Reading – looking back / looking forward


In amongst all the end of year book lists I and others were compiling as 2022 drew to a close was a request from Bookmunch. Peter, the head honcho over on that esteemed site, invited his roster of contributors to provide details of their best read of the year or the one book not yet read but for which reviews have moved it up our ‘that’s a book I need to read’ list.

I provided this as my ‘best read’ (maybe I should have limited myself to one choice…)

The book that had the most impact in 2022 was Where I End by Sophie White (Tramp Press) – a masterclass in creating a darkly disturbing character and sense of place, just brilliant. Anyone out there considering attending a writers retreat should be reading The Retreat by Alison Moore (Salt Publishing) –  a spicy yet insightful take on tribal behaviour, artistic endeavours, and the effects of aspiration, judgement and rejection. For readers who enjoy not just stories but what is behind them, The Other Jack by Charles Boyle (CB Editions) offers thoughts on: books, publishing, readers, writers, class, prejudice, rivalries – all written with elan and repartee. After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz (Galley Beggar Press) is a read that has lingered –  serious issues explored with an entertainingly ironic wit and verve. Finally, The Bygones by Jim Gibson (Tangerine Press) – a short story collection in which the author’s imagination and willingness to test boundaries make for vivid and engaging reading.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t provide the ‘one book not yet read’. Bookmunch published an excellent series, put out in the run up to Christmas, of the Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2023. This following is the one I would have suggested be included had I responded to Peter’s request (I probably would have had to use fewer words).

Close To Home by Michael Magee is due to be published in April by Hamish Hamilton. Described by the publisher as ‘Luminous and devastating, a portrait of modern masculinity as shaped by class, by trauma, and by silence, but also by the courage to love and to survive’, there is a suggestion the story has elements of autofiction.

I have been following Michael Magee (formerly known as Michael Nolan) since 2014 when I interviewed him around the publication, by Salt, of his intriguing sounding novella The Blame – in digital format only so I didn’t read it. After so many years I was delighted when The Bookseller reported that ‘Hamish Hamilton has scooped two “remarkable and devastating novels” by debut author Michael Nolan in an eight-way auction.’ I have since been watching as the proofs for this long awaited book have been received by early readers. I am still hoping one may find its way to me.

There are, of course, other books I am eager to read this year but, having cheered this author from afar for so long, his debut is my ‘that’s the book I need to read’.

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