The summer of 2022 has really been the summer of Knausgaard - another summer of Knausgaard - but after Deborah Levy's Hot Milk, which I read at the end of 2021, I also was reading Hugh Mackay's The Question of Love, a novel that is one chapter with variations, an interesting experiment that doesn't quite come off; Michelle Orange's memoir Pure Flame, about her mother and her relationship with her mother and about mothers and daughters more generally, that I did really like in all its aspects but especially in the more personal sections and perhaps most of all for the text exchanges between the two of them included as they were written; and The Problem with Everything, Meghan Daum, an extended argument with millenial gender politics from a Generation X perspective, which is my perspective, at least in terms of generations, and yet I couldn't see the point really of arguing instead of listening and thinking. I love The Morning Star, the new Knausgaard novel which has not had brilliant reviews but is magisterial, tremendously exciting at the same time as absolutely engrossingly readable, at least to me, in the way I find all his prose engrossingly readable, in its close attention to the smallest details of everyday life, combined, in this novel, with a tremendous metaphysical reach, which perhaps I was more alert to (but surely I would have been anyway?) because at the same time I have been reading his very first novel, A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven, which combines an imaginary biographical account of a Renaissance theologian, and the theological analysis of biblical passages, with what unfold into extended narratives of biblical stories that seem to become increasingly Norwegian in feel and which are brilliantly, powerfully, emotionally realised while remaining intensely strange. I went on to read Anne Ernaux, Simple Passion, a short novel, or autofiction, about an affair, except hardly really about the affair, just an account of the feeling of being in love; Maggie Nelson, On Freedom, much more considered than the Meghan Daum, a much more interesting exploration of Generation X-ish gender and sexual politics as the culture moves on, much more open to a range of views, but almost too open, or too diffuse in its point of view, so that one idea is always hedged by another idea, with qualifications to qualifications, and the argument progressing by quotation after quotation, the occasional rare moment in which a clear and interesting position is staked out soon swept away again by another wave of ideas moving in other directions; A Woman's Story, by Annie Ernaux, a memoir about her mother, which she wrote as "a cross between family history and sociology," to get away from her contrasting views of her mother as either a good mother or a bad mother, an interesting experiment, with some vivid details and an interesting historicist perspective but also, perhaps intentionally, just a little bloodless; Flambards, K M Peyton, and A Ready-Made Family, Antonia Forrest, rescued from a friend's father's estate, mildewed and wonderful; The Meaning of Pain, Nick Potter, which I've already forgotten, no doubt useful, practical rather than metaphysical; Le Chateau des Nuages, by Diana Wynne Jones, translated by Alex Nikolavich, wonderful in any language; Assembly, by Natasha Brown, a short, fierce novel written in small chapters, arriving at a confronting resolution, if it an be called a resolution, quite brilliant, and actually really exactly as the blurb describes it, as a cross between Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and Claudia Rankine's Citizen, complete with house party; Italian Life, by Tim Parks, an illuminating, and probably necessarily fictional, expose of the Italian university system and its embedded corruption, which never quite lifts off the ground as a novel, feeling all the way through a bit like a description of a novel rather than the novel itself, or perhaps a series of extended case studies; Dear Knausgaard, by Kim Adrian, which I resisted reading for a long time, intending to read it as a counterweight to Knausgaard, short where My Struggle is long, and billed as a feminist critique, and then I found myself loving it in just the way I loved Knausgaard, loving the originality of the form - a series of inimate, detailed letters, loving the interweaving of detail and analysis and reflection and narrative, loving the voice of the author which is pretty much to say loving the author herself, and loving her love for the books as well the precision of her critiques, loving also, perhaps most of all, the inclusion of conversations she has about the book with friends of her, in which her friends have the best insights of all; Dying: A memoir, Donald Horne; Max Porter, The Death of Francis Bacon, more like poetry than prose, an odd fragmentary book; Tūnui/Comet, Robert Sullivan's new collection of poetry, which is at once expansive, lyrical and prosaic in