Travelling with friend or family is great. But I’m as happy as the proverbial Larry to go travelling solo if the timing or destination doesn’t suit everyone. My biggest grumble is the fact that the cost of hotel for the single traveller often means either staying in a basic or inconveniently located hotel or taking out a loan to pay the bill.
So this year, on an upcoming visit to several countries in Eastern Europe, I’m trying out AirBNB. Yes, I know it’s no great leap for womankind, others have been making use of the “disruptive” person-to-person business model for years. But it is a first for me.
First the bad news. Hilary Mantel’s publishers HarperCollins have all but confirmed what many feared; that The Mirror and the Light, Mantel’s much anticipated conclusion to her Booker Prize winning Thomas Cromwell Trilogy is unlikely to appear in 2016. To be fair, what they said was that the book was “tentatively expected” but that there was no set publication…
Anne Holt’s crime credentials are impeccable. After several years with the Oslo Police
department she set up her own law firm then went on to serve as the Norway’s Minister for Justice for two years. She then decided to turn her skills to writing novels. It was a good move.
She has gone on to write six books starring Oslo University psychology professor and ex FBI profiler and DI Adam Stubb, and the series around Chief Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen of the Oslo Police Department. Holt’s now sold more than six million worldwide, scooped up a pocketful of awards and earning the soubriquet of the “Godmother of Norwegian crime. It’s a lot to live up to.
Dead Joker released (in Australia) this week is the latest in the Hanne Wilhelmsen book. Brilliant, irascible, unorthodox, Wilhelmsen is called in
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Text), the last of the famous Neopolitan Trilogy. Purity by Jonathan Franzen (Fourth Estate). “Piercingly brilliant,” a “dazzling tale”: No excuse really for not reading except an allergic reaction to review hyperbole? The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishibuguro (Faber). I got…
2015 has been an utterly rewarding Year of the Book. In all, I read 104
novels, works of non-fiction, short stories and one collection of poetry Waiting for the Past by Australia’s brilliant Les Murray, surely one of the most down-to-earth yet potent poets anywhere. January got off to a great start with books like Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences and The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber. February had The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins’ international sensation as well as Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Thread and Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X. March brought Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, April had Atticus Lish’s superb Preparation for the Next Life as well as Laline Paull’s original and quirky The Bees. In May there were treasures like Asne Seierstad’s penetrating One of Us and Amitav Ghosh’s ravishing Flood of Fire.
June I raced through books like The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck,
My Brilliant Friend the first of Elena Ferrante’s quartet, One Life by the extraordinarily talented Kate Grenville and Falling in Love by a favourite, Donna Leon. Highlight of July was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ challenging Between the World and Me. In August it was the publishing double-whammy of Haruki Murakami’s Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 released together. September saw the beautiful The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop and both US President Barak Obama and I went for Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. November brought Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking and Adam Johnstone’s Fortune Smiles, two of my 2015 favourites. My reading year has concluded on a huge high with Michel Houellebecq’s typically clever Submission, Tony Birch’s evocative Ghost River and Charlotte Wood’s daring The Natural Way of Things.
I’d set myself the task of trying to broaden my literary geographic horizons and by year’s end had read books by authors from 23 different countries. Although my final list was still heavily skewed to authors from America, Britain (22 each) and Australia (21) I also enjoyed books by authors from Japan (6), Italy (4), Finland, France, Germany, India and Israel (2) and one each by authors from Colombia, the Congo, Denmark, Holland, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Zimbabwe.
One unexpected joy was the number of wonderful collections of short stories that were published. I was not a fan of the genre feeling but the quality of this year’s collections resulted in a complete convertion. In particular I have found myself going back again and again to Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann and Adam Johnston’s brilliantly inventive collection Fortune Smiles. Read on for the full list of books. Tomorrow I’ll post my Top 10.