Saturday, April 15, 2017

Throw Your Mama’s Smelly Shoe Awards & Other Malaysiana Miscellany

THIS is not exactly something new. But it is worth talking about to remind us how far we have come as civilized human beings. The date of the book launch has been set and the invitations have all gone out to the most important people in the kingdom. Heck, the cake has already been baked and iced. But the book is yet to be ready. In Malaysia this is never ever a problem. “We will just launch a mock-up of the book then,” they say proudly. Who says dreams don’t come through?
***
ONE Malaysian author told me the other day: “I don’t understand why you need to edit my manuscript and make so many amendments. My previous publisher published all my books exactly the way I wrote them without any edits or fact-checking. I just don’t see the need for this constant back and forth between editor and author.” You should stick with your old publisher.
***
MALAYSIAN “writers” who engage ghostwriters to write for them (because they can’t or are just too lazy to write) should understand that they are supposed to pay them for services rendered. Even though they are called “ghost”-writers, they are really not ghosts. They are human, just like you and me.
***
LUCIFER strides in with his fake drippy-drip smile and asks me why is the Japanese lady on the cover of her cookbook wearing spectacles. I look at him and say: “Perhaps she is short- or longsighted? Maybe she has astigmatism? I don’t know; perhaps she likes designer spectacles? Perhaps it makes her black eyes brown? Perhaps she has yet to go for her lasik? After all she does look good in them. I could give her a call and ask her—if that is really what you want to know?” With his shifty eyes and plumpy apple-ish cheeks, he replies: “There’s no need.” Life’s full of these wasteful, unproductive God-what-was-that-all-about moments! It’s a strange world we live in and it looks like there’s nothing much we can do about it.
***
SO LITTLE TIME, so many terrifying manuscripts to edit. There’s only so much editing one can do to make some of them a tad better. Malaysian university professors and journalists who write like primary schoolers are the worst of the lot. And stop threatening us by dropping names!
***
MALAYSIAN “WRITER”: No, I haven’t written a novel. But I would very much like us to meet up and discuss the story.
Editor: What is there to discuss if you haven’t written it?
Malaysian “writer”: If I write more words, will the novel be thicker?
Editor: Duh! (Of course.)
Malaysian “writer”: How many words must I write?
Editor: One hundred thousand words. Or thereabouts.
Malaysian “writer”: Wah … so many words-ah?
Editor: Why don’t you just give up writing? You are obviously not very good at it.
Malaysian “writer”: But writing a novel is my lifelong dream!
Editor: Looks like you will be dreaming for a long, long time.
Malaysian “writer”: With your experience, what kind of readers do you think will read my book?
Editor: Most probably dumb ones!
Malaysian “writer”: You so bad one-lah!
Editor: I am not bad. Just truthful. Wasn’t it Plato who said that no one is more hated than he who speaks the truth?
Malaysian “writer”: Plato who-huh? Your friend-ah?
Editor: Yes, Plato is indeed my best friend from long long ago!
***
IMAGINE editing an author who gets the spelling of his wife’s name wrong! “I will have to get back to you with regard to the spelling of my wife’s name. I will have to ask her if it is spelt with an ‘a’ or ‘e’. I may have to take a look at her birth certificate to ascertain. You just never know.” Yes, you got it right, you just never know.
***
ANOTHER prize-winning quote from the very people who gave us the ground-breaking QUOTE OF THE CENTURY (see below): “I don’t agree with all of your edits, but I am quite all right with them.” This is absolutely riveting, nail-biting stuff.
***
QUOTE OF THE CENTURY: “Edit, but please don’t change anything, because it is already perfect.” (It was far from perfect.) A classic case of imbecility or existential profundity, perhaps?
***
“I FINALLY learnt to say no. After all these years. And it felt really, really good. I have always been one of those people who had problem saying no. And because of that I have always ended up with more than I could chew. Now, the weight of the universe is lifted off my shoulders. I must continue using it more often.”
***
A SENIOR EDITOR at a Malaysian publishing house received the following e-mail the other day. The message, with typos amended (to avoid embarrassment, of course), reads: “I can’t write very well, but I thought I’d like to try writing a novel. I’ve decided to write one about pirates, but I know next to nothing about pirates. Could you please e-mail me information about pirates: their lifestyle, their eating habits, where they like to chill out in the evenings or during the weekends, what they like to do during the day when most of us are at work, what kinds of books they read, etc., so that I can start working on the novel immediately? With much appreciation and best wishes.”
***
MALAYSIA is not exactly the friendliest country in the world (despite what the paid commercials say): most of the time the people are bloody rude, downright discourteous, boorishly loudmouthed and deeply disrespectful, among other things. Asian values? What Asian values? There is no such thing as Asian values. Malaysia is truly NOT Asia. Give me Singapore any day.
***
SOME MANUSCRIPTS are so bloody horrendous that I literally get sick editing them! I feel feverish, headache-y and all-over-the-body-achy. Seriously, one of these days we must consider giving out a slew of THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARDS for the crappiest Malaysian books of the year—books we absolutely could not care less about, much less read. I know for sure there won’t be a dearth of contenders for these uniquely Malaysian awards where mediocrity is the only yardstick of greatness and celebrated with customary poop/pomp and ceremony! Perhaps I will start the ball rolling with that pathetic attempt at a book ... yes, that particular pseudo-book! It reminds me of the opening lines to Keir Alexander’s excellent novel, The Ruby Slippers: “She stinks. It has to be said. Stinks to high heaven.” She does, believe me, she does.
***
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS is escalating all the time. Maintaining sales have always been a challenge, now more so than ever. There are not many good manuscripts to choose from in a lacklustre marketplace. There’s nothing much we can do about the decline of the English language or the quality of writing in Malaysia in the short term. We have to accept the fact that the only thing we can do as publishers is to enhance our production values: editing standards and marketing efforts will need to be stepped up. Producing a book is not going to get any easier; editors will have to break their backs editing and rewriting substandard manuscripts to a level deemed publishable in a short time. Not that there are many good editors to choose from in a nation that doesn’t care much for reading and writing in the first place.
***
AT A BOOK LAUNCH in a five-star hotel (nothing less that five stars will do, or an exclusive golf club) in Kuala Lumpur the other day, everyone invited to attend the event was treated to a sumptuous meal of sweet and savoury Malaysian delicacies (including the obligatory curry puffs and all-time favourite mee siam, among other things) and given a complimentary copy or two of the said book of the day. Suffice to say that the food tasted so much better than the book. This is quite understandable. Let’s not beat around the bush; no one in their right frame of mind would use their hard-earned cash to pay for it. The trick is not to take Malaysian publishing too seriously. If you do, you are in for an early grave.
***
WHEN will Malaysian education start focusing on understanding and critical thinking skills? Will it ever? There is a serious dearth of these basic skills: reading, writing, creative thinking, questioning, criticism, creativity and imagination; there is also an absolute lack of interest or intellectual curiosity or empathy about the world we live in. We desperately need graduates who can not only eat but spell chocolate! Education per se is irrelevant; one must have the right mindset to use the knowledge acquired and make one’s life useful and meaningful to society. The idea of education is to make every one of us into critical, empathetic, intelligent, logical and thinking beings. If not, what’s the point of existence? What’s really the point of education if we do not produce intelligent, efficient and productive nation builders? It is frightening when the education system keeps on churning out graduates who don’t read (and have no interest in reading) and can’t write.
***
SERIOUSLY, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? I sometimes wonder, more often lately. A sad fact: Malaysian writers can’t write and don’t want to be edited at all. Those who can, the writing is bland, careless, dead, dispirited, hollow, illiterate, inert, insipid, lackadaisical, lazy, lethargic, lifeless, non-informative, puerile, self-indulgent, shallow, tepid, uninspiring and vague. Most of the time the manuscripts are so execrable, possibly written by someone who doesn’t speak or write the language at all, that editing them is next to impossible. (I don’t pray for much, seriously: just good health and happiness for all creatures big and small, being a better human being ... and good writing to land on my desk.)

