I want to read more again this year, after getting a bit less time for books in '22. So I'm going to keep some notes as I go each month.
Here's what I read in January:
- The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
An utterly charming novel about a bunch of lost souls who work for a niche international newspaper. The characters are wonderful, brilliantly sketched to come alive and be so distinct without seeming 'written' — and so deftly deployed as an ensemble. As a writer there's also lots to learn about structure here, the way the story is split between characters and timelines, but flows so well. Loved it.
- Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald
A gentle tale about a community of riverboat dwellers. Coincidentally, a lot of parallels with The Imperfectionists, so it was interesting to read them together. Like The Imperfectionists this is about people's sense of their own failures in life and love, and their ability (or otherwise) to change. The writing flowed beautifully.
- Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
Absolutely wonderful. It's going on my all time favourites list, so I'll write more about it there. Buy this book.
- Winter, Len Deighton
I read his Game, Set and Match trilogy last year as part of my thriller education. This is a prequel of sorts, in the form of an epic family history from the first world war to the second. It was fascinating in its depiction of the stealthy manipulative rise of fascism, and so has lessons for our times too.
- The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
I confess, I abandoned this one at the halfway point. It's not for me. I love so much of Ishiguro's other work, but I just didn't click with this fantasy world. In particular I found the speech patterns of the two main characters really grating. By the halfway point I hadn't connected with the characters, got interested in the story, or understood what the theme was. In 2023 I'm going to let myself give up on a book, because I have so many great things to get to on my To Read pile — and this was the first to get the chop.
- You Are A Writer, Jeff Goins
A non-fiction book about writing. The subtitle was "so start acting like one". The book is mostly finding other ways to say that.
January 2023 reads
Charming characters, failed romances and brilliant wit. But a giant gets the chop.