the best sense of each word; Super Model Minority, Chris Tse, quite astonishingly good, opening out to a view of the future in a way that really expands his poetic practice; The Cows, an essay in pieces, about three cows, by Lydia Davis; Night Flights, rollicking adventures set in the Mortal Engines world, by Philip Reeve; The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, a completely wonderful memoir in the form of a glossary, by Kim Adrian, my best summer discovery so far, oh it is autumn; Force of Nature, a thriller by Jane Harper, following a recommendation, but I hated it, it was full of leads that meant nothing, and left a stale taste in the mind; I prefer Swann's Way, Proust translated by Lydia Davis, but I am not really taking to Proust, yes to the childhood intensity and complicated rules that dominate his life, but the comedy of class is only so funny to me and the famous sentences I find awkward - really, I just prefer Knausgaard; Garth Nix, Terciel and Elinor, a terrific read like all his Old Kingdom fantasies; Time lived without its flow, Denise Riley, an extraordinary lucid account of what it is like to live in stopped time, after the death of a son; The Way Out, Alan Gordon, a clear, straightforward, detailed book about the science of chronic pain; Entanglement, Bryan Walpert, a brilliant, compelling novel that becomes increasingly urgent as it nears its conclusion, about which I will write nothing here in case anyone reading it hasn't got to the end yet; La Belle Sauvage, Philip Pullman, a shadowy and mysterious reading experience for me, reading it in French with many occluded nouns, but in any language moving into increasingly strange narrative territory in the second half, the flood half, or fantastic-romance half, quite wonderful; Three Rooms, a novel by Jo Hamya (in her twenties!) set in Oxford and London, captivating even though almost nothing happens, with sometimes quite strange writing that is original and beautiful because the strangeness clearly comes from the attempt at truly realistic, subjective description; Essays Two, Lydia Davis, the translation essays, and although much too much about Proust a completely inspiring take on translation and on language learning which she does through reading books in languages she doesn't know, exactly my favourite way to try and learn a language, not that I've succeeded, and even the gap between being able to read and being able to speak another language she takes the shame out of for me (incidentally, a twitter poll on shame and guilt had respondents two thirds more likely to feel guilt than shame which is extraordinary to me, I, who feel so much shame and mortification every day); Those Who Can, Teach, Andria Zafirakou, published recently so I can't have read it already although it felt awfully much as though I had, a book which ought to have been inspiring, a book I felt I oughtn't to set my teeth against; The Secret Life of Poems, by Tom Paulin, marred by repeatedly faulty scansion; How Poems Get Made, by James Longenbach, an interestingly different set of qualities he looks for than I look for in poetry; Le Club Des Cinq, Enid Blyton, for French practise, but also, an interesting book to read in the context of contemporary gender identity and surprising but satisfying that the happy ending, after the children find the treasure and bring the villains to justice, involves Claude's father tousling his hair and, having denied his gender identity throughout the novel, saying to him, I'm proud of you, my boy - italicised, even! "Je suis fier de toi, mon garcon." This, the first, is much the best in the Famous Five series; The Merciful Crow, Margaret Owen, almost too brutal on the first page for me to continue but, in the brutal mode of contemporary YA fantasy, a compelling story and with an original and intriguing metaphysics of magic; Aoife Abbey, Seven Signs of Life, stories from the intensive care ward which I read as an odd sort of comfort reading; The 6.41 to Paris, Jean-Philippe Blondel, honestly nothing more than the story of a train ride, from beginning to end, in chapters alternating the point of view of two passengers sharing a compartment who had an affair twenty-seven years ago but who spend most of the train ride not talking to each other - the suspense, will they, won't they, ever say anything? builds even as nothing happens; The Life of the Mind, Christine Smallwood, also about the life of the body, and all the bleeding that the life of the body can involve, but full of thinking, often very funny over-thinking too, almost could be irritating but the narrator grew on me as, therefore, did the book (but she really does need to get out of academia); Albert Goldbarth, The Adventures of Form and Content, essays that irritated me with their jaunty tone; The Witch Haven, Sasha Peyton Smith, fairly standard YA fantasy, that I was skimming fairly fast by the end; The Poems of Catullus, translated by Horace Gregory in