Completism

Can you recommend a good book by an author whose surname begins with Q, U, X or Y?

It’s a strange question, I know. The thing is, I’ve been documenting all the books I’ve reviewed on this site since it started ten years ago, and I’ve organised them alphabetically, and…

Yeah, OK, I admit it. I’m a frustrated librarian. In another lifetime, I would have loved to spend my days quietly shuffling books around from shelf to shelf in a library or bookshop. My choices have taken me down a different path, so I compensate by obsessively curating my own personal collections of books read and books reviewed, books to be read, books that may never be read but that I like the idea of reading, and so on and so forth.

Stockholm library
Stockholm library on my visit last summer (yes, I visit libraries on my travels!).

And after all those years and all those book reviews written and listed and linked, I still have some gaps. My alphabetical list contains no entries for the letter Q, U, X or Y.

In the big scheme of world problems, it doesn’t rank very highly, does it? But we can’t spend every hour of every day worrying about Donald Trump or xenophobia or climate change or any of the other big issues. Sometimes we can’t avoid being trivial, whether we choose to admit it or not, to write about it or not.

So let me know! Help me fill the gaps! Authors beginning with Q, U, X or Y.

I’d love to hear about your own forms of book-reading completism too. Do you like to read every book by a particular author? Do you try to stay up to date with what’s published in a particular genre or country? Or do you think that, in a world in which 2.2 million new books are published every year, literary completism is just a formula for disappointment?

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16 thoughts on “Completism

    1. Hi Lizzy

      Good to hear from you, and thanks for the recommendations! They all sound great. I spent a couple of months in Portugal and have been planning to read more Portuguese literature, so that first one sounds particularly good 🙂

    1. Thanks very much, Virginia! I’ve had The Lonely Polygamist on my list of books to read for a while, but I’ve never got around to it. I think I found the idea of 60 pages of male mid-life crisis quite daunting! But based on your recommendation, I think it’s time to give it a try 🙂

  1. Hi, Andrew.

    If I find a writer I love, I do tend to read all of their works. Most recently, Elena Ferrante. I’ve read all of John Irving, Miriam Toews, Elizabeth Hay, Michael Crummey… and always excited to find new-to-me authors who make me want to devour everything they’ve written.
    I think the fact there are so many books, and our reading time is limited to one lifetime… having quirks and approaches is a totally cool thing. Whether it’s completism, creating reading plans, setting reading goals (reading award winners/nominees, 1001 books to read before you die, etc…) are all different ways people find to manage the sea of books available to us today. Sometimes I wish I was more plan-oriented with my own reading, but I generally read by mood – whatever catches my attention at the moment I am in need of a new read.

    I do have some suggestions for you:

    Q = Paul Quarrington . Canadian. Amazing! He passed away a few years ago and I am regularly sad he’s no longer with us.
    U = Jane Urquhart. Also Canadian. Away, The Stone Carvers, and The Underpainter were all very good. I have The Night Stages in my TBR pile, somewhere.
    X = the only author who comes to mind is Xiaolu Guo… who is a really visceral writer. I’ve read both I Am China and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. I like IAC a bit more. (As another ‘Q’ suggestion, just did a quick Google and found this: “Gao Xingjian was awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature “for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama.”)
    Y = Banana Yoshimoto – who I have not yet read, but who has been on my shelves for too, too long.

    1. I’m like you, Jennifer—I mostly read by mood, but sometimes a particular challenge or goal grabs my attention. I’ve done the completism thing with Kazuo Ishiguro. He only publishes a new book every five or ten years, so that’s a pace even I can keep up with 🙂

      Some great recommendations here. Quarrington and Urquhart are both new authors to me, so I look forward to trying some of their books. Ah yes, I’ve read the Concise Chinese-English dictionary—I even heard the author read from it at some event in London… possibly the Orange Prize shortlist? Really enjoyed it, although I can’t remember enough to review it now. Same goes for Gao Xingjian, actually—I read Soul Mountain even longer ago, when I was on a doomed “read all the Nobel Prize winners” quest, but can’t remember much of it now. Maybe a reason to reread…

      And, yes, Banana Yoshimoto… I’m in exactly the same position as you 🙂 Time to give her work a try!

