A Year in Reading 2021.

Once again it’s time for the Year in Reading feature at The Millions, in which people write about books they’ve read and enjoyed during the previous year, and once again my contribution is the first in the series, a tradition which I am honored by and enjoy shamelessly. This year I discuss Yuri Trifonov’s House on the Embankment, Valentin Rasputin’s Farewell to Matyora, and Sasha Sokolov’s A School for Fools, the three great 1976 novels I read last year; José Vergara’s wonderful All Future Plunges to the Past, which I wrote about here; Anne Lounsbery’s Life Is Elsewhere and Jonathan Waterlow’s It’s Only a Joke, Comrade!; three Ann Patchett novels (write a new one, Ann!); and Monkey, the Waley version of Journey to the West. There were plenty of other books I could have added — it’s been a good year for reading.


  1. I was confused at first, having only read the title of the post, but I’m very glad you didn’t have to spend the year in Reading.

  2. As am I, as am I.

  3. Lars Mathiesen says

    I spent 18 months in Reading once. But the pay was all right.

  4. Trond Engen says

    This confirms my longheld opinion, built on nothing but geography, that Reading must be the English equivalent of Drammen.The saying famously goes.

    Det er bedre med en dram i timen enn en time i Drammen

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Better than spending a year in Dorking.

  6. Or a year in Barking.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    Hat has, however, spent a good many years in Stevenage.

  8. And so I have too, at the age of Steventy.

  9. Castle Mapledurham, north of Reading, is actually pronounced “Mapledurham”, and not “Mum” as Wodehouse would have you believe.

  10. Mapledurham Manor, rather.

  11. David Eddyshaw says

    Castle Mapledurham, north of Reading, is actually pronounced “Mapledurham”

    Well, that’s going to lead to a lot of confusion.

  12. At least Reading isn’t pronounced “Reading.” That would really cause problems.

  13. We (?) once had a conversation about Monopoly players who say “Reeding Railroad.”

  14. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Stokenham, in Devon, on the other hand, is spoken as an American would say it. It compensates for Amherst, Massachusetts.

    Reading is not my favourite place, but there are others that are worse.

  15. I haven’t read the poem, but on the face of it, reading gaol doesn’t sound like the worst place to be.

  16. I’m planning on reading Cat Valente’s “The Past is Red”, Charlie Stross’ “Invisible Sun”, and Bernardine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other” before the end of the year.

  17. Boring, Oregon, is twinned with Dull, Scotland, and Bland, Australia. Dull, Boring and Bland together make up a “League of Extraordinary Communities”.

    Another notable Oregon community is Drain, which, despite having a population just slightly above 1000, seems to have the same number of exits on I-5 as Eugene (pop. 168,000).

  18. @maidhc: In America, we don’t call that “twinning.” Instead, they are sister cities (or maybe sister towns; Boring is a pretty small place, although some of the towns in that area are now ten times the size they were when I was a kid, or maybe even more).

  19. Athel Cornish-Bowden: “Amherst, Massachusetts” — at least according to Wikipedia, I have been pronouncing it (mostly) correctly (for almost two decades) — /ˈæmərst/, with the exception that I articulate the /h/.

    EDIT: But I am occasionally tempted to pronounce it [‘amˌhɛʀ̥st].

  20. I think that’s what Athel meant: Stokenham is spoken as an American would say it, and thus compensates for Amherst, which is spoken as a Brit would say it. (Living next door to it, I can confirm it is pronounced Ammerst, and we scoff at outsiders who pronounce the h.)

  21. Which leads me to the story of the Austrian village of Fugging, formerly Fucking. Globalization, Bah.

  22. John Emerson says

    An Oregon quasi-community is Wanker’s Corner, which has crept onto some maps without ever being much more than a crossroads bar.


  23. John Emerson says
  24. @John Emerson: It’s no surprise that the Australian author of that fluff piece has never been to the place he’s writing about. However, I am surprised to see such obviously howlers as the claim that no Americans would know the meaning of wanker in 2015, or referring to the, “small, quiet town of Wilsonville.” Wilsonville is a fully urbanized part of the Portland Metropolitan Area,* and has been for decades.

    * The METRO area is (or was, but I doubt it has changed) a legally defined governmental division in the state of Oregon, although it is not quite the same as the physical city and its suburbs. For one thing, it obviously excludes the suburbs on the Washington State side of the Columbia.

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