Thursday, January 05, 2017

2016 Book List

Here's a summary of everything I read in 2016. It was definitely a more fun reading year than 2015, when I got bogged down in multiple heavy-hitters like Ulysses and The Education of Henry Adams. I hope these brief descriptions aren't too unhelpful.

A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David (1950) A classic by one of England's cooking giants.

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1911) Strange novel about a woman so beautiful an entire university commits mass suicide because they can't have her. (Sorry, spoiler, but you're never going to read this anyway.) I once met a woman who was actually named Zuleika.

Map of Another Town by M.F.K. Fisher (1964) The great American food writer's memoir about living in Aix, in Provence, in the 1950s as a single mother.

A Considerable Town by M.F.K. Fisher (1978) A memoir about life in Marseilles.

Might as well be Dead by Rex Stout (1956) Nero Wolfe mystery. Not great literature, but they grow on you.

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones (1975) Brilliant children's novel about a star that's forced to be reincarnated as a dog.

Good Faith by Jane Smiley (2001) This novel looks at the seamy side of real estate.

Come Back, Wherever you Are by Lenora Mattingly Weber (1969) The last of the Beany Malone series.

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather (2011) Newly divorced, Mather learns how to eke an existence through thrift and canning at her Lake Michigan cottage. Mostly a memoir, but has some good recipes.

The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd (2012) Super-creepy Victorian mystery.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (1972) A sweet little book about life on a Finnish island. To my knowledge, the only book I've ever read by a Finn.

Sloop of War by Alexander Kent (1969) Sometimes I like to read nautical fiction. This is one in the Richard Bolitho series.

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd (2010) So, what if one of the characters in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is actually a murderer and kills Fanny Price? Read this to find out what that would look like.

My Life in France by Julia Child (2006) Title is self-explanatory. Entertaining. Shows how much labor goes into writing a cookbook.

Studs Lonigan Trilogy by James T. Farrell (1932-1935) Growing up working class and Irish on the south side of Chicago. I struggled with these books because the characters are so unlikeable.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell (2004) A disappointing, fictional account of the relationship between Mozart and Constanza Weber.

To Glory we Steer by Alexander Kent (1968) Another about Richard Bolitho. It was while reading this book that it finally dawned on me that this series is mild homoerotica.

Life Would be Perfect if I lived in that House by Meghan Daum. (2010) I loved this book so much! Daum writes about her house lust, something I can really relate to. She even has the same recurring dream that I have - the one when you discover a whole secret wing of your house that you never knew you had. I always hate waking up from that dream.

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (2015) Bryson travels from the south end of Great Britain to the north.

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford (1915) I can hardly remember anything about this one. :(

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759) The amazing thing is that I've actually read this book twice. It is funny, but it's also very hard to tell what's going on.

I Iago by Nicole Galland (2012) Novel telling the Othello story from Iago's perspective.

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (1860) One of the Barsetshire series, about the financial troubles of a young clergyman.

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (1934) Cynical novel about a marriage gone wrong.

Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley (1928) A rather depressing novel set among artists and intellectuals in England.

We'll Always Have Paris by Emma Beddington (2016) A memoir by one of my favorite bloggers.

Frost on my Mustache by Tim Moore (1999) Travelogue about Iceland and other points north. This was a reread in preparation for my own trip to Iceland, but it wasn't as funny on the second read.

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (1864) Concerns the romantic adventures of Lily Dale, a young lady.

Three for the Chair by Rex Stout (1957) Three murder novellas.

The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins (1954) A beautiful woman finds her husband's affections are drawn in a surprising direction.

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (1913) The tale of audacious social climber, Undine Sprague.

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene (1948) A British police inspector in a west African town faces serious moral dilemmas.

Galore by Michael Crummey (2009) Chronicle of a Newfoundland fishing village.

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad (1904) I had such a hard time reading this. A South American town has a silver mine. There's a revolution. Some people load a bunch of silver onto a boat and escape with it; someone else is tortured to death; someone else kills himself; someone else is shot at the end. Thank God that's over.

Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor (1946) Cassandra Dashwood goes to work as a governess for a family with some shameful secrets. Elizabeth Taylor is one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this, although there's a terrible plot surprise near the end that left me feeling depressed and rattled.

