The Helen Garner, Yellow Notebook, edited diary entries which together present a strangely fragmentary refracted sort of an autobiography; Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, one of the eeriest, most disturbing short stories I have ever read, by Sylvia Plath; Animal Languages, by Eva Meijer, a wonderful compilation of stories about animal communication which takes all kinds of forms but always involves relationship; Helen Garner's collected stories; Sarah Paretsky's Shell Game; The Crying Book by Heather Christle, a kind of memoir in the form of tiny essays, free-floating paragraphs, adding up, also, to a kind of extended meditation on, if not quite a philosophy of, crying; Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokurczuk; and Leslie Jamison's lovely long-form essays in her latest collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn; The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff; When Einstein Walked with Godel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought by Jim Holt, The Wicked King by Holly Black; The Tradition, a poetry collection by Jericho Brown, in which he introduces his invented form, the duplex, a kind of combination of ghazal, sonnet and blues stanza forms; The Biographer's Tale by A.S. Byatt; The Spellgrinder's Apprentice, by N.M. Browne, because I happened to find an old proof copy lying around and needed distraction - a children's book and another intricately worked out narrative; Whereas, poetry by Layli Long Soldier, whose work I first encountered on-line, work at the intersection of poetry and the essay; Notes of a White Black Woman, Judy Scales-Trent, from the 1990s but still interesting; Martin Creed, Works - a conceptual artist (although he prefers to be called expressionist) whose works are much more interesting when you approach them as a series, and I like the way he writes about working; Lanny, by Max Porter, which I read in growing trepidation and then afterwards thought, if the reading experience would have been the same almost the whole time I was reading the book whatever the ending, how is it that the ending so utterly determines how I feel about the book? Complications, by Atul Gawande; Time Is The Thing the Body Moves Through, T Fleischmann, full of lines I wanted to quote, so a slow read, because I kept putting it down to pick up a pen; The End of Absence: Reclaiming what we've lost etc, by Michael Harris, took about ten minutes to skim through and put down; The Word Pretty, by Elisa Gabbert, short and brilliant essays, just about my favourite book this year, a book I carried around with me everywhere till it was finished, and now I want to read it again; Magic and Loss: The internet as art, by Virginia Heffernan, didn't live up to the title; "Consider the Hermit Crab," by Katherine Rundell, not a book, an essay, but I don't want to forget it, and so I might include the occasional brilliant essay I read even if it isn't in a book; Head Girl, by Freya Daly Sadgrove, whose poetry has thrilled us for ages, and now is in a book; 2000 Feet Above Worry Level, by Eamonn Marra, like Fleabag but funnier and it is nice to have it be a boy not a girl be so self-deprecating; Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones, not one of her absolute best but that means I had almost totally forgotten it; The Most of It, Mary Ruefle; Anne Boyer, The Undying, marvellous, wonderful; The Day of the Dead, Nikki French, sort of wish I didn't read books like this (because of the murders) but I like her character Frieda Klein; The Social Photo, by Nathan Jurgenson - about the photography of social media as being of sociological, rather than aesthetic interest, but never actually addressing or examining what the sociological interest might be, so quite a colourless book, though its basic point is worth making; The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer; Range, by David Epstein, another one of these five minute skim sort of books, the blurb (or title really) basically gives you the gist; Tim Parks, Out of My Head, a bit more worthwhile: about consciousness and worrying away at what seem to me largely problems of terminology but with engaging anecdotes; Alison Light, A Radical Romance, oddly unaffecting; Penelope Lively, In the Garden; Elena Ferrante, Incidental Inventions; George Steiner, My Unwritten Books; New Transgender Blockbusters, a poetry collection by Tim Upperton, kind of succeeds in achieving the effect of a Bill Manhire poem by coming at the result from the opposite direction - arriving at a kind of lyricism through form, whereas I feel Manhire begins with a lyricism that gains power as it turns formal; Specimen by Madison Hamill: terribly funny, vivid memoir-based essays that make quite sharp observations, the belief that the "fun" teacher was fun even though she herself was not having fun, as if he were "objectively fun" is brilliantly recalled; Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin's tragic, terrible, beautifully written and intricately structured novel about sexual repression in the 1950s; Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, a novel I reread often to teach it, and still always my students notice things about it I hadn't picked up on before; The Curse of the Dream Witch, Alan Stratton, not as good as his earlier The Graverobber's Apprentice; Lent, by Jo Walton - brilliantly imagines the Savonarola story as a story about demons and multiple lives, recreating a Renaissance as vivid as Hilary Mantel's