Another sad fact: editors don’t know how to edit. (Editing is not just about punctuation, grammar and spelling.) Most of them lack basic editing skills (grammar, spelling and writing); if they can’t even handle basic editing, surely they are in the wrong profession, no? Editors are unwilling to learn and tend to miss more than they spot errors (and constantly introducing new ones at the same time). And many are averse to research, checking facts and figures, solving problems and consulting the dictionary. Punctuating dialogue and inconsistent tenses are major weaknesses. Most of them lack imagination and intellectual curiosity and have no idea why they are doing the things they are doing. Many are not (and will never be) aware of the important aspects of book production like bibliography, footnotes, endnotes, indexing, etc. They do not know what a personal or surname is when indexing, etc. Also, not many editors have a nose for business or finance. Publishing is not just about publishing bad books; it is also about selling the bad books you publish. Both are equally important to sustain the business in the long term.

Another sad fact: designers don’t know how to typeset books and design book covers. Most of them are not designers; when you think about it, they are really more incompetent typesetters than designers. Most, sadly, have no grasp of the aesthetics, whether in the design of covers or the typesetting of pages, are not open to constructive criticism and lack even the most basic of language skills (English and Malay). (“The kind of designs you don’t really need to go to design school to learn. The idea is to do it blindly. ... And hope someone likes it.”) There is absolutely no passion to push boundaries or to have higher expectations, no sense of accomplishment for a job well done. They do not seem to learn anything from experience. Experience makes no difference. They have no idea whether contents pages are required for the manuscripts they typeset; they have no idea what acknowledgements, forewords, prefaces, introductions, appendices, bibliographies, indexes, afterwords, footnotes, endnotes, figures, tables and charts are. They may have moved their mouse for centuries, but they have not gain any relevant experience at all. They have no idea what consistency is.

Another sad fact: translation standards are (atrociously) abysmal. Translation is not just about translating words (linguistics) to another language; it’s also about translating cultural and other creative nuances; the translated text must make sense and transport you to another world or dimension. “Translation,” in the words of Anthony Burgess, “is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” A good translator must not only possess a solid grounding in both languages but a strong grasp of idioms and metaphors as well. Sadly, it’s rare to find translators who are strong in both English and Malay.

