Updated 12th February 2023
[The full list of books is in the right-hand panel, or under Menu in the phone app.]
Spoiler Alert! If you read any of these commentaries, you will find out everything about a book, because I stop every few chapters and write in detail about it all as I read. I’m not trying simply to remember the book, but to recreate the experience of reading it. Most of the books I read are novels, but not all of them.
The name is taken from Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, later adapted for the cinema in Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall. At the centre of the story is the unreliability of memory, which is why I started to write these commentaries in the first place.
What I’m reading now:
The Promise—Damon Galgut
Barnaby Rudge—Charles Dickens
Some recent reads, latest first:
Bad Actors—Mick Herron
Elena Knows—Claudia Piñeiro
Grey Bees—Andrey Kurkov
The Vanishing Half—Brit Bennett
The Story of a New name—Elena Ferrante
The Hummingbird—Sandro Veronesi
Klara and the Sun—Kazuo Ishiguro
English Pastoral—James Rebanks
Shuggie Bain—Douglas Stuart
Go Tell It on the Mountain—James Baldwin
The Catcher in the Rye—J D Salinger
Vanity Fair—William Makepeace Thackeray
Girl, Woman, Other—Bernadine Evaristo
Best recent read:
Great idea. I have just used it to look at Ulverton.
Do you need any help with this idea? I read and summarise many books.
Thanks for the comment, and your offer! But no. It’s a labour of love, and it has to be all my own work. However… I’d be interested in joining another project if it looks interesting.
A HIDDEN TREASURE OF BLOGDOM. As a forty-something mum and having never been an avid reader, I’ve just taken up the gauntlet to encourage (by example) my daughter to read more in preparation for secondary school exams. Having just finished ‘The Miniaturist’ and in the absence of keen readers to chat with I’ve been trawling the web reading reviews to gauge reactions to the book. Your review was like a breath of fresh air; beautifully written with humour and wit. Not too brief – thorough, but not overly drawn out or convoluted. You’ve summarised the book and expressed frank opinions without being opinionated. Whilst I enjoyed the book you have captured points that I was dissatisfied with in a way that I couldn’t express. Is this blog really just a labour of love – a hidden treasure – or are you writing for other media? Either way, great work.
Yes, it really is. Just a labour of love. Thank you for your generous comments, which make the project seem worthwhile! Try some of the other books I’ve written about, maybe one you read a long time ago and only vaguely remember. My hope is that any post of mine will bring back the experience of what it felt like to read it. It works for me – but then, that’s why I write them. (I just re–read what I wrote about The Miniaturist and it brings back everything I did and didn’t like about it!)
You’re very welcome. Sadly I’m embarrassed to reveal just how little fiction I’ve read in my lifetime so its difficult for me to compare work or even know what I like. Additionally, as I have taken up reading fiction partly through necessity there’s a risk that starting books I dislike and leave unfinished will make the whole experience a chore and less likely to become long-lasting. Your posts encourage me to experiment reading work of different authors and be a little more persevering; not all books are fast-paced and as an avid film buff I lack patience! I’m also grateful for the chronological order as we were advised to read fiction from different periods and alphabetically arranged posts mean little to me when I know nothing of the authors. (as for The Miniaturist, you absolutely nailed it for me!). Thank you again, I look forward to reading more posts.
I have just signed up to follow…..I was actually searching for French literature and was thinking it would take me to an Amazon link…….then came upon this, Guy de Maupassants ‘Bel Amis’….which I saw not long ago on You Tube, the marvellous black & white 1940;s film featuring George Sanders, who always plays the villain so well……
I had been lamenting the fact that there isn’t, to my knowledge, a French literature group nearby, because it would be nice to share the experience and discuss with other book enthusiasts……..but perhaps this will do – and there is the advantage of being reminded of the raft of titles that I know, but haven’t yet got down to read…..good idea…
Thank you for this. What a wonderful project!
Hey. Just leaving a general message on your board. Your impressions of Infinite Jest articulated my frustrations pretty clearly. In fact I found your blog (?) while trying to see if someone could explain the “timeless appeal”. Thanks for saving me the re-read.
As another side note, I see you’ve read through quite a few of the “must reads” of graphic novels. The way you approached Watchmen implies to me you might enjoy Transmetropolitan (Warren Elis).