but much stranger, more foreign, more religious, the demons not a contemporary fantasy element but belonging to an utterly different ontology - like a practical application of Greg Anderson's proposal in The Realness of Things Past for historians to write history accepting the ontology of the time they are writing about, such as the reality of the presence of gods in ancient Greece (an idea I am still grappling with, and can't quite accept); John Burnside, The Music of Time - I am always wanting to read a good book about poetry but am usually disappointed, as I suppose I would be by my own, I wonder, but I have liked Paul Muldoon's The End of the Poem, and Stephanie Burt's The Poem Is You; I You We Them, by Dan Gretton, a book almost too big to read because you can't hold it, and this first volume, made up of two books, one in five parts (each part in many chapters) one in eight parts, is only the first of two projected volumes, and although it is engagingly written and the main insights essential, it is almost impossible to read not only because of its physical heft but because of the way it circles around and ranges about from one digression to another, the actual ideas almost buried amongst the amount of memoir, description and philosophising. An edited volume would be brilliant, with the key warnings about what enables a "desk killer" to be culpable of such crimes brought forward: incrementalism, normalisation and peer conformity, dehumanising language, abstracting victims, distance, transferring personal responsibilty to the responsibility of other authorities, compartmentalisation of thought, workaholism, prioritising systems over people, wilful ignorance - all essential factors to be on guard against in our lives; James Williams, Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy; Weather, a novel by Jenny Offill - the kind of book that makes you want to write a book, except you want to write the exact book you are reading, and it has already been written, just about my favourite book this year so far; Advice for Future Corpses, by Sallie Tisdale, which the library had put out on display just before closing for lock-down, so I took it with me, but reading it have the odd feeling I have read it before, but I don't mind reading it again; The Happiness Effect, by Donna Freitas, about social media making teenagers feel they have to perform happiness - I like the detailed interviews and descriptions, very anecdotal; The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, H.G. Parry's brilliant first novel about dealing with a brother who can bring characters out of books, funny but also properly working out the absurd scenario in a thoroughly satisfying way, and set in Prince Albert University in Kelburn, which seems rather like Victoria University only I don't seem to be a character in it at all; Ransack, the wonderful first collection of poetry by essa may ranapiri, just having another read of it, more all the way through than usual; Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout - I haven't actually finished this because I love it so much and each story packs such a powerful punch I read it very slowly, one story at a time, spaced apart, and then when I have finished it I will probably start again at the beginning; Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie, a brilliant retelling of the Antigone story in contemporary Britain, heartbreaking of course, except that it ends before it ends, with the outcome pretty inevitable but not actually described, so you can hope, although I'm probably the only reader who imagines they might be going to survive. I also like the way Karemon, the Kleon of the novel, comes across as ambiguously heroic from the viewpoint of his son and it is only in the chapters narrated from his own viewpoint that he comes across really as the villain of the piece - the narrative perspectives are wonderfully complex and ambiguous in the ways they overlap and depart from each other and in the expectations they set up and interpretative questions they raise; The Cruel Prince, Holly Black, also a little more interesting in a way because I read the sequel first, so I'm reading this with a dim memory of what is going to happen, wondering how we are going to get there from here; The Finest Traditions of my Calling, by Abraham M Nussbaum, I really loved this medical memoir; American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, by Terrance Hayes, richer on every rereading, this time I liked all the James Baldwin references; Lonely Asian Woman, by Sharon Lam, very funny in places and I liked the friendship group but would have rathered it didn't turn surreal on me; The Weavers of Samyryr, a bleak and brutal fantasy by Chris Wooding; Paradise Lost, by Milton, only I've just seen there are twelve books of it, so I am going to note now I've read the first two, in case I don't read the rest - this is far more bewildering than I expected, though I love the "griesly" this and "gloomie" that and the strange depths and heights even of worlds without dimensions, the geographies that make no sense, the sizes and scales that keep altering, and the time that doubles in on itself and loops about, and all the commas, and deferral of the main clauses; To Sir With Love, an autobiographical novel that rails against racism yet is sexist, classist and homophobic, both bitter and sentimental, off-putting from the very start and yet I wanted to keep reading, and had tears in my eyes and a lump in the throat often enough