A vicious cycle. Definitely. So, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? Of course not. I believe what we have here is more akin to some kind of stunted, constipated offshoot of public relations, rather than publishing as we know it. Publishing good books (and finding a readership for these books) is constantly a Sisyphean struggle. Books are never published for the right reasons. It never fails to amaze me how publishers always find stupid reasons to justify the publishing of substandard books as though producing as many such books as possible is some kind of noble calling or something!
***
EVIL, THEY SAY, NEVER DIES ... it claws its way back from the pits of hell to haunt the living. We are in the midst of editing perhaps the worst manuscript on the planet … rejected by all who had a chance to look at it but somehow foisted on us editors for the dumbest of reasons. And to think that the British once colonised us, you would expect a certain standard of English. After the last disaster of a book, we thought we had seen the last and worst of horrendous books. No-o-o-o … that’s too good to be true. Ladies and gentlemen, Evil is back in business and is here to haunt the living daylights out of us. Just goes to prove that there are some things money can’t buy … for instance, to write well and tell a wonderful story (fiction or otherwise). Some publishers claim they publish these rejected manuscripts under the pretext of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Seriously, you can call them anything you want; I prefer to pile them under POO and flush them down the LOO where they belong for all eternity. Of course, under normal circumstances these manuscripts would not see the light of day but the dark of the sewers. I always fail to understand what joy these author-wannabes derive from being published under such circumstances!
***
AND THEN there are those so-called Malaysian authors who insist that we do not comply with standards and conventions when editing their so-called manuscripts! As the Backstreet Boys would croon back in the late 1990s, Believe when I say I want it that way! You can have it any way you want, Sweetheart, as long as you pay the production costs and buy up all the stocks and keep them locked up in your bedroom! And maybe toss them in with the carrots, potatoes, onions and tomatoes when Mummy makes chicken soup for the whole family. (Don’t forget the salt and freshly ground black pepper.) The books will also come in handy if you have plans for house extensions. Books, after all, are not just books; they make hardy bricks, too.
***
REMEMBER THE GOOD OLD DAYS when we used to have meals and lovely conversations without interruptions? We used to eat and talk, and eat and talk, all the while enjoying ourselves. Those were the days when we used to really talk with one another and conversations were long, and there were jokes and laughter, and time just passed without us realising it. Those days are long gone. People nowadays are more interested in their smartphones, internet, text messaging, etc., and seem to prefer to communicate with people not dining at the table but elsewhere, reading news updates, taking photos of themselves in all manner of poses, etc. You may have the whole wide world at your fingertips, but you don’t seem to be aware of the immediate world around you. Once in a while, think about the person sitting opposite you.
***
POMPOUS LASS: Only native speakers can edit my manuscript! No Malaysian editors for me, please!
Publisher: You mean someone from Good Olde Mother England?
Pompous Lass: Of course—if English is their mother tongue!
Publisher: Why’s that?
Pompous Lass: Because my book is for the wonderful people of this planet. I want it to be perfectly edited for all my readers from around the world …
Publisher: Would you like to bear the cost of getting someone from England to edit it then?
Pompous Lass: Will that be cheap?
Publisher: What do you think? Everything is cheap except you?
Pompous Lass: I wouldn’t want to spend my money on that! If it’s too expensive, a local editor should be all right, I guess!
Publisher: Yes, cheap local editors are the best!
***
WATERLILY: I want to talk to the editor?
Receptionist: Who’s calling?
Waterlily: Lily!
Receptionist: Lily who?
Waterlily: Water “I-can’t-tell-you-my-real-name” Lily!
Receptionist: How can I help you?
Waterlily: I want to talk to the editor about my manuscript?
Receptionist: What’s your manuscript about?
Waterlily: I can’t tell you that! I don’t know who you are. You may just steal and profit from my hard work! I want to speak to the editor!
Editor: Could you send us samples of your work, Water?
Waterlily: I can’t do that either.
Editor: So what can you do, Watermelon?
Waterlily: My name is Waterlily, not Watermelon! Why do you need samples of my work?
Editor: Duh! So that we could assess your writing and decide whether we want to publish it or not!
Waterlily: Why do you want to review it? I am a famous writer and my work is quoted in all the leading journals all over the galaxy!
Editor: That’s nice and all and I’m happy for you. However, we would still like to assess it.
Waterlily: Will you be distributing my book in the U.S. and the U.K.?
Editor: No. We only sell foreign rights to those markets. And over the internet.
Waterlily: Looks like you are not the right publisher for me then. Goodbye!
Editor: Good riddance.
***
AUTHOR: Would you like to publish my manuscript?
Publisher: Well, it depends …
Author: Depends on what?
Publisher: Well, whether you have a written manuscript?
Author: I haven’t written one. Can you get it written for me?
Publisher: Why is that?
Author: I can’t write.
Publisher: But you have studied for a couple of foreign degrees … and you have lived overseas for many years. With your fake accent and all, I’m sure you could write English.
Author: I’m very bad at grammar. Could you get me a writer whom I could talk to, take down notes and put them all in a book for me? I can talk very well. I just can’t write.
Publisher: I can’t imagine how you manage to pass all your exams over the years!
***
AUTHOR: Could you label me a bestselling author on the cover of my new book?
Editor: No! You are not a bestselling author! And you’ve never have been one!
Author: It’s a way of MARKETING the book!
Editor: I don’t think that’s MARKETING; that’s shameless CONNING. Your first book sold less than a thousand copies in over five years. That, to me, is a disaster of epic proportions! Your book sounds more like the worst-selling book of the century. And with the way it is moving (or not moving), it looks set to be the worst-selling book in the history of humankind. I believe your book will still be around even after the Apocalypse!
***
AUTHOR: And on what grounds are you rejecting my manuscript?
Editor: Well, it sucks, for one!
Author: What! How dare you insult me! Everyone who has read it thinks it a magnificent piece of work!
Editor: Who, pray tell, read your magnum opus?
Author: My darling husband and children, friends and relatives! And my dearest mummy and daddy, too!
Editor: Of course!
Author: So can I take it that you are not interested in publishing my manuscript?
Editor: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da ... Duh!
***
AUTHOR: Yahoo! My book is a runaway bestseller!
Editor: How’s that possible?
Author: I got every one of my best friends to buy 500 copies of my book. Yahoo! Time for a reprint?
Editor: What do you expect them to do with all the copies of your book?
Author: Who cares what they do with them? Hide them under the stairs? Perhaps they can make beef or vegetable stew with them?
***
AUTHOR: I would like you to publish my book?
Editor: Your manuscript, you mean? Well, it all depends on the quality of your manuscript.
Author: What? I know your Financial Controller and the TOP HONCHO, you know!
Editor: Ooh, I’m shivering! Of course, we will publish your book—even though it sucks big-time!
Author: What?
Editor: Isn’t that what you want?
***
WISDOM, they say, comes with age. I once thought that wisdom was the exclusive province of the elderly. Now that I am all grown up, I have come to realise that that’s all balderdash. Wisdom is the province of those who possess it; age is simply immaterial. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to meet young people who are wise beyond their years, and I have also had the MISFORTUNE of meeting old people who have absolutely no wisdom at all.
***
AUTHOR: I don’t like my marriage photograph in the book. We look so bloody fat.
Editor: Of course, both of you are fat. So, what do you want me to do? Both of you should have gone on a diet before getting married. Well, you could always get married again. What’s stopping you?
***
AUTHOR: Make sure all numbers smaller than 10 are in figures, not words, okay?
Editor: Numbers from 1-9 will be in words, not numerals. Anything from 10 and above, I will use figures. That’s the standard editing rule.
Author: But I am your client and you do as I instruct.
Editor: So, what else do you want to go with that? Bad grammar? I can do that. What about factual errors? You want some of those? Weak characterization, perhaps? A plot full of holes? We can add a couple of those, if you like. Why don’t I also throw in as many misspellings as I can for you—on the house, of course?
Author: What?
Editor: For your information, you ain’t my client. You can keep your money and go ask your mummy to search and replace all your 1-9s with figures.
***
“ANYONE can be an author nowadays. You don’t really have to be a good writer or a whizz in grammar and all that nonsense,” so says the marketing consultant. You can’t write? No problem, we will get you a ghostwriter to write on your behalf for a fee, she says. And if you suck big-time at grammar and vocabulary, also no problem. We have the backroom boys (editors, copyeditors, proofreaders and designers) to clean up your writing (or lack thereof) and make all your dreams come true. After all, most people just like to see their names on the covers of their so-called books. And perhaps launching them at one of the hotels or golf clubs (or fast-food/burger joints or shopping-mall concourses). That’s about it.
***
PASSION is, of course, a wonderful thing to have. But let’s talk about ringgit and sense. There is simply no money in editing in Malaysia. I have been editing books for a living for well over 30 years now, and this saddens me a great deal. Perhaps it’s time for me to seriously consider giving it all up and do something else with the rest of my life?
***
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, when all the stars in the heavens are somehow aligned, the perfect manuscript lands on your desk. All is well with the world; the elves and hobbits are having a whale of a time in the playing fields and the flowers are singing and dancing in the wind. There is joy and laughter all over the kingdom. With minimal editing, the manuscript is published to much acclaim and financial success. There are, of course, books that do not capture a readership no matter how good they are or how much they are pushed or promoted. Most of the time, though, bad books fall on your head with a loud thud. Some of these books go on to become successful books after much editing, rewriting, blood, sweat and tears, etc. Publishing is a difficult business; there is no guarantee that a good book will sell. Neither is there a guarantee that a bad book will not sell. Not all bad books sell; most of them end up in the cemetery of lost books.
***
ACCORDING to Andreï Makine, “Language is just grammar. The real language of literature is created in the heart, not a grammar book.” Makine—a Russian novelist who writes not in his mother tongue but in French—is not discounting the importance of grammar in writing. However, good writing is more than good grammar. Good grammar, in other words, is just not good enough when crafting sentences. In our reading, we have occasionally come across writing which is grammatically perfect in every aspect but somehow lacks heart, writing that lacks an emotional core: hollow, meretricious, staid, technical and wooden. Good writers know when and how to break rules for good original prose to emerge. The challenging task is to nudge boundaries and push narrative towards places it has not been before.
***
I WAS EDITING a piece of writing the other day. Writers and editors need to be logical when they write or edit. A baby girl is a baby girl. There is no need to be too specific by calling it a “young” baby girl. Is there such a thing as an “old” baby girl?
***
WE ARE IN THE MIDST of editing another crappy manuscript by a crappy Malaysian writer. It’s just another crappy day in the life of a Malaysian editor. Possibly another worthy contender for the THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARDS for the crappiest writing in the world? One that would put us to sleep for a thousand years. We can’t wait for the torture to be over ... until another one comes along (like they always do). Please, please forgive us for unleashing this horror upon humanity and the universe. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. ...
***
MOST OF THE TIME book editors reject more than they accept manuscripts simply because there are more bad than good writing floating around. With modern publishing the way it is, where quantity is more important than quality, decisions on whether to accept or reject manuscripts are no longer the sole preserve of editors but marketing consultants. Editors are no longer the literary gatekeepers of the universe like they once were. They are more of a stumbling block in the seemingly unrelenting contemporary marketing process. The role of editors is to edit good manuscripts and make bad ones look good enough for those who do not know better. As literary gatekeepers, marketing consultants think that they document history and human evolution, but most of the time they dress up trash to look like literature. This explains the glut of bad writing you see flooding the marketplace. That’s just what I think.
***
A: Can you read and write English?
B: No.
A: Can you read and write Malay?
B: No.
A: Can you read and write Chinese?
B: No.
A: So, what are you doing now?
B: Studying Korean.
A: You can’t even handle English, your mother tongue or the national language, why would you even want to take up a challenging language like Korean?
B: I just like the way the Koreans speak and sing-mah!
A: Wah, so clever!
***
AUTHOR: Could you put my husband’s name (and mine) on the cover?
Editor: No, I can’t do that. He is not the writer. You are the author. Your name will be on the cover.
Author: But he helped me with research, fact-checking and proofreading.
Editor: You may credit him in the acknowledgements page.
Author: But I want his name on the cover with me!
Editor: No!
Author: You know, you are not as nice as some people say you are.
Editor: You could always self-publish and put the names of whoever you like on the cover if that makes you happy!
***
ANOTHER turd of a manuscript landed in my lap with a loud thud this morning, turning my life upside down and upsetting the balance in this neck of the universe. Looks like it’s another long month of agony, damnation, sleepless nights, slogging and suffering. A manuscript that is far from stimulating. Somehow one’s opinion of prominent people tend to go down the clogged monsoon drain once you start reading their life stories. Their stories tend to put me to death. What have I done to deserve this? I take care of my family and love all my brothers and sisters (including all my Facebook friends) and buy my mother her 100% Massimo whole wheat bread every other day, yet I still get punished! What have I done to deserve this! What I have done is, I have just edited possibly the worst book of my career. And after countless hours editing within a tight time frame, it is still the worst book of my entire career.
***
WE were at a popular dining establishment in KLCC the other day. We were disappointed with the stuffed chicken breast we ordered. They were clearly below expectations. Not only were they hard, dry and leathery, they were bland, almost tasteless, more like something left over from the night before warmed up. If you enjoy paying First World prices for food that is below average or worse, then this is the perfect place to waste your hard-earned money.
***
I HAVE NO IDEA where Malaysians get their education from. Their spelling is the pits. They spell “Barisan Nasional” as “Barisan National”, a blend of English and Malay. Even my dear mother knows that it is spelt as either “Barisan Nasional” (Malay) or “National Front” (English). It is one or the other. It is either Malay or English. Be consistent when you write. First, decide which language you want to write in. I know, a tough decision. Malaysians also can’t tell the difference between “reign” and “rein”, “ferment” and “foment”, and when to use them correctly. They tend to use them interchangeably. Other weaknesses include hyphenation (“long term” vs “long-term”, “fairy tale” vs “fairy-tale”, etc.), italicization, prepositions and word order, punctuations, spelling of names, insufficient fact checking, among others.
***
MALAYSIAN authors have the bad habit of editing their books only after their books have been published and distributed all over the universe and beyond. They are never bothered with editing at the manuscript stage. (They submit their manuscripts raw without editing them.) Most of them are so bloody lazy to read their own works. There is nothing much we can do about this because Malaysian writers prefer eating to reading. Most of them can spent the whole day eating but not many can spend the whole day reading. Most of the time I wonder: Why do they even bother to write?
***
I get this a lot … from the moment I was born back in the early 1960s to now in 2016.