the 1920s, they seem almost as fresh as the Catullus originals, not always literal but always lyrical, these are perhaps my favourite Catullus translations, especially of the longer poems; Whiti Hereaka, Kurangaituku, feels like it should have its own page apart from anything else ever written, an extraordinary, rich, resonant strange and wonderful novel, with the afterlife half of it like Dante but stranger and more compelling; Wendy Darling, A.C. Wise, a good idea to write the story of Wendy Darling as an adult in 1931, but something about the combination of fantasy and realism doesn't work for me, there isn't either the levity or the rigour it would take to make it work; Haruki Murakami, Birthday Girl, a story that reads like a riddle, but I don't think Murakami himself knows the solution, leaving the story feeling in the end, for all its suggestive details, not so much ambiguous as pointless; Catullus' Bedspread, Daisy Dunn, a very peculiar novelisation in the guise of a biography, but concluding with a translation of Catullus 64 which has its moments of brilliance; Māori Philosophy, Georgina Tuari Stewart, a useful introduction; Let Me Not Be Mad, A.K. Benjamin, begins fairly conventionally as a series of case stories but by the end I don't even know what the genre is, a portrait of the psychiatrist as a mad man; Little Thieves, terrific retelling of the Goose Girl story by Margaret Owen, as a long and complicated YA fantasy; On the Way to Language, Martin Heidegger, poetic about prose but prosaic about poetry, most lively in dialogue with someone else interesting rather than when lecturing; The Smokes Thieves and The Demon World, complex and gripping YA fantasy by Sally Green; Pure Colour, Sheila Heti's sweet and strange novel/fable, which offers metaphors for thinking with that I find myself returning to over and over; More Than a Woman, Caitlin Moran, chatty and even flip at times but with sharp insights and by the end real hard-won wisdom that would have served me well some years ago; Penny Wincer, Tender: The imperfect art of caring, an important discussion of all the different forms of unpaid caring, its importance and difficulties; The Girl Who Drank the Moon, another ingenious fantasy for children by Kelly Barnhill that I kept imagining as a really good children's film, perhaps a Studio Ghibli film; Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking - and not really about happiness exactly, about not fixing on goals (particularly interesting), not seeking security, not having a self (interesting always to think about), being conscious of mortality and getting better at not doing (which I'm already quite good at, hence the book-reading, a way of not doing something else); You Probably Think This Song Is About You, Kate Camp's collection of memoir essays - very readable, terrific detail, and now I know a lot about Kate Camp; Ruth Ozeki, Timecode of a Face, this wonderful short book, a sort of extended experimental essay, an art project and a meditation, notes made while starting at her face for three hours, with essay/memoir/reflections interspersed with the notes, I loved it; Happy Old Me, Hunter Davies, another book I loved, a memoir about being old! and living on after the death of his wife, but what makes it so great really is just the detailed discussion of every decision he makes, and the day to day details of living a life, always interesting to me; Leaving the Lectern, Dean A McManus, a book about his transition from lecturing to an active learning teaching method, interesting to me as a teacher but again, mostly, as in Hunter Davies on old age, because of the amount of narrative detail, tracking day to day his teaching life; Michael Lewis, The Premonition, a riveting account of the work being done across the US to control the COVID pandemic against the odds; Translating Myself and Others, Jhumpa Lahiri, beautifully written essays on translation, some far more interesting than others, especially the one on Aristotle, poetry and the optative tense; David Sedaris, A Carnival of Snackery, extracts from his diaries which I just found irritating, all the flip anecdotes that would find a place in an essay that might lead somewhere deeper or do something with them, when by themselves extracted from even the real mess of a diary, just grate; Deep Secret, Diana Wynne Jones, to recover from all the nonfiction, just immersive reading which I really should save for practicing French or Italian reading on, her books being amongst the books I can read in translation, always intricately, brllliantly plotted and always in favour of mess, love and life, in this book symbolised by the central role of the quack chicks; Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason, a novel I loved, I loved every character in it, whatever their flaws, and I loved the brilliant narrative control, the pacing, sometimes so surprising; The Ginger Child, Patrick Flanery, a compelling read from beginning