as I read; Agnes Callard, "What do the Humanities Do in a Crisis," which set me off on an Agnes Callard trail - "The End is Coming," in particular, is one of the bravest and most frightening essays I've read, going beyond the Samuel Scheffler argument I found a lot of solace in (we live not for ourselves but for a humanity we imagine lasting beyond our own lives) to point out that, nevertheless, humanity won't last forever and it lasting forever isn't something we can invest the meaning of our lives in - so, here I am, ungrounded all over again; Vincent van Gogh, the Letters of; How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, by Neil Gaiman, quite brilliant except for how he had been dead and now wasn't dead but was still afraid of dying, which made no sense to me and seemed an unnecessary complication; Susan Choi, Trust Exercises, some brilliant sentences along the way to its twisty conclusion; Adam Phillips, Attention Seeking, also full of brilliant sentences, suggestive and exciting but cheats a bit on the logic; Render: An Apocalypse, by Rebecca Gayle Howell, wonderful poem in it perfect for lockdown reading (except it won't take long), "Catalogue of What We Do Not Have" ("Enough"); Queen of Nothing, a satisfying conclusion to Holly Black's trilogy and a very necessary escapism when I needed to escape into fantasy fiction for a while; Every Third Thought, Robert MacFarlane, I think you can't make a book just be putting together a lot of quotations, or you could, but not like this; Pins, Natalie Morrison, small pieces of story/linked poems, adding up to a tiny novella; After Callimachus, Stephanie Burt, lovely translations through which Stephanie Burt's own self shines through, illuminating the translation or "imitation" of the originals, a form of writing she describes as a kind of science fiction, or alternative history, in its relocation of the ancient Greek poetry into a present day of Tweets and synthetic hormones; "My Gaggle," Paul Theroux, about the death of his goose Willy: "I had known other deaths - the death of a close friend, the passing of my father twenty years ago, the death of my mother more recently - but this was so much worse"; There There, Tommy Orange's brilliant, complex, moving novel I am rereading because I am teaching it for my American literature class; Garth Nix, Angel Mage, another fantasy re-imagining an early Christianity as a form of magic, strange and compelling, and I liked its alternative past of gender equality; The Winter of the Witch, Katherine Ardern, I accidentally began another trilogy with the last book but it was too good to put down and I have discovered I quite like going back to the start of a trilogy to find out what happened first; The Singer's Gun, Emily St John Mandel, vivid and compelling, particularly so since I felt, almost from the start, I remembered every scene, and yet I could never say what was going to happen next, surprise after surprise dazzled me, the story is brilliantly constructed, even so, I think I probably have read it before, probably before I had read Station Eleven; Thinking Again, more thought diary entries from Jan Morris! setting me off on a whole new set of thoughts about thinking; The Bear and the Nightingale, the first in the Katherine Ardern trilogy and as subtle and complex and compelling as the third, and I rather love knowing how the characters will be so much later in the story; The Girl in the Tower, the second in the trilogy, but the last I would read, and I never wanted it to end, and when it did, I had to reread the third again, knowing what had happened and what would happen next; Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism, pretty much what you could write yourself, stay off twitter etc; Rest and Be Thankful, Emma Glass, dreamily written and rather wonderful except I refuse to accept the ending and have made up a further ending in which she wakes up again from what was another dream; My Wild and Sleepless Nights, Clover Stroud's memoir of the intensity of mothering her five children, a book which kept me awake at night, longing for my own children, wishing for five, missing so much the two I have; The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline, rather jumpily constructed; Small Spaces, this one really a children's book which I read just because it is by Katherine Ardern, and if I had a child the right age I could have liked reading it to them; Dictionary of the Undoing, John Freeman, using the alphabet to order a series of small essays, really, and I am interested in brevity; Psychology for a Better World, Niki Harre; The Islands of Chaldea, Diana Wynne Jones, because Phoebe said she couldn't remember it and it wasn't memorable, and nor could I remember it exactly, even though I was arguing for Ursula Jones to have done a brilliant, seamless job of finishing it, and as soon as I started reading it I did remember it, but then I had to keep going, because it is, after all, largely, by Diana Wynne Jones; The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, on applying a particularly inspiring approach to therapy to the art of conducting an orchestra, but with the idea that you'd apply it, and the conducting strategies, to all kinds of areas of life; Trace Elements, Donna Leon, because I like Brunetti but the ending is somewhat, and somewhat intentionally, unsatisfactory (also, how strange, that I wanted to read this as soon as I saw it in the bookshop and had to wait for it to arrive in the library, meanwhile