2018 Reading Goals

I hadn’t planned to make a post about my goals in terms of reading for 2018, mainly as I only had one or two items on that particular list. But honestly, the more that I think about it, the more goals I keep adding to that particular list. So, as it continues to grow, I want to start talking about some of the things I hope to do more of when it comes to reading. If you follow me on my other blog, alwayslovetowrite, you’ll know that I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions – mainly that I don’t like them because I don’t want to feel stressed or set myself up for failure. Even when the goals are manageable, my brain somehow manages to create a severe pool of anxiety and stress about them, as well as telling me that maybe I’ll fail and what’s the point and, before you know it, I’m ranting online about resolutions.

So, to be clear, these aren’t set goals that I have to hit or my whole life will fall to pieces. These are goals to improve my reading experience, as well as widen it.

Firstly, I want to try to read more non-fiction this year. Whenever I describe my reading tastes, I tend to talk about my fantasy addiction and general love of beautifully written fiction, writing non-fiction off entirely. Yet, so many books that I love are non-fiction. Take Insomniac City for example, one of my all-time favourite reads – it is very clearly non-fiction. I keep having to reevaluate what I value in reading, as I usually say that I love reading because it transports me to another world – yet I forget that non-fiction can do that just as easily as fiction. Sure, it may not be a fantastical world where dragons can talk and pigs can fly, but it is the world of someone else. Bill Hayes took me into his world, into his life in New York and his story of how he met, fell in love with, and built a life with Oliver Sacks, ending with how he lives with the grief over his death. That memoir taught me that real lives are emotive in ways that fictional ones can never hope to be, and that’s something I want to keep reminding myself of.

Not to mention that I want to keep learning. I’m proud that I sound like a complete nerd when I say that I love learning, that I love to build on my knowledge. Reading is one of the ways that I can achieve that, and I just want to keep building and building, as well as renovating when I’m given a new opinion or a different perspective.

This leads me nicely to my next goal – that I want to read more diverse authors. In my previous post, I mentioned that I wanted to read more from POC authors – but I don’t want to stop there. I want to read all kinds of authors, ones from marginalised communities, ones that have to deal with race every single day, ones that are talking openly about gender and rights that I probably don’t think enough about.  I want to be shown different perspectives, to remind myself of everything that’s going on around me and be better informed on how I can actually help to make a difference. I want the things I read to challenge me, in more ways than one. I’m very aware that I’m a cis heterosexual white girl, so it is so important that I don’t forget my privilege and become more aware of the people all around me, and make sure that I help ensure they are heard.

A few friends last year made goals to read as much of, if not all of, a certain author’s work that year. At this moment in time, I would love to do the same – and the author I want to try to read as much from this year is Virginia Woolf. She’s one of those authors that I’ve read a lot from, but don’t think I’ve actually sat down and read one of her books from start to finish. I’ve also bought myself several of her books recently, so now I definitely need to at least attempt this one.

Finally, I want to engage more with what I read in 2018. Quite often I’ll forget what I’ve read and will be unable to recall a thing about something I read the month before. In 2016, I kept a little book journal where I wrote down my thoughts and opinions of the books I read, keeping track of the books somewhere other than Goodreads. I want to write about the things I love most about each book I read, and about why I loved, or really didn’t love, them.

And that is my list of 2018 goals – so far, at least. I’m excited to try to work towards these goals, and I know they’re ones that I can continue to grow upon throughout the years. Whether I end up only having 20% of the books I read this year being non-fiction, or if I only read one diverse author to every white one, it’s still a step in the right direction. I for one hope that it does me a world of good, because I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Hell, my top five books last year included two non-fiction, a POC author, and an author from the LGBTQ+ community. If that isn’t a sign that I should definitely be hunting out more of the same, I don’t know what is.

Let me know if you have any reading goals for 2018, or more importantly if you have any recommendations for books I should read that would help me with mine.

 

Advertisements

December Reading Wrap Up

Well we made it – only a few hours to go and then it will be 2018. It’s been one hell of a year and I’ve read some fantastic books, but before I write about my top books of 2017, here is my December Reading Wrap Up.

First off, I finally finished the Northern Lights series with The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. An incredible finale to such an amazing series, which was far more complex and richer than I had anticipated. The first book was your classic fun-loving fantasy adventure, but over the course of the sequels it morphed into this fantastical essay about religion and life, with very strong ties to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’d recommend this to people of all ages, and I’m so glad that after a short break I was able to get back into the series with such excitement.

book-reading-words-flying-by-animated-gif
bestanimations

After so much fiction, I decided I needed some non-fiction to give my imagination a rest and challenge my mind a little. I picked up Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, a memoir that looks at gender, her marriage, and motherhood. A truly brilliant piece of literature, and I want to encourage so many people to pick up this little gem. Filled with insightful thought and intelligent notions, this truly encapsulated the themes perfectly.

