My Favourite Books of 2016

16 Jan

Year 2016 wasn’t a particularly good one when it comes to discovering good books, compared to the previous years. It seems that every new year of my life is nothing but a paler, duller and sadder version of the previous year. Still, there were eleven books that I thought were really good and that I highly recommend everyone to read. I hope I’ll read some really fantastic books in 2017! And I hope you will too!

1908-woman-reading-by-candlelight-peter-ilsted-danishWoman Reading by Candlelight, Peter Ilsted, 1908

1. My Life by Marc Chagall: only a painter could write such an autobiography. It’s almost psychedelic, full of beauty, dreams, love and hardships of the painter’s life. And so full of hope at the same time.

2. The Return of Philip Latinowicz by Miroslav Krleza is a novel about an artist who returns to his homeland Croatia after 23 years, set in the late 1920s/early 1930s, and it explores just about every topic there is; meaning of existence, art, childhood, sexuality, provincial claustrophobia, relationship with his mother and the puzzling question – the identity of his father. After years spent living in the decaying Western European society, Philip hoped to find inspiration by revisiting his cultural roots, but he was instead welcomed by the Panonian mud; intellectual and imaginative poverty of small-town decadence, intrigues and hypocrisies, and the petty-bourgeois mindsets of the people who live there. Here’s a quote that I utterly agree with: ‘I believe in the purity of artistic intuition as the only purity which has remained in this animal world around us!

3. A Thing of Beauty by A.J.Cronin is such a beautiful book, tells the story of a struggling painter Stefan who goes from a proper middle-class student obliging his dominant priest father, to diving fully into the bohemian and artistic life in 1910s Paris. It’s a sad, gentle book, you can empathise with the character and feel his struggles, pains and the beauty of his paintings. I wrote a long long review here.

4. Lust for Life by Irving Stone is a romanticised biography of Vincent van Gogh, beautifully written, easy to read, with a good amount of his personal life and his art because both is equally important. I liked that the chapters were divided by the places he lived in, and that the author managed to convey the personalities of van Gogh and his painter-friends so well. It was only after reading this that I understood what a desire Vincent had to help people, such as the workers in coal mines. Even now, he’s helping the humanity with the beauty of his paintings.

5. Dark Stuff by Nick Kent: This is a collection of essays about rock musicians originally written from 1972 to 1993 which explore the self-destruction and creativity of rock world. I adore the simple and honest way he writes, without patronising, but with utter love for music, and I think it’s so cool that he led that rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle himself. I want to be Nick Kent and Tony Wilson of the art world!

6. Just Kids by Patti Smith is a beautiful account of her years with Robert Mapplethorpe, Chelsea Hotel, discovering art and music, and a tender love story as well. It showed me Patti in a completely new light, maybe she looks like a boy but she has a loving and forgiving heart and is a true woman.

7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding: This books wasn’t that interesting to read, but the deeper message it carries is worth it. There’s references to it everywhere, and I just had to read it.

8. The Pillowbook by Sei Shonagon is beautiful, lyrical, gentle and witty portrayal of court life, customs and nature in Edo period written by a woman who is often called the ‘first blogger’! Shonagon won me over with her descriptions of cherry blossoms, plum trees, snow, moonshine, clothes, gossips and chatter on court. Anyone who loves nature, poetry or Eastern culture should definitely read it! Here’s a quote: ‘In Spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them.’ I wrote a longer review here.

9. Return to Cardiff by John Williams: What I love about this book is that it’s a product of our day and age. I am always bitching about how boring and uncreative the 21st century world is, so I was very delighted to read something as moving and amusing. It’s a story of memories and changes for Cardiff as well as the characters. I wrote a longer review here.

10. The Key by Junichiro Tanizaki: is a novel written in a diary-form about the loss of communication between a middle-aged couple. Wife and husband are reading each other’s diaries to find out their true fantasies and desires. It’s only erotic at first reading, but its main subject – loss of communication or alienation is something that pervades our modern world. I’m realising more and more how difficult it is really to make a deep, sincere connection with another human being, and this novel really chimed with me.  I like Tanizaki’s style and I really want to read ‘Naomi’ next – it’s suppose to be the Japanese version of Nabokov’s Lolita.