there were plenty of older Donna Leon Brunetti books in the library many of which I hadn't read, one of which I even took out, and I wasn't in the slightest bit keen to read them); first five chapters of Auē, by Becky Manawatu; The Ghosts of Sherwood, short novel or novella following up on the Robin Hood story fifteen years later, very nicely turned, sort of an historical fairy-tale, by Carrie Vaughn; Ursula K. Le Guin, No Time to Spare, which I thought I might really like, because it is blog entries, or short essays, just the form I an interested in, but turns out I am interested in more than form, or more than length, there has to be some nice turning within the short length, like a sonnet, and voice matters, and by form and voice, perhaps I am really thinking of character, or at least character as expressed in writing, and it makes me wonder what exactly it is I like so much about Jan Morris's short entries which seem so artless; Our Life in the Forest, Marie Darrieusecq, a compelling dystopia, set in the not so distant future, all in one long chapter and a breathless read, especially towards the end, when the narrator is almost literally breathless and hurrying, faster and faster, to tell her story, marvellous and I think it must be brilliantly translated, too; Just One More Question, Niall Tubridy, neurology anecdotes; Women in Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavitz, Leanne Shapton and contributors - "I began to see that dressing was like everything else: those who dress well do so because they spend time thinking about it." What I most learned from this book is how many people have one thing they have an amazing number of - one person has twenty pairs of white trousers, another has 8 leopard-print tops, someone else an amazing number of ballet-style flats, with someone else it is white sneakers, but I don't know what I have an amazing number of that's all the same; Kate Clanchy, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me; Joan Aiken, The Whispering Mountain; but also Emma Watson, one of Joan Aiken's follow-ups to Jane Austen, and her Jane Fairfax is brilliant, but it was strange after being caught up in the verve and eccentricity of The Whispering Mountain to read the pedestrian prose of Emma Watson, and although I did get quite involved in the story and it did come to a satisfactory resolution, I couldn't forgive the less necessary deaths of characters who didn't deserve to be treated by their author as so disposable; Death is But a Dream, by Christopher Kerr, a book about the dreams people have as they are dying, which suggest life really is like a Shakespearean romance, at least at the very end, when in dreams everyone can be reconciled and restored; The Meaning of Dreams, Calvin S. Hall, from 1953, when almost all dreams turned out to be about sex, at least according to Calvin S. Hall, Director of Dream Research, and mostly a male dreamer wanting or wanting to resist sex with his girlfriend; Pip Adam, Nothing to See, surrealism noir, though with an upbeat ending; Shakespeare, Bill Bryson's short biography which still manages to fill many chapters basically with accounts of how little we know, almost nothing at all, yet somehow even so full of lively interest; John Middleton Murry in contrast in a few pages sketches out a fuller and much more dramatic biography with utter conviction, making absolute claims about all the suppositions and uncertainties Bill Bryson carefully sets out; Jane Gardam, A Long Way From Verona, like reading a self-portrait of myself at an early age which makes me worry I might have actually modelled myself on Jessica Vye; Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson, rereading for an essay, thinking about Carson's interest in beginnings; Lady Catherine's Necklace, another Jane Austen spin-off by Joan Aiken, much more satisfactory than her Emma Watson, with a dash of Aiken relish for absurdity and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion that was still not at all what the beginning looked like it was setting up; "Ten Meditations in Poetry's Hut," an essay on poetry by Dan Beachy-Quick - "It is a strange library - thinking - where nothing arrives complete"; Power of Three, Diana Wynne Jones; The Incarnations, by Susan Barker, an odd, haunting novel, with a Gothic story about reincarnation framing a realist story about a contemporary taxi driver framing a series of embedded historical stories that are wildly fantastic and Gothic in mode, the alternation between realism and the fantastic gradually collapsing as the novel goes on; Intimations, Zadie Smith, a slight book of essays, mostly written in lockdown, but only a little bit about it; Eros the bittersweet, Anne Carson, feels very freewheeling I suppose because of the short sections - the power of brevity again - but not just brevity, because the brevity of the Zadie Smith essays didn't have the same effect, nor the brevity of the LeGuin posts; The Unreality of Memory, by Elisa Gabbert, essays written before the pandemic but all about disasters and the likelihood of a coming pandemic, so very eerie to be reading it now, though not as eerie as the pandemic must be for Elisa Gabbert; Eliza's Daughter, a really good Austen spin-off by Joan Aiken with all the rollicking energy of the Willoughby Chase series but a heartbreaking portrayal of Elinor and Marianne later in their lives; The Unicorn, by Iris Murdoch, in which the characters have extraordinarily frank yet utterly bewildering conversations about their