Burning the old year

Hello, lovely bookish folks!

Another reading year has flashed by! It’s time to look back over the books we’ve read in 2016 and pick our favourites. Firstly, let’s do our usual Math, shall we?


According to Goodreads, this year I’ve read 95 books, comprising a total of 24.360 pages.  Most of the books were backlisted titles, published in the 20th and 21st centuries. I had 48 four-star and 20 five-star reads, which makes for a very good reading year.

More numbers for the bookish geeks out there:

  • Male: female ratio => 1: 8
  • Books in translation: Books read in original language ratio => 1:7
  • New to me authors: authors I read before ratio => 7:3
  • E-books: Paper books: Audiobooks ratio => 2:6:1
  • Review copies: Own books: Library books ratio => 1:8:1
  • The longest book read, Goodreads tells me, was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (653 pages)
  • By publication date, the works of Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, published from 1681 to 1693, were the oldest I finished this year.
  • By nationality, I reviewed 1 book from Austria; 2 books from Brazil; 1 book from Canada; 10 books from England: 1 book from France: 1 book from Germany; 1 book from Hungary; 4 books from Ireland; 1 book from Japan; 1 book from Mexico; 1 book from The Netherlands; 1 book from Poland; 1 book from Scotland; and 13 books from the United States.

My Top Reads of 2016

I will summarise each book in one word, according to its impression on  me. Clicking on the book title will take you to my review, when available. My top 5 favourite books are highlighted in bold.

  • Favourite new novels:
    • Autumn, by Ali Smith (2016) – Fire-like.
    • Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller (2017) – Salt.
    • Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood (2016) – Mirrors.
  • Favourite Debut novels:
    • The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney (2015) – Fringes.
    • The Girls, by Emma Cline (2016) – Downfall.
    • Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (2015) – Stain.
  • Favourite backlisted novels
    • Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1), by Hilary Mantel (2009) – Ambition.
    • The Book of Night Women, by Marlon James (2009) – Voice.
    • There Were No Windows, by Norah Hoult  (1944) – Blitz.
    • Good Daughters, by Mary Hocking (1984) – Change.
    • The Love-Child, by Edith Olivier (1927) – Obsession.
    • Harriet Said…, by Beryl Bainbridge (written in 1958 and published in1972) – Preys.
    • The World My Wilderness, by Rose Macaulay (1950) – Ruins.
    • Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor (1957) – Melancholy.
    • The Sundial, by Shirley Jackson (1958) – Mordant.
  • Favourite Short Story collections:
  • Favourite Poetry collections:
  • Favourite Novels in Translation:
    • Manja, by Anna Gmeyner, tr. Kate Phillips, Persephone Books, 2003 (Manja: Ein Roman um 5 Kinder, 1938) – Walls.
    • Transit, by Anna Seghers, tr. by Margot Bettauer Dembo, 2013 (Transit, 1944) – Trap.
    • The Door, by Magda Szabo, tr. Len Rix, 2005 (Az ajtó, 1987) – Attraction.
    • Crow Blue, by Adriana Lisboa, tr. Alison Entrekin, 2013 (Original title: Azul corvo, 2010) – Passage.
    • The Twins, by Tessa de Loo, tr. Ruth Levitt, 2003 (Original title: De Tweeling, 1993) – War.
  • Favourite Classics & Modern Classics:
  • Non fiction:
    • In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri (2016) – Belonging.
    • What are the Blind Men Dreaming?, by Noemi Jaffe, tr. Julia Sanches and Ellen Elias-Bursać, 2016 (Original title: O que os cegos estão sonhando?, 2012) – Stones.
  • Disappointments:
  • Favourite Re-reads:
    • The Lost Daughter, by Elena Ferrante (2008) – Dolls.
    • Blindness, by José Saramago (1995) – Civilization.
    • Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert (1856) – Piquant.
    • The Waves, by Virginia Woolf (1931) – Streams.
    • The Wall, by Marlen Haushofer, tr. Shaun Whiteside, 1999 (Die Wand, 1963) – Experiment.
    • Hour of the Star, by Clarice Lispector, tr. Benjamin Moser, 2014 (Original title: A hora da estrela, 1977) – Macabéa.
    • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013) – Home.
  • Strange Books I liked:
    • Two Worlds and Their Ways, by Ivy Compton-Burnett (1949) – Masks.
    • Plainwater: Essays and Poetry, by Anne Carson (1995) – Glass.
    • The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith, 2016 (Original title: 채식주의자, 2007) – Blood-soaked.

