What I was reading in 2016

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Part two of my regular annual look back at the art that I consumed in the past twelvemonth, here are the books that I managed to read in 2016. Sadly my reviews blog has been sorely neglected over the last couple of years, a situation I hope to remedy in 2017, but for now all you get is a pair of lists.

Fiction

  • Body & Soul (Frank Conroy)
  • Voice of the Fire (Alan Moore)
  • A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
  • Girlfriend in a Coma (Douglas Coupland)
  • Midair (Frank Conroy)
  • 2666 (Roberto Bolaño)
  • Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
  • As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner)
  • Children of Earth and Sky (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover (D.H. Lawrence)
  • The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Avalon (Anya Seton)
  • The Well of Ascension (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Top 10, Volume 1 (Alan Moore)
  • Top 10, Volume 2 (Alan Moore)
  • The Mesmerist's Daughter (Heidi James)
  • The Regional Accounts Director of Firetop Mountain (Stephen Morrison)
  • Fashion Beast (Alan Moore)
  • Jerusalem (Alan Moore)

My overall reading velocity this year has been greatly tempered by a series of colossal doorstop novels I undertook. Starting with Body & Soul, Frank Conroy's only novel and a hefty hardback found on eBay, I also ploughed through Bolaño's 2666 (900 pages) and ended the year reading Alan Moore's Jerusalem (1,266 pages, and one of the ten longest novels written in the English language) - were it not for a few graphic novels and a single novella (Heidi James's The Mesmerist's Daughter, a free gift with a subscription to the literary magazine, Neon) my overall count could have been far lower.

Non-fiction

  • On Writing (Charles Bukowski)
  • Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story (Peter Bagge)
  • The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
  • Empires of EVE (Andrew Groen)
  • Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)
  • Radical Focus (Christina Wodtke)

As usual, the non-fiction I picked up is dwarfed by the fiction list. Pressfield's book on creativity was recommended by Wil Wheaton, but I found it preachy and uninspiring. Empires of EVE, on the other hand, which could easily have been a dull retelling of nerdy computer game history, was a fascinating page-turner detailing the complex machinations of players that shaped the universe of EVE Online during its early years.

Radical Focus, Wodtke's book about OKRs (Objectives and Key Results, a target-setting technique), was the strangest business book I've ever read, giving over more than half of the pages to a fictionalised parable rather than the more straightforward explanations you might expect. I'm still not sure if it made understanding the concepts any easier than a 'proper' book would have done.

Recommended reading

Aside from Alan Moore's Jerusalem, which is a topic so big it really deserves its own post, the best book I read this year was probably Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit, an account of the Depression-era racehorse's career, injury and comeback. The story of the unlikely winner and the three men whose lives he changes, told with economy by the housebound Hillenbrand, justly deserves all of its praise.

Matthew Pennell

Designer, developer, writer, runner, gamer, devil's advocate, INTP. Senior designer for Booking.com. Founder, Refresh Cambridge.
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