What I read in 2016


What I read in 2016

I’m intending to write a post called The Dying Art of Reading but that will take more brain power than I can currently muster, so for the moment, a round-up of my reading last year will have to suffice on the topic of reading.

I keep a notebook of what books I read; some use Goodreads for this but as I hate Goodreads (it’s toxic for authors, for anyone with a thin skin and honestly, it’s data-mined more than anything else for connections between authors and readers). In total I completed reading 78 titles last year, which is slightly less than I thought; that said, I always have a good half dozen books on the go and some I simply don’t finish. More on the DNF topic another time. 34 titles were non-fiction, and some of those were doorstops that took months to get through, chipping away a few pages at a time. One of the first that I bounced my way through was a book called Brilliant Green- the surprising history and science of plant intelligence by Stefano Mancuso. Well written and entertaining too, this book was a joy to read and might change the way you see plants.

I’ve worked my way with glee through a fair chunk of the works of Marie-Louise Von Franz, student, translator, and associate of Carl Jung. Her books on fairy-tales are enthralling and enlightening reading; you can almost pick one at random and be amazed at the extraordinary information inside. In the same vein I read The Black Sun – the alchemy and art of Darkness by Stanton Marlan, and also Monika Wilkman’s The Pregnant Darkness – alchemy and the rebirth of consciousness. Both books explore the darker states of human existence (such as depression and grief) in the light of the ancient art of alchemy. I’m still pondering on my findings, such as they are, but these are excellent books.

Very worth reading too was Change of Life- psychological study of dreams in the menopause by Ann Markovic, and The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter – Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa and the Repressed Feminine by Marion Woodman. Susan Scott’s quirky little book, In Praise of Lilith, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, was highly enjoyable too; a collection of essays and explorations, it’s a very engaging walk through some complex topics.

In fiction, I sated myself on Ann Cleeves books, gorging on several each from the Shetland and the Vera series, and then going right off them. I did the same with a number of titles by Dennis Wheatley and probably won’t touch either author’s works now for a long while. I might be in danger of doing the same with John Connelly’s Charlie Parker series, but he keeps upping the ante and on to book 6 now, I’m quite hooked. Each book is very different from the last but threads run through all that develop and tantalise. I read a couple of Last Kingdom books by Bernard Cornwell but stalled and will hopefully pick up on the ones I’ve bought but not yet read later in the year. H.Rider Haggard accompanied me on many miles of static bike journeys at the gym… he’s still brilliant to read even with the political incorrectness!

I finally finished Sir Terry Pratchett’s A Slip of the Keyboard; it’s a collection of essays and the like, but it’s painfully poignant to read and I confess I cried. I also read his Unseen Academicals, and cried laughing too.

For work I read a couple of books on Paris (How Paris became Paris by Joan Dejean and The Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne) but since I only did one Paris trip last year, my new-found knowledge has languished and I’ll need to reread them both to refresh my memory!

Some of the very best of the fiction was from indie author Gev Sweeney. Three books from her this year in her extraordinary series of alternative history: Ferial Day, Master Warwick and finally For The Burnable Cities. The Prodigal’s Psalm from last year is an excellent unsettling read too. Alternative history as she writes it mingles Roman, biblical and modern history in an unnervingly accurate exposé of current events. Without giving spoilers, you’d have to read them yourself to get quite how apt the themes are.

There are other books, some I have enjoyed, some not; some I have beta read (and therefore, at this stage cannot comment) but that’s a rough guide to where my reading has led me in 2016. I have not given links, but all books are easy enough to find on Amazon and if not, let me know and I’ll see if I can help.

