This was the year I started focused work on my PhD, so almost all of the books I finished were fiction (as opposed to last year which had a good balance between fiction and non-fiction), and often not particularly challenging, something to get my mind off my work. I read a lot of political theory, much of which I didn’t read all the way through, and I also started and left unfinished a lot of novels that therefore didn’t make this list. I read quite a few more books (36) this year than in 2017 (27) and 2018 (204), but as I say they were often pretty straightforward books and many of them were short.
Todd Babiak, The Garneau Block
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, Vita Nostra
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary mercy
E.L. Konigsberg, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler
I read a lot of Konigsberg as a kid, but this was the first - read to us as a class in Grade 3, by my teacher (and future Winnipeg Public Library boss), Edith Boulay.
Judy Blume, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
For my money, Blume’s best book. I reread this in one sitting.
Susan Cooper, Over Sea, Under Stone
Vasily Grossman, Everything Flows
Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
Vladimir Sorokin, Day of the Oprichnik
Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea
Benedict de Spiniza, Ethics
Vladimir Sorokin, Bro, Ice, 23,000 (the Ice Trilogy)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gambler
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Netochka Nezvanova
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude
Mark Haddon, The Porpoise
J.G. Ballard, Crash
Art Spiegelman, Maus 1 & 2
Herman Melville, Billy Budd
Will Eisner, Last Day in Vietnam
Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
I’ve always found Nabokov cold and hard to enjoy - to fond of his own verbal and intellectual tricks. Pnin was quite good, though, and I’ve always felt Pale Fire was his best work. As with the first time I read it the Ruritanian aspects of Pale Fire tend to drag, but the poem is great, and the overall construction is amazing.
Klyuchevsky, History of Russia, Volume 1.
Volume 1 of Klyuchevsky’s five-volume Kurs russkogo istoriia. I read some Klyuchevsky in my undergrad and I really like the way he approaches Russian history - these are not textbooks, but explanatory narratives.
Graham Greene, England Made Me
Graham Greene, A Gun For Sale
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear
With the exception of The Ministry of Fear, these were all rereads. What can I say, absolutely my favourite novelist. I’ve been reading Greene since 1992, the year after he died, and I will likely go on periodic binges like this for the rest of my life.
Lev Tolstoy, My Confession, and, The Spirit of Christ’s Teaching.
I prefer Dostoyevsky’s novels to Tolstoy’s, and Tolstoy’s religious moralizing always bothered me. But I picked up a nice old hardcover edition of this book at random in a used bookstore and I really enjoyed it. His account of how he came to religion after a life of meaningless religiosity is a good account of the nihilism that we all have to face up to, and his anti-clerical interpretation of the gospels is very close to my own. I may end up reading more of Tolstoy’s religious and anarchist work in the coming year, we’ll see.