Books I read and reviewed in January (and some I didn’t)

OK, so one of the things I do to make ends meet is review books. This means that I am always reading shitloads of books. And sometimes it means I’m reading books that aren’t very good, when I could be reading books that are possibly great. Ho hum.

Anyway, I haven’t banged on about that shit here much in the past, but I figure I might as well flag it up, partly because I’ve already read a lot of good stuff this year.

Here’s a list:

Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Holiday (Canongate) – Charming and insightful memoir from the recently deceased musical legend. A bit lopsided in terms of focus, but always interesting.

Adrian McKinty, The Cold Cold Ground (Serpent’s Tail) – Reviewed for The Herald. A cracking crime novel set in 1980s Belfast, like Ellroy on craic.

Frank Bill, Crimes in Southern Indiana (William Heinemann) – Reviewed for Big Issue magazine, not online. Fantastic debut collection of hillbilly noir stories, some of the most visceral prose I’ve read in ages.

Shalom Auslander, Hope: A Tragedy (Picador) – Reviewed for The List magazine. Hilarious novel about a man who finds a decrepit old Anne Frank hiding in his attic.

David Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics (W.W. Norton) – Reviewed for Independent on Sunday. Intriguing but flawed account of leftfield physics dudes in 1970s California.

Ioan Grillo, El Narco (Bloomsbury) – Reviewed for The Scotsman, not online yet. A truly jaw-dropping account of the recent rise of Mexican drug cartels. A staggeringly fucked up situation, brilliantly revealed.

Alex Rosenberg, The Atheists’ Guide to Reality (W.W. Norton) – Reviewed for The Independent on Sunday. A muddled, overwritten and rather pointless look at the finer points of atheism.

William Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavor (Viking) – Reviewed for Big Issue magazine, not online. Great and diverse collection of essays and other non-fiction from the man who brought you cyberspace.

Alexander MacLeod, Light Lifting (Jonathan Cape) – Reviewed, for Big Issue magazine, not online. Great debut collection of short stories from Canadian writer. Muscular, precise, resonant and profound.

While I was reviewing all of them, I didn’t (yet) have time to read these, despite really wanting to:

Peter Leonard, Voices of the Dead (Faber)
Peter May, The Lewis Man (Quercus)
Stuart Neville, Stolen Souls (Harvill Secker)
George Pelecanos, What It Was (Orion)

If the to-be-read list keeps stacking up like this, I’m gonna have thirty-six potentially great unread books by the end of the year to add to the already massive pile.

Still, worse ways to make a living, eh?

About Doug Johnstone

I write things
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