Re-reads are marked with an asterisk (∗). Works read in translation are marked with a dagger (†). Things I read for book club are marked with a tilde (~)
Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding.
Mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, richly observed & v. funny. On the other, I don't think I've ever read a more Tory book.
Gef! The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose, Christopher Josiffe.
Truly weird and oddly funny. I'm delighted this book exists but wish it were about half as long.
Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata. † (Japanese)
Levels of Life, Julian Barnes.
Deeply moving. A marvelous book.
Faceless Killers, Henning Mankell. † (Swedish)
Solid crime. Unexpectedly untwisty.
The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith.
Even before his murderous turn, Ripley is a fantastic portrait of insecurity.
Winter, Ali Smith. ~
The second volume in Smith's ongoing state of the nation project. Effective, but relies on the same tropes as earlier Smith books.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli. † (Italian)
I can see why it's popular, but that's rather little content.
Autumn, Ali Smith.
Skipping back to Smith's first volume. Much less engaging for me.
The Birth of Korean Cool, Euny Hong.
I don't know how high my expectations ought to have been, but this was disappointing.
Hello World, Hannah Fry.
Very light on the maths, but makes the case for/against algorithmic decisions in society clearly and fairly.
The Adulterants, Joe Dunthorne.
As noted in the LRB, Dunthorne is one of the rare really talented writers whose preferred mode is all-out comedy. Arch and cutting.
The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace.
Unsatisfying globally, but a real joy line-by-line.
Bad Blood, John Carreyrou.
The story of the rise and collapse of Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes's amorality seemed less interesting to me than that of the culture she embedded herself in.
The Assembly of the Severed Head, Hugh Lupton.
A wonderful re-telling of the Mabinogion, the earliest remnants of pre-Christian Welsh folklore, integrating the oral and written traditions.
Craze: gin and debauchery in an age of reason, Jessica Warner.
Interesting but rather repetitive.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk. † (Polish)
Really good writing. EU-funded too.
The Death of Ivan Ilych and other stories, Leo Tolstoy. † (Russian)
Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant., Joel Golby.
Uneven. A couple of good essays but mostly extended Vice pieces. "Post-lad" gets tiresome really quickly.
The Trial, Franz Kafka. † (German)
Like everyone else, I didn't get Kafka at all until I turned thirty.
Longitude, Dava Sobel.
A Doubter's Almanac, Ethan Canin.
I read this to see if I agree with Charles' review. I don't.
Swing Time, Zadie Smith. ~
The first book at the book club I started with some work pals. I thought it was great, others disagreed. Which is what you want from a book club I suppose.
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, Douglas Adams & James Goss.
A long-lost Fourth Doctor & Romana script that Adams later recycled bits of into Life, the Universe and Everything, completed to a full novel by Goss. Bonkers, naturally.
How Not To Be a Boy, Robert Webb.
Either a thoughtful reflection on masculinity disguised as a celebrity hardback, or a celebrity hardback disguised as a thoughtful reflection on masculinity, depending on how generous you're feeling.
On the Natural History of Destruction, W. G. Sebald.
The Vegetarian, Han Kang. ~, † (Korean)
Remarkably readable short novel on madness, hunger and familial violence. Visceral, sensuous and disturbing; I really liked it.
Educated, Tara Westover.
Memoir of Westover's journey from Idaho survivalist Mormon school-less childhood to Cambridge PhD. I don't think the author and I would agree who the villain of her story is.
If I'm Scared We Can't Win: Penguin modern poets 1, Emily Berry, Anne Carson & Sophie Collins.
Lots of good stuff in here, but Emily Berry's work in particular is great.
The Bend of the World, Jacob Bacharach.
tired: reading the Chapo book; wired: reading other books because their authors were funny on Chapo.
Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh. ~
Politics and the English Language, George Orwell. More of a pamphet than a book.
Sight, Jessie Greengrass.
Greengrass's first novel lives up to expectations. Some words here.
H(A)PPY, Nicola Barker. ~
I really enjoyed the first half of this but it lost me after a while. More here.
Injection #1, W. Ellis, D. Shalvey & J. Bellaire.
Possession, A. S. Byatt.
It inspired me to finally buy the letters of Abelard and Heloise. We'll see if I actually read them.
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan. ∗
My favourite McEwan. Re-read before going to see the film.
Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane.
Stand Out of Our Light: freedom and resistance in the attention economy, James Williams.
The book of the Nine Dots prize-winning essay. Didn't deliver on its promise in my opinion.
Philosophy of Mathematics, Øystein Linnebo.
Very clear and readable introduction.
The Island of Doctor Moreau, H. G. Wells. ~
Crash Bandicoot rip-off.
The Idiot, Elif Batuman.
Excellent. Funny and wise.
Ada Lovelace: the making of a computer scientist, Christopher Hollings, Ursula Martin, Adrian Rice.
Bought at Topping & Co. in St Andrews during the BMC. Ursula was a good sport and signed my copy.
Bit of a Blur, Alex James.
Infinity to Dine, lazenby.
Essays by one of the The Relentless Picnic guys. Lunchtime reading for the past month.