2016 in review

This year I took part in many delightful reading events and challenges! In January, Jane hosted Margery Sharp Day, and I read and loved The Foolish Gentlewoman, by Margery Sharp. In April and October, Karen and Simon hosted, respectively, the 1938 & the 1947 Clubs, and I loved both of the books I read for these events: The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen (1938) and The Blank Wall, by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (1947).

In March, Cathy and Niall hosted Reading Ireland Month, and I read five good irish books: Tea at Four o’Clock by Janet McNeill; There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult; In Night’s City, by Dorothy Nelson; Under the Duvet: Shoes, Reviews, Having the Blues, Builders, Babies, Families and Other Calamities, by Marian Keyes; and The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney. For Mary Hocking Reading Week, hosted by Ali, I read my first Hocking book, Good Daughters (1984). Caroline hosted the Literature and War Readalong, and I took part in March by reading 1914: a novel, by Jean Echenoz, tr.  Linda Coverdale, 2014 (Original title: 14, 2012).

In May, Ms. Arachne over at A Canon of One’s Own and I hosted a Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Readalong, where we discussed Sor Juana’s Selected Works (tr. Edith Grossman, 2014). June was a month full of events! For Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week, hosted by Gaskella over at Annabel’s House of Books, I read and loved Harriet Said…(written in 1958 and published in1972). Also in June, Dolce Bellezza and Nonsuch Book hosted the Frankenstein Read-Along, a great opportunity to discuss Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (1818). Finally, Jane over at Beyond Eden Rock hosted Margaret Kennedy Day, and I read The Forgotten Smile (1961).

In July, I took part in #Woolfalong, also hosted by Ali, and read Orlando (1928). August was also a hectic month! Meytal over at the Biblibio blog hosted the Women in Translation Month 2016an event for which I read many good books: Crow Blue, by Adriana Lisboa (Bloomsbury. Translated by Alison Entrekin, 2013. Original title: Azul corvo, 2010); The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea), tr. Deborah Smith; The House in Smyrna, by Tatiana Salem Levy, tr. Alison Entrekin (Scribe, 2015, 160 p. Original title: A chave de casa, 2007); The Pure and the Impure, by Colette (France), tr.  Herma Briffault; The Door, by Magda Szabó (Hungary), tr. Len Rix; The Wall, by Marlen Haushofer (Austria), tr. Shaun Whiteside. Also in August, we had the reading event All Virago/ All August 2016 All Virago/All August is hosted by the Librarything Virago Readers Group. I read Frost in May, by Antonia White (1933); The World My Wilderness, by Rose Macaulay (1950); The Simple Truth, by Elizabeth Hardwick (1955); and Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor (1957).

From June , 1st and September, 5th, Cathy hosted 20 Books of Summer, an event which already belongs to my literary calender. I managed to read 17 of the books on my list:

  1. Harriet Said, by Beryl Bainbridge (written in 1958; published in 1972)
  2. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)
  3. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (1818)
  4. The Forgotten Smile, by Margaret Kennedy (1961)
  5. Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub (2016)
  6. The Girls, by Emma Cline (2016)
  7. Vinegar Girlby Anne Tyler (2016)
  8. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert (1856)
  9. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf (1928)
  10. Her, by H. D (Hilda Doolittle. Written in 1927, published in 1981)
  11. Frost in May, by Antonia White (1933)
  12. The World My Wilderness, by Rose Macaulay (1950)
  13. The Simple Truth, by Elizabeth Hardwick (1955)
  14. The Pure and the Impure, by Colette, tr.  Herma Briffault, 2000 (Original title: Le Pur et l’Impur (Ces plaisirs), 1932)
  15. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (1847)
  16. Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor (1957)
  17. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys (1966)

In September,  JacquiWine and  Lonesome Reader hosted Jean Rhys Reading Week, and I read Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys (1966). From September 1st, through October 31st, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings hosted R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI, and I read The Blank Wall, by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (1947)and Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (2015).

In November, Lizzy and Caroline hosted German Literature Month VI, another reading event I make sure always to take part in. This year, I read Manja, by Anna Gmeyner (1938), and Transit, by Anna Seghers (1944). For Nonfiction November, hosted by Katie over at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, and Julz at Julz Reads, I read Aphra Behn: the Incomparable Astrea, by Vita Sackville-West (1927); and What Are the Blind Men Dreaming?, by Noemi Jaffe, tr. Julia Sanches & Ellen Elias-Bursać (2016; originally published in Portuguese in 2012). Also in November,  Lisa Hill, over at ANZ Litlovers, hosted Christina Stead Week. I tried to take part by reading Letty Fox: Her Luck (1946), but I could not finish the book on time…

This year, The Classics Club hosted the Women’s Classic Literature Event. I read 23 out of my goal of 30 books:

