In 2019 I read a total of 68 books written by 42 female authors and 28 men (note two books were jointly authored hence the seemingly poor mathematics.) The authors came from 22 different countries although several had left, or been forced out of their country of origin but still kept close ties or strong emotions towards it. Some, like the Chilean writer Alia Trabucco Zeran, Israeli Etgar Keret, Native American Tommy Orange and Australian Bri Lee, I had not read before. Others like Haruki Murakami, Anne Patchett, Edna O’Brien and Philip Roth are old friends.
Generally, there was no rhyme nor reason for my choices of author, no rigid list, just whatever took my fancy at a particular time coupled with a desire to try and find authors, often in translation, that I had not read before. And that is something I could like to continue in 2020. I also read 13 works of non fiction, more than previous years and increasingly got diverted by some excellent long reads (generally also non-fiction) available although I have not included those in this list. Aw in previous years there a slaughter of crime novels.
2019 was not without its world-wide literary spats, such as the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to controversial Austrian author Peter Handke, and the rumblings over joint winners being announced for the Booker Prize with Bernardine Evaristo and Margarett Atwood sharing the honour. But that does indicate people are still strongly passionate about the written word, which is a good thing. Following is a month-by-month breakdown of my books of 2019.
January: Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey (Daunt); The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan (Bloomsbury); The Wolf at No 4 by Ayo Tamakloe-Garr (Ohio University Press); Everyman by Philip Roth (Vintage); The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan); My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic).February: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Algonquin Books); Adele by Leila Slimani (Faber & Faber); Benjamin by Chico Buarque (Bloomsbury); Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (One World); One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton (Melbourne University Press); French Exit by Patrick deWitt (Bloomsbury).
March: The White Earth by Andrew McGahan (Allen & Unwin); Hunter by Jack Heath (Allen & Unwin); Unto Us A Son is Given by Donna Leon (William Heinemann); Exit South by Philip Roth (Jonathan Cape); The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Scribe); The Interestings by Mag Wolitzer (Riverhead Books) April: How to be Both by Ali Smith (Penguin); The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley (Affirm Press); The Accident by Ismael Kadre (Cannongate); The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Penguin); The American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Dialogue Books).
May: Murmur by Will Eaves (Cannongate); A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (Vintage); Mostar by Dr Klaus Kukel and Hans Koschnic (Fortuna Trade); Zagreb Noir edited by Ivan Srsen (Akashic Books); Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan (Vintage), Educated by Tara Westover (Random House).June: Superbug by Matt McCarthy (Vintage); Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (Portobello Books; Rabbits for Food by Bonnie Kirshenbaum (Soho Press); The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein (Text)
July: The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (Portobello); The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson (Schildts Foriags Ab); Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills (Picador); The Parisian by Isabella Hammad.August: Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman (Faber & Faber); The Other Americans by Leila Lalami (Penguin/Randomhouse).
September: The Dirty Dozen by Lynda La Plante (Zaffre); Bruny by Heather Rose (Allen & Unwin); She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Bloomsbury); 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in a Strange World by Elif Sjafak (Penguin).October: There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett (Hachette): The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury); Plots and Players by Niki Savva (Scribe); Maybe The Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman (Penguin)’ The Winter War by Philip Tier (Serpent’s Tail).
November: Silver by Chris Hammer (Allen & Unwin); The Weekend by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin); There There by Tommy Orange (Vintage); Grand Union by Zadie Smith (Penguin); Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP); Beauty by Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin); The Night Fire by Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin); Girl by Edna O’Brien (Faber&Faber); Beyond Reasonable Doubt by Gary Bell (Raven).December: Fly Already by Etgar Keret (Scribe); Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout (Penguin); The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prrestcott (Hutchinson); A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar (Penguin/Viking); Agatha by Anne Cathrine Bomann (Sceptre); Xi Jinping: The Backlash by Richard McGregor (Penguin); Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Scribner); Desire by Haruki Murakami (Vintage Minis), The Thinking Woman by Julienne van Loon (Newsouth); When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett (Sceptre).