No messing around in 2016; here's the list:
Stendahl The Red and the Black
Robert F. Scott Antarctic Diary
Michael Smith Tom Crean: Unsung Hero
Eliot Bliss Saraband
Anton Chekhov The Bishop and Other Stories
Arthur Conan Doyle His Last Bow
JRR Tolkien "Leaf By Niggle"
JRR Tolkien "Farmer Giles of Ham"
William Shakespeare "Troilus and Cressida"
Gertrude Stein Paris France
Kaethe Recheis Lena: Unser Dorf in der Krieg
Ursula K. Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin The Tombs of Atuan
Ursula K. Le Guin The Farthest Shore
E. B. White Here is New York
Max Frisch Homo faber: ein Bericht
Juan Rulfo Pedro Páramo
Anton Chekhov The Party and Other Stories
Francis Beaumont "The Knight of the Burning Pestle"
Magda Szabó The Door
Anton Chekhov The Story of a Nobody
Richard Henry Dana Two Years Before the Mast
Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island
George Orwell Down and Out in Paris and London
H.W. Tilman Mischief Goes South
Thomas More Utopia
Abraham Lincoln Selected Speeches and Writings
Anton Chekhov "Three Years"
H.W. Tilman Mischief in Patagonia
Ernest G. Draper Lectures in Navigation
Agatha Christie Cat Among the Pigeons
William Faulkner Selected Short Stories
Kino: The Poetry of Nikola Vaptsarov
Gertrude Stein The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Frank Kermode The Classic
Georgi Gospodinov The Physics of Sorrow
Roland Barthes Mythologies
Anton Chekhov Selected Stories (P&V, trans.)
Arthur Rimbaud A Season in Hell
Leopoldo Alas La Regenta
Anton Chekhov The Prank
Nathanael West Miss Lonelyhearts
Apsley Cherry-Garrard The Worst Journey in the World
T.H. White The Once and Future King
John Williams Stoner
Sigmund Freud Civilization and its Discontents
Isak Dinesen Seven Gothic Tales
Marcel Proust Swann's Way
Beowulf (Burton Raffel, trans.)
Charlotte Smith Elegiac Sonnets and Other Poems
John Ruskin The Crown of Wild Olive
Charlotte Smith "The Emigrants"
Georgi Gospodinov Kleines morgendliches Verbrechen
Georges Bataille The Blue of Noon
Charlotte Smith Beachy Head & other poems
Marcel Proust Within a Budding Grove
Simon McCartney The Bond
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Chase, Nickerson, et al. The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale
Selected Letters of Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas "Under Milk Wood"
No rhyme or reason to my reading this year, though there was a lot of interest in Antarctica and sailing ships. And in long books: I am currently 2 1/2 volumes into Marcel Proust's Remembrances of Times Past or whatever you wish to call it, and by now it feels less like reading a novel than like meeting an acquaintance for lunch almost every day to hear him reminisce about his life. Which is a fine thing. It continues to be a good book, each volume better than the last.
I didn't read nearly as much poetry or Shakespeare as I wanted to this year, and I find myself re-reading more these days, making less room for things as-yet unread. I have observed that this is a natural pattern in aging readers, so I think I'm on schedule. The half-remembered classics of my youth have been getting my attention, which explains Beowulf and The Once and Future King. Next year I might read Mallory and The Long Ships, both new to me but logical steps from the immediately-aforementioned books. Perhaps next year I'll stop using so many hyphenated words, too.
I'm not sure if I'll continue reading the letters of dead writers. The Dylan Thomas book I've about finished is quite frustrating: one wants to reach back in time and give the little Welsh brat a good wallop.
More successful, for me as a reader, was the collection of speeches and letters from Abraham Lincoln. I picked it up in March, I believe, at the gift shop inside the Lincoln Memorial. Certainly I have my opinions about some of the possibly unconstitutional actions of Lincoln during his administration, but I feel much more kindly toward old Abraham than I used to do. Him being a yankee and all. Eye-opening, funny, moving, etc. Way better than what I imagine Eat, Pray, Love to be like.
Also in nonfiction, I enjoyed Simon McCartney's The Bond. It is the memoir of a retired elite mountain climber who valued friendship over personal glory. You don't find much of that in the sporting world, so this story is a refreshing change of tone. The book won the 2016 Jon Whyte Award at the Banff Mountain Book Competition, and also the 2016 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. If you want, you can read my short review of it here. I'm all about human decency in late 2016.
Speaking of which, I report that as I sit typing this post, I have not quite finished drafting the novel I began this year, a thing called Nowhere But North that's part creation myth, part Henry James romance, and part Melville. Possibly the only novel I have written that I will claim is an actual work of art. Clearly unpublishable, but hopefully in early 2017 I'll finish the first draft and then set the book aside while I revise the novel I wrote last year (was it last year?), a Bildungsroman in stories, letters, and a stageplay, called Antosha! I hope to flog that novel to agents and publishers sometime in mid-2017. Fingers crossed, etc. Antosha! might be less unpublishable than other books of mine.
This year I shopped around a novel called Mona in the Desert, a beautiful novel about family, divorce, memory, and literary criticism. It's still with a couple of small presses for consideration, so we'll see. In a world where carpenters get resurrected, etc. I also sent out an older novel, Go Home, Miss America, to a few select publishers. At least one of them is actually reading the MS, so who can say what will happen?
For no real reason I mention that I'm working on Vittorio Monti's little salon piece Csardas, an exciting bit of fluff that is nowhere as difficult as it looks, and Wolfgang Mozart's lovely violin concerto in G major, which is much more difficult than it looks, like every bit of Mozart's music. The violin is a very satisfying hobby; every technical solution is also an artistic solution, much the way it is with writing fiction.
Next year: Shakespeare's "history" plays! More poetry! More German-language fiction! More Chekhov again! More obscure 20th-century English women! More Proust! More Euripides! No Antarctic nonfiction! No age-of-sail books! More Bulgakov! Dumas! Woolf! Hugo! Murdoch! Goethe! Boll! et innumerabilis alios!