A: You are mixed, right?
B: Ah … yeah.
A: So what kind of food do you eat?
B: Grass and lalang … and banoffee pie!
A: Huh! I mean: do you eat Chinese food?
B: No!
A: Why not?
B: Duh! I don’t know! Perhaps I don’t like Chinese food?
A: How can you not like Chinese food when your mum’s Chinese!
B: Why not?
***
SELLING BOOKS in Malaysia is a tough business. For most people books are considered non-essential. Bread-and-butter issues take precedence over other matters. My ideal bookshop is one that challenges me intellectually in my reading journey. Not only do I want bookshops to stock the kinds of books I want to read, I also want them to surprise me by introducing me titles or authors I have not heard of before. I don’t buy books online at all, so the local bookshop is where I buy all my books. However, I think nowadays the role of educating the reading public has been taken over by the internet. After all, there are only so many titles a brick-and-mortar bookshop can stock at any one time.
***
HIS SATANIC MAJESTY (HSM) tells the editor that he should edit the manuscript only for grammar and spelling. “Just check the names and spelling, and make sure the grammar is perfect,” he reiterates. HSM goes on to tell the editor to keep his opinions to himself because nobody cares what he thinks about the manuscript. “It doesn’t really matter if the writing is good or bad. Your job is to edit—not to assess or judge the manuscript.” What the heck is he trying to say!
***
PUBLISHER: You have offended Big John with all your spot-on edits!
Editor: But his manuscript was full of errors and other inconsistencies!
Publisher: He isn’t happy because you edited too much of his manuscript. I can’t believe you spotted over a thousand errors! I did tell you specifically not to edit it.
Editor: Yes … not bad for a manuscript which is supposed to have been edited thoroughly and ready-to-print. Shouldn’t he be happy that I spotted so many errors in his book? I would if it’s my book.
Publisher: Yes … but, you know, you made him look real bad! And he is awfully hurt. He doesn’t want to work with you any more!
Editor: I did not make him look bad … he really is bad!
Publisher: You shouldn’t be too brutal with the edits.
Editor: Editorial brutality? That’s a new one. I wasn’t brutal at all. All I did what edit the grammar and corrected the spellings and factual errors. No rewriting whatsoever. A walk in the park, really.
Publisher: Where? What park? Whatever it is, he is offended!
Editor: Idiot that I was, I tried to edit the manuscript as best as I possibly could. If it will make him happy, I could easily restore or reinstate all the errors back into the manuscript. It’s no big deal to me. It’s your call; after all, you are the publisher.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

