2012: The Reading List

Every year there are books I want to read, and every year I don’t read them. There are books on my shelf that I have been trying to read for years. I have resigned myself to the fact that some books (War and Peace, all of Dickens, the Odyssey) will never be read. But this year I’ve made myself a list of twenty books that I really, truly want to read. It’s a modest number, but then I have a baby, book review work, and a PhD to carry on with. Here’s the list.


  • The Cowboy Dog — Nigel Cox. How I have managed not to read this book is beyond me. It’s been on my shelf for at least a year after it was rescued from a friend’s pile of books off to Arty Bees.
  • Solar — Ian McEwan. McEwan is my favourite fiction writer and this was released in 2010. Shame on me.
  • Persuasion — Jane Austen. This year I read Pride and Prejudice. In 2012 I will read Persuasion. By the time my son is at school I might have managed all of Austen.
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad — Jennifer Egan. People keep on talking about this book like it’s the second coming, so I’m going to read it.
  • The Sense of an Ending — Julian Barnes. Man Booker winner in 2011, so it’s mandatory reading, ha.
  • The Hut Builder — Laurence Fearnley. Also mandatory reading as it won the New Zealand Post 2011 award for best book. Mackenzie Country (the novel’s setting), is part of my own family’s mythology so I’m looking forward to it.

Fiction – Short Story Collections

  • Legend of a Suicide — David Vann. He visited, people raved, I thought I better read his work.
  • Lawrence Patchett’s debut collection of short stories, due out in 2012 from Victoria University Press. Patchett is a tremendously sharp writer and I can’t wait to read his collection.


  • The Comforter — Helen Lehndorf. Lehndorf’s debut collection of poetry is from Seraph Press. After reading Lehndorf’s work in various New Zealand journals I’m interested to see how her voice comes together in a collection.
  • The Same As Yes — Joan Fleming. This is Fleming’s debut collection from VUP, and I was lucky enough to read early versions of the manuscript before it was accepted for publication. So reading the final collection will be an exercise in becoming.
  • Turtle Island — Gary Snyder. Turtle Island won the Pulitzer Prize in, ah, (checks Google), 1975. Snyder has been one of the biggest influences on American environmental poetry, so I really should read some of his work.
  • The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls — Kate Camp. Camp’s collection won the New Zealand Post 2011 award for best collection of poetry. It includes one of my favourite poems from 2011, so I have been meaning to read the entire collection.

Non Fiction

  • A Sand County Almanac — Aldo Leopold. Published in 1949, it influenced the American conservation movement (including environmental poets). I’ve been meaning to read it for the last two years.
  • Helping your baby to sleep : why gentle techniques work best — Anni Gethin. I’m a new mother. There had to be at least one sleep book on this list.
  • The Exercise Book: Creative Writing Exercises from Victoria University’s Institute of Modern letters — edited by Ken Duncum, Bill Manhire, Chris Price, and Damien Wilkins. My clever husband gave me this book for Christmas. I am going to have a lot of fun with the exercises.
  • Running Writing Robinson — edited by David Carnegie, Paul Millar, David Norton, and Harry Ricketts. Running and writing together? No brainer.
  • Why We Run: A Story of Obsession — Robin Harvie. To be honest, I could easily make a list of twenty running books, and it was hard to limit the number on this list to two. Harvie’s book looks at ultra running and the rewards such madness brings.
  • How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer — Sarah Bakewell. Fellow poet Sam Searle suggested this book. I know nothing about it but presume it has something to do with essayist Montaigne.
  • My Stroke of Insight — Dr. Jill Botle Taylor. Ever since seeing neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Botle Taylor’s TED talk about experiencing a stroke from the inside, I have wanted to read her book about the same event. That was in 2008.

And finally, one wild card for that book I can’t pass up. Hopefully it’s on the short side.

7 thoughts on “2012: The Reading List

  1. Loved the Cowboy Dog! For other books that stretch the concept of dog (and the dog-human spectrum) I recommend
    — Dogboy by Eva Hornung
    — Captain Cook and the Trial of the Cannibal Dog by Anne Salmond
    — Red Dog by Louis de Bernières

  2. I read theJulian Barnes because I loved another one of his – A History of the World in 13 1/4 Chapters. I didn’t really get sucked in by Sense of an Ending, I think I like quirky. The History of the World is quirky, Sense of an Ending is not (though it is well-written, I suppose).

  3. I read Cox’s ‘Skylark Lounge’ and ‘Tarzan Presley’ (this is potentially as masterpiece if such a term can be used, certainly original). I have read most of C D’s but that was by the time I was 14 or so! But now I want to revisit. I know the feeling of having so much to read though. I used to jog as a young man. I see that comes into your poetry book. There is often a sense of elation (endorphins). Montaigne himself is great to read. Have you read ‘Three Tales’ by Flaubert? Good to read if you ever read Barnes’s ‘Flaubert’s Parrot’ I re-read it, the story involving the parrot is short and very moving like Balzac’s ‘The Atheist’s Mass’
    I read a book about sleep, it is important for people of all ages to get sufficient sleep. Regards, Richard Taylor.

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