  2. Authors on my shelves to fill the gaps:

    Q= Anthony Quinn, Sima Qian, David Quammen.
    U= Dubravka Ugresic, Sigrid Undset.
    X= Xinran, Qiu Xiaolong.
    Y= Liao Yiwu, AB Yehoshua, WB Yeats and I second Richard Yates.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Great recommendations, with a nice mix of authors I’ve been meaning to read and new ones I’ve never heard of. I particularly like the “U” recommendations—two authors from countries I’ve visited recently and whose literature I would like to learn more about.

      I also love how your avatar is appropriate to the post. Today’s post was brought to you by the letters Q, U, X, and Y 🙂

  3. Q: I’ll go with Lizzy’s suggestion even though technically it’s “de Queiroz” and should be filed under “D.” But for the opportunity to read this wonderful author, go ahead and file him under “Q.” The Maias is splendid. Or if you’re in an irreverent mood: The Relic.

    U: Miguel de Unamuno? Same problem with the “de.” Three Exemplary Novels. If you’re going to be a purist, there’s John Updike, or Leon Uris’ Mila 18, which made an impression on me when I read parts of it as an adolescent.

    X: Also cheating a bit, since technically she should be filed under “C,” but Chinese contemporary writer Can Xue: Blue Light in the Sky.

    Y: Marguerite Yourcenar: Memoirs of Hadrian. Or (same problem as above) Mo Yan’s Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh

    1. Thanks, Scott! I’m usually in an irreverent mood, so The Relic sounds great. And if I’m being irreverent, I can definitely shoehorn that book into “Q”. Some other fantastic recommendations here too. Thanks so much 🙂 I look forward to discovering these writers.

  4. Being a Portuguese, Lizzy Siddal’s entry for Q immediatelly came to my mind. QUEIRÓS or QUEIROZ, EÇA is the right spelling. Great Portuguese novelist had a strong influence in the way we express ourselves today (and we don´t even notice! )

  5. May I suggest My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louise Young or The Seventh Gate By Richard Zimmer. They both are historical fiction.

    I keep a list of books I want to read. I jotted down these two titles, but I have not read them. The former is a novel set in WWI; the latter, set in Germany, takes place in WWII. I prefer to read fiction written in the interstice between the Great War and WWII. Though these two novels are by contemporary writers, the last name name of the author begins with a Q, U, X, or Y. Another Z title that satisfy both our interests is The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig.

    I responded to your query partly because you reviewed The Mussel Feast, another title on my list of books to read.

    1. Thanks very much for the suggestions, Michael! Much appreciated. I like the sound of them, particularly The Post Office Girl. I read a short novella by Stefan Zweig, Chess Story, years ago, and although I can’t remember much of it now, I remember liking it very much.

      Ah, The Mussel Feast is a wonderful book! I hope you get to read it soon, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do.

  6. youve already had plenty of recommendations to help fill in this annoying gaps but let me add a few more:

    Y: how about a Nobel winner from China, Mo Yan? Try his first novel Red Sorghum: A Novel of China. OR you could try Banana Yoshimoto’ s Goodbye Tsugumi
    OR of course you have A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    Q: if you feel like dipping into some crime fiction, take a look at Wife of the Gods by the Ghanian author Kwei Quartey. This is a tale which takes us to the dark side of Ghana’s culture where young girls are offered as trokosi (or Wives of the Gods) to fetish priests and villagers still believe in the power of medicine men to assuage vengeful gods.

    1. Thanks very much! Great recommendations 🙂 Ah, I’ve been meaning to read Red Sorghum ever since Mo Yan won the Nobel, which I am shocked to see was five years ago now! Time flies when there are so many good books to discover. Those other ones sound fascinating too!

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