In no particular order, here’s the best stuff I’ve been reading this year that isn’t a novel or short fiction collection:
How Novels Work – John Mullan
This is required reading for my MA, but I really wish I had read this years ago. It’s a straight forward, engaging piece of literary criticism that manages to cover almost all the things a writer of fiction must consider when writing. My copy is full of mini-post-its and highlightings and margin notes. I read it cover to cover in August and I dip into it all the time. Absolutely essential for anyone planning to write fiction, particularly novels, and pretty near indispensable for readers who want to delve a little deeper in how novels work.
My Animal Life – Maggie Gee
I read this in the build up to Christmas and loved it. It’s a memoir of both Maggie Gee’s private and writing lives. It is a life affirming read. Something a bit special. I went into detail about why a little while back.Read the full review of My Animal Life here.
Full Blood – John Siddique
I discovered John Siddique via a number of people tweeting/bloggin about his work this year. His website blurb describes his fourth collection like this:
‘Full Blood is John Siddique’s fourth full-length collection of poems for adults. Erotic, physical, completely open and fully engaged with the moral urgency of life, Siddique tackles his themes robustly and yet with great sensitivity, constantly defining and reimagining what it is to be a man in today’s world, living fully in the moment. Marking a serious development in the writer’s work (as well as the mind of this significant British poet) this is Siddique’s most emotionally-charged work to date.’
and Jackie Kay (who is awesome) said this:
‘John Siddique’s new collection takes the reader down the street and round the world. This is a brave and a bold book of linked poems whose subjects range widely from love to hate, from war to peace, from childhood to adulthood, from the real world to the world of myth. Siddique is interested in everything. Tender and open-hearted, these poems are full of wonder at the power of love. Dreamy and yet direct, this is Siddique’s most powerful collection yet.’
I resolved last year to read more poetry. I didn’t read as much as I planned, but reading this over the last couple of weeks has resparked my resolve. It is writing that is alive in the way only poetry is alive, full of passion (physical and emotional) and fearless in its revelations and questions about life. His poem ‘On becoming a writer’ is printed out in large type and pinned above my writing desk. And this reading of the last poem in the collection is rather wonderful:
Head over to John Siddique’s website to see and hear more.
Too Much Sex & Violence – Rol Hirst and loads of great artists
Rol Hirst, a mate from my small press comic days, launched his new series earlier this year with a killer first issue. I’m not just saying that because I’ve been a fan of Rol’s work since the mid-nineties. I’m saying it because the first issue is dark and vibrant and intriguing and funny as fuck. In fact just writing this has me hankering to re-read issue one. Also, Rol, if you read this, whendo we get our clammy hands on issue 2?
A selection of Nightjar Press publications
This year I managed to pull my finger out and order (almost) a handful of Nightjar Press chapbooks. They were rather atmospheric. I liked them. A lot. Read my full review of a selection of Nightjar Press titles here.
And those, along with these, these and the stories linked to on my tumbler blog The Short and Long of It (where I post nearly daily about the online short fiction I’ve been enjoying), were the things I liked best this year.
Anything you read that you’d like to shout about in the comments?