April 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. The Golden Legend (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Nadeem Aslam
2. Let Go My Hand (Picador, 2017) / Edward Docx
3. Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge (trans. from the Arabic by John Peate) (The American University in Cairo Press, 2017) / Ezzedine C. Fishere
4. The Devil and Webster (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Jean Hanff Korelitz
5. The Valentine House (Sceptre, 2017) / Emma Henderson
6. The Forbidden Garden (William Morrow, 2017) / Ellen Herrick
7. Pussy (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Howard Jacobson
8. White Tears (Hamish Hamilton, 2017) / Hari Kunzru
9. Black Moses (trans. from the French by Helen Stevenson) (Serpent’s Tail, 2017) / Alain Mabanckou
10. I See You (Berkley, 2017) / Clare Mackintosh

11. Burntown (Doubleday, 2017) / Jennifer McMahon
12. Music of the Ghosts (Touchstone, 2017) / Vaddey Ratner
13. The Stars Are Fire (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Anita Shreve
14. Anything Is Possible (Random House, 2017) / Elizabeth Strout
15. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (Tinder Press, 2017) / Hannah Tinti
16. Grace’s Day (New Island Books, 2017) / William Wall
17. The Book of Joan (Harper, 2017) / Lidia Yuknavitch

FIRST NOVELS
1. Foxlowe (Penguin Books USA, 2017) / Eleanor Wasserberg

STORIES
1. Living in the Weather of the World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Richard Bausch
2. A Moral Tale and Other Moral Tales (Dzanc Books, 2017) / Josh Emmons
3. Things We Lost in the Fire (trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) (Portobello Books, 2017) / Mariana Enriquez
4. All the Beloved Ghosts (Bloomsbury UK, 2017) / Alison MacLeod

POETRY
1. Collected Poems (trans. from the German by James Reidel) (Seagull Books, 2017) / Thomas Bernhard
2. Doves (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Lachlan Mackinnon
3. Galaxy Love (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Gerald Stern

NONFICTION
1. Somebody With a Little Hammer: Essays (Pantheon, 2017) / Mary Gaitskill
2. Jumping Over Shadows: A Memoir (She Writes Press, 2017) / Annette Gendler
3. Sunshine State: Essays (Harper Perennial, 2017) / Sarah Gerard
4. The Outrun: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Amy Liptrot

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

March 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. All Grown Up (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Jami Attenberg
2. A Piece of the World (The Borough Press, 2017) / Christina Baker Kline
3. The River of Kings (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Taylor Brown
4. The Hearts of Men (Ecco, 2017) / Nickolas Butler
5. Ill Will (Ballantine Books, 2017) / Dan Chaon
6. The Death of All Things Seen (Head of Zeus, 2017) / Michael Collins
7. In the Name of the Family (Virago/Random House, 2017) / Sarah Dunant
8. Birdcage Walk (Hutchinson, 2017) / Helen Dunmore
9. Compass (trans. from the French by Charlotte Mandell) (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017) / Mathias Énard
10. Edith & Oliver (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Michèle Forbes

11. The Confessions of Young Nero (Berkley/Macmillan, 2017) / Margaret George
12. Our Short History (Algonquin Books, 2017) / Lauren Grodstein
13. Exit West (Hamish Hamilton/Riverhead Books, 2017) / Mohsin Hamid
14. Celine (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Peter Heller
15. From the Heart (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Susan Hill
16. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (HarperCollins, 2017) / Balli Kaur Jaswal
17. The Weight of This World (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017) / David Joy
18. A Separation (Clerkenwell Press, 2017) / Katie Kitamura
19. The Devil and Webster (Grand Central Publishing, 2017) / Jean Hanff Korelitz
20. The Night Ocean (Penguin Press, 2017) / Paul La Farge

21. Girl in Disguise (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2017) / Greer Macallister
22. A Book of American Martyrs (Ecco, 2017) / Joyce Carol Oates
23. Minds of Winter (Quercus Books, 2017) / Ed O’Loughlin
24. A Natural (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Ross Raisin
25. The Woman on the Stairs (trans. from the German by Joyce Hackett & Bradley Schmidt) (Pantheon, 2017) / Bernhard Schlink
26. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Scribner, 2017) / Lisa See
27. Ties (trans. from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri) (Europa Editions, 2017) / Domenico Starnone
28. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (The Dial Press, 2017) / Hannah Tinti
29. The Explosion Chronicles (trans. from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas) (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Yan Lianke

FIRST NOVELS
1. Stay With Me (Canongate Books, 2017) / Ayobami Adebayo
2. Taduno’s Song (Pantheon, 2017) / Odafe Atogun
3. The Idiot (Penguin Press, 2017) / Elif Batuman
4. Himself (Atria Books, 2017) / Jess Kidd
5. Ithaca (Picador, 2017) / Alan McMonagle
6. The Lucky Ones (Spiegel & Grau, 2017) / Julianne Pachico
7. Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / George Saunders
8. Fever Dream (trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) (Oneworld, 2017) / Megan Schweblin
9. Temporary People (Restless Books, 2017) / Deepak Unnikrishnan
10. The Girl from Rawblood (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2017) / Catriona Ward

STORIES
1. All the Beloved Ghosts (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Alison MacLeod
2. The Lucky Ones (Spiegel & Grau, 2017) / Julianne Pachico
3. Wait Till You See Me Dance (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Deb Olin Unferth
4. The Last Bell (trans. from the German by David Burnett) (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Johannes Urzidil

POETRY
1. The Unaccompanied (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Simon Armitage
2. Magdalene (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Marie Howe
NONFICTION
1. Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom (Allen Lane, 2017) / Erica Benner
2. South and West: From a Notebook (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Joan Didion
3. Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants and the Conversion of England (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017) / Eamon Duffy
4. Walking in Berlin: A Flaneur in the Capital (trans. from the German by Amanda DeMarco) (The MIT Press, 2016) / Franz Hessel
5. The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Gish Jen
6. An Arrangement of Skin: Essays (Counterpoint, 2017) / Anna Journey
7. Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism (Pantheon, 2017) / Camille Paglia
8. Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem (Other Press, 2017) / George Prochnik
9. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (Random House, 2017) / Lyndal Roper
10. Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India (C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2017) / Shashi Tharoor

