Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: My Reading Year

This year, my reading rate was much reduced - a mere 71 books - although some of those have been quite hefty ones.  The last one I read was  The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara and is due out in the UK in a couple of days.  I highly recommend.  It is about a scientist who goes to a remote island and encounters their people who are extraordinarily long-lived.  The character of the scientist is revealed through his journal, which is being edited by one of his acolytes, so the reader knows from the outset that the account is likely to be biassed.  The evocation of the academic scientist is well done (and satisfyingly nuanced), and descriptions of the tropical forest are poetically economic and vivid.  An impressive debut novel.

I've read quite a bit of experimental fiction this year too: Umbrella by Will Self and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride.  The Self I'd tried before and although I'd been taken with the writing had become distracted by some other reading and not finished it.  I decided to give it another go and I was glad I did.  The story twists around various viewpoints, sometimes in mid-sentence, which gives the narrative a unique vigour (as well as keeping the reader (or in my case, listener) on her toes.  I always enjoy a good asylum story, and liked the way this one dealt with the angst of the psychiatrist as well as the patient and covered new aspects of the phenomenon described by Oliver Sachs in  Awakenings (when Dopamine proved to be effective (to varying degrees) in waking people from a infection-induced coma).  Excellent stuff. 

The McBride book I'd bought after reading something written by another man called Self - this time the blogger 'John Self' in Asylum.  It took me a little time to warm to A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.  At first I thought it was a modern day version of the Irish MisLit (the stream of consciousness style was surprisingly easy to read) but it grew to be more than this - well written, unusual and moving - about a sister's relationship with her dying brother.  

I've also read some very interesting non-fiction books on history and also genetics.  I learnt a lot about genetics from a meaty textbook: Introduction to Genetic Analysis by Anthony J F Griffiths et al (which I'm proud of myself for reading)

and also The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey 

and My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank - both fascinating and well worth reading.

Perhaps the most unusual book I read was Silkworm Rearing by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which I enjoyed so much I bought and read its companion volume Silkworm Diseases and now have my eye on another in the series on silkworm egg production to savour later.  I recommend all these books to aspiring silkworm farmers everywhere.


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