Yes, I’ve read Transmetropolitan, some time ago. Enjoyed it – time for a re-read, perhaps.
Thanks for the approval. It’s why I write these notes! (Let your friends know….)
Just read your review regarding the Essex Serpent and while you do have some good points I think you should listen to Sarah Perry. It may make you a bit less harsh. http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1052876355787
Thanks for the comment and link. But no, Sarah Perry talking about her novel didn’t convince me any more than the novel did. Sorry.
I read The Essex Serpent last year and for the life of me could not understand what all the fuss was about. I read your review last week (as a way of re-reading, or not re-reading before a book group meeting) and laughed out loud. I found the review very funny and agree the novel is flawed in so many ways. The major problem is indeed the transplantation of a contemporary heroine into Victorian culture. Listening to Sarah Perry on the suggested link does not resolve the problem. Of course women were intelligent and could read works by Darwin but the day to day difficulties this dissonance would have brought about are not explored in this novel. This is a loss and makes the reading of such a long text bit of a time waster. Perhaps this is what the novel is for really? A page turner for the summer holidays? Not really worth it.
I’ve just come across your site and read your pieces on Ford Maddox Ford’s ‘The Good Soldier’ and Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’. I enjoyed them tremendously! Now for some more – Proust, perhaps….
I just read your Zero K summary and have to say, I thought it was spot-on. You felt the same way I felt about it, in terms of sometimes having to force myself to continue because Jeff and Ross (and their relationship) weren’t all that compelling or remarkable. However, the novel as a whole ended up fully occupying my brain by the end, and left me troubled, a little terrified, and with a great deal of food for thought. Now, a few days after finishing my second, more careful read, I think it’s probably Delillo’s best post-Underworld novel (or at least tied with Point Omega) and one of his best overall. My favorites remain Ratner’s Star, Point Omega, and White Noise. I think Zero K might end up in there somewhere eventually, after enough chewing over. Why don’t you allow comments on individual posts (like your Zero K post)? I would have preferred to leave this comment there!
Thanks for these really interesting comments.It’s in the nature of ths site that I read a book, decide on my opinions, and move on. Your re-readings of Zero K demonstrate how that might not always be the best way. As for not being able to leave a comment on individual pages… that’s something I need to repair. There is supposed to be a reply field on each book, but this seems to have been broken. I’ll see if I can put it right.
This is just the best blog ever! It’s perfect for me to remember the plot of books I want to resume reading when for some reason I had to put down for a while and my memory will just fail me… I actually found it when I was looking for a way of remembering the first few chapters of Satantango and it was really helpful. Thanks!
Thank you for this. I write it for the reason you mention, to remember the plots (and everything else, as far of possible) of the books I read. I don’t publicize the website, I just let people find it. If you know anybody who might like it, please tell them!
What a wonderful blog. I came across it while searching for some discussion/analysis of the rather odd (even for Dickens) dénouement of Martin Chuzzlewit. I mean, what a torturous way to teach someone a lesson. Yoikes! And frankly, in young Martin’s case, a bit mean, too. Pecksniff deserved it, but did Martín?
Who are you? Haha. There’s no info/bio here, and this is the only way to contact you. You’re British, it’s seems, judging from your spelling, but aside from that, we know nothing. A mysterious chap. Or woman.
Anyway, thank you for doing this. I see you also have here “Dombey And Son”, which is next on the list. (I’m working my way through in chronological order.)
All the best,
Hi Gavin, and many thanks. I’ll reply to your comments on Martin Chuzzlewit on that page, where I see you’ve also posted your comment. As for the anonymity of the site…. When I set it up, I was already bored by the way bloggers make their own identities (ethnicity, gender, holiday experiences) into part of the package. I wondered how feasible it might be to neutralise it all, confining every bit of what I say to my own response to what I’m reading. I’m sure it would be possible to profile me pretty accurately from all kinds of internal evidence, but who would be bothered enough?
Have you / would you read Shirley Jackson’s short story The Missing Girl? I read Reservoir-13 a few years ago and your summary captures exactly how I felt about it. I read The Missing Girl recently and wondered if it might have served as an inspiration to McGregor; indeed Reservoir-13 would have been a better short story than it is a novel. The Missing Girl is much more successful in its purpose, and does not overstay its welcome.