tormented relationships before some of them die and the others get on their train to the city leaving what's past behind; Alain de Botton, On Seeing and Noticing; Joyce Carol Oates, The Faith of a Writer; A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians, H. G. Parry's alternative history of the time of the French revolution in England, France and Saint Domingue, with mesmerists and vampires yet it reads like the most serious, intricate historical fiction, like Hilary Mantel, the supernatural elements taken as seriously as any other historical detail; Joan Aiken, The Silence of Herondale, an early attempt by her at writing to a formula, so successful it is hardly like reading a Joan Aiken book at all, I could hardly be bothered reading to the end; Simonides the Unlost, Anne Carson, wonderful; Danyl McLauchlan, Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley, the sequel to a first book I haven't read and everyone else in and of Aro Valley read ages ago and no wonder, it is brilliantly silly, fast-paced and intricately plotted, and one day I will go back and read the Unspeakable Secrets; Val McDermid, Broken Ground; The Threads of Magic, Alison Croggon, this was really terrifically well worked out and I might have to read all her other books now; The Friend, Sigrid Nunez, one of the best books I've read all year and the combination of narrative and thinking, brevity and continuation I am particularly interested in right at the moment, though not for anything I'm working on myself yet; The Swimmers, Chloe Lane, another absolutely brilliant and affecting novel, made me weep even though it is so unsentimental, or sentimental in such a bracing, sharp way; Man at the Helm, Nina Stubbe, appealing for a few pages but just too cute for too long, and it seemed a strange book to publish in 2014, I would have rathered it were written in the 70s, when it was set, even if I were reading it now, which makes little sense, but is how I felt; The Time of Green Magic, Hilary McKay, also too cute; What Painting is, James Elkin, marvellous on Monet's brushstrokes but mostly its answer to its question is that painting is alchemy and then we get a lot of alchemical symbols along with some chemistry, I'd have liked more about his painting classes and his students' experiments; David Goode, Playing with My Dog Katie: An Ethnomethodological Study, but the thinking not integrated with the descriptions enough to be interesting, just a lot of exhaustive descriptions of ball games with a corgi introduced by, and followed by, accounts of other people's theorising; The Last of Her Kind, Sigrid Nunez, absolutely brilliant on how strange the past seems from another time, and how strange to be in a present in which the past, once so ordinary, has become so strange, and brilliant on the complexities of friendship too, and love, and full of such startling surprises and unexpected narrative moves; Lydia Davis, Essays One, completely compelling when she writes about writing and with very useful strategies for revision, I kept sharing them with students, she seemed to have the answer for any problem, usually the same answer for the same problem (cut the ending, or reverse the last two ideas); Deerskin, Robin McKinley, which I was reading because a student is writing on it, and something about the combination of fairytale and realism troubled me, even though I'd recommended Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels to the same student for the same project and it seems to do something very similar with well worked out vividly realised magic realism, but even so...something about Deerskin was more troubling, though it is also true that I did lose myself in the story and particularly liked all the puppies (6!); Jenny Offill. Dept. of Speculation, lovely short novel made up of small pieces but not at all incoherent and very moving, like her other novel, Weather, the kind of novel that makes you want to write, as well as keep reading; The Left-handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix, I hope there might be a sequel; Sidewalks, Valeria Luiselli; What are you going through, SIgrid Nunez, I love everything of hers but this might be the one I love the most, a sharply funny, moving story of friendship and where it can take you, with truth I think as a core value, one I equivocate about, I'm afraid of truth, but I love the way the advocacy for truth in this novel, how exhilarating the narrator's truthfulness is; Quest for a Maid, an historical novel I rather liked, set in the thirteenth century, by Frances Mary Hendry; Donna Leon, The Golden Egg, a Commissario Brunetti novel, so there will be a murder, so why are such novels comforting? I think because of the essential decency of Brunetti himself and the upholding of decency over alternative values, presented very straightforwardly in opposition to each other; Like, A.E. Stallings - all the poems are wonderful but the collection as a whole also gathers force as a collection and the poems resonate in relation to each other; Dante, The Divine Comedy, the Clive James translation, a strange combination really with the biographical narratives and the passages of lyrical description, along with quite an odd theological imagination; Sara Paretsky, Dead Land, more hard hitting than the Leon novels, and perhaps more sentimental in a way too, but still the clear contrast between decency and corruption; Maggie O'Farrell, Hamnet, a novel I loved and keep remembering like remembering a dream, and which has