Some Well-Intentioned Reading Ideas for 2016

On the last winter solstice I posted some well-intentioned reading ideas for 2015. I always intend to read fewer new (to me) writers to concentrate on my old chestnuts and I closed gaps in my reading of Mann, Coetzee, Handke, Virginia Woolf and Sebald. Even the minor works of great writers display brilliance and this intention to read deeply and not broadly continues. I’m looking forward to new books from Anne Carson, Geoff Dyer and Jan Wilm’s Coetzee study.

In my year in reading post I wrote of the thrill of discovering Brophy, Welch and Espedal; each writer will undoubtedly make up some of what I read next year. I’m also looking forward to reading more Han Kang, Wolfgang Hilbig, Giorgio Agamben, Pascal Quignard and Ivan Vladislavic, all who produced books that moved me in some way this year.

Writers I don’t yet know but expect to sample in 2016 include Janice Lee, Jean Rhys, Werner Jaeger, Ivan Goncharov, Philippe Jaccottet, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Ingeborg Bachmann, Claude Cahun, Robert Gál, Yves Bonnefoy and Peter Weiss. There’ll be others but these are in my sights at the moment.

At the moment my mind is anchored in ancient Greece and Rome. My reading year is coming to an end with Giorgio Agamben’s and Monica Ferrando’s The Unspeakable Girl, a work of some power published by the brilliant Seagull Books, and Pascal Quignard’s Sex and Terror, which feels like the only book one could read after The Unspeakable Girl.

My inclination at the moment is to dwell in antiquity for some time, perhaps read Chapman’s Homer, which shaped Troilus and Cressida. I’ve acquired some Loebs and assorted ancient Greek plays that I may make time for over the Christmas break. Being overwhelmed by Troilus and Cressida convinces me that I must fill in some of my reading gaps in Shakespeare’s oeuvre.

The fault and glimpse of newness often leads me astray so expect distractions. If the year ahead holds surprises as great as Brigid Brophy, Denton Welch and Tomas Espedal I’ll be a fortunate reader.

Thanks for reading along in 2015 and for taking time to discuss books with me here, in person and on Twitter. I love little more than to discuss books so more conversation please!

25 thoughts on “Some Well-Intentioned Reading Ideas for 2016

  1. First, I love your reading area! That rug is gorgeous!

    Second, thanks for a great year of reading. You find some of the most interesting books and post some of the most thoughtful things. Enjoy the holidays and all the best for a fantastic 2016!

  2. I’ll be interested to see what you make of Jean Rhys, Anthony. All her books are worthwhile (including the short stories) – and of course Wide Sargasso Sea is justly famous – but for me it’s Good Morning, Midnight that holds a special place. I’ve read it 3 or 4 times and I’m always bowled over by it.

    Have a lovely Christmas.

    • Good Morning, Midnight is the one I plan to read (first), Mark. I’m not sure why I’ve never got around to her work, can’t read everything (sadly).

      Thanks. Have a lovely Christmas too.

  3. I think I could come to love almost anything I might read while lounging in that Eames chair. Your blog always sparks new ideas for me, new inspirations, and just to see the names in the post above, looking before and after, gives me plenty to chew on for the coming year. I plan to read Claude Cahun too, since I learned of her this past year and expect that she’s long overdue for some renewed attention. Thanks for all the engaging posts, and all best for 2016!

    • Thanks Scott, your kind words mean a lot to me as your blog is one of those I have long treasured, such incisive and intelligent reviews, all of books I’d gladly read. The Eames chair like my library are things I’ve dreamed of for such a long time and I’ve been fortunate in recent years to make possible. I desire very few things (mostly books): a good chair for reading in front of a window through which I can gaze at trees becomes a sanctuary from the world.

  4. Very curious about how you will find Ingeborg Bachmann, It’s been a while since I read her – but I remember her as a marvelous writer!

    Best wishes for the coming year!

  5. I too envy your library Anthony. And your reading ambitions. I will reflect on my own when I get past some very exciting early 2016 advance reading I have underway for review (including one from Seagull). And I seem to have a copy of The Unspeakable Girl on its way – don’t know how that happened! I actually started out in Classics when I first went to university many years ago with the intention of studying the ancient Near East. The advent of war between Iraq and Iran in 1980 changed my plans.