  1. Quicksand, Nella Larsen
  2. Smoke and Other Early Stories, Djuna Barnes
  3. Tea at Four o’Clock – Janet McNeill
  4. There Were No Windows, by Norah Hoult
  5. Good Daughters, Mary Hocking
  6. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen
  7. Classics Spin #12
    • Deborah, by Esther Kreitman (number 8)
  8. Olivia, by Olivia (Dorothy Strachey)
  9. The Love-Child by Edith Olivier
  10. Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz: Selected Works, Juana Inés de la Cruz
  11. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  12. The Forgotten Smile, by Margaret Kennedy
  13. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf (1928)
  14. Her, by H. D (Hilda Doolittle. Written in 1927, published in 1981)
  15. Classics Spin #13
  16. The World My Wilderness, by Rose Macaulay
  17. The Simple Truth, by Elizabeth Hardwick
  18. The Pure and the Impure, by Colette (France), tr.  Herma Briffault
  19. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  20. The Door, by Magda Szabó (Hungary), tr. Len Rix
  21. Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor
  22. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  23. Classics Spin #14
    • The Sundial, by Shirley Jackson (number 1)

Finally, for the local book club I take part in, I read 9 of the 12 books we discussed:

  1. Beauty and Sadness, by Yasunari Kawabata ✓
  2. Blindness, by José Saramago ✓
  3. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut ✓
  4. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson ✓
  5. About Schmidt, by Louis Begley
  6. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert ✓
  7. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  8. The Wall (Die Wand), by Marlen Haushofer ✓
  9. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne ✓
  10. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, by Ken Kesey
  11. The Hour of the Star (A Hora da Estrela), by Clarice Lispector ✓

A glimpse into 2017 

Inspired by Liz Sarah and Jane, I want to complete all thirteen novels in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. I will also take part in Virago Month, Reading Ireland Month, Women in Translation, 20 Books of Summer, RIP Challenge, and German Lit Month. Jane is hosting Margery Sharp Day once again this year. It will happen on 25th January 2017, and I will definitely jump in! Caroline is hosting the Literature and War Readalong 2017, and, from her fantastic list of books, I will try to read The Oppermanns, Suite Française, La douleur – The War, and Poems of the Great War. Karen is hosting the Back to the Classics challenge, and I am still thinking about the books I consider reading.  Karen and Simon will be hosting the 1951 Club in April, and I already have my list of possible reads. I will also be following the books discussed by Kirsty & Katie’s Book Club. I will take part in Lendo Susan Sontag (‘Reading Susan Sontag’), a project hosted by Michelle, a Brazilian blogger who also is one of the women responsible for creating the Book Club Leia Mulheres (‘Read Women’) in São Paulo. Finally, inspired by Belinda, I want to read less this year – no more than 2 books per week. This way I will have more time to write about all the books I read! 🙂

Thank you

Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. Our blogging community is a source of joy to all os us. May the new year be gentle on us; may we be generous towards one another.

I leave you with a suggestion of blaze, of things alight, burning:

Burning the Old Year
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

(Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, Far Corner Books, 1995)

Yours truly,


"Fifty Days At Iliam. The Fire That Consumes All Before It". Cy Twombly. 1978
“Fifty Days At Iliam. The Fire That Consumes All Before It”. Cy Twombly. 1978

10 thoughts on “Burning the old year

  1. My goodness, what an accomplished year you’ve had! I loved perusing your titles, so many of them new to me. But, I was so intrigued with Harriet Said myself, and I loved sharing Frankenstein thoughts with you. I have let so many “challenges” go, but I would like to continue other Women in Translation. As I recall, the “problem” was that it coincided with Spanish Lit Month. But, maybe not. Anyway, I will be on the look out to join in WIT in 2017. I agree with reading a few less books in the year; previously I have read over 100 and only found myself harried. I want to read less, and dwell more, in the year to come. Thank you for being my blogging friend and sharing your reads with us. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a perfect poem! Thank you for sharing that:)
    I am so impressed by all the bookish events you have participated it, in one post you have reminded us all what a wealth of bookish interests can be enjoyed around the bookish globe. How lucky we are!
    Happy new year, from Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lisa! I wanted so much to have taken part in Christina Stead Week! This year I will organize myself better, and make sure not to miss it, in case it happens again. Happy reading in 2017! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a year indeed and a wonderful diverse collection of reads and rereads, I just manage a book a week and already find that pressure enough and may not even read that much this year, as I don’t want the pressure, but am always so tempted by all that’s happening and available, I guess I’ll have to settle for ‘window shopping’ blog style and be content with an awareness of more great literature if not the consummation of it all. Finding the gems and being sure of them. Happy Reading for 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

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