made me think if Hamnet and Hamlet were interchangeable spellings for the same name, that must mean Hamlet is pronounced Hammet; Lauren Groff, The Monsters of Templeton, in the genre of sunshine Gothic, in which the monster is called Glimmey, and is as benign as the ghost, and when it dies is replaced by an even cuter baby monster; The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black, good story-telling; Sigrid Nunez, Sempre Susan, her memoir of Susan Sontag which I have read before, when I was going through a phase of curiosity about Susan Sontag, and which I am reading now in a phase of curiosity about Sigrid Nunez; Wind Sprints, by Joseph Epstein, a very long book of very short essays which I took out of the library because I thought I was interested in brevity but it turns out not to be brevity itself that makes interesting short essays interesting; Coventry, essays by Rachel Cusk, who can be marvellous, and who writes about things I'm interested in, and some of the scenes are memorable, but, yet, everything just washes off somehow; whereas, Olivia Laing! every sentence of Funny Weather exhilarates, I want to have read it already, and I want to read it again, and I want to stop and think and I want to rush on and I feel hopeful, about thinking, and about the world that there is to think about; A Deadly Education, the first of the Scholomance books by Naomi Novik, brilliant, much anticipated, and now I am waiting for the next one; Adam Grener, Improbability, Chance and the Nineteenth Century Novel, the kind of scholarship I love most, a complex but clearly worked out and surprising argument, with intricately detailed readings of novels that make you want to read them all over again, though you'll notice I haven't; Midnight Bargain, C. J. Polk; Margaret Atwood, Hagseed, a retelling, reframing of the Tempest story, which I picked up by accident but then kept reading, loving the way it all worked out; A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge, a rereading; Tehanu, Ursula Le Guin, the saddest of the quartet, but the prose is so meditative, it is like bathing; Summer, Ali Smith, in contrast has such velocity, at least on a surface level, even though it goes deep; Salvation City, a novel Sigrid Nunez wrote in 2010 in which she imagines a pandemic, a flu virus that sweeps over the world, brilliant in its evocation of adolescence, the tragedy of falling out of love with your parents, and also remarkably prescient in how she imagines a pandemic unfolding except in her near future world the American President is a woman and the target of the wilder conspiracy theories; Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, the loveliest, strangest, most elegant book I've ever read I think, I was completely happy just roaming the halls without anything happening but it turns into a real page-turner while losing nothing of its elegant simplicity; Bobcat, and other stories, by Rebecca Lee, quite long short stories I really liked reading and thought about afterwards, beautifully developed, some over long time-spans, some over the course of a day or a few hours but wth flash forwards I particularly loved; Separation and Creativity: refinding the lost language of childhood, by Maud Mannoni - this I did not find interesting at all, although everything about it seemed promising; Two Hundred and Fifty Ways to Start an Essay about Captain Cook, by Alice Te Punga Somerville, another one for my exercises in brevity library, and a good example of brevity leading to complexity and depth; The Glass Hotel, Emily St John Mandel, oddly to begin with gave me the same sense of having read it before I had reading The Singer's Gun, but I can't possibly have read it before since it only came out this year, and that sense faded, but the sense of knowing these people quite intimately only grew, and my sympathy for these essentially criminal characters, so I really liked how it ended, endings are so important, and yet I also trusted any ending would feel alright, that the sympathy and sense of the characters being somehow held by the author could be sustained through any plot movement, as was indeed the case; Neil Price, The Children of Ash and Elm, a history of the Vikings, quite full of interest but the review of it was pretty good at picking out the highlights and perhaps I really preferred the review to the book itself; Photographers on photography: how the masters see, think and shoot - I liked the contradictions between the assertions of different photographers, often placed in juxtaposition with each other by the editor, Henry Carroll; Red Pill, Hari Kunzru - I liked the detail and the pacing of the writing, and liked the organisation in the four sections, with the house-keeper's espionage story as a novella within the novel, wasn't convinced by the narrator's breakdown and didn[t find his engagement with the alt-right antagonist either plausible or interesting enough, but found the last section, his return home, to Trump's election, poignant; The Cost of Living, Deborah Levy, one of two books of memoir/essay about living as a writer in a capitalist world I was reading simultaneously, loving the details in this book in particular, the striking scenes of ordinary disaster or celebration, and the way it is so beautifully structured in circles and loops and digressions and pathways through a time in a life; the other book was Eula Biss's Having and Being Had which, since I finished on 1 January 2021, I will begin my list of books read 2021 with.