Clearly after that I was craving fantasy again, as I whizzed through Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I adored her book Strange The Dreamer, so I was expecting to enjoy this immensely – I just didn’t anticipate how quickly I’d get through it. Whilst I found the first half more engaging than the second, it definitely set up the world and had me desperate for more. I’ve already read half of the sequel, which I plan to finish early 2018 and pick up the final instalment soon after.

giphy-11
giphy

Finally, I finished off the year with the Queen of Roman History, Mary Beard, and her new novella Women & Power. Short but definitely not sweet, this book gets right down to the nit and grit of our past responses to women and their association with power. It definitely could have been a whole novel, and I hope one day she uses this as a starting point for such a piece of literature, but this was the perfect size to incite the mind and get my blood boiling. Once again, I would highly recommend.

And that was 2017. I’ve ticked off another feminist book, a series I’ve started, a blue cover, and a book from my TBR. I’m so happy with how my 17 challenges have gone so far this year, and only two weren’t completed. The 4 Classics goal was almost completed, but I made the mistake of listening to my 4th classic Bleak House on Audible, so I still have a long way to go. The other challenge that is left uncompleted is the character with my name, but I’m not too fussed about that.

  1. ***4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. ***A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. ****‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. *A Horror Book
  8. ****Finish a series you’ve started
  9. ***A friend’s favourite book
  10. **Poetry book
  11. **Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. ****A book from your TBR
  17. *******Book published in 2017

 

I already have a few challenges in mind for 2018, and whilst I’m not going to do 18 challenges to mimic this year, I’m certain that it will keep me busy. So far, my goal is to read more non-fiction (for every 2 fiction books, I’d like to read a non-fiction book) and I’m also hoping to read a lot, if not all, of Virginia Woolf’s books. I’ve read so many extracts from them, but never read one cover to cover, so that is my main goal for 2018.

I’m sure I’ll think of other challenges along the way, but for now I’m going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the last moments of 2017. So Happy New Year everyone, and may your 2018 be filled with books!

Reading Slump/November Reading Wrap Up

November has probably been the best month I’ve had of this year in terms of happiness and life goals, but was by far my worst month for reading. Whilst those two statements by no means hold any correlation – aka I was not happy because I wasn’t reading, and in fact my only source of discontent this month was that I couldn’t really read much – it was so beneficial to my reading goals to have a break.

Through the month of November, instead of reading on the tube every day and before I went to bed, I was writing in an attempt to write 50,000 words in one month – something which for the first time ever I managed to do. It’s amazing in retrospect what we make time to do, and it was a great chance for me to see just how much I could do in a short space of time. Whilst I love writing and still adore the idea of one day publishing a book, at this point in my life it isn’t something I’m pursuing full time. Instead, I want to be reading all I can whenever I can, which is why my commute time and pre-bed routine has returned to reading, reading, reading.

In October, I was also in quite the reading slump toward the end of the month. Whilst I had been loving the Pullman series, having finished The Subtle Knife and diving straight into The Amber Spyglass, I found that they were so dense and intense that it was too much to go straight from one to the next. Having two chunky books in the same world meant that I wasn’t reading as much, and going straight from the end of book two full of action and plot twists into book three which started off with descriptions and setting up the story, the change in pace threw off my reading burst. November gave me a break from reading which I didn’t know I needed.

It got to mid-November and I found that I was actually truly missing reading, but knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in a whole novel amidst typing out almost 2000 words every day. So I picked up a small collection of poems by Keats, the one thing that I read front to back in November, and truly enjoyed it. Small enough not to bog me down with pressure of finishing it in time, and beautiful enough that it only inspired me further, I found that I was counting down the days to get back into reading.

One thing that NaNo helped me see was that you can so easily get bogged down with plans and goals, something which sometimes the challenge of reading 50 books in a year can do to me. Having this time out has only benefitted me, shown that I’ve picked up The Amber Spyglass again and am now racing through it and enjoying it so much more.

