Name: Lucy Chatburn
Just Finished: Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet. Don’t you just love it when you discover a new author you like, and they’ve written loads of books?
On The Go: Xiaolu Guo, Once upon a time in the East. Autobiography of Chinese-now-British author and filmmaker. Review coming soon.
Next Up: Mohsin Hamid, Exit West.
Name: Jackie Law
Just Finished: Soviet Milk, Nora Ikstena (translated by Margita Gailitis). An excellent read – chillingly depicts how ordinary lives are scarred by a regime that aims to control how people think, rewarding informants and punishing those who will not conform to state sanctioned voice and behaviour. Set in Latvia under Soviet rule, this beautifully rendered tale offers a history of a time and place I had not previously considered.
On The Go: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton. I now limit the number of psychological thrillers I read but, so far, this one is keeping me entertained. Also Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy (translated by Emily Boyce). Set in Venezuela, another country I knew nothing of, wonderfully evocative.
Next Up: The Darkness that Divides Us by Renate Dorrestein (translated by Hester Velmans) and You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben (translated by David Doherty). Planning to read these Dutch writers in preparation for the Netherlands’ Boekenweek (book week) in March.
Name: Joe Phelan
Just Finished: Lies of Silence by Brian Moore – A political thriller set in Belfast in the early 1990s. A sparse, well written, white knuckle ride through the Troubles.
On The Go: Florida Frenzy by Harry Crews – A selection of essays and fiction from one of the masters of Southern Gothic.
Next Up: All the Devils are Here by David Seabrook – Psychogeography? Autobiography? Travel Log? All three or none? Compelling at every turn.
Name: Peter Wild
Just Finished: The Melody by Jim Crace. Curious one this one. Fusty in some ways, bang up to the minute in other ways.
On The Go: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Only just started so not got much to say yet!
Next Up: It’s finally the turn of Ross Raisin’s A Natural, out in pb in March. I know Val likes it so I think I’ll probably like it too (even though it is about football!) [ed: if you don’t like it, Pete, we’ll be having stern words…]
Name: Tamim Sadikali
Just Finished: Dazzling the Gods by Tom Vowler – masterful in every way. The subjects tackled, the beauty of the prose and the notes struck make this short story collection very, very special.
On The Go: The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne. Early days but stellar so far…and bloody funny.
Next Up: The Best Small Fictions 2017, edited by Amy Hempel.
Name: Dan Carpenter
Just Finished: All Involved by Ryan Gattis. I’m only three years late to this, but it was absolutely worth it. The novel is smartly structured without ever feeling like it’s showing off, his characters rich and interesting. Very much enjoyed it.
On The Go: October by China Mieville. Mieville’s second non-fiction book (after the slim London’s Overthrow) is his potted history of the Russian revolution. Top marks for the pun ‘tsarry eyes’ early on. So far, so good.
Next Up: Dark Entries by Robert Aickman. The Aickman canon is limited but packed full of gems. Dark Entries is next on my list of his short fiction anthologies, and I’m very excited to go back to his wonderful, weird world.
Name: James Doyle
Just Finished: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns. A poverty-stricken marriage in 1930s London bohemia, an intense portrayal of the many varieties of unhappiness: “There seemed no point in being good or bad; everything was so dreadful in any case.”
On The Go: Stuart Neville, The Twelve. An IRA hitman finds forgiveness from the ghosts of those he killed by tracking down and killing those who had “pulled the strings”. A noir description of Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Next Up: Mrs Bridge, Evan Connell. A wife and mother whose wealth and conventionality have replaced any inner life or thought, “And yet, thought Mrs Bridge, why is it that we haven’t – that nothing has – that whatever we -?”
Name: Valerie O’Riordan
Just Finished: Sorry To Disturb The Peace by Patty Yuki Cottrell. A disturbing and funny first person account of a woman investigating her brother’s suicide; if you like Miranda July, you’ll like this. It’s books like this, published by & Other Stories, that remind us that the small presses are massively important.
On The Go: Room For A Single Lady, Clare Boylan. Just a couple of pages in, but so far, so good. (I’ve just abandoned two non-starters, so the pressure’s on.)
Next Up: History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund, Let’s see what those Booker people are talking about.