2015: Books I read


Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Wendy Jones

Londoners by Craig Taylor

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Ridley Walker by Russell Hoban

Snakes and Ladders by Dirk Bogarde

Truman Capote by George Plimpton

Cathedral by Raymond Carver

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver

Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life by David Caute

Touching from a Distance by Deborah Curtis

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Possession by A S Byatt

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Your Father Sends His Love by Stuart Evers

Our Mother’s House by Julian Gloag

Alfred Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd

Reds by Ted Morgan

Carol (AKA The Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

Ripley Underground by Patricia Highsmith

The Shaking Woman by Siri Hustvedt

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Seven Miles Out by Carol Morley

Reckless by Chrissie Hynde

Le Pigeonnier by Dirk Bogarde

The Yellow Wallpaper (and 2 other stories) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Miss Brill (and 2 other stories) by Katherine Mansfield

My Dearest Father by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Robber Bridegroom (and others) by The Brothers Grimm

As Kingfishers Catch Fire (and other writings) by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde

Wailing Ghosts (and other stories) by Pu Songling

Traffic and The Roots of Honour by John Ruskin

A Slip Under the Microscope and The Door in the Wall by H G Wells

Of Street Pieman (and others) by Henry Mayhew

Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith

The Boy Who Followed Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Cockfosters by Helen Simpson

The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith

Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith

My friend Lucy bought me the book that ended one year and started the next, and she had it signed by the author, with an accompanying sprig of holly denoting its status as a Christmas gift.

I started the year with a hideous bout of flu followed by dumping the Steven Mosby fan, though not for his love of Mosby. As a result of these two events, I read a lot in January – including Londoners, bought for me by the ex (we were together when I read it; exes soon after). He had also loaned me Ridley Walker, a book that was hard to read, hard to love, but worth persevering with. My friend Elaine bought me another hard to read, hard to love book for my birthday: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which she inscribed with the words ‘You told me you would never be able to read this. Go on, challenge yourself.’ I made it. I didn’t hate it.

Four books on the list from this year (the two Bogardes, the Losey biog and the Gloag) speak of a new writing venture: a screenplay about an imaginary event in the life of Dirk Bogarde, based on a story of mine.

Rock biogs feature too. Aside from the brilliant, life-affirming Albertine book, I read Reckless and Touching from a Distance, both loaned to me by Jude, the former after she had reviewed it for the Guardian. Jude also bought me a bunch of Penguin Little Black Classics for my birthday, which accounts for several of the shorter reads in Autumn.

Finally, I crossed Reds and the Capote biog, both started in previous years, off my list.

I met Miriam Toews at the Bookseller Crow and bought All My Puny Sorrows, which I read, loved and found strikingly, deeply moving and helpful. It led me to Irma Voth, but AMPS remains my favourite. The filmmaker Carol Morley and I became Facebook friends after an inspiring interview she gave to Miranda Sawyer at Foyles on the publication of her first novel, and the chat we had as she signed my copy. The suicide of her father formed the basis for Seven Miles Out. She wrote this in my book: ‘Dearest Jackie! You are lovely! Sorry you “lost” your dad too.” She ended by wishing me luck with my writing. I treasure the memory of that night, from my tears as she read the opening pages about her father to the honesty of her answers to Sawyer’s questions and the obviously personal conversation I felt able to have with her. Her words – both spoken and written – had made me feel that I was in the company of a friend.

Todd Haynes is probably my favourite contemporary American filmmaker (it looks like he has taken over from Jim Jarmusch but I am behind on my Jarmusch films so there is still a chance that Jim will regain his place). When I discovered he was making a film version of Carol I decided I should read the book first. The Bookseller Crow ordered it for me. It started an obsession with Highsmith that saw me get through four of the five Ripley books, a Highsmith biography and several other of her novels before the year was out.

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