I seem to have read more books this year than last - and far more than in any recent year before that. I haven't included here the Dylan-related books I've also read or skimmed through during 2015:

THE 8.55 TO BAGHDAD, Andrew Eames, 2004 so badly written it’s absurd that it won an award from the British Guild of Travel Writers, but good subject-matter
LET THE DEVIL SPEAK: Articles, Essays, & Incitements, Steven Hart, 2014 some substantial, brilliantly sleuthed essays
CHATTERTON, Peter Ackroyd, 1987 vivid, absorbing, but the insistent wackiness of every  character is over the top, & really he says nothing about plagiarism, which is his theme
CROW LAKE, Mary Lawson, 2002 completely wonderful novel, fresh and true
THE DOCTOR & MR. DYLAN, Rick Novak, 2014 good on Hibbing, hopeless on humans; it's not about Bob Dylan, and it's a novel
THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER, Hilary Mantel, 2014 short stories, with a whiff of using up old rejects; 2nd-rate by her standards
HISTORY OF MADNESS, Michel Foulcault, 1961 I gave it up: it's far too clever for me
GREAT APES, Will Self, 1997 I gave this up too: couldn’t stand his interminable showing off or his brutish arsehole-obsessing modernism
REVALUATION, F.R. Leavis, 1936 his least readable book
THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS, Joseph Conrad, 1897 a slim volume but very demanding: intensive and poetical, with echoes of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner
JOURNEYS: An Anthology, ed Robyn Davidson, 2001 snotty intro, sloppy edits, and a wayward selection of pieces, in that many aren’t really travel pieces at all
THE HUNGER GAMES [Bk 1], Suzanne Collins, 2008 clever, strongly plotted, decently-written dystopian-world page-turner; understandably a cult best-seller
TO FOLLOW THE LEAD, Annie S. Swan, c1911 appealing simplicity till the regrettable crescendo of god-bothering
THE SAFFRON KITCHEN, Yasmin Crowther, 2006 boring till p60, then a great central patch of affecting drama, and then a long ending of tiresome didactic hokum
THE OUTCAST, Sadie Jones, 2007 strikingly clear prose describing a slew of terrible events; compelling, sensitive, touching, and with strong characters
PRECIOUS BANE, Mary Webb, 1924 I was bereft at finishing this wonderful, beautiful, forcefully-written, unique book: so vivid, poetic, touching, sustained, humbling, sweet-natured - all without any cuteness or arch self-consciousness
THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt, 2013 couldn’t be more different from ‘Precious Bane’ but its equal or better: phenomenally good - vast canvas (centred on a small one...)
FRANKIE & STANKIE, Barbara Trapido, 2003 terrible title and a bit shallow, but funny, fresh and quirky
WRITERS IN HOLLYWOOD 1915-1951, Ian Hamilton, 1990 very solid but afraid to be anything but studious, so too few Hollywood Babylonian anecdotes
THE EDWARDIANS, Vita Sackville-West, 1930 patchy writing; some implausible plot twists & characters; poor dialogue; fascinating material; glad I read it
DO NOT SELL AT ANY PRICE, Amanda Petrusich, 2014 loved it: a necessary look into the avid world of the 78rpm rare record collector; intelligent & humane
THE PAYING GUESTS, Sarah Waters, 2014 riveting, richly imaginative, a tense major work: nearly as good as ‘Fingersmith’ (high praise); so admirable
THE VERSIONS OF US, Laura Barnett, 2015 alluring premise, crap book: all so calculated instead of imagined; in shaming contrast to the Sarah Waters
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Harper Lee, 1960 a book almost everyone read at school but I never did; lovely, though read now - in retrospect - a bit apologist about the very southern racism the book deplores
SKIOS, Michael Frayn, 2012 this is Wodehouse Lite (with similarly ingenious plotting)
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, John Boyne, 2006 a clever, touching, unusual, good novel by no means only for Young Readers
WHEN WE WERE THIN, C.P. Lee, 2007 a really interesting social history of the UK music biz 1968-1980s - and a great title
THE MAN IN THE QUEUE, Josephine Tey, 1929 engaging and well-written, except for the purple prose paragraphs designed to prove she’s a Real Writer; the usual whodunit cheat: introducing a surprise relationship we couldn’t have guessed at
