Open thread: the books that changed you

Following on from my Fiction Uncovered article about  how I’ve changed as a reader in recent years, I thought I would open the subject to you. Please leave a comment and tell me about a book that changed the way you read. Is there a book that put you on to a different kind of (non-)fiction? One that you returned to after abandoning and that suddenly ‘clicked’? Something else? Let me know!

Women in Translation Month: an index of reviews so far

During August, the blogger Biblibio is hosting Women in Translation Month. I’ve been making plans to join in, and aim to have at least four reviews up over the course of the month. But I wanted to start by bringing together all my previous reviews of books in translation by women. I expected that there wouldn’t be many, but it’s still quite sobering to see that there are only 26 from the five-and-a-half years of this blog (I know I haven’t been paying particular attention to books in translation until the last couple of years, but still…).

Anyway: long and short, positive and negative, here they all are…


Tamara Astafieva, Born in Siberia (translated from the Russian by Luba Ioffe)

Maria Barbal, Stone in a Landslide (translated from the Catalan by Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell)For #WIT

Alina Bronsky, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (translated from the German by Tim Mohr)

Kristina Carlson, Mr Darwin’s Gardener (translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah)

Laurence Cossé, A Novel Bookstore (translated from the French by Alison Anderson)

Viola Di Grado, 70% Acrylic 30% Wool (translated from the Italian by Michael Reynolds)

Elvira Dones, Sworn Virgin (translated from the Italian by Clarissa Botsford)

Hélène Grémillon, The Confidant (translated from the French by Alison Anderson)

Katharina Hagena, The Taste of Apple Seeds (translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch)

Marlen Haushofer, The Wall (translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside)

Pia Juul, The Murder of Halland (translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken)

Natsuo Kirino, The Goddess Chronicle (translated from the Japanese by Rebecca Copeland)

Natsuo Kirino, Out (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)

Hanna Krall, Chasing the King of Hearts (translated from the Polish by Philip Boehm)

Rosa Montero, Tears in Rain (translated from the Spanish by Lilit Žekulin Thwaites)

Yoko Ogawa, Hotel Iris (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)

Yoko Ogawa, The Diving Pool (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)

Yoko Ogawa, Revenge (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)

Véronique Olmi, Beside the Sea (translated from the French by Adriana Hunter)

Susann Pásztor, A Fabulous Liar (translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside)

Maryam Sachs, The Passenger (translated by Gael Schmidt-Cléach)

Simona Sparaco, About Time (translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis)

Birgit Vanderbeke, The Mussel Feast (translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch)

Alissa Walser, Mesmerized (translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch)

Juli Zeh, Decompression (translated from the German by John Cullen)

Alice Zeniter, Take This Man (translated from the French by Alison Anderson)

Book giveaway: Win a set of Yoko Ogawa paperbacks

RevengeYoko Ogawa’s Revenge was one of my favourite books from this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The UK paperback edition of Revenge is out on Thursday 3 July, when Vintage Books will also be reissuing Ogawa’s backlist – Hotel Iris, The Diving Pool, and The Housekeeper and the Professor (all books translated by Stephen Snyder). To mark the occasion, and courtesy of Vintage, I have a set of the four paperbacks to give away to one lucky reader of this blog.

To enter, leave a comment on this post at any time up to 23.59 UK time on Sunday 6 July. Only one entry per person. Sorry, but the giveaway is open to UK residents only.

After the competition has closed, I will select a winner with a random number generator, and contact them for their postal address.

You can also read my blog reviews of Hotel Iris, The Diving Pool, and Revenge.

Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist event: Wed 18 June

The winner of this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize will be announced on Thursday 3 July, but this is just a quick heads-up to say that this Wednesday in London, you can catch the shortlisted authors – Robert Allison, D.W Wilson, and recent Baileys winner Eimear McBride – reading from and discussing their work with Chris Cleave, chair of the judges.

The event takes place at Waterstones Piccadilly, beginning at 6.30pm. More details here.

