“These regular anthologies ... are becoming essential volumes for fans of short fiction.”

— Scott Pack

New Ghost Stories IV

I’m doing something a little different for the end-of-year round-up this year. Instead of the best books of 2008, here are some of the titles that I’m sure would have been good… if only I’d got around to reading them.

Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth J. Harvey.

This one’s been sitting on my shelf for a while now. I really enjoyed The Town that Forgot How to Breathe by the same author a few years back, and I’m sure there are pleasures to be had in this one, but I just haven’t yet found the time to get started on this 829-page trunk of a book. Perhaps I might have, if I hadn’t realised that the author calls it not a novel but a “transcomposite narrative“. That may have been just enough to keep it from ever reaching the top of the pile. Inside by the same author is also on the shelf.

Dreams of Rivers and Seas by Tim Parks.

This is an author I’ve been meaning to check out for a while, and John Self’s Asylum review just reinforced this. Everything about this book draws me in, but the length stops me just short. All I need is a few days’ holiday, and I’m all over this one.

The Paper Moon by Andrea Camilleri.

I’ve got about three of Camilleri’s Montalbano novels lined up to read. They’re short, and presented in the very attractive Picador editions. So why haven’t I?

Will by Christopher Rush.

This novel about the writing of Shakespeare’s will looked intriguing, and came from the new publisher Beautiful Books. With a paperback edition now out and a film apparently on the way, maybe I’ll find time to finally visit it in the new year.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.

This book about a real murder case from 1860 looked like an interesting read, but I never quite managed to lay my hands on a copy.

The entire Booker Prize longlist.

I managed to avoid reading a single one of these, including the winner, White Tiger by Avidne Avigna. Others made a better job of it. This could become something of a tradition, if I don’t accidentally read any of next year’s titles before the longlist comes out…

Edit: And not forgetting (again)…

Barnacle Love by Anthony de Sa, and Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones.

11 Comments on “The best books I didn’t read this year”

  1. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Welcome back. Blackstrap Hawco is still on the shelf but I too will get to it soon. And I too got interested in the Tim Parks from John’s review and it is on the way. So many books, so little time. Cheers, Kevin

  2. Rob Says:

    Hello, Kevin!

    Your comment reminds me, I meant to add Barnacle Love to the list.

  3. Petulia Says:

    Thanks for reminding me, I need to add ” read more books” to my new year resolution, and now I have some good titles to start with. Happy new year!

  4. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Please do add Barnacle Love. Your understanding of the short story will be well applied — although I do think it is two linked novellas, not 10 short stories.

  5. Rob Says:

    You’re right, I’ve added Barnacle Love, and Pilcrow, which I’d completely forgotten about until it turned up in The Asylum‘s 2008 round-up.

  6. Candy Schultz Says:

    Don’t feel bad about the Booker longlist. I read all but two and was very disappointed. I still have to read The White Tiger and Sea of Poppies. The short list was much more satisfactory. The Secret Scripture would have been my choice to win.

  7. Rob Says:

    Candy, a lot of people seem to have been disappointed by the Booker longlist. I expect I’ll get around to one or two of them in a few years’ time, when they’re cropping up as “forgotten classics”…

  8. Candy Schultz Says:

    Well if you only get around to one I recommend The Secret Scripture. It was incredible.

  9. Rob Says:

    Your review certainly makes it sound interesting. One for my own shortlist, perhaps…

  10. James Says:

    We’ve been having a month of Camilleri & The Paper Moon at the Picador blog. We thought you might be interested in the latest piece from Stephen Sartarelli, on the subject of translating Camilleri’s Montalbano books: http://bit.ly/wIe1E

    Best wishes,
    Picador blog team

  11. Tom C Says:

    I’ve got the Paper Moon book as The Times were offering it at reduced price from Smiths. I’m a fan of Tim Parks but have some catching up to do on his recent work.

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