Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Bonne Année de Londres

Well that was the year that was. Some are much of a muchness and others you know will stick in the memory. 
2018, with it's mix of brilliant sunshine and stormy politics, will be one that sticks, so fingers crossed that we've all landed safely and know where we are by this time next year. It's the moving of goalposts that seems so unfair.

But I'm here to talk about books. 
I'll get onto favourites later but here is the more or less complete alphabetical list of all the books I read in 2018 (feel free to scroll past, I mostly put this here so I can erase all the titles in my sidebar): 

A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton
A Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer
A Few Green Leaves - Barbara Pym
A Life Less Throwaway - Tara Button
A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle
Absolutely On Music - Murakami and Ozawa
Affluenza - Oliver James
An Education - Lynn Barber
Ariel - A Literary Life of Jan Morris - Derek Johns
Artists in Crime - Ngaio Marsh
B is For Burglar - Sue Grafton
Bats in the Belfry - E C R Lorac
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
Bliss - Peter Carey
Bond Street Story - Norman Collins
Browse. The World in Bookshops - edited by Henry Hitchings
Calamity in Kent - John Rowland
Coast to Coast - Jan Morris
Confabulations - John Berger
Confessions of a Ghostwriter - Andrew Crofts
Death at the Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh
Death in a White Tie - Ngaio Marsh
Death Makes a Prophet - John Bude
Death of a Busybody - George Bellairs
Death of a Ghost - Margery Allingham
Death of a Gossip - M C Beaton
Death of Anton - Alan Melville
Death-Watch - John Dickson Carr
Don Among the Dead Men - C E Vuillamy
Envious Casca - Georgette Heyer
Eva Trout - Elizabeth Bowen
Every Eye - Isobel English
Fruit in Season - Anthony Thorne
Grave Mistake - Ngaio Marsh
Green for Danger - Christianna Brand
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino
Inside the Nudge Unit - David Halpern
Lament for Leto - Gladys Mitchell
Landscapes After the Battle - Juan Goytisolo
Life, the Universe, and Everything - Douglas Adams
London, A Traveller's Reader - Thomas Wright & Peter Ackroyd
Maigret in New York - Georges Simenon
Man vs Money - Stewart Cowley
Messy - Tim Harford
Metroland - Julian Barnes
Municipal Dreams - John Boughton
Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie
Murder in the Museum - John Rowland
Murder on Christmas Eve - Ellis Peters, Julian Symonds, et al
Mysogynies - Joan Smith
Nest of Vipers - Gladys Mitchell
On Photography - Susan Sontag
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Agatha Christie
Ordeal by Innocence - Agatha Christie
Patrick Butler for the Defence - John Dickson Carr
Plan Now, Retire Happy - Alvin Hall
Poirot and Me - David Suchet
Put on by Cunning - Ruth Rendell
Quick Curtain - Alan Melville
Rain - Four Walks in English Weather - Melissa Harrison
Saplings - Noel Streatfeild
Sick Heart River - John Buchan
Singing in the Shrouds - Ngaio Marsh
Slade House - David Mitchell
Sober as a Judge - Henry Cecil
Stuffocation - James Wallman
Summer at Gaglow - Esther Freud
The Beckoning Lady - Gladys Mitchell
The Black Stage - Anthony Gilbert
The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins
The Bridge - Geert Mak
The Camomile Lawn - Mary Wesley
The Dark Tower I - IV Stephen King
The Disinformer - Peter Ustinov
The Division Bell Mystery - Ellen Wilkinson
The Flaneur - Edmund White
The Grand Babylon Hotel - Arnold Bennett
The Heretic's Guide to Global Finance - Brett Scott
The Inevitable Gift Shop - Will Eaves
The Last Station - Ben Aaronovitch
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C S Lewis
The Lost Continent - Bill Bryson
The Mitfords, Letters Between Six Sisters - Charlotte Mosley
The Notting Hill Mystery - Charles Felix
The Secret Lives of Colour - Kassia St Clair
The Songlines - Bruce Chatwin
The Swimming Pool Library - Alan Hollinghurst
The Theory and Practice of Lunch - Keith Waterhouse
The Venetian Empire - Jan Morris
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Things - Georges Perec
Trent's Last Case - E C Bentley
Utz - Bruce Chatwin
Verdict of Twelve - Raymond Postgate
Ways of Escape - Graham Greene
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami
Who Moved my Cheese? - Dr Spencer Johnson
Working with Structuralism - David Lodge

The first thing that jumps out at me is the amount of titles starting with 'Death' - of 102 books read fully 38 were crime. Many were authors new to me, which I'm quite pleased about. Some I loved (Verdict of Twelve, Green for Danger, Death of a Ghost) some I found distinctly odd (A Blunt Instrument, Lament for Leto) and some slipped down like ice cream and left no impression at all. 

Some stats: At 102 books (I'm counting the 4 Stephen King's separately, but only put them once in the list as it's all the same story) I'm up almost a quarter on last year's total - but again my non-fiction reading has barely altered - 34 this year, as against 32 last. 
That leaves 64 fiction works (counting SK as one this time). Men well ahead of women this year - 59 books by men and 38 by women, and one by a mixed group. 

5 books in translation, which I'm cautiously pleased about. Usually it's none. 

Five Favourites

1) Bond Street Story by Norman Collins, which was delightful, although there was a slight subtext of  'stay with us so as you'll be looked after' which made me uneasy. My brother lost his job when Arding and Hobbs went under - hard enough for him as a junior manager, but for those who'd had a lifetime of loyalty to the company and whose pensions and social life were all wrapped up in it (as they are in Rammell's Department Store in this tale), it was absolutely catastrophic.  You could see, in Bond Street Story, how people in the 50s - especially working men - thought they had a job for life, a social contract, that has largely been reneged on. Small wonder some are angry. 

*coffs* but, as I said, I'm here to talk about books. 

2) A close second favourite is The Mitfords, Letters Between Six Sisters. They really did know everyone didn't they? In a way it was a bit of a curse - if they hadn't been who they were they wouldn't have been right at the epicentre when the second world war broke out. That they did mostly manage to keep in touch was a marvel of sisterly solidarity.

3) Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham. I did review this briefly here, so I won't repeat myself.

4) The Songlines - Bruce Chatwin. Which I also reviewed as part of my 'Reading the 80s' project at this link here.

5) The Flaneur - Edmund White. Again, there's a link here

And What will I read in 2019

I should be resuming my OU course this Spring, so I suspect my reading will dip again. I hope to finish the Dark Tower series - although King can be a bit grim, so I really do have to be in the mood to enjoy them - and I'd definitely like to read more Bruce Chatwin, who I basically discovered this year. 
Sadly there isn't that much more to read because he died in his 40s, and so I'm torn between reading the lot or holding off and eking it out.  

What I don't think I'll be doing is diving much further into the British Library Crime Classics (and if my reading is going to drop that seems the sensible thing to drop) but I would like to read more Christianna Brand. 

I'd quite like to read Trent's Own Case - the sequel written over 20 years after Trent's Last Case by E C Bentley. 

I was tempted to do 'reading the 80s' for a second year, but I don't think taking on even a nice easy project like that is going to fit well with work and the OU, so perhaps I'll come back to it 2020.

And I'll leave you with this lovely thing from the library in Liverpool, where I went for the punk exhibition and then the Bonfire Night fireworks (a short holiday that also took in Chester, Flint Castle and Port Sunlight), and with my best wishes for 2019 and beyond.


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