• Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
  • The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  • Boswell's Life of Johnson
  • In Search of Lost Time: The Way By Swann's, Marcel Proust, tr Lydia Davis
  • The Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny
  • Letters from Amherst, Samuel R Delany

I read the first two volumes of The Book of the New Sun a few years ago, and was prompted to read the last two because (a) Ada Palmer cites Wolfe as a major influence and (b) I'd seen Tamsyn Muir's The Locked Tomb series compared to it. I read Gideon over the summer holidays last year, just after I finished Palmer's Terra Ignota books, and I loved it, and for all that I admire Palmer's historical imagination and worldbuilding, and liked her characters, I find that I care about the dipshit cast of TLT ten times more.

I re-read the first two volumes of the Wolfe before finishing it off and I can imagine re-reading the entire thing again with enjoyment, but as a whole I don't know if they're a complete success, even though I went the extra distance and read the coda, The Urth of the New Sun. It didn't feel like the effort Wolfe always requires of the reader was paid off in full, and the whole series made me think of other doorstops of solipsistic masculinity from the 80s. I read shelfloads of these as a teenager - Stephen R Donaldson, late Heinlein - and I'm kind of glad I didn't read the Wolfe books when they were new and I didn't know better.

This reminds me that I also finally got around to reading Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber this year and almost completely forgot about it. Much more throwaway in its approach to worldbuilding but has the same feeling of tired boy tropes rattling around inside the writer's skull rather than engaging with anything very solid.

I read the Life of Jonnson while getting over a hospitalisation and respiratory infection and it was great. I read the new translation of Proust while prepping for and recovering from prostate surgery and I really enjoyed it but can't say that the Davis translation added anything I didn't get from Moncrieff.

I started reading Harrow in hospital because I needed some girl germs to clean out all the [spoilers] aliens are going to cut my dick off if I'm not Space Jesus bullshit from The Book of the New Sun, but I had to stop reading it about a third of the way through because the soup scene was just too much for me. After a couple of weeks I got back into it. It's just as good as the first volume.

The collection of long letters by Samuel Delany to his friends and family was better than I was expecting.

This isn't all of the books from 2023, just the ones which have stuck with me. I hope to keep track of my reading a bit better in 2024.



Poor Things blew away my memory of every other film I've seen this year: I've been a fan of Alasdair Gray since I was a student and it's such a rare experience to have such a good time watching an adaptation of a writer one loves. It's a shame that they removed the Glasgow background but that's my only criticism.