11. A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney is kitchen-sink drama which I read because I knew Morrissey loved it and it was inspirational for his lyrics. And I loved it too! Set in the grim and industrial landscape of Manchester, it tells the story of a pregnant schoolgirl with a black-sailor boyfriend, careless mother and a gay friend. Delaney writes about everyday struggles and social issues with such delicacy I think. It inspired Morrissey to write his song This Night Has Opened My Eyes, do you need another reason to read it?

***

Have you read any of these books?

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12 Responses to “My Favourite Books of 2016”

  1. lautreamont 16th January 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    Ha ha! Muse of Byron I love hearing hearing of your increasing melancholia! If you find yourself immersed in “darkness visible” or your depression turns clinical -the best kind in my opinion- try to refrain from drowning yourself. Btw,an arty kinda fact ; my Ophelia crush was Amaryllis Garnett ,daughter of Bloomsbury writer David Garnett .She lived next door on a houseboat, Moby Dick, in Cheyne Walk. After she drowned, her sister Nerissa moved in and another passion developed! I have read some of the books in your list,but I don’t like Nick Kent or Patti Smith.I think you could do way better.If these posts are annoying just don,t put em up.Best.

    Like

    • Byron's Muse 16th January 2017 at 10:10 pm #

      No worries, I won’t drown myself because there’s no Hamlet to grieve for me and no Millais to paint me haha. I take it you spent the sixties harbouring crushes for sisters. Yes, I could do better, books I read in 2014 were indeed way better, but hopefully in 2017 I’ll read something really mind-blowing!

      Like

      • lautreamont 16th January 2017 at 11:05 pm #

        Yeah,but the Garnett girls were all beauties.Nerrissa and Fanny were twins.Nerissa gave me my first avocado,I didn’t know what it was..It really was Bloomsbury meets psychedelia.I remember playing her the Velvet Underground and she was laughing her head off! I don’t think she’d ever heard anything like it before! I got on with her real, real good..

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Parma Matute 16th January 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    Duller and Sadder? Can’t be true. Your a source of inspiration, I read your blog everyday.

    Oh, I love Just Kids, The pillowbook and The Key. Maybe you should read M-Train by Patti Smith and Beauty and Sadness by Kawabata.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 16th January 2017 at 10:13 pm #

      I’m happy to hear that! And I’m glad you liked some of the books. I was actually planning to read ‘Beauty and Sadness’ soon because the title really appeals me, funny.

      Like

  3. lautreamont 16th January 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19422504.Dang this is Amaryllis’s sister!I just found it. You may find it interesting.Your posts always take me back.Keep up the good work Best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 16th January 2017 at 10:11 pm #

      Interesting indeed! I sure will.
      Have you by chance read my interview: https://1810photography.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/interview-with-byrons-muse/

      Like

      • lautreamont 17th January 2017 at 7:17 pm #

        Yup!..read it.Very good. Sounds like you want to be an art and music critic. Sounds like you had an unusual upbringing.Mine was Gothic! Ha!

        Like

        • Byron's Muse 18th January 2017 at 9:53 pm #

          Gothic!? Ha ha. What ever do you mean?

          Like

          • lautreamont 19th January 2017 at 7:12 pm #

            Well,briefly and without the sordid details,let’s just say: nuns,monks,latin,greek,abbeys,poetry ,drugs,madness,suicides, high art,women.And yourself?

            ;

            Like

            • Byron's Muse 19th January 2017 at 8:15 pm #

              Well sounds interesting indeed! Mine would only include: latin, poetry and high art. I loved my grammar school though, happiest years of my life. As a child I spent most of the time with adults and I thought other children were stupid. ha ha. My parents are the most tolerable creatures, I listen to music all the time the loudest I can, they never said a word about it.

              Like

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