to end, a memoir about the yearning to have a child, brilliant in its discussions of envy - the philosophy and politics of envy - and astonishingly honest in the story it tells, a story that ends sadly, disturbingly, in a way that must have been difficult to want to put into words; Nostalgia has ruined my life, by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, a novella in funny, bleak little prose poems, about everyday bleakness taken to an extreme level, with "thrillingly, unapologetically negative energy" as Ashleigh Young puts it; How to be Human: An Autistic Man's Guide to Life, Jory Fleming; Brigid Kemmerer, Forging Silver Into Stars, all the standard tropes of YA fantasy but a well-worked out intrigue plot; 52 ways to walk, Annabel Streets, had me walking backwards till I fell over; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Notes on Grief, beautifully written, another example of the power and resonance of collected connected fragments or small pieces of prose; Dirty Secret, a memoir about a mother's hoarding, Jessie Scholl; Ness, Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood, a fable, a sort of long poem, sort of an incantation, so many lines I want to write as a poem of my own, a way of thinking in terms of drift and asymptote and rhizome; The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh, important and compelling, a somewhat simple and I thought simplistic argument that I quibbled with in the first section, about the inadequacy of the realist novel to imagine and reflect on climate change, deepens and becomes more and more convincing as it brings in history and politics, and religion too in ways that need thinking about; Avidly Reads Poetry, Jacquelyn Ardam, an appealing combination of scholarly insight and personal revelation, looking at sonnets, abecedariums, the documentary poem and the internet poem; Fraud, Anita Brookner, for when you want to wallow in Brookner's laying on of loneliness, bleakness and meaninglessness, this a particularly painful example and mostly boring but still somehow captivating, and with an interesting structure that offers its small reward at the end; How poetry can change your heart, Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley, pretty well unreadable, and only partly because of the pale brown font on pink paper; The Latinist, Mark Prins, about which I had somewhat mixed feelings, a novel of academic intrigue except we were a bit too much let in on the intrigue, it pulled slightly in two different directions - empathy or sensation? - and so didn't quite arrive at either; Monday Mornings, Sanjay Gupta, a sort of attempt at a novel made up of not quite case studies, readable but disappointing, with a lot of the things that happen feeling like attempts to make up a plot that still in fact didn't become a plot; The Madness of Grief, a memoir by the Reverend Richard Coles, which I did really love, an account of the death of his partner with all the details of the paperwork involved, the decisions that need to be made when a life ends, the responses of the dachsunds and so on, full of grief but also full of life; What We Want, Charlotte Fox Weber, about desires with case studies that are surely very fictional but the format of the case study allows them to be both novelistic and contained, and directed towards illustrating an idea; I Am No-one, by Patrick Flanery, a fine-grained beautifully written novel about an academic under surveillance, whose past is only gradually revealed, an oddly inscrutable character who makes the most unlikely assumptions that only seem more unlikely as more information is revealed, an odd novel really that I finished unsure exactly what it had all amounted to, though details from it still linger; Either/Or, Elif Batuman's follow-up to The Idiot, and I loved it just as much, a completely convincing portrayal of the thinking of early adulthood, at once utterly original and totally familiar, with a vulnerable but resilient heroine I would follow to the ends of the earth, in this case to Turkey, ending up in Russia; The Golden Enclavies, the final in the Scholomance trilogy by Naomi Novik, less realisitic perhaps though quite a brilliant allegory for the monstrosity at the heart of the capitalist system and magnificently imagined in every detail; The Unmapped Mind, Christian Donlan, a memoir about the self-re-orientation that a diagnosis of MS involved, along with all the details of ordinary living with a small child and becoming a parent at the same time as becoming ill; Home/Land, Rebecca Mead, about moving from New York to England, a little distanced somehow from her own experience, or it felt like that to me; The Employees, a workplace novel, by Olga Ravn (translator Martin Aitken), a profoundly strange, sad, unsettling novel as a series of employee reports that are like prose poems, theyas well report dreams, capabilities, encounters with other workmates and the sensations experienced