 

October Reading Wrap Up

I read some great books in October, and now that I’ve hit my goodreads goal of reading 40 books this year I feel so much more relaxed, it’s ridiculous. It’s amazing, really, how much stress is added to a fun activity just by putting on a reading challenge. Still, I’ve completed that goal, so now I can just focus on reading whatever I please at whatever pace I desire – which is good, considering this month I’m also trying to complete NaNoWriMo (if you’re not sure what that is, head over to my other blog here).

I read some pretty chunky books this month, clearly following a trend that I started back in September, and first up was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This was a book that my colleagues at work practically bullied me into reading, and I’m so glad that I fell to peer pressure. A family generation saga, this book mainly follows the story of Sunja, a young girl living in South Korea who becomes pregnant out of marriage, and ends up marrying a pastor and following him to start a new life in Japan. Moving, heart-wrenching and just pure wonderful, this book had me feeling such heartache for Sunja and her family, completely immersing me into their stories. It’s rare that an author is able to create characters so well that it feels as if they’re real, and the author is merely relating their life to you. Top marks from me.

IMG_1519 2

After this I read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, and author who I loved as a child reading the Wolf, Brother series – yet her adult horror has definitely ruined any warm and fuzzy feelings I had towards her works. Brilliantly unsettling, this book put new meaning to horror for me – it felt isolating, and the setting of an icy landscape definitely seeped into my own world. A perfect horror read, ideal for Halloween and freezing temperatures – but I wouldn’t recommend reading it in the dark.

Then I decided I wanted to read the second and third instalment in the Northern Lights trilogy by Philip Pullman, and in October I finished The Subtle Knife. Very different from the first book, this had me loving the series even more – and with the release of his new book La Belle Sauvage, I felt the excitement and anticipation as I read it. I’m onto the third book, The Amber Spyglass, now and am looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

So although it was yet another short reading month for me, I’m incredibly pleased with the books that I read – and knowing that I’m probably going to be reading less in November, what with NaNoWriMo and the busy Christmas period kicking in at work, I’m looking forward to what the rest of 2017 will bring. I can also finally tick off that pesky horror book goal with Dark MatterPachinko added another notch to a book over 500 pages, and The Subtle Knife added yet again to a friend’s favourite book – because so many people adore this series so much that it feels sacrilege to admit to not having read them, which I’m luckily rectifying now.

 

  1. ***4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. **A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. ***‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. *A Horror Book
  8. ***Finish a series you’ve started
  9. ***A friend’s favourite book
  10. **Poetry book
  11. **Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. ***A book from your TBR
  17. *******Book published in 2017

August Reading Wrap Up

It’s that time of the month again – no, no, not that one, the one where I talk about books. (Sorry, that was terrible, let’s move swiftly on).

So this month I read three books, which isn’t as brilliant as I’ve done on previous months but I’m still pretty happy with it. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I moved flat and had my first official month of full-time work, so I’ve been a bit too exhausted to think about reading some days. Still, it isn’t a race I suppose at the end of the day, and rather about enjoying the activity. (At least that’s what I’ll tell myself when I stare at the three books as if they’ve personally offended me).

The first book that I read, and what a book it was, ended up being Insomniac City by Bill Hayes. This was a game changer for me for so many reasons, as it had me smiling and crying, filling me with hope, pain, excitement, loss, and so many other emotions I can’t even begin to describe. Non-fiction, this book is narrated by Bill Hayes and we follow his move to New York, along with his subsequent relationship with Oliver Sacks. It’s beautiful, to say the least, and made me look differently at the world around me. Hayes is a writer and photographer, and the book is filled with various photos he’s taken around New York, of people and places. It emphasises the notion that everyone has a story, and ever since finishing I’ve made an effort to look around a little more, something you truly forget to do sometimes after living in a city for a while. He so beautifully depicts so many different things, such as love and grief. Overall, this book made me pause and made me appreciate everything around me. A five star read, without a doubt.

IMG_1079
Making the most of the August weather. 

It was difficult to know what to follow Insomniac City with, as I certainly couldn’t read any other non-fiction or light fiction. It ended up, as always, with me going to something completely different, which was the fantastical Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. The only other books I’ve read from this author are the Illuminae Files series, which he writes alongside Amie Kaufman. I was interested to see what he writes like alone, and not targeted at Young Adult, and I wasn’t disappointed. There is a third person omniscient narrator, who has one hell of a voice with plenty of snarky asides and lecture-like footnotes detailing various things, and through this voice we follow the story of Mia, a young girl training to be an assassin. I struggled with the start of this book (it took me a while to navigate the narration as it opens with some very, shall I say, interesting scenes that run alongside each other. The two scenes correlate and mirror each other, but whereas one depicts a sexual encounter, the other involves a murder. It’s fun), but overall I truly enjoyed it. I’ve been sent a proof by the publishers, so I’m looking forward to delving back into that world soon.

