Books 30-36 (& spares) / 2016

So it’s been a while. Last update was start of July when I was on book number 29). So I think I missed 6 weeks. Fortunately, packed in quite a few hours of reading while on hols, so here goes. I’ve picked my summer faves (and one to avoid). Excuse epic post.

30) The White Van by Patrick Hoffman – an interesting and innovative twisty thriller with great characters and a fab, unexpected plot. Don’t want to say more in case I ruin it. One of the best thrillers I’ve read this year. 8/10

31) Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene – well, I had to really: we were there, and it was great to recognise street names and bars (not much has changed). An interesting, comic novel with a nice sideline in Cuban political history and beautifully sketched characters. 7.5/10

32) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – one of those classic American college / baseball stories which follows a team and a short stop with natural grace and athleticism. It’s like a campus novel combined with a sporting novel with an engaging cast and an involving plot. Flawed and a bit baggy, but worth the ride. 7/10

33) The Unlimited Dream Company by J G Ballard – I love JG Ballard, especially Cocaine Nights and Empire of the Sun, and his autobiography is fabulous too. This is howlingly awful and bizarre; a plot-less tale in which a man crashes a plane in Shepperton and then things go odd: people turn into birds; he creates a flowery jungle through spraying his semen on everything; he has a creepy urge to have sex with everything/everyone; and the point is unclear. 4/10

34) Tokyo by Nicholas Hogg – really fascinating and engrossing tale in which an Englishman and his daughter get drawn into a mysterious plot. Brilliantly written, really gripping and fresh (not easy given how many novels are set in this city). Highly recommended. 8/10

35) Bark by Lorrie Moore – a slam dunk this really, as Lorrie Moore is one of my favourite writers. Just wonderful, funny, moving short stories: stories that resonate because you’ve thought that or said that or felt that same thing. There’s an amazing story about a woman (in a failing relationship) building a friendship with an old man which is the saddest, most brilliant thing I’ve read in a long time. Fab. 9/10

36) Walking Away by Simon Armitage – one of those ones that are 99p on Amazon so I downloaded it; apparently a sequel to a book about walking through the Pennines and doing a poetry reading every night, this is the same but along the South West coast. It’s a bit uneven (inevitably, I guess) but there’s some gems and nuggets in there and Armitage has a great turn of phrase from time to time. For those who love walking, the South West or miscellany. 7/10

Others worth a look:
Invisible by Paul Auster – 7/10 – intriguing as ever
If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr – 7/10 – consistently good thrillers
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz – 7/10 – worthy follow-up (maybe better written?)
King Suckerman by George Pelecanos – 7/10 – always good (like the Wire in novel form…because he wrote for the Wire)
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen – 6.5/10 – every book the same; every one funny
Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson – 6.5/10 – most page-turning book of the holiday
Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo – 6/10 – early one, but not bad

Others to avoid, except for emergency escapism:
The Litigators by John Grisham – 5/10
The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen – 5/10
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 6/10
[I know it’s sold 10 million copies or something and lots of people like it; I really didn’t: all the characters are unlikeable and it’s predictable towards the end]

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