in their encounters with the "Objects" in a dystopian future from which they might be, at any point in time, uploaded or extinguished; Mount Sumptuous, Aidan Coleman, a poetry collection full of everyday details and literary references, shot through with little brilliances and with excellent endnotes; Jill Jones, The Curious Air, wonderfully unsettling and sometimes settling poems of divination, death and transcendance, as well as the everyday and the material, with well wrought forms and welcome repetitions and returns, and referencing Agnes Varda, Derek Jarman, and other passions of my own; Evelyn Araluen, Dropbear, a fierce and often funny poetry collection, political but also inventive and playful; Khardo Mohamed, We're all Made of LIghtning, poems that are often in prose but always poetic because of the rhythms and repetitions and the combination of precise concrete detail and figurative resonance, a collection I really like; Sudha Rao, On elephant's shoulders, a collection of poems in which again the visual details and the repetitions are what I respond to the most; Alison Bechdel, The Secret to Superhuman Strength, about her various fitness obsessions, from skiing to yoga via karate, cycling, and pilates, all undertaken with the kind of passion my daughter Elvira brings to pole-dancing, and giving along the way a beautifully sideways slant on social history, only about a decade out from my own lived life; Zero Altitude: How I learned to fly less and travel more, by Helen Coffey, inspiring, informative and in some ways silly, as she "saves" carbon emissions by taking completely unnecessary ferry and train rides, a bit like "saving" money by buying clothes you don't need on sale, but she does a brilliant job of selling train travel and the chapters on the politics of greenwashing and the limits to off-setting are full of informative statistics; Tate Fountain, Short Films - poetry as geometry, a bouquet of hibiscuits, full of hunger and punctuation, constantly surprising, allusive and conversation, with a wild, weird intelligence I love; Voluntary Simplicity, essays on degrowth, edited by Samuel Alexander, an oddly uninspiring collection though the essay by Juliet Schor was good; The Power of Half, Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen, a folksy account of a wealthy family deciding to sell their house and buy one half the size and half the value so as to give away the rest of the money, really quite radical and so terrifically interesting to read about, how they go about choosing a charity and making room for their exercise equipment in the smaller house; 100 works of art that will define our age, Kelly Grovier, which draws explicitly on T S Eliot's idea of the tradition and the individual talent, how the work that endures is the one that rewrites the past, which I no longer quite know if I ascribe to, while also, her choice of works seem to speak far more to the present moment than to the future or the past, yet full of wonderful art writing that sometimes seems more to be the work of art than the work of art itself is; The Difference is Spreading: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Fifty Poems, ed Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford, nicely short readings of poems by fellow poets; Love's Work, Gillian Rose, a sort of memoir/essay, or collection of memoir/essays, so a brilliant structure, and nicely shaped essays, and I liked the description of Edna in the first chapter, and I even liked some of the abstract thinking except it always didn't quite land for me, I always felt at odds and unconvinced somehow, and the psychoanalysing also I found unconvincing, in fact I wanted to psychoanalyse the psychoanalysing, except I also felt that also would not quite land on four feet; Rules of Estrangement, Joshua Coleman, a really kind book on family estrangements, which can be so hard to understand; George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, which I read as a book about sympathy, moving most of all for Eliot's own sympathy for Gwendolen, who doesn't need rescuing in the end but rescues herself - "I shall live!"; Re-educated, Lucy Kellaway, subtitled "How I changed my job, my home, my husband & my hair" and inspiring on all counts, whether or not I follow her example; Lamplighter, Kerry Donovan Brown, a nicely strange world is evoked, just a little askew from our own, and a story, of sorts does emerge, but rather too gradually to be as much fun as it could be; Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman, a more abstract approach to the same question really of how to live a life, much more abstract than I expected, though with some brilliant concrete examples, and less about how to fill those weeks than I thought it might be, more about how to not worry about doing anything much in particular at all, except live in moments, though you can shape those moments, a bit; The Unreality of Memory and other essays, Elisa