15 thoughts on “What I read in 2016

  1. I love some of the books you mention here! The Owl Was A Baker’s Daughter – I read that so long ago, and was amazed. I love the Charlie Parker series too and have even reread a few. He has now started writing YA sci-fi/fantasy, which just isn’t grabbing me. You’ve sparked my curiosity in Gev Sweeney – I’m off to find her on Amazon. Happy reading in 2017 and, more importantly, happy writing Viv xx


  2. Your voracious capacity puts my plodding to shame. I can almost never bring myself to abandon even a bad book ( because I feel sure it MUST improve- they seldom do!) I have curiously just read three narrowly disguised-as-fiction memoirs- each very different, but giving pointers to the dangers and the liberties offered. One was embarrassingly bad, and two are highly original ( Ruth Finnegan’s I have reviewed- the other I well might) All because I feel duty bound to review The Shakespeare Enigma but it is so comprehensive and all encompassing I shall have to sift through it again and the frivolous season was not conducive to such concentration. A very HNY ( Hunny?) to you!


    • It works out at a book and a half a week….which doesn’t seem voracious to me, to be honest. I do now abandon books, because life is too short. I am persisting with one that has become by loo book, and which makes me very angry and shouty, because it gets so much WRONG. I shall probably review it; it’ll perhaps veer somewhere between a 1 and a 3. Nigel got me The Shakespeare Enigma for Christmas, but I haven’t started it yet. I might take it with me to Austria in Feb as I think it might divert me enough from my fear of flying. happy new year to you (HUNNY. Snort) xxx


  3. Wow, I don’t keep a record of my reading, but I’m certain it doesn’t live up to the number of books you read. Compared to previous years I read few new novels, being sidetracked by several trips to Germany, which did however made me read German novels, among them Marlen Haushofer, followed up by the English translations of her work.
    On recommendation by Scott Pack, I read several novels by Kent Haruf, loving all. Sadly he died last year.
    Having little time to source book lists, I re-read from my shelves – stories by Borges, articles by Italo Calvino, Water Benjamin, Susan Sonntag. Sometimes I get drawn in the wonderful interviews or writers on Paris Review.
    Further I re-read poetry, in a slow way before going to sleep – Rilke, Rumi, Senai, Attar …
    And there are books to do with my professional interests, which I occasionally recommend to clients and therefore resample – Virginia Satir’s People Making, Irvin Yalom, Marie-Louise von Franz and Marion Woodman, which you also like.
    Thanks for reminding of Gev Sweeney, whose work I read on Authonomy.
    There are a few books I downloaded onto my laptop Kindle last year, including yours, all lost for the time being, since the app refuses to work. Being a computer fool, I must find an expert.
    Wishing you all good things for 2017


  4. You certainly delve into some very interesting places, Viv! Thanks for mentioning ‘For the Burnable Cities’ – one of Gev’s which I wasn’t aware of. You’ve already seen my list from 2016 – I hope I can add another one of yours to 2017. Happy New Year and happy reading.


    • Happy New Year, Paul. I’ve got one at the final proof reading stages but as both lovely proofers are doing it as a favour, it’s taking a while. I’m hoping for Easter. There’s also the sequel to The Bet, which draws together threads also from Square Peg and Away With The Fairies (if you are observant, there is a character in ALL of these, though only mentioned in passing in Fairies) that I’d love to get out.


      • I missed that common character – no prizes for observation there. I look forward to seeing that mystery solved – and all the rest!


  5. Thanks Vivienne so much for mentioning my quirky little book! Such a lovey surprise, I am smiling as I type.
    I’m a great fan of ML von Franz, Marion Woodman, June Singer, James Hillman – re novels, I’m trying to remember what stood out for me last year. Anthony Doerr: ‘The Light between Oceans’ I loved and then bought his ‘About Grace’. Yours I read on my Kindle: ‘The Bet’ which I much enjoyed. Not only for your writing but the psychological depth. it was great. I pick up books as and when at 2nd hand book shops and for me it is bliss to be engrossed in an other world. Some books on my bookshelf I re-read eg Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game …
    Am intrigued by Gev Sweeney. Sounds as if it could be up my street ..
    May 2017 bring you joy and peace Vivienne, more creativity, good health and cheer.
    And thank you again for mentioning me! 🙂


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