Stark Naked Night – The Normal School

Stories

The old woman’s stark nakedness shone brightly, and juxtaposed against the tarmac. She looked just like the moon in the night sky. But just as she was a reflection of all that was above, she was also a reflection of all that was below, all that came before and all that would come after. She was the sky and the ground, the heavens and the underworld. She was everything. She was the first person I had seen in weeks.

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Read in 2016

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I decided to read 52 books in 2016. Here’s what they were, including a very brief review of each…

Follow me on Goodreads while I attempt to hit an arbitrary goal of 70 books in 2017.

  1. High Rise by J.G. Ballard – Cold, dry, fun and violent. 5/5
  2. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson – Love, life, sex, gender, death. Beautiful and real. 4/5
  3. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin – What can I say? Great fun. 5/5
  4. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus – Seminal feminist memoir/art project. Wonderfully written with some beautiful sentences but missed the mark for me for some reason. 3/5
  5. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley – Modern, British, gothic seaside horror. 3/5
  6. Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu by Junji Ito – The finest horror manga writer’s memoir about cats? 5/5
  7. Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito – Junji can not put a foot wrong for me. If you like horror, go and read literally anything by him right now. 5/5
  8. It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright – If Cosmo produced your history textbook. “Every account of the English king Henry VIII’s life should start with the same basic question. How hot was Henry VIII?” 4/5
  9. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle – Wanted so badly to love this story of a reclusive, disfigured by-mail game designer by THE Mountain Goat but this was my rating on Goodreads so I guess I wasn’t blown away. 3/5
  10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Eye opening novel looking at race and love in 1930s (?) America. 4/5
  11. Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger – A totally fubar story of sexual awakening described by Miranda July as “a novel that terrified me to the end”. Stuck with me for ages. 5/5
  12. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis – What would happen if dogs were given human intelligence? Hermes and Apollo make a drunken bet that results in a lot of life lessons from dogs. 4/5
  13. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter – The beautiful melodrama of a teenage girl in less than fortunate circumstances. Carter is the best writer I’ve read. Read anything by her. 5/5
  14. The Sleep of Reason: An Anthology of Horror compiled by C. Spike Trotman – A collection of horror comics without the tropes. 4/5
  15. How to be Both by Ali Smith – What’s the difference between a troubled teenager in the 2000s and an Italian Fresco painter? Not a lot. Couldn’t put this down. 5/5
  16. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill – Fragments of a marriage. Abstract and touching. 4/5
  17. Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson – Love as obsession. Painful and mundane. True. 4/5
  18. Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life  by Emily Nagoski – A really interesting look at science vs society/history in women’s sexuality. Important. 5/5
  19. Vertigo by Joanna Walsh – Another fragmentary and detached insight into the life of a woman. Beautifully written. 4/5
  20. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – So poetic that I will have to read again but utterly beautiful. 4/5
  21. Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli – Is a 24 page graphic novel cheating? This story of a young boy in grieving doesn’t feel so short and hits hard. 5/5
  22. 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve by Adrian Tomine – You can literally see Tomine developing his individual graphic style and off-beat storytelling through this short series of handmade comics written when he was 17-20 years old. 5/5
  23. Geek Love by Katharine Dunn – Warm and weird story about a circus family. Can not recommend highly enough. 5/5
  24. The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Surreal like a dream. 4/5
  25. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – Story of sisterly love with a twist that left me underwhelmed. 2/5
  26. The Girls by Emma Cline – How does anyone join a cult? Hazy and beautiful. 5/5
  27. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood – Misogyny in the outback. Frightening and feral. 4/5
  28. Modern Romance by Asiz Ansari – Bit light on science and LOLs. 2/5
  29. The Changeling by Joy Williams – love, love, love. Everything is not what it seems when our heroine leaves her new husband for a new man, an isolated island, booze and some creepy kids. 5/5
  30. The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt – Part murder-mystery, part romance, entire exploration of self. Brilliant. 5/5
  31. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin – The men of Stepford are not happy about the women’s liberation movement. Simple and depressing. 5/5
  32. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – So. Much. Fun. Teen girl friendship * demonic possessions. Cute and gory. 5/5
  33. Slade House by David Mitchell – Easy to read and pretty original but lacking something for me. 3/5
  34. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – I can’t believe I only just discovered Shirley Jackson. A beautiful story of selfishness, sisterly love, witchcraft and isolation. 5/5
  35. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi – Odd and easy to read. 4/5
  36. Come Closer by Sara Gran – Well written horror?! 5/5
  37. So Sad Today by Melissa Broder – If personal essays are your thing, this is worth a read. I’m still to decide. 4/5
  38. Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier – Includes a few other horror stories by Du Maurier. Enjoyed much more than I thought I would. 4/5
  39. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell – Not bad but I think I’ll watch the film instead. 3/5
  40. The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis – This book is let down by the first two thirds. By the time I started to like it, it was over. 3/5
  41. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter – Fairy tales as they should be. Beautiful and horrible. 5/5
  42. The Power by Naomi Alderman – What happens if the women are in charge? Uhhh… Heavily Margaret Atwood influenced and I don’t mean that in a bad way. 4/5
  43. Consumed by David Cronenberg – Interesting story with a bit of cringe-worthy writing. Worth a read for horror fans. 3/5
  44. Surveys by Natasha Stagg – A brief burst of internet-fame. Fun, sad, abstract, arty. 5/5
  45. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – Three girls go missing on a school trip. There’s a final chapter that wasn’t included in the original edition which adds a dimension to this book. Dig that out if you read it. 4/5
  46. Granta 117: Horror – Short stories from new and established authors on the theme of horror. No tropes here, just real life awfulness beautifully written. 4/5
  47. The Circle by Dave Eggers – Written in 2014, this already feels a little dated but only because Eggers’ story about the not too distant future hits the nail on the head. 4/5
  48. Bodies of Water by V.H. Leslie – Two women tormented by the Thames. Beautiful and original. 4/5
  49. Desperate Characters by Paula Fox – Times are changing, relationships are disintegrating and potentially rabid cats are biting. Life. 5/5
  50. The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink – A funny and sad look at a relationship with too much chat about eco-terrorism for me. I still loved it, but I tuned out a few times. 4/5
  51. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – Melodramatic and beautiful. Perfect horror. 5/5
  52. The Body Artist by Don DeLillo – A truly odd story of ghosts and grief. 4/5

Note: I assigned star ratings with very little thought. I would probably change these with more thought around each book, but as it is, they’re based on heart and gut alone.