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (1867) The last of the Barsetshire series. Concerns a stern, upright clergyman who is accused of theft.

The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell (1934) Tiresome novel about a bratty child.

Plot it Yourself by Rex Stout (1959) Murders and other crimes in the publishing industry.

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth (1969) Angst-ridden, hilarious novel concerning sex and impossible parents.

Longbourn by Jo Baker (2013) Retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the servants.

Curse of the Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. Fantasy.

Juliet in August by Dianne Warren (2012) Beautifully crafted novel about a single day in a small Saskatchewan town. Highly recommended.

Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse (1906) Usually I like Wodehouse, (author of the Jeeves and Wooster novels) but this was disappointing.

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope (1864) The first of the Palliser series. Concerns Alice Vavosar, a young woman who is torn between two lovers. Also concerns the early marital difficulties of Plantagenet Palliser (heir of the Duke of Omnium from the Barchester books) and his wife Lady Glencora - two mainstay characters of the Palliser novels.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009) Tells of the rise of Anne Boleyn from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell.

Too Many Clients by Rex Stout (1960) Nero Wolfe again.

The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever (1957) Preppy New England family saga.

Lake of the Prairies by Walter Cariou (2002) Memoir of growing up in a town in northern Saskatchewan.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012) Continuation of Wolf Hall - the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

The Misses Mallet by E. H. Young (1922) A family of eccentric spinsters in Bristol.

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran (2012) Humorous essays by a British journalist.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth (2014) A neat summary of the unacknowledged down side of Scandinavian societies. I wish there had been more about Iceland, but I enjoyed this.

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope (1867) Second of the Palliser series. Concerns a young Irishman, Phineas Finn, who manages to fall bassackwards into a seat in parliament.

Three at Wolfe's Door; The Final Deduction; The Mother Hunt; The Right to Die; Trio for Blunt Instruments; The Doorbell Rang; Death of a Doxy all by Rex Stout. (1960s) What? For God knows what reason, I'm reading all the Nero Wolfe novels, It's taken me years, so I pushed to get through a bunch at once. They are pretty entertaining, though formulaic.

Justine by Laurence Durrell (1957) The first book in the Alexandria Quartet. Concerns an unnamed British man who is having an affair with the wife of an Egyptian nobleman.

The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West. (1930) I loved this! Deeply, deeply cynical novel about the British aristocracy. If Downton Abbey wasn't so stupid, it could have been like this.

Village Christmas by Miss Read. (1966) A cozy Christmas story.

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope (1871) The third in the Palliser series, and one of my favorites of all Trollope's novels. I plan to do a post about all the Palliser novels together once I finish them.


  1. I love your books lists and descriptions. I'm surprised to see so many modern books on your list since I always think of you reading classics and older literature. I read 61 books in 2016. I just finished a book by a Finnish author but I'm still not sure if I like it: "The Core of the Sun" by Johanna Sinisalo. It has an interesting idea but the execution is a bit clunky. Using letters from one character to another, written in italics (ugh, my eyes!) as a way to explain the past gets on my nerves.

  2. Some of these sound quite interesting. Need to put them on my list. And I need to finish my list of what I read last year.

  3. I always have that dream about finding extra rooms in my house also! I ordered the book from my local bookstore tonight.

  4. I adore your single-shot summary/reviews. Now I want more time to read.

  5. An impressive list. I appreciate your cogent summary for each one. I have M.F.K. Fisher's "Map of Another Town" on my kindle, although I am probably not going to be able to finish it before it vanishes back to the e-library. I am required to read several books for book discussions I am in.

    I really LOVED "Tristram Shandy" because, at the time, it delighted me that it made no sense and went nowhere, but in such a fun way. I read it about 30 years ago, and not since. Maybe it's time to read it again.

    It looks like it was a Rex Stout Year for you last year. I tried to read a Perry Mason mystery last year, but it was just too dated.

  6. The Summer Book is a favourite, as are the Moomin novels - highly recommended. Tou know that Tove Jansson was of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland? So is Kjell Westö, another Finn whom I hereby urge you to read.

    Thanks for excellent list:)