven't read any of those. Top recommendations! I just recently read AS Byatt's The Children's Book which I found absolutely maddening in parts (enough with the descriptions of the V&A and more plot and characterisation please!). But now I find myself feeling strangely bereft and wishing for more (it was over 800 pages). Also, I'm probably the last person in the world but I recently read The Book Thief: it's wonderful, moving and strangely uplifting for a tale of Nazis and the holocaust. It'd get you away from North American and the Med at least… Which would be your top fiction recommendation of the above?

  2. Hiyaaa Nat! Not read the AS Byatt, tho Tom has - love the fact she's Margaret Drabble's sister!

    Erm, Beautiful Ruins is an easier read, and lovely. The Goldfinch is intense and also around 800 pages - depends what you're up for.

    I can't read Nazi / holocaust stuff. Read too much of it when I was younger. Maybe I'll come back to it. (Have you read A Woman in Berlin? Horrific personal diary of a woman struggling to exist in immediate aftermath of WWII Berlin. You might find interesting.) xx