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

February 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. The Fatal Tree (Sceptre, 2017) / Jake Arnott
2. A Line Made by Walking (Tramp Press/William Heinemann, 2017) / Sara Baume
3. The Sleepwalker (Doubleday, 2017) / Chris Bohjalian
4. The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Doubleday, 2017) / John Boyne
5. Ashland & Vine (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / John Burnside
6. The Stolen Child (Harper Perennial, 2017) / Lisa Carey
7. The Dark Flood Rises (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Margaret Drabble
8. Shadowbahn (Blue Rider Press, 2017) / Steve Erickson
9. The Doll Funeral (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Kate Hamer
10. The Typewriter’s Tale (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Michiel Heyns
11. The House at Bishopgate (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Katie Hickman
12. Running (Simon & Schuster, 2017) / Cara Hoffman
13. The Orphan’s Tale (MIRA, 2017) / Pam Jenoff
14. Carnivalesque (Bloomsbury Circus, 2017) / Neil Jordan
15. The Good People (Picador, 2017) / Hannah Kent
16. A Separation (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Katie Kitamura
17. A Piece of the World (William Morrow, 2017) / Christina Baker Kline
18. Pachinko (Grand Central Publishing/Apollo, 2017) / Min Jin Lee
19. The Blot (published in U.S. as A Gambler’s Anatomy) (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Jonathan Lethem
20. On Turpentine Lane (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Elinor Lipman

21. The News from the End of the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Emily Jeanne Miller
22. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (trans. from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra) (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Dorthe Nors
23. A Book of American Martyrs (Ecco, 2017) / Joyce Carol Oates
24. The Woman Next Door (Picador, 2017) / Yewande Omotoso
25. The Lonely Hearts Hotel (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Heather O’Neill
26. The Blue Hour (Counterpoint Press, 2017) / Laura Pritchett
27. First Love (Granta Books, 2017) / Gwendoline Riley
28. Windy City Blues (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2017) / Renée Rosen
29. The Chosen Ones (trans. from the Swedish by Anna Paterson) (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Steve Sem-Sandberg
30. Three Daughters of Eve (Viking, 2017) / Elif Shafak

31. The One Inside (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Sam Shepard
32. A Gentleman in Moscow (Hutchinson, 2017) / Amor Towles

FIRST NOVELS
1. Harmless Like You (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
2. My Sister’s Bones (Penguin, 2017) / Nuala Ellwood
3. Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars (Harper, 2017) / Miranda Emmerson
4. History of Wolves (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Emily Fridlund
5. The Keeper of Lost Things (William Morrow, 2017) / Ruth Hogan
6. The End of Eddy (trans. from the French by Michael Lucey) (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Édouard Louis
7. Behold the Dreamers (Fourth Estate, 2017) / Imbolo Mbue
8. Under the Almond Tree (Two Roads, 2017) / Laura McVeigh
9. Blue Light Yokohama (Michael Joseph, 2017) / Nicolás Obregón
10. The Lucky Ones (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Julianne Pachico

11. The Weight of Him (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Ethel Rohan
12. Kruso (trans. from the German by Tess Lewis) (Scribe UK, 2017) / Lutz Seiler
13. Flesh and Bone and Water (Viking, 2017) / Luiza Sauma
14. Lincoln in the Bardo (Random House, 2017) / George Saunders

STORIES
1. Things We Lost in the Fire (trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) (Hogarth, 2017) / Mariana Enriquez
2. Norse Mythology (Bloomsbury Publishing/W.W. Norton, 2017) / Neil Gaiman
3. The Doll’s Alphabet (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017) / Camilla Grudova
4. The Refugees (Grove Press, 2017) / Viet Thanh Nguyen
5. The Lucky Ones (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Julianne Pachico
6. The World to Come (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Jim Shepard
7. The Dark and Other Love Stories (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Deborah Willis

POETRY
1. Still Life with Feeding Snake (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / John Burnside
2. Whereas (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Stephen Dunn
3. New Selected Poems (ed. Katie Peterson) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Robert Lowell
4. Poems 1980-2015 (New Island Books, 2017) / Michael O’Loughlin
5. A Herring Famine (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Adam O’Riordan
6. Sun & Urn (The University of Georgia Press, 2017) / Christopher Salerno

NONFICTION
1. The Rule of the Land: Walking the Irish Border (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Garrett Carr
2. Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants and the Conversion of England (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017) / Eamon Duffy
3. Lines in the Sand: Collected Journalism (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / A.A. Gill
4. Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love (Harper, 2017) / Brad Gooch
5. Stalin and the Scientists: A History of Triumph and Tragedy 1905-1953 (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017) / Simon Ings
6. We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Noah Isenberg
7. Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Kay Redfield Jamison
8. Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe (Granta Books, 2017) / Kapka Kassabova
9. Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Megan Marshall
10. Self-Portrait with Dogwood (Trinity University Press, 2017) / Christopher Merrill

11. Age of Anger: A History of the Present (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Pankaj Mishra
12. Animals Strike Curious Poses (Sarabande Books, 2017) / Elena Passarello
13. The Girl from the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia (trans. from the Russian by Anna Summers) (Penguin Books, 2017) / Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
14. Deaths of the Poets (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts
15. The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance (trans. from the Swedish by Henning Koch) (Viking, 2017) / Anders Rydell
16. The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution (Macmillan, 2017) / Robert Service
17. Other People: Takes & Mistakes (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / David Shields
18. Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel (W.W. Norton, 2017) / John Stubbs

Sunday, January 01, 2017

January 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. Enigma Variations (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / André Aciman
2. Dark at the Crossing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Elliot Ackerman
3. A Harvest of Thorns (Thomas Nelson, 2017) / Corban Addison
4. Selection Day (Scribner, 2017) / Aravind Adiga
5. The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping (trans. from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green) (Schocken Books, 2017) / Aharon Appelfeld
6. The Golden Legend (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Nadeem Aslam
7. 4321 (Faber & Faber/Henry Holt, 2017) / Paul Auster
8. Days Without End (Viking, 2017) / Sebastian Barry
9. The Stolen Child (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Lisa Carey
10. Dragon Springs Road (William Morrow, 2017) / Janie Chang

11. Transit (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Rachel Cusk
12. Dalila (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Jason Donald
13. Swimming Lessons (Fig Tree, 2017) / Claire Fuller
14. Different Class (Touchstone, w2017) / Joanne Harris
15. Confessions (trans. from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu–Zeid) (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Rabee Jaber
16. Human Acts (trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith) (Hogarth, 2017) / Han Kang
17. The Traitor’s Niche (trans. from the Albanian by John Hodgson) (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Ismail Kadare
18. The Signal Flame (Scribner, 2017) / Andrew Krivak
19. Who Killed Piet Barol? (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Richard Mason
20. The Crossing (Europa Editions, 2017) / Andrew Miller