    I look forward to following your literary wandering in the year ahead. Best wishes to you and yours over the holidays and into the new year!

    • Given your classics grounding you simply must follow The Unspeakable Girl with Quignard’s Sex and Terror. They belong together. Exceptional works both. Very best wishes for Christmas and New Year.

  6. Hello Anthony. Great end of year and future reading list post. For me, this year began with catching up on the Denton Welch I hadn’t got around to in 2014. Enjoyed the Hilbig, that I heard about through your blog or twitter, and also The Dead Ladies Project. I enjoy your posts a lot. I seem to be in a bit of a Japanese moment myself: Kenzaburo Oe and Soseki. I have to recommend Junichiro Tanizaki’s ‘In Praise of Shadows.’ It’s a mere 65 pages or so and I think you’d love it. Pascal Quignard’s Sex and Terror looks really interesting as does The Unspeakable Girl. That might have something to do with my growing interest in – and involvement with Butoh – as a way of developing work. On the lyric philosophy/poetry front I’ve become enamoured of Jan Zwicky. Anne Carson, too, though sometimes find her a bit self-consciously arch. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed our interactions here and via twitter. (I’m taking a rest from twitter until mid-January or so, but I’m glad to subscribe here so that I get your post notices to my email). Have wonderful holiday time!

    All good wishes to you.

    • Hello Des, Thanks so much for your support and friendship. Our interactions are always so rich. This time last year I hadn’t got started with Denton Welch and his work is perhaps now more meaningful to me than any single writer. I’ve only the short stories left to read, and the biography. Thank you again for leading me to dear Denton. Michelle and you have already ensured that Jan Zwicky is on my list to sample next year, and I’ll make time for In Praise of Shadows. I don’t think I was aware of Butoh. What a fascinating world to be involved with. I look forward to learning more about it. I’m planning to be in Japan at some point next year so I’ll try to take in a performance. With such a large body of work it seems inevitable that some of Anne Carson’s work doesn’t hit the mark. But then there are moments like The Glass Essay when time’s flow is stemmed. It’s also inevitable that I’ve come across The Unspeakable Girl and Sex and Terror after drawing up my year of reading post, as both would certainly have been on it. I find it impossible now to think of them as separate works. They feel like part of the same body of work. Very best wishes for Christmas and the new year.

  7. Hope that you and yours have wonderful holidays, Anthony. Thank you for another year of sharing your reading with us. I too am swooning over your library.
    Have been reading a lot of Brodsky this year. Though the poetry feels a bit dated, for some reason the essays have really been affecting for me this year. There’s a lot of richness about losing and gaining cities, friends, family, and home. For a variety of reasons I don’t think I’ll be reading much fiction next year (though I anticipate a lot of books about German Renaissance Art and Native American history) but I am looking forward to Luc Sante’s The Other Paris, Gayl Jones’ Corregidora, and re-reading Borges, whose work feels right to me at this moment. Your picks sound great. What is the upcoming Carson book? I couldn’t find it online. (Also, just so you know and we can poke fun of him on Twitter, Alain de Botton has a new book next year too.)

    • Hello Caille, Thank you so much for your comments.

      I’m torn about Brodsky. As you say, the poems are dated and don’t hold up so well. The essays I find patchy but the good ones are excellent. My favourite Brodsky is as represented in the film A Room and a Half. As an exile I identify with that side of his work.

      Anne Carson’s new work is called Float due in UK in October 16, sounds like typical Carson which is good.

      De Botton is so huge these days that he never bites but do let’s try to cast some bait.

      I enjoy our interactions and look forward to more in 2016. I know you must be missing L (nox.rpm) as much as me on social media so we need to fill the void with his huge intelligence and erudition.

  8. Rhys is one of my favourite authors (I’ve reviewed two or three at mine, including Good Morning, Midnight, and have another up soon). I’d possibly suggest not starting with Good Morning, Midnight however as it’s arguably her best and I read it first myself and then regretted not having it to build up towards. I’d read her thematic down and out in Paris tetratology in order, I think it’s more rewarding that way.

    However you read her though, she’s marvellous. An extraordinary talent.

    And I’ll echo others by saying my god, that room! It’s absolutely lovely. I’m terribly jealous. No wonder you’re so erudite with that furniture.It would be positively wrong not to be.

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