My third and final book was Autumn by Ali Smith, which one of my best friends has been badgering me to read for almost a year now. I’ve been meaning to read something from Ali Smith for a long time now, and I’m glad I started with this. She writes poetically, but by no means superfluously, and the rhythm in her language and prose truly makes it feel like art. A reflection on Brexit, this novel is a perfect balance of tactful commentary and pointed musings. You follow two characters and their relationship with each other, along with the things that made them who they are and how their lives have been affected. It’s a novel about identity, a topic especially important when thinking about what Brexit means for national identity. A lovely read, and I look forward to the rest of the quartet.

IMG_1292

Which brings me to the end of this wrap up! I thoroughly enjoyed each book I read, and here’s hoping I’ll be able to read books that are just as good in September (though I don’t know how anything can beat Insomniac City at this stage). In terms of challenges, Autumn has ticked off the ‘friend’s favourite book’ goal, and IC was another friend’s favourite book (especially as she then bought it for me), so that’s an extra tick for number 9! Nevernight is not ticking anything off for this month, so it’s a good thing I enjoyed it immensely.

 

  1. ***4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. ***Finish a series you’ve started
  9. **A friend’s favourite book
  10. **Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. ***A book from your TBR
  17. *******Book published in 2017

September, bring it on.

 

July Reading Wrap Up

It is past the halfway point for 2017, and I know that each one of these Wrap Up posts are sounding a bit repetitive now as in every single one, I think I’ve hardly read anything – and then I get to writing this update and realise that, hang on, I’ve actually done well. I’ll do my best next time to not mention it, but honestly it’s surprising how quickly you can read something and then completely forget about it if it didn’t make you feel something strongly – be that love or hate. I tend to remember books I hate far more than many of the books I love, instead of remembering all those mediocre books that probably deserve more love than I gave them.

Right, that’s enough blabbing, onto the wrap up.

First off was This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, a non-fiction book that is out later this year that I have honestly not stopped talking about since finishing. Adam Kay is a comedian, but used to be a junior doctor – and was one for many years. This book is an amalgamation of the diaries he kept as a junior doctor, and let me tell you the entries are heartwarming, hilarious, charming, gripping, and will make you cry with genuine despair and utter delight. This had me laughing out loud on the tube as well as sniffling on the bus, but I was unable to put it down. It is definitely a favourite for this year, and I can’t wait until everyone has a chance to read it – fingers crossed that it will help change minds and demonstrate just how much love we should be giving to the NHS (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Hunt).

giphy-8.gif
giphy

Next up is something that has been on my TBR for a long time, and that was The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye. Ever since I finished The Crown’s Game, I have been desperate to pick this one up. I enjoyed it and am so glad I got my hands on a copy, but have to admit that it didn’t quite have the same gripping, out-of-this-world feel to it as the first. Definitely a series to pick up if you’re a fan of CaravalThe Night Circus, or anything that involves magic, duels, or a fantasy reimagining of the past.

It has also taken me this long to realise that even short reads count towards the book goal, which is why I was very glad that a friend gave me Chess by Stefan Zweig for my birthday. Not only was it short, but it was a classic – that I loved! A rare find indeed, and I’d recommend this little treasure to anyone who wants to read more classic literature but either doesn’t have the time, dedication, or willpower to invest in a longer tome.

IMG_1029

After that I read Hold Your Own, a poetry collection by Kate Tempest – and let me tell you, I have a new love for poetry. After my struggles with milk and honey (see here for more details), I was worried that maybe poetry was not my thing – but then of course I would think of sonnets and Shakespeare and epic and think surely not. The same wonderful friend who gifted me Chess also gave me this delight from Tempest, a collection that is framed around the mythology of Tiresias. Not only was the Classics student and mythology enthusiast inside me satisfied, but the whimsical, creative part of me was overjoyed. This collection is raw, honest, and does everything I had hoped milk and honey would do, seemingly effortless.

IMG_1071.JPG

Next up is the book that had me delighted as well as terrified every time I brought it out of my bag in public, and that was I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. Honestly? I don’t even know what to say. Definitely not what I expected, as it is part memoir and part fiction. Whilst there have been books to genre blend fiction and non-fiction in the past that I’ve loved (looking at you Lincoln in the Bardo), this one was just not quite my cup of tea. I found myself skimming passages and then re-reading the same line over and over. Honestly, it made me feel quite inadequate and stupid, so I’m hoping my book club can enlighten me to all I missed when I was reading this.