21. Adventures in Modern Marriage (Quercus, 2017) / William Nicholson
22. Welcome to Lagos (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Chibundu Onuzo
23. The Horseman (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Tim Pears
24. Behind Her Eyes (HarperCollins/Flatiron Books, 2017) / Sarah Pinborough
25. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Kathleen Rooney
26. Class (Little, Brown, 2017) / Lucinda Rosenfeld
27. Lucky Boy (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017) / Shanthi Sekaran
28. The Chosen Maiden (Doubleday Canada, 2017) / Eva Stachniak
29. Her Every Fear (William Morrow/Faber & Faber, 2017) / Peter Swanson
30. The Vanishing (Simon & Schuster UK, 2017) / Sophia Tobin

31. No Man’s Land (Nan A. Talese, 2017) / Simon Tolkien

FIRST NOVELS
1. The Bear and the Nightingale (Del Rey, 2017) / Katherine Arden
2. Miss Treadway and the Field Stars (4th Estate, 2017) / Miranda Emmerson
3. Little Deaths (Picador/Hatchette Books, 2017) / Emma Flint
4. History of Wolves (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017) / Emily Fridlund
5. Montpelier Parade (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Karl Geary
6. Rockadoon Shore (John Murray, 2017) / Rory Gleeson
7. Swallowing Mercury (trans. from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak) (Portobello Books, 2017) / Wioletta Greg
8. Homegoing (Viking, 2017) / Yaa Gyasi
9. West Virginia (Unnamed Press, 2017) / Joe Halstead
10. The Dry (Little, Brown/Flatiron Books, 2017) / Jane Harper
11. The Nix (Picador, 2017) / Nathan Hill

12. English Animals (Little, Brown, 2017) / Laura Kaye
13. The Transition (4th Estate, 2017) / Luke Kennard
14. Sirens (Doubleday, 2017) / Joseph Knox
15. The Patriots (Spiegel & Grau, 2017) / Sana Krasikov
16. Savage Theories (trans. from the Spanish by Roy Kesey) (Soho, 2017) / Pola Oloixarac
17. The Keeper of Lost Things (Two Roads, 2017) / Ruth Hogan
18. The Evenings (trans. from the Dutch by Sam Garrett) (Pushkin Press, 2016) / Gerard Reve
19. The Second Mrs Hockaday (Algonquin Books, 2017) / Susan Rivers
20. A Word for Love (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Emily Robbins

21. Idaho (Random House, 2017) / Emily Ruskovich
22. The Fractured Life of Jimmy Dice (Tinder Press, 2017) / Ronan Ryan
23. Fever Dream (trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Samanta Schweblin

STORIES
1. Doctorow: Collected Stories (Random House, 2017) / E.L. Doctorow
2. The Man Who Shot Out My Eyes Is Dead (Ecco, 2017) / Chanelle Benz
3. Difficult Women (Grove Press, 2017) / Roxane Gay
4. Bad Dreams (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Tessa Hadley
5. The Burrow (trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann) (Penguin Classics, 2017) / Franz Kafka
6. Record of a Night Too Brief (trans. from the Japanese by Lucy North) (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Hiromi Kawakami
7. Always Happy Hour (Liveright, 2017) / Mary Miller
8. Homesick for Another World (The Penguin Press, 2017) / Ottessa Moshfegh
9. Heritage of Smoke (Dzanc Books, 2017) / Josip Novakovich
10. The Burning Ground (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Adam O’Riordan

POETRY
1. Illuminate (Salmon Poetry, 2017) / Kerrie O’Brien
2. Falling Ill: Last Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / C.K. Williams

NONFICTION
1. The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables (Particular Books, 2017) / David Bellos
2. The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan (Harper, 2017) / Patricia Bosworth
3. The Long-Winded Lady (Stinging Fly Press, 2017) / Maeve Brennan
4. Bears in the Street: Three Journeys Across a Changing Landscape (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Lisa Dickey
5. African Kaiser: General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Great War in Africa, 1914-1918 (Caliber, 2017) / Robert Gaudi
6. Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love (Harper, 2017) / Brad Gooch
7. Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Xiaolu Guo
8. Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films (Yale University Press, 2017) / Molly Haskell
9. Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Bethany Hughes
10. Island People: The Caribbean and the World (Canongate, 2017) / Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

11. The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis (Liveright, 2017) / Patrick Kingsley
12. Nothing But a Circus: Misadventures Among the Powerful (Allen Lane, 2017) / Daniel Levin
13. Age of Anger: A History of the Present (Allen Lane, 2017) / Pankaj Mishra
14. Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago (Ecco, 2017) / Anna Pasternak
15. The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad (Harvard University Press, 2017) / Alexis Peri
16. Molly Keane: A Life (Virago, 2017) / Sally Phipps
17. The Holocaust: A New History (Viking, 2017) / Laurence Rees
18. Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Michael Sims

100+ Literary Favourites of 2016

HERE’S A LIST of my 100+ favourite books of 2016 (though I have 200 favourite books). These are the books that I have read and enjoyed in the 2016 reading year. Almost all of them I read simply for pleasure.

NOVELS
1. Enchanted Islands (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2016) / Allison Amend
2. The Muse (Picador/Ecco, 2016) / Jessie Burton
3. The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Michael Joseph, 2016) / Alexander Chee
4. Transit (Jonathan Cape, 2016) / Rachel Cusk
5. The Fortunes (Sceptre/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) / Peter Ho Davies
6. The Crime Writer (Sceptre, 2016) / Jill Dawson
7. The Dark Flood Rises (Canongate Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016) / Margaret Drabble
8. LaRose (Harper, 2016) / Louise Erdrich
9. Wedding Bush Road (Counterpoint Press/Brio, 2016) / David Francis
10. The Trespasser (Hodder & Stoughton/Viking, 2016) / Tana French

11. Wintering (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Peter Geye
12. Forty Rooms (Putnam, 2016) / Olga Grushin
13. Heat and Light (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2016) / Jennifer Haigh
14. News of the World (Harper.William Morrow, 2016) / Paulette Jiles
15. The Good People (Picador/Panmacmillan Australia, 2016) / Hannah Kent
16. Hot Milk (Bloomsbury USA/Hamish Hamilton, 2016) / Deborah Levy
17. Mercury (Harper, 2016) / Margot Livesey
18. Nutshell (Jonathan Cape/Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2016) / Ian McEwan
19. The Book of Harlan (Akashic Books, 2016) / Bernice L. McFadden
20. The North Water (Scribner UK/Henry Holt, 2016) / Ian McGuire

21. Commonwealth (Harper/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016) / Ann Patchett
22. The Essex Serpent (Serpent’s Tail, 2016) / Sarah Perry
23. Everybody’s Fool (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Richard Russo
24. Three Daughters of Eve (Viking, 2016) / Elif Shafak
25. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Allen & Unwin, 2016) / Dominic Smith
26. Mothering Sunday (Scribner UK/Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Graham Swift
27. Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Knopf Canada/Granta Books/W.W. Norton, 2016) / Madeleine Thien
28. The Gustav Sonata (Chatto & Windus/W.W. Norton, 2016) / Rose Tremain
29. Miss Jane (W.W. Norton/Picador, 2016) / Brad Watson
30. The Underground Railroad (Doubleday/Fleet, 2016) / Colson Whitehead