Essays on the Theory of Numbers, Richard Dedekind. † (German)
Where modern maths began.
Dracula, Bram Stoker. ~
Computation, Proof, Machine, Giles Dowek. † (French)
Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami. † (Japanese)
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse. † (German)
Fantastic, going on my all-time favourites list.
Lullaby, Leïla Slimani. † (French) ~
Very readable. Does its thing well.
Game Theory, Thomas Jones.
Amusing, but hardly the cutting satire it was reviewed as.
Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris.
Extremely funny. Best taken sparingly, like sweets.
Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Mary Wollstonecraft.
Normal People, Sally Rooney. ~
Excellent. Has some of the best description of depression (as I've experienced it) I've ever read.
Closing the Gap, Vicky Neale.
Pop maths: background on the twin prime conjecture interwoven with the story of the advances of Zhang, Maynbard, Tao and the polymath group. Started well but petered out a little in my opinion.
Tintin: The Black Island, Hergé. † (French)
Never read any Tintin before. This one didn't have Captain Haddock in it, which was a great disappointment. I bought the one with the boat on the cover expecting him.
The Red-Haired Woman, Orhan Pamuk. † (Turkish)
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton.
Inventive murder-mystery, but ultimately doesn't make the most of its premise.
33⅓: OK Computer, Dai Griffiths.
I probably won't read another one of these.
Wise Children, Angela Carter.
Unbelievably bawdy. Great fun.
Mr Burns: a post-electric play, Anne Washburn.
Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney.
Just as fantastic as Normal People.
Coyote America, Dan Flores.
Picture-Book Professors: academia and children's literature, Melissa M. Terras.
Carol, Patricia Highsmith.
Neoreaction a Basilisk, Phil Sandifer.
I Hate the Internet, Jarett Kobek.
276 pages of caustic rage directed at rich technologists.
Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic, Anita & Solomon Feferman.
A Winter Book, Tove Jansson. † (Swedish)
The Fish Ladder, Katharine Norbury.
A potentially-interesting nature book ruined by the author's unbearable narcissism.
Orkneyinga Saga, Anonymous. † (Old Norse)
The saga of the Earls of Orkney from 950ish to 1200ish. Part history, part legend, frequently unintentionally hilarious.
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters.
The Secret History, Donna Tartt.
Beyond the Northlands, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough.
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki.
I heard about this on the Overdue podcast so I knew some of the story in advance. A meditation of sorts on time and suffering, but wrapped up in a flowing story. Its comparisons between Zen Buddhism and quantum physics irked me no end (as always). Otherwise very good.
Zero K, Don Delillo.
Wild, Cheryl Strayed.
The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa. † (Japanese)
Novella about a mathematician with an 80 minute memory, his housekeeper, and her son. Includes some simple, but correct, maths and is mostly non-embarrassing for the mathematically-trained to read.
Concepts of Modern Mathematics, Ian Stewart.
The maths book I wish somebody had given me when I was 18. Explains the ideas behind various parts of modern maths in a non-technical but also not-empty manner.
June, Gerbrand Bakker. † (Dutch)
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams.
The Descent of Man, Grayson Perry.
Short collection of Perry's thoughts on masculinity and how it needs to be updated. Not a deep analysis, but a good introduction for the curious.
Silas Marner, George Eliot.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson.
Against Everything, Mark Greif.
I got this book of essays I went to see Mark Greif interviewed by Laurie Penny at the LRB bookshop at the end of last year. I must have underlined at least one sentence per page, Greif is a hell of a writer.
Kill All Normies, Angela Nagle.
I failed to review this here.
The Blue Fox, Sjón. † (Icelandic)
Do No Harm, Henry Marsh.
Heroes of the Frontier, Dave Eggers.
I love Dave Eggers. His books don't always work as a completed whole for me, but I never tire of how alive his line-by-line writing is.
In Watermelon Sugar, Richard Brautigan.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
His Bloody Project, Graham Burnett Macrae.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt.
I couldn't stop reading this. Utterly brilliant.
Leviathan, or the Whale, Philip Hoare.
Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman. ∗
The Subtle Knife, Phillip Pullman. ∗
The Amber Spyglass, Phillip Pullman. ∗
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Vol. I, Phillip Pullman.
I was so relieved it's not a terrible disappointment that it took me quite a while to realise it's really good!
Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and His Family, David Kaczynski.
Interesting and moving, but ultimately unsatisfying as Kaczynski isn't interested in telling the stories the reader most wants to hear.
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkein. ∗
The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkein. ∗
The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkein. ∗
Re-read these for the first time in 15 years while I was feeling ill and sorry for myself in November.
Letters from Iceland, W. H. Auden & Louis MacNeice.
Unconventional travel book written in a mix of prose and verse.
Scoop, Evelyn Waugh.
A Very British Coup, Chris Mullin.
Two Girls, One on Each Knee: the puzzling, playful world of the crossword, Alan Connor.
A nice little book about the history of crosswords. The entire book is arranged as a puzzle, with clues supplied by Araucaria.
