Let’s face it: no one knows which books I want at the holidays. Used to be I owned thousands and no one could tell what I didn’t already have. Now that my library’s so small, it’s what haven’t you already read...
Plus, I only exchange gifts with my kids, so there’s that. They figure I pick up anything I really want, anyway. Mostly, they’re right.
There were so, so many books I wanted to buy, but unfortunately there are annoying bills like rent and food to be paid. 2017 was not cheap, not that I’m saying I regret a penny. I just don’t have an awful lot of disposable income right now to feel comfortable splashing out.
But it’s Christmas, right?
Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Are there no new books to crack open and smell?
Oh, there are:
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
I didn’t pay much attention to this year’s Man Bookers. Usually I’m all over it like orange on Trump, but this year I was pre-occupied and hardly noticed the long or short lists. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised when I heard an American had won it for the second year in a row. But I won’t go into the politics of that and how irksome I find it. I’ve had enough politics this year to last me the rest of my life, thanks very much.
Elmet sounds delicious:
The family thought the little house they had made themselves in Elmet, a corner of Yorkshire, was theirs, that their peaceful, self-sufficient life was safe. Cathy and Daniel roamed the woods freely, occasionally visiting a local woman for some schooling, living outside all conventions. Their father built things and hunted, working with his hands; sometimes he would disappear, forced to do secret, brutal work for money, but to them he was a gentle protector.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
You have been taught that you are unclean, that you are not holy, that your body is impure and could never harbour the divine. You have been taught to despise everything you are and to long only to be a man. But you have been taught lies. ‘
– The Power
This year’s Baileys Women’s Prize winner has huge praise from Margaret Atwood emblazoned on the cover. Margaret. Atwood.
Oh please, like I wasn’t buying this one.
Incidentally, did you catch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu? I watched all but the last episode in Scotland; I’m pissed as hell I had to leave and missed the ending. I may have to subscribe for the free trial just to see that.
Mrs Osmond by John Banville
John Banville writes like an angel, and this book extends the story of Isabel Archer from Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. I may need to re-read Portrait, as well. Do I re-read it before, or after?
Read before, I may be too critical of Banville. After. Definitely after.
I don’t always get along with sequels and prequels and riffs on classic literature. But John Banville. Exceptions are made to all my rules.
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson’s fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty.
Huuuuge buzz surrounded this novel, which doesn’t always mean much, but when it’s a proven writer like Brad Watson, it kinda does.
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Several people said this novel should have taken the Booker Prize this year. Yeah, even when I’m not paying attention, I’m paying attention.
When it comes to books.
Midwinter in an English village. A teenage girl has gone missing. Everyone is called upon to join the search. The villagers fan out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on what is usually a place of peace. Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed.
As the seasons unfold and the search for the missing girl goes on, there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together and those who break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals. An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a tragedy refuse to subside.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Never read any Ng, but I follow her on Twitter and she’s very likable. She tweeted a lot as she was writing this book, enough that I started wondering why I’m following her if I haven’t read her books.
Let’s remedy that.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
I had this book in my hand so many times at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t buy it previously for no other reason than I’m not buying a lot of books this year, especially expensive new ones. And especially not when I can go a-begging and get them for free.
I was in an indie bookshop, saw it sitting there, and thought oh, okay, what the hell. It’ll be a fast and probably fairly forgettable book, but entertaining nonetheless. Plus, I was helping out a local indie.
As I was posting this, I remembered one work of NF I’d wanted very badly and hadn’t managed to snag from the publisher. If Amazon’s still promising pre-Christmas delivery…
I’m being very good to myself this year. I think I deserve it. But then, I think I do every year. Never let it be said I’ve hidden my preference for myself under a bushel. After all, if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.
I’m hoping to get off (be good) at least one more post before year’s end, on the topic of my 2018 plans. Mostly reading, but if I’m in the right mood I’ll talk about other stuff, too. Safest to stay with reading, but when am I ever safe.
Anyway. Get out there and buy yourselves some books! Chop, chop. Time’s a-wasting.