I still keep a hard copy list of all the books I read – old-fashioned, I know, not to mention a wee bit anoraky, but I feel the need to do it. After entering the first book I finished this year I checked what the last decade’s first books had been, partly out of curiosity but also to see how many of them I remembered. A typical book nerd pastime but in case others of a similar persuasion are interested here they are:
2004: Aloft by Chang-rae Lee about a late-middle-aged man who’s spent his life ducking involvement but finds himself succumbing, which I do remember, and enjoyed, but I was commissioned to write a reading guide for it so would be dismayed if nothing had lodged in my brain.
2005: Make Believe by Diana Athill one of her autobiographical books about her relationship with a young black radical, which I have some memory of as much for Athill’s elegant writing style as anything else.
2006: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka which was the sensation of that particular time but I remember being disappointed by it and haven’t read anything else by her.
2007: The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies was an enjoyable first novel although I don’t remember much about it – his second was disappointing
2008: The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany. Surrounded by a good deal of anticipation, this was a novel which took an apartment building as a microcosm of Egyptian society. It stood up to the hype well and might be an interesting one to re-read given events since. I wonder if the author still practices as a dentist.
2009: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton in which Mr de Botton observes people at work. I read this for Waterstone’s Books Quarterly – lead reviews carried a short Q&A which I had to set. I remember imagining the author sitting in the corner of my office as I packed up books to be sent out to reviewers and wrestled with the reams of packing tape that publishers so often secured packages with.
2010: American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio about JFK in which he spends most of his time contemplating his next sexual conquest and fending off back pain with a cocktail of drugs.
2011: Walking to the Moon by Kate Cole-Adams of which I’m sorry to say I have no memory whatsoever.
2012: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, a novel about Roma which I had been looking forward to after the much-acclaimed The Tenderness of Wolves but which I found disappointing.
And this year’s? It was Charlie Hill’s Books which I reviewed in my last post and can remember very well indeed, I’m relieved to say.
I started this post convinced that I’d have trouble remembering much about any of the books but I’ve ended it surprised by how well I do remember many of them, and I promise the only thing I’ve looked up is the date of the ‘flu epidemic and a quick scan of the Diana Athill synopsis as, coincidentally, a fellow blogger had mentioned her in a comment. All very comforting for someone suffering from the predictable afflictions of a middle-aged memory! How well do you remember books? And what was your first book of 2014?