SMALL CEREMONIES, Carol Shields, 1976 at times piercing observation in taut, captivating prose; at times I felt oh-for-fuck’s-sake-you-precious-twee-middle-class-wimp
THE TERRIBLE PRIVACY OF MAXWELL SIM, Jonathan Coe, 2010 the terrible title, the awful postmodern ending - both indicative of garrulousness - and in between, a deflating, depressing book; Time Out found it “hugely enjoyable”...
PURPLE HIBISCUS, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2004 completely absorbing novel from a justifiably confident writer creating a refreshing, convincing Africa
THE TRAVELLING HORNPLAYER, Barbara Trapido, 1998 substantial, fiercely intelligent, dexterously plotted but with a horrible and improbable end section
BUDDY HOLLY, Dave Laing, 1971 captivating, modest, refreshing to read again now, full of acute small observations & quite right in its analysis of his influence [I wrote an earlier blogpost about this book]
THE MILLSTONE, Margaret Drabble, 1965 a slim volume in the best sense as well as literally; light touch, swift intelligence, subtlety & gaiety & delicacy of feeling and, now, a fascinating glimpse into pre-Carnaby St 1960s London life
STRAIGHT LIFE, Art & Laurie Pepper, 1994 edn mammoth oral autobiography + others’ testimony, of & to a very contradictory life: rich yet impoverished, creative yet sunk in addiction & its gruesome degradation; and vivid, espically about violent prison life; a hugely more candid autobiography than most
THE END OF THE AFFAIR, Graham Greene, 1951 occasional moments of sharp interest sticking out of the blancmange of dated Catholic hooey
THE L-SHAPED ROOM, Lynne Reid Banks, 1960 marvellous to find so belatedly: brilliantly plotted, vivid characters but subtly drawn, a glorious opinionatedness and such robust intelligence about human feeling and behaviour
THE BACKWARD SHADOW, Lynne Reid Banks, 1970 so very disappointing: contrived, ricketty plotting, shallowed characters who become hard to care about; a plunge into what would now be called Chick Lit
UNDER MILK WOOD, Dylan Thomas, 1954 [posthumous] pioneering but now a smaller thing than its reputation
BHOWANI JUNCTION, John Masters, 1954 powerful, compelling, brave, compassionate book it would be all too easy to dismiss today for its political incorrectness, yet in some ways ahead of its time, and from a really individual writer
THE LAST SEPTEMBER, Elizabeth Bowen, 1929 full of her exceptional brilliance, yet an oddly muted depiction of a crucial period in Irish history and the uncomfortable Anglo-Irish life clung to within it
SKATING TO ANTARCTICA, Jenny Diski, 1997 abiff with intelligence and self-indulgent pawing at the wounds of her appalling childhood; and brilliant, if brief, about penguins
A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD, Anne Tyler, 2015 much lauded; I was left wondering why
THE DEATH OF THE HEART, Elizabeth Bowen, 1938 another piercing scrutiny
CANADA, Richard Ford, 2012 not a pleasurable  read but a highly compelling and original novel
TIPPING THE VELVET, Sarah Waters, 1998 not a patch on ‘Fingersmith’: far too and-then-this-happened-and-then-this-happened, and too heavily playing the lesbian card - where ‘Fingersmith’ was a masterpiece of plot, character and prose
MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT, Charles Dickens, 1843-4 a great start but then filler and comparative failure: the least solid Dickens novel I've read
LONG BEFORE THE STARS WERE TORN DOWN, J.A. Wainwright, 2015 very readable cowboyish novel with a deft structure, though weak on women characters and with an unsatisfying semi-postmodern ending (aren’t they always?)


  1. Glad you enjoyed "Do not sell at any price" probably my favourite read of last year though I found the Scuba diving stuff a bit unconvincing . I sometimes examine boxes of 78's in Charity shops hoping to find an undiscovered Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Mctell or Rambling Syd Rumpo.

    1. Me too, though Rambling Syd Rumpos are ten a penny in Cumbria, I imagine. Truthfully what I really want to find is a Garfield Akers.