6. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (Novel)
I read this at a time of a lot of hype (which I did know was a terrible idea), so it didn’t quite live up to expectations for me. But I’m sure it will when I re-read in the future because there’s so much that’s great about this book. It’s not overly sentimental; it’s realistic and shows the complex range of issues which can lead to someone developing a severe mental health problem. I think, for me, the ending didn’t pack as much of a punch as I wanted it to. I wasn’t sure if it was the writing or that the details you learn at the end are fairly predictable, but I just wasn’t hit in the guts the way I was told I would be. I still think it’s a good book, though, and worth a read.
7. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (Novel)
Not my favourite du Maurier. I just found I wasn’t interested or invested in the scenes set in the past, which is about half the book. It was a really interesting concept; I just wish she’d pushed its potential implications further in the present, and spent less time in the past.
8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Novel)
I love the perspectives in this book. Too often in the way we in the UK hear about WWII (in school, etc), German=Nazi, which obviously isn’t the case, so I really like that it’s about ordinary German people and what they’re going through. Also, it’s narrated by death. In the hands of a lesser writer this would be kitschy, but it’s not at all. All the characters are pretty three-dimensional, the writing style is simple but beautiful, and the book Max makes by painting over a copy of Mein Kampf is just wow. It just makes you Feel All The Feelings.
9. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Novel – Russian translated)
Really enjoyed my first dip into Russian literature. Really excellent angry/unlikeable/arrogant narrator with lots of philosophy thrown in. Full review here.
10. Habibi by Craig Thompson (Graphic novel – fiction)
The artwork in this is stunningly intricate and it’s an interesting and engaging story too. I found Thompson’s use of stereotypes particularly problematic but it’s still one I’m likely to re-read in the future. Full review here.
11. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (Non-fiction)
This is the story of the 1996 Everest disaster. Krakauer (who also wrote Into The Wild) was ironically there on a journalistic assignment to write about the commercialisation of Everest and the potential dangers this could create. I like that Krakauer acknowledges this is only his version of the story – the effects of high altitude messes with your perceptions and memory. But he also does his research, talking to the other survivors and people that knew the deceased to try and put together an accurate a picture as possible. It’s pretty gripping, and, although I knew altitude could do some horrible things to you, I never realised quite how bad it could get. It also feels bonkers that, despite the high number of deaths that season, the ratio of climbers to fatalities means it was actually a marginally safer year on Everest than average. Bonkers. The fact that people climb it despite all the dangers made me think of Notes From Underground, where the narrator says that sometimes people do things directly against their advantages simply to exert their free will. Or, as Mallory famously put it, “because it is there”.
12. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Graphic novel – fiction)
This is an absolutely amazing wordless graphic novel about what it’s like to be an immigrant. The artwork is beautiful. Full review here.
13. Scott Pilgrim #1 by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Graphic novel – fiction)
I’ve also been dipping into these (which will be added to the list in whichever month the last story is read):
The Stone Thrower by Adam Marek (Short stories)
The Pre-war House and Other Stories by Alison Moore (Short stories)