Gabbert, a re-reading but only because I'd forgotten I'd read them (!), and a whole other level of writing really than the other non-fiction books that were also excellent, just...more constantly unexpected on every level at once, and alarming but also illuminating on the question of scale that distinguishes the climate crisis, in fact probably where my thinking about scale originally came from; Less is More, How degrowth will save the world Jason Hickel, full of things I agree with but certainly not unexpected in its line of reasoning - the need for less consumption, a new economics, and a "post-capitalist imaginary," and to get rid of planned obsolescence and a reliance on future technological inventions and carbon emissions trading as a way out of the crisis; The Angel and the Assassin, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, on microglia and their role in brain health, and on the relation between the brain and the body, interesting and informative and with good storytelling but increasingly overreaches with its claims until she begins talking about "The Universal Theory of Health" which it really isn't; Friends Like These, Meg Rosoff, a very YA novel in the earlier sense of the word, not fantasy, but about young adult relationships and early encounters with betrayal, so that although it is only middlingly good, and in moments fulls slightly short even of its own middling goodness, even so, I'm thinking of remembering it as a book to give to someone the right age for it - not brilliant like her first novel How I Live Now but probably actually the book that might be liked more read at the right moment; We Begin in Gladness, by Craig Morgan Teicher, a beautiful study of how poets develop over the course of a career in poetry, looking at breakthroughs, influences, and endings, with a rather different set of touchstone poets to my own which mostly added to the interest for me; Geoff Dyer, The Last Days of Roger Federer (and other endings) - equally brilliant on the subject of reading books at different times of your life and on taking shampoo from hotels, and even interesting on the subject of tennis, beautifully pieced together short essays that move in eddies and ripples around and through subjects adding up to something a bit like a steady stream; Some Answers Without Questions, Lavinia Greenlaw, short little essay-like pieces, not quite a memoir, but a way of putting some pieces of writing together I could be interested in, and interesting on writing as a kind of stepping aside; Henry Marsh, And, Finally, on not wanting to live forever but also very much not wanting to die yet, another example of a memoir which is satisfyingly grounded in the moments of ordinary living, charged with an urgent sense of mortality; Domenico Starnone, Trick, Jumpha Lahiri's translation, a grandfather looks after a four year old, a confrontingly stressful read, although they get through it, it is a reminder of how fragile and volatile adult-child relations can be, how dangerous every day life can be, always on the verge of tragedy, I had to keep putting this book down and putting it off; On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck, by Nick Riggle, which I read because I was so interested in his theory of style (http://www.annajackson.nz/on/on-style), and this is almost an expanded theory of what is only one element of a broader ethics of awesomeness - a concept which does a lot to explain what I was finding in Jenny Odell's How to do Nothing and Agnes Varda's Places, Faces - a way of creating social openings, arising out of the individual's expression of self but also open up space for, and depend on, the recognition of the individuality of others; Outline, Rachel Cusk, which I put down once a long time ago but returned to and finished now that I have become attuned to her strange dispassionate style, at its most distinct in this book which this time I really liked; Topeka, Ben Lerner, which......I think I felt about the way many of my students did when they complained about his Leaving the Atocha Station being put on a course I taught - even while I'm thinking it is good, even when I am engaged in the narrative, I just, somehow, don't like it (yet I really did like Leaving the Atocha Station); Meeting the Devil, A book of memoir from the London Review of Books, ought to have Paul Theroux on his goose William ("I often thought, ‘If only people knew what my geese are like when I am alone with them’ — the solitary pleasure only the pet-owner is privileged to know"), but very browsable even without it, I think I liked John Henry Jones on William Empson best, but Terry Castle is also brilliant describing her friendship with Susan Sontag; Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo, interesting to read alongside chapters from Donna Tartt's The Secret History which I was reading with my sister, a rather different kind of campus novel, both of them Extreme Campus, Bardugo's with magic.