Translated Novels
31. Human Acts (trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith) (Portobello Books/Hogarth, 2016) / Han Kang
32. War & Turpentine (trans. from the Dutch by David McKay) (Harvill Secker/Pantheon, 2016) / Stefan Hertmans
33. The Unseen (trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw) (MacLehose Press, 2016) / Roy Jacobsen
34. Thus Bad Begins (trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa) (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Javier Marías
35. For Two Thousand Years (trans. from the Romanian by Philip Ó Ceallaigh) (Penguin Classics, 2016) / Mihail Sebastian
35. Reputations (trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean) (Bloomsbury Publishing/Riverhead Books, 2016 / Juan Gabriel Vásquez

FIRST NOVELS
36. The Story of a Brief Marriage (Flatiron Books/Granta Books, 2016) / Anuk Arudpragasam
37. Fallen Land (St Martin’s Press, 2016) / Taylor Brown
38. Grace (Counterpoint, 2016) / Natashia Deón
39. Over the Plain Houses (Hub City Press, 2016) / Julia Franks
40. What Belongs to You (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Picador, 2016) / Garth Greenwell
41. Homegoing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Yaa Gyasi
42. The Outside Lands (Picador, 2016) / Hannah Kohler
43. In a Land of Paper Gods (Tinder Press, 2016) / Rebecca Mackenzie
44. Golden Hill (Faber & Faber, 2016) / Francis Spufford
45. The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko (St Martin’s Press, 2016) / Scott Stambach
45. A Quiet Life (The Borough Press, 2016) / Natasha Walter
45. Foxlowe(Fourth Estate, 2016) / Eleanor Wasserberg

Translated First Novels
45. Echoland (trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett) (Harvill Secker, 2016) / Per Petterson
45. The Gardens of Consolation (trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter) (Europa Editions, 2016) / Parisa Reza

STORIES
46. Multitudes (Faber & Faber, 2016) / Lucy Caldwell
47. Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? (Ecco Press, 2016) / Kathleen Collins
48. A Collapse of Horses (Coffee House Press, 2016) / Brian Evenson
49. Rotten Row (Faber & Faber, 2016) / Petina Gappah
50. The Pier Falls and Other Stories (Jonathan Cape/Doubleday, 2016) / Mark Haddon
51. Fen (Jonathan Cape, 2016) / Daisy Johnson
52. Heartbreaker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016) / Maryse Meijer
53. Light Box (Daunt Books, 2016) / K.J. Orr
54. In the Land of Armadillos (Scribner, 2016) / Helen Maryles Shankman
55. All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape/Graywolf Press, 2016) / David Szalay
55. You May See a Stranger (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2016) / Paula Whyman
55. Dog Run Moon (The Dial Press/Granta Books, 2016) / Callan Wink
55. Legoland (Picador, 2016) / Gerard Woodward

Translated Stories
55. So Much for That Winter: Novellas (trans. from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra) (Graywolf Press, 2016) / Dorthe Nors

POETRY
56. Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet Press, 2016) / Vahni Capildeo
57. Carrying the World (Hachette Australia, 2016) / Maxine Beneba Clarke
58. Nothing to Declare (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016) / Henri Cole
59. The Blind Road-Maker (Picador, 2016) / Ian Duhig
60. Certain Magical Acts (Penguin Books, 2016) / Alice Notley
61. Falling Awake (Jonathan Cape/W.W. Norton, 2016) / Alice Oswald
62. At the Foundling Hospital (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016) / Robert Pinsky
63. Jackself (Picador, 2016) / Jacob Polley
64. The After Party (Jim Duggan Books/Crown Publishing, 2016) / Jana Prikryl
65. Say Something Back (Picador, 2016) / Denise Riley
65. The Remedies (Picador, 2016) / Katharine Towers
65. Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) / Ocean Vuong

NONFICTION
66. Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-49 (St Martin’s Press, 2016) / David Cesarani
67. Known and Strange Things: Essays (Random House/Faber & Faber, 2016) / Teju Cole
68. The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th-Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece (Chatto & Windus/Scribner, 2016) / Laura Cumming
69. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown Publishing, 2016) / Matthew Desmond
70. The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria (Bloomsbury Publishing/Liveright, 2016) / Janine di Giovanni

71. The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976 (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016) / Frank Dikötter
72. White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World (Canongate/Pantheon, 2016) / Geoff Dyer
73. The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (Penguin Press, 2016) / Ben Ehrenreich
74. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright, 2016) / Ruth Franklin
75. The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography (Chatto & Windus, 2016) / Edmund Gordon
76. Vietnam: A New History (Basic Books, 2016) / Christopher Goscha
77. Against Everything: Essays (Pantheon/Verso, 2016) / Mark Greif
78. Travels with Henry James (Nation Books/Avalon Publishing Group, 2016) / Henry James
79. Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion (The Belnap Press/Harvard University Press, 2016) / Gareth Stedman Jones
80. Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means: A Biography (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2016) / Brendan King

81. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (Picador USA/Canongate Books, 2016) / Olivia Laing
82. The Outrun (Canongate Books, 2016) / Amy Liptrot
83. Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World (Viking, 2016) / Thomas F. Madden
84. The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between (Viking/Random House, 2016) / Hisham Matar
85. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill (published in the U.K. as Hero of the Empire: The Making of Winston Churchill) (Doubleday/Allen Lane, 2016) / Candice Millard
86. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, 2016) / Viet Thanh Nguyen
87. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Spiegel & Grau, 2016) / Trevor Noah
88. Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds (Harper, 2016) / Pamela Rotner Nakamoto
89. The Romanovs: 1613-1918 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Simon Sebag Montefiore
90. Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) / Cynthia Ozick

91. Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live (Catapult, 2016) / Peter Orner
92. India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South India (Basic Books, 2016) / Srinath Raghavan
93. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (The Bodley Head, 2016) / Lyndal Roper
94. Nobody’s Son: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2016) / Mark Slouka
95. Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Macmillan, 2016) / Douglas Smith
96. Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel (Viking, 2016) / John Stubbs
97. The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer (Bloomsbury Publishing/Penguin Press, 2016) / Kate Summerscale
98. Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (Bloomsbury Publishing/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016) / Frances Wilson
99. The Chaos of Empire: The British Raj and the Conquest of India (PublicAffairs/Perseus Books, 2016) / Jon Wilson

Translated Nonfiction
100. Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (trans. from the Russian by Bela Shayevich) (Random House/Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2016) / Svetlana Alexievich
100. Hitler: A Biography: Volume I: Ascent, 1889-1939 (trans. from the German by Jefferson Chase) (The Bodley Head/Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) / Volker Ullrich