Berlin Poplars, Anne B. Ragde. † (Norwegian)
Consolations of the Forest, Sylvain Tesson. † (French)
A diary of six months spent living alone in the wilderness, during the Siberian winter, in a log cabin on the shores of Lake Baikal.
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf.
Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds. ∗
My Struggle 3: boyhood island, Karl Ove Knausgård. † (Norwegian)
This third volume covers Knausgård's life up to age 12 or so on the island of Tromøya.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, Sydney Padua.
Collection the author's '2d goggles' comic strips about the alternate-universe adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage (with informative footnotes).
Ludwig Wittgenstein: the Duty of Genius, Ray Monk.
Wittgenstein lived a beautiful life.
A303: the Highway to the Sun, Tom Fort.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson.
I wonder why so much gothic horror is set in New England? (edit: one-word answer suggested by Emilio Pierro -- "Puritans")
Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse. † (German)
The Outrun, Amy Liptrot.
Stark and moving memoir of the author's return to Orkney and recovery from alcoholism.
Station Eleven, Emily StJohn Mandel.
The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare.
This was not my favourite Shakespeare play. The bear bit wasn't as good as I expected it to be.
All One Breath, John Burnside.
The Greenlanders, Jane Smiley.
Family saga set in the final years of the Norse settlement on Greenland.
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides.
No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July.
Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt.
My Struggle 4: dancing in the dark, Karl Ove Knausgård. † (Norwegian)
The fourth volume describes Knausgård's late teenage years: girls, drinking, and his earliest attempts to be a writer.
A Book for Her, Bridget Christie.
Public Library (and other stories), Ali Smith.
The Shpeherd's Life, James Rebanks.
An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, Jessie Greengrass.
Really good debut collection of short stories. The title story is the standout.
Blockchain Revolution, Don Tapscott & Alex Tapscott.
Prime Numbers and the Riemann Hypothesis, Barry Mazur & William Stein.
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson.
A Mathematician's Year in Japan, Joel David Hamkins.
From Asgard to Valhalla, Heather O'Donoghue.
Space Below my Feet, Gwen Moffat.
Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome. ∗
The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz.
Littlewood's Miscellany, J. E. Littlewood.
More fun than Hardy's Apology, but less coherent.
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter.
The Collected Cat Rackham, Steve Wolfhard.
The Woman in Black, Susan Hill.
We Don't Know What We're Doing, Thomas Morris.
My Struggle 5: some rain must fall, Karl Ove Knausgård. † (Norwegian)
Covers the 14 years that Knausgård spent living in Bergen, from beginning university to the end of his first marriage.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg.
Long comic about stories and storytelling.
The Idea of North, Peter Davidson.
Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake.
The Wee Free Men, Terry Practchett. ∗
Ayoade on Ayoade: a cinematic odyssey, Richard Ayoade.
Very, very funny. Did you know Werner Herzog is too self-conscious to eat Wiener Hotdogs?
My Struggle 1: a death in the family, Karl Ove Knausgård. † (Norwegian)
The first volume of Knausgård's autobiographical cycle. It's brutally honest and incredibly good.
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
A View from the Foothills: the diaries of Chris Mullin 1999-2005.
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro.
Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett. ∗
My favourite Pratchett book as a child, re-read after he died.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson.
Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane.
A celebration of MacFarlane's favourite nature writers. Enjoyable, but not of the same standard as MacFarlane's The Old Ways.
The Cyberiad, Stanisław Lem. † (Polish)
Lightning Rods, Helen DeWitt.
In the All-Night Café, Stuart David.
Foundation, Isaac Asimov. ∗
- Foundation and Empire, Isaac Asimov.
Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov.
This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein.
A rigorous discussion of the problem of climate change in a liberal capitalist world. Frankly this made me pretty despondent for the future.
Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory, Eugenia Cheng.
I'm afraid I didn't enjoy this very much, I found it hard to distinguish from other pop-maths books.
My Struggle 2: a man in love, Karl Ove Knausgård. † (Norwegian)
Even better than the first volume.
North, Seamus Heaney.
Alan Turing: the Enigma, Andrew Hodges.
The gold standard for a scientific biography. Rather technical in places.
The Innocence of Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton.
A Room with a View, E. M. Forster. ∗
A re-read of an old favourite.
Purity, Jonathan Franzen.
Decline and Fall: the diaries of Chris Mullin 2005-2010.
Everything and More, David Foster Wallace.
A spirited attempt to write an interesting lay person's history of the mathematics of the transfinite. Contains some pretty huge maths blunders.
Last Night in Montreal, Emily St.John Mandel.
The Way of the Runner, Adharanand Finn.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson. † (Swedish)
The Girl who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson. † (Swedish)
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson. † (Swedish)
I didn't read these during the hype period of about a decade ago. Suffice to say they were as gripping as expected.
The Lady in the Van, Alan Bennett. ∗
The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson.
Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham.
Look Who's Back, Timur Vermes. † (German)
60 Degrees North, Malachy Tallack.
Girls to the Front: the true story of the riot grrrl revolution, Sara Marcus.