Reading Round-Up – January 2016

My timeline is full of monthly wrap-up posts and they look like fun, so here is mine:

Books read in January:

This was a pretty good month, all in all. I read 8 books (none of which I have reviewed yet, whoops….), all of which were 3-star or better reads for me, including War and Peace which was my first 5-star read in ages. It has also got me firmly back into my reading groove, after a bit of a bumpy finish to last year. The 8 books I read were:

  • The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth – This was a re-read, but I read it for the first time back when it was originally published, around ten years ago I think, so I came to it as if for the first time. It marked the end of an alternative-fiction-what-if-the-Nazis-had-won spree, triggered by The Man In The High Castle, which I’ll write about in more detail soon (I promise).
  • War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy – This took up most of my month. It’s been on my TBR for years, in one form or another, but the promise of the Andrew Davies BBC mini-series was what finally prompted me to start reading. Both the book and the mini-series have been superb. I finished the book last Friday, and am sort of in mourning for the characters – and in total denial that the final episode of the series is this coming Sunday.
  • Pietr The Latvian, by Georges Simenon – This was purchased on a whim, a relatively quick read as part of 24-in-48. I enjoyed it at the time but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression.
  • Men Explain Things To Me, by Rebecca Solnit – Title essay brilliant, others mixed, overall better than average.
  • Scottsboro, by Ellen Feldman – A slightly-fictionalised account of the 1930s court case of 9 boys in rural Alabama, showing that nothing really ended with the Civil War.
  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, by Joanna Cannon – I had very high expectations of this and it didn’t quite live up to them, which isn’t to say it wasn’t good – I enjoyed it, and there were some particularly good laugh-out-loud moments, but it wasn’t the ‘Read of the Year’ I’d seen it hyped as.
  • Exposure, by Helen Dunmore – I’m very into spies, at the moment, and this was great. It seems like it’s difficult to say anything new about the Cold War, but looking at it like this, through a more domestic lens of what happens to the family of someone accused of spying, was really clever. One of the best I’ve read from Helen Dunmore.
  • The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi – My first ever graphic novel! The first half of this, detailing the Iranian revolution through the 9-year-old eyes of the author, was wonderful. The second part, in Austria and Iran, lost its way a little for me. But still very much worth the effort.

Best book of the month: War and Peace, by a country mile. I know that sounds like one of those hoity-toity things people say to make themselves sound good; believe me, I didn’t expect to love it. But I did. More on that to follow.

Reading goals for February: Stop buying books (easier said than done, when there are so many good ones being published)! And get on with the Classics Club Women’s Challenge. Five out of the eight books I read last month were written by women, but none of them were on my classics list. My first planned read for February is Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), so hopefully this should start to fix itself.

I’d also like to read more diversely in February, which – looking at the list above – wouldn’t be difficult. On the TBR (among others) are The Sympathizer (Viet Thanh Nguyen), Human Acts (Han Kang, whose ‘The Vegetarian’ was one of my favourite books of last year), The Automobile Club of Egypt (Alaa Al Aswany), Beloved (Toni Morrison, actually a re-read but I remember loving this at university), and Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). Any other recommendations gratefully received!