It’s been a bit of a year on the Ramblings, emotionally, and very much the year of listening to the wonderful First Aid Kit. I discovered the band early in the year (thank you to whichever blog it was that pointed me to them) and have listened to them constantly. They’ve resonated a lot, particularly their hit “Emmylou”, which references Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, as my dad, who we lost this year, was a huge fan of both (and of country music in general). This has to be one of my favourite FAK songs:
However, it’s the traditional time for books of the year round-ups, and reading matter has been a bit of a refuge. It’s always hard to pick favourites, but I’ll have a try! Rather than just doing a simple list, I thought I might split them into categories a bit; and these are just a few random choices, really, as there have been *so* many good books this year.
2015 was the year I really returned to Colette. In fact, her “Shipwrecked on a Traffic Island” collection was one of the first books I read, and I went on to revisit “The Blue Lantern” and “The Other Woman” both of which were magnificent. My goodness, that woman could write!
Russians old and new
Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of time reading Russians this year; some were revisits and some authors new to me, and all excellent. One particular highlight was Mikhail Elizarov’s “The Librarian”, a new book from Pushkin, which was stunning; and the Strugatskys’ “The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn” crossed and stretched genres in a wonderfully inventive way. I *finally* after about 40 years read “Doctor Zhivago” and loved it more than the film. And I re-read “The Master and Margarita” and “Dead Souls” and thought they were both utterly marvellous. I do *love* my Russian authors….
I’m often a bit twitchy about re-reading, thinking there are new books I need to get to. But since I’ve been reading for so long, and my memory is often sketchy, some re-reads are like new reads and I did make time to revisit some titles this year. Particularly striking was Virginia Woolf’s “The Voyage Out“, which I’d last read nearly 35 years ago. I returned to it in its centenary year and found it excellent; when I first read it, I’d just been stunned by “Mrs. Dalloway”, and I don’t think I did “Voyage” justice. Another stunner was “The Bell Jar“, which I was happy to discover I loved as much as I did in my teens! And an unexpected pleasure was Charles Williams’ “All Hallow’s Eve“, quite a dark book but wonderfully written and absolutely gripping. And I ended the year by beginning my re-read of Dorothy Richardson’s seminal “Pilgrimage” sequence, which promises to be quite an experience.
Some new titles and some new classics
Classics (anything pre about 1980 really) are pretty much my favourite books and I spent a lot of time on them this year. However, one modern book I read and loved was “The Republic of Uzupis” by Hailji, a Korean author. The book had come highly recommended and I found it bewitching; clever, unusual and dream-like, it was one of my best modern reads for ages. However, there were some wonderful classics in my reading life too: Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” was an epic read for German Literature Month; Adolfo Bioy Casares’ “The Invention of Morel” was absolutely engrossing and very, very clever; and Lampedusa’s “The Leopard” lived up to its reputation.
The 1924 Club
This wonderful initiative by Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book saw a whole lot of us bloggers reading books from 1924, which was a fascinating and rewarding experience. My books included Colette, Michael Arlen’s “The Green Hat” (a real treat), Agatha Christie’s “Poirot Investigates” and Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist“. All great fun, and we plan to do another Club next year for 1938!
So although the year has had some hideous low points, the reading has helped to keep me sane and let me encounter other worlds and cultures – which is one of the reasons I love to read. I’m making no big plans for the new year apart from to read the rest of Dorothy Richardson and follow my muse. So let’s hope 2016 brings better experiences and even more reading!