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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6 thoughts on “Completism

  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.

  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.

  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

  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! )

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