I thought I’d do a quick review of my 2020 reading. I may have missed some out but here goes.
- Michelle Obama: Becoming. I started the year with this. A great read and a truly amazing woman. She was such a trail blazer and deserves all the accolades that have gone her way.
- Elena Ferrante: The four Neapolitan Novels, and her latest novel, The Lying Lives of Adults. All of these are so good. I cannot recommend them highly enough. She can really write about women and female freindship and is a delight to read.
- Latest Reading by Clive James, a short book in which is just chats about what he has enjoyed reading over his life and what he is reading again as he ‘waited for the lights to go out’. This sounds depressing but is anything but.
- Me by Elton John: He has had such as astonishing life and career and is more than happy to send himself up as well as describe his early life and descent into and re-emergence from drug and alcohol problems.
- Philip Pullman: The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman. The second book in the second trilogy ‘The Book of Dust’. Lyra is a grown woman and goes in search of a lost city haunted by daemons, in the desert. Excellent and yet again he leaves you with a cliff hanger. He did that at the end of The Subtle Knife in His Dark Materials.
- John Le Carre: Agent Running in the Field, once again he is very prescient with a young idealist set among the machinations of Brexit. He is a master of psychology and politics and it’s brilliant.
- Ben McIntyre: was new to me and again an introduction via the Kindle Daily Deal. Four of his have all been good. The best is undoubtedly, ‘The Spy and the traitor, that covers the true story of the defection of Oleg Gordievsky. The process of his exfiltration from the USSR is gripping and even though you know the outcome gave me a shiver as it unfolded. Very highly recommended. Other books, all good and enjoyable are: Operation Mincemeat, Double Cross and A Spy among Friends. These are all true stories involving some sort of espionage or counter intelligence. A Spy among Friends documents Kim Philby’s work as a spy for the Soviet Union while working for the British intelligence services. It is almost unbelievable how the reliance on the ‘old boy network’ in the UK in the 1950s and 60s meant that he went undetected for decades.
- Max Hastings: Overlord, The Battle for Normandy a bit heavy for me and following the various troop movements is a trial. However, the build up and preparation of the allied troops is worth it. It’s essential reading for anyone who has any glamorous ideas or views about war. It’s hideous.
- Elizabeth Strout: Olive Kitteridge. Pulitzer Prize winning novel from 2008 that I wasn’t aware of till again a Kindle Daily deal. Exceptionally good portrayal of a pretty grumpy retired school teacher living on the coast of Maine, in the States. She’s perceptive, patient and an enduring character. I’m looking forward to getting ‘Olive again’ in the next few months.
- Chris Hammer: Silver. Chris is an Australian ex-journalist and his debut novel Scrublands is set in a town in the Riverina district of New South Wales was convoluted, clever and gripping. This is his second novel and not so good. Characters and situations that were simply not believable. Quite frustrating really.
- Uncommon Type: Tom Hanks. A collection of short stories that all include a type writer at some point in the narrative. Clever, great characterisation and very readable.
- Pat Barker: Silence of the Girls. Re-telling of the Achilles story in the siege of Troy from the women’s perspective with a focus on the captured Trojan princess, Briseis.
- Tony Spawforth: The Story of Greece and Rome. A very quick gallop along the timeline of over 5 millennia. Great for someone like me who really wasn’t too sure about the order and reason for a significant happenings in ancient Greece and Rome.
- Nina Stibbe: Reasons to be cheerful. Jolly romp set in the 1980s. She is a brilliantly funny writer.
- Patrick Gale: A Place called Winter. A story based on a family mystery of his ‘cowboy grandfather’. He pieces together the possible reasons for his grandfather’s emigration to the wilds of Canada and a still working farm close to the now abandoned town of Winter.
- Dominic MacDonald: Rebirding. A visionary book on ways to improve the current dire state of the British countryside after decades of industrialised farming.
- James Rebanks: English Pastoral. A wonderful evocation of his farm in the Lake District and his own journey from following normal farming practices to his adoption of regenerative agriculture to improve the land, his life and the legacy for his family. A stunningly beautiful book.
- Elizabeth Wayland Barber: Women’s Work, the First 20,000 Years. Another bit of my research on the history of textiles. A very readable book with some real insights into the lives of women thousands of years ago in the eastern Mediterranean.
That’s 24 books, slightly more than I would have guessed to be honest. I don’t think that I read a lot and it is mainly at bedtime. Perhaps I need to start making more notes on my reading in the future.