#6Degrees of Separation: The Luminaries

This is a blog meme created by the authors Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith, that runs on the first Saturday of each month. Everyone starts with the same book, then links it to another book in whichever way they like, and so on for a total of six links. This month’s starting book is Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and as that’s one of my very favourite books, I could hardly pass up the chance to join in. So:

luminariesThe Luminaries is the second novel by an author I first read in 2009; and so is…

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. This book has two parallel plot threads, one running chronologically forwards, the other backwards. Another novel with reversed chronology is…

Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis, which gradually reveals that its protagonist is a doctor who worked at Auschwitz. Another book with an oblique portrayal of Auschwitz is…

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, which was one of the first titles I read in my old book group. When the time came for me to choose a book for the group, I chose…

The Prestige by Christopher Priest, in which present-day characters learn about the rivalry between two Victorian stage magicians. Another novel involving present-day discoveryof Victorian strangeness is…

The Evolution of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky, which is a novel written in the form of a historical biography. And another novel that borrows a non-fiction form is…

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton, which is a novel in the form of an auction catalogue, and a book I really want to read.


Well, I didn’t anticipate that I’d end up there when I started writing this post, but the journey was certainly good fun. If you’d like to join in yourself, the rules are below:



Desmond Elliott Prize 2014: the longlist

de2014On the shadow IFFP jury, we’re just finalising our shortlist; as the first stage of that shadowing process comes to an end, I’m about to embark on another one. This time it’s for the Desmond Elliott Prize, which is awarded each year to a UK-published debut novel, written in English by an author who lives in the UK or Ireland (previous winners include Grace McCleen’s The Land of Decoration and Ali Shaw’s The Girl with Glass Feet).

The judgeds for this year’s prize are the novelist Chris Cleave, bookseller Patrick Neale, and journalist Isabel Berick. Dan Lipscombe of the blog Utter Biblio has also put together a shadow jury to read and rate the longlist. As well as me, the shadow jury includes Jackie Bailey of Farm Lane Books; Heather Lindskold of Between the Covers; reader and reviewer Sarah Noakes; and journalist Kaite Welsh.

The 2014 Desmond Elliott longlist was announced shortly after midnight this morning; here it is:

  • Robert Allison, The Letter Bearer (Granta)
  • Sam Byers, Idiopathy (Fourth Estate)
  • Kate Clanchy, Meeting the English (Picador)
  • Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall (HarperCollins)
  • Katharine Grant, Sedition (Virago)
  • Jason Hewitt, The Dynamite Room (Simon & Schuster)
  • Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland)
  • Sathnam Sanghera, Marriage Material (William Heinemann)
  • D.W. Wilson, Ballistics (Bloomsbury)

I haven’t read any of these, so any first thoughts will be tentative, but… It seems a good mixture of talked-about titles and more obscure ones. I guess the biggest names on the list are Nathan Filer and Eimear McBride, who won the Costa and Goldsmiths Prize (two rather different awards, I’d observe) respectively for their books.

Looking at the list from a structural point of view, it would have been nice to see more books by women and writers of colour, and more small-press titles. Nevertheless, there are some titles on there that I’m keen to read: besides the Filer and McBride, I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Byers and Sanghera; I’ve read a bit of the Clancy and really liked it; and I enjoyed Wilson’s BBC National Short Story Award winner a few years ago.

I won’t commit to reviewing all the books; but I will be reading them all, and talking about as many as I can. You’ll be able to follow the shadow jury’s thoughts on each title on this page of Dan’s blog.

Reading the Clarke Award: 2014

Shadowing the IFFP has meant I haven’t started on the Clarke shortlist yet. But now’s the time, so here is this year’s list:

God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Del Rey)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann (Gollancz)
Nexus by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot)
The Adjacent by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
The Machine by James Smythe (Blue Door)

The only one of those I’ve read so far is The Adjacent, and I’ve linked to my review above. My IFFP experience has shown me that I should have time to read all these books, but not necessarily to blog them all; so I’m just going to review the books that I really want to. But, whatever happens, I’ll still read the whole shortlist and write an overview post before the winner is announced in May.