I'm feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the number of books, both read and unread, in my flat at the moment. There's a pile of them waiting to be written up too, and I ought to hoover, and clean the good candlesticks ahead of a grown up lunch tomorrow (or maybe I'll just stick them somewhere out the way) but all I really want to do tonight is crack in with a knitting project I've just started.
There's also the traditional top ten list of last years reading to think about, something I like doing because it's both enjoyable and sort of useful (though the useful part really only applies to myself) to look back at the last 12 months reading.
The first book to talk about is 'Arboreal: A Collection of New Woodland Writing' edited by Adrian Cooper, and published by Little Toller. I haven't written about it properly here yet, but it's an exceptional book. Both a thing of beauty, and full of ideas to explore. There are over 40 chapters, each offering a lot to think about, so I've been taking my time reading through this one - basically I can't recommend it highly enough, or come close to over selling it.
Also from Little Toller (and embarrassingly, one of only a very small handful of last years Christmas books I managed to read) was Sophie Kingshill's 'Mermaids'. This is one of Little Toller's series of monographs, they're the perfect pocket size, and for short books cram a lot in. This was the first in the series I read, and it made me want the lot (I really, really, need more space for books and more time for reading them).
2016 also felt like a really strong year for cookbooks (I think I say that every year, but even so...) highlights include Diana Henry's 'Simple', Gill Meller's 'Gather', Zuza Zak's 'Polska' and 'Samerkand'. The cookbook I'm most enthusiastic about though is Regula Ysewijn's 'Pride and Pudding'. It's because it's far more than a cookbook, and I found the combination of history, recipes, ceramics, gorgeous photography, and artwork, irrisistable.
I'm also particularly enthusiastic about 'Classic German Baking'. I'd wanted a book on German baking for such a long time, and this one didn't disappoint. There's such a range of things in it, but the sunken Apple cake alone is worth the cover price. It's partly sentiment - my grandmother was German, and although we've weren't close and I don't ever remember her baking, it still feels like I'm exploring a part of my heritage. I need all honesty though, it may be that my enthusiasm has a lot to do with a deep love of Apple cake.
The British Library Crime Classics continue to be a delight, They're impeccably packaged and are always entertaining. I have a stack of them to read and am wholeheartedly looking forward to it. I particularly enjoyed 'Lost in a Pyramid' though which is a diversion away from crime. Lost in a Pyramid initially appealed because it sounded (over used word) fun, and it is, but there's much more to it than that.
Mikhail Lermontov's 'A Hero of our Time' was an unexpected joy, and has encouraged me to tackle more Russian literature - or at least not to automatically avoid it. Blessedly short, and bleakly funny in places, it was a gem. Also in translation, and this time overcoming a general prejudice against, well- not so much the French, as francophiles, was Frederic Dard's 'Bird in a Cage'. A little slice of French Noir with what I think is the best twist I've yet read. I have more Dard to read and a more really looking forward to it.
For all round over the top gothic nonsense it's hard to choose between Wilkie Collins 'Jezabel's Daughter' - not his best work, but still with a lot to recommend it, there's a sympathetic villain (I sympathised with her anyway) and a cracking episode that takes place at night in a morgue, and W. Somerset Maugham's 'The Magician'. On balance 'The Magician' would win for all out craziness, it's also an entertaining book to read, and an interesting historical curiosity for Maugham's take on Crowley.
Finally I'm choosing Susan Pleydell's 'The Road to the Harbour'. It's currently in print thanks to Grey Ladies and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. It's sort of a spy thriller, but more about the consequences that our own and other people should actions can have on us. What made it special was the way Pleydell really made me care about her heroine, and how real she made what was, in the end, quite an unlikely predicament, seem.