Then, finally, we have Franny & Zooey by J.D Salinger, yet another short, delightful classic. It’s made me want to pick up The Catcher in the Rye as soon as I can, just because of the beautiful language. Each sentence is perfectly crafted and I can honestly say, as someone who isn’t a fan of classics, I enjoyed every moment. It didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to read an older piece of literature, but closer to just sitting back and simply relishing in brilliant writing that had me grinning every now and again. A brilliant portrayal of family relationships and our own relationships with religion.

And that is it! Six books this month and whilst two were short and one was a poetry collection, they all still count towards my reading challenge. Hurrah!

  1. ***4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. ***Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. **Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. ***A book from your TBR
  17. *******Book published in 2017

So I now have two more notches for my ‘4 classics’ challenge, which means just one more to go thanks to Chess and Franny & ZooeyCrown’s Fate has another notch for the TBR challenge, Hold Your Own has another for poetry, and This is Going to Hurt gives yet another for the 2017 challenge. When I started these challenges this year, I originally had a book picked out for each category, but as I’ve gone along I’ve found it so much better to read whatever picks my fancy. I’m currently reading something for an uncompleted challenge, which makes me very happy, so here’s hoping August lets me tick a few more things off. So here’s to good books and talented authors, because who knows where I’d be without them.

IMG_1011

June Wrap Up

June proved to be a month of madness, reflecting in the utter lack of blog posts during the month. So as we enter into July, it’s time to look back to see whether I actually got any reading done in all that time I spent not writing for this blog. An apology feels inadequate at this point, so here’s a cute picture of my dogs on my bed to try and make up for it.

IMG_0726

Onto the books.

I first finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel last month, something which I have been wanting to read for a very long time and am happy to say did not disappoint. The setting is twenty years after a virus wipes out the majority of the population, leaving the world as we knew it in ashes and the survivors attempting to start again. We follow an array of characters and their lives, with snippets from the new world and the world before, all which are somehow tied to a Shakespeare company who travel around the new world to perform. Imaginative and extraordinary well crafted, this is a Sci-Fi novel that anyone can enjoy.

Next up was The End We Start From by Megan Hunter, which is a short novella that blends poetry and prose. We follow a woman just after she has given birth whilst there has been a climate disaster, leaving London flooded. As she tries to navigate motherhood, she is also trying to survive in this new world (seems there is a theme to the books I read this month). This is a book about love, old and new, relationships, motherhood, survival, and hope. It’s beautiful, poignant, and just such a lovely read – not to mention an important portrayal of what global warming can cause and why we should be looking after our planet more than we do.

IMG_0767.jpg
Bar one, I read all of these books in June – all courtesy of the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan. 

I somehow managed a very strong start to the month of June, and read What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi next. A beautiful short story collection, and what connects them are the images, references, and inclusion of keys. Be it keys given as gifts, keys lent to house sitters, or even keys lost – this thread between each narrative can be the central focus or merely a passing moment. Perfectly paced and written in gorgeous prose, this has only made me want to read more short stories.

My final book of June was Who Runs The World? by Virginia Bergin. It’s set in a world a couple of generations away from our own, where a virus has taken over the world and affects only men, meaning that the remaining survivors are taken away to special enclosed camps – leaving women to run the world. The premise is incredibly interesting, but I found that the speaker was a bit too young for me and left me getting bored or frustrated with the narrator. It is a book aimed at YA, but I feel it should be advertised as young teen. It’s an interesting take on a difficult subject and, as I’ve seen in the past, it can be very difficult to write about gender and sexuality without getting something wrong (see my comments on The Power for an example). The author is clearly conscious and knows her subject, speaking very eloquently about gender in interview, but I found this did not come across as well in her novel. Still interesting to read, but not my favourite.

IMG_0731

And that was June! Although I’d like to include a book I finished yesterday within the list, I’m resisting that temptation. It also seems that, apart from the Helen Oyeyemi, all of the books from June were about new worlds being remade after the old ones were destroyed by viruses and natural disasters. If this blog needed a theme, I think this post would definitely fit under the ‘new worlds’ heading, or maybe ‘survival’. My favourite quote is definitely from Station Eleven, which in turn pinched it from Star Trek, which is ‘survival is insufficient’.

Onto the list:

  1. *4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. ***Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. *Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. **A book from your TBR
  17. ******Book published in 2017

Station Eleven has ticked off another book from my TBