New year, new list of things to read. Here we go:
As I’ve done in previous years, I’ve begun 2022 by writing a list of things that I’d like to read.
You’ll notice that it’s a bit shorter – by a couple of hundred entries, maybe? – than last year’s frankly ridiculous version. (I know I said at the time that I wasn’t going to read everything on there, naturally, but still… it’s obvious that Pandemic Brain was fully in charge there.)
This year, I’ve decided to try a new listing method: it’s ’22, so I’ll aim to read 22 books. This doesn’t mean that these are the only books I’ll read, or even that I’ll manage to finish them all – it just provides a more manageable way to focus my efforts. As ever, I’ll probably read a bunch of random shit, but this is the stuff to keep me on the straight and narrow.
(There’s a good chance that this will be how I’ll continue these plans: 23 in ’23, 24 in ’24 and so on.)
I had a whole heap of worthy tomes written in a notepad file until this morning, when I spent a couple of minutes strolling through my library and scrolling through my collections. Then I decided fuck it, I need to give some form of pace, some kind of short/long/short variance to the things I’d selected. And I came up with this list:
- Burton: The Anatomy of Melancholy
I’ve wanted to read this for a long time. I’ve had a copy of the NYRB edition for years, but was always afraid of fucking the spine and losing pages, so it sat on the shelf, unread. Recently I managed to nab a copy of the excellent new Penguin hardback edition, so am no longer afear’d of pages going rogue. I am not silly enough to attempt to read this all in one hit, so it’ll be a bit of a daily dip. I’m looking forward to exploring this labyrinth of joy and humanity.
- Isherwood: The Berlin Novels
Technically they’re Berlin stories, but we’ll let that pass for the moment. Christopher Isherwood’s faintly-disguised exploration of 1930s Berlin is something I’ve never managed to get around to, and it’ll give me an excuse to watch this stage version of Cabaret again, so I feel it’s about time.
- Simmons: The Terror
Mutiny? Cannibalism? Monsters? Arctic exploration that takes an actual historical event as its basis? I’ve been wanting to read some Simmons for some time, so I figure this will make a good place to start. (There’s also the TV series to watch afterwards, too.)
- Mishima: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
It’s been about ten years since I read Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy, and so this is a nice mid-length way to get back into his work. I know the bones of the story thanks to Paul Schrader’s breathtaking film about the author, but I am keen to see how the original unfolds, particularly given that I’ve visited Kinkaku-ji a few times now.
- Ellmann: Ducks, Newburyport
I didn’t know until today that Ellmann is the daughter of noted Joyce scholar Richard Ellman, but it makes sense given that huge chunks of this 1000-pager are given over to endless run-on sentences. I suspect this might be the book that requires the most concentration this year, something in me – masochism, perhaps? – makes me think it’ll be worth it.
- Eric McCormack: ?
The question mark is because I don’t know which of his books I’ll (re)read. I discovered McCormack in the ’90s when a band I loved took its name from his curious work The Paradise Motel, and have been entranced since. I know that there was a recent release of his works to ebook format, which certainly makes acquisition a lot easier than it was in 1994 at least. If you’ve never heard of him, I heartily recommend either The Paradise Motel or The Mysterium: he has a flavour that’s hard to pin down.
- Walker: Stranded
This is one of those books which, as a music nerd, I’m a bit ashamed to have never read. Thankfully, it was rereleased last year and so I’m going to rectify this oversight. It’s a record of Australian music between 1976 and 1992, and should fill some gaps in my knowledge. (The author has also curated playlists to go with each chapter!)
- Kingsnorth: The Wake
Another difficult but rewarding one, this piece of historical fiction is a debut which borrows from past argot in an attempt to flesh out the life of an Anglo-Saxon man reeling from the Norman invasion. Another work financed through Unbound, so it will be intensely personal if nothing else.
- Jensen: We, The Drowned
A seafaring tale which spans four generations, two world wars and a hundred years. It’s about mariners and those left behind, and people either love it or hate it, so I’m interested to see on which side of the plimsoll line I fall.
- Eugenides: Middlesex
This is one of those things I keep thinking I’ve read at some point, but then I check my records and no, I haven’t. I’ve certainly read some Eugenides, though having missed this one seems to be a bit of an oversight, soon to be corrected. I’ll certainly be checking out some writing about the book too, given its portrayal of intersex lives.
- Bocaccio: The Decameron
In which people locked up in order to escape a pandemic tell each other stories. Sounds familiar? Perhaps a bit close to the bone? I imagine this will be like reading Reddit’s Am I The Asshole? subreddit without, well, quite as many assholes, but with more brocade.
- Hunt: Girt
I’ve previously noted that my historical knowledge is patchy at best so this book (and its two sequels, if I’m lucky) is a well-regarded way of putting some of the spakfilla of knowledge into those brain gaps. I figure getting a reasonable overview and then digging in with some more academic works is a Good Way To Start.
- Turton: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
A mystery with a twist, and no I don’t want to know any spoilers thanks. I’ve meant to read this for a while (Eve read it when we were on holiday a few years ago) but now it’s on a manageable list so I might just get around to it.
- Sherman: The Bells of Old Tokyo
Given that travelling to Japan is off the cards for a while, this meditation on a city and its people, framed by timepieces and bells, seems to be a pretty good option. Probably will pair this with the beginning of my Yakuza series play-through, just to heighten the odd feeling of homesickness.
- Kent: The Good People
I was knocked out by Hannah Kent’s debut, Burial Rites. It was so impeccably researched yet the knowledge on display wasn’t showy – it served the (horrific) story so imperceptibly. I’m hoping that this follow-up, a story about Irish mystery, is just as good. (I also have Devotion, Kent’s latest, in the pile.)
- Runyon: On Broadway
Years ago when I was blogging a lot more regularly, someone sent me a copy of this through my Amazon wishlist. I loved it because it was so much what I thought of as stereotypically New York, having never been there – a collection of picaresque 1930s snapshots of guys and dolls. I know it’s probably a bit far off the truth, in the same way that NYC wasn’t only Weegee photos, but I’m happy to revisit this. I’ll likely shoehorn in From First to Last as well, in order to soak in as much Runyon as possible. May need whiskey for this.
- Stevenson: 1914–1918: The History of the First World War
More brain holes. I know the outlines of WW1 but am unclear on a lot of stuff, unsurprisingly. Stevenson’s work receives a lot of recommendations as one of the best one-volume works on the subject, so starting there is a reasonable way in. There’s similar titles for WWII, though I think my tolerance for grim times may need a rest between the wars.
- Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer
Another holdover from last year. Yes, it’s still the copy I bought on an abortive date at Gleebooks in Glebe in 1996. No, I still haven’t read it.
- Stevens & Swan: Francis Bacon: Revelations
A proper doorstop on a deadshit genius. I’ve been very keen to read this since I heard of its publication, and I will be very interested to see how it stacks up to other Bacon biographies I’ve read – especially as those have tended to be written by people with more personal connections to the artist (and maybe more reason to make themselves look good?).
- Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
I swear I’ve had about three copies of this book in varying sizes, and yet have read none of them. Is it the year that the ebook version finally makes it into my eyes? Let’s hope so: I do like a good pastiche, and nothing has really scratched that itch for me since Charles Palliser’s The Quincunx.
- Basile: The Tale of Tales
A poet from Naples, Basile collected stories that others – hello, Brothers Grimm – would adapt and turn into much-loved fairytales. This is the source, and has a five days/fifty stories framework, so I’ll be keen to see how a load of fantastic tales hang together. This is the most recent translation of the work, too.
- The Bible
A holdover from last year. I’m reading the Carroll and Prickett-edited version which includes the Apocrypha. Perhaps electing to read this thing during a pandemic was tempting fate, but I didn’t get very far through in 2020. (I’m still wandering about in Exodus, I believe.) Hopefully this year will be better: nothing has changed, faith-wise, but I’d like to have it under my belt.
That’s the list, though as mentioned it’s incomplete. I’m still going to be puttering around, reading whatever takes my fancy, too. The plan to get through some guitar and shakuhachi texts in order to improve my execrable playing is still in effect, as is my plan to read more tarot and magickal texts.
Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be shoehorning a bunch of popcorn lit in there as well: it’s not all about self-improvement.
(I imagine I’ll still take notes for works, just as I did last year. Perhaps not as copiously? But I’m hoping I’ll be better at keeping on top of the reviewing process this time around.)
Another thing I have planned is the creation of a generic “I’d like to read” page on here. That way, all the stuff I’ve mentioned over the years can have a place I can check it out and cross it off. Call it a mountain en route to a molehill? Something like that. I’ll update when I actually get the thing done.
Anyway, let’s see how 2022 treats us, book-wise. I’m not going to hope that it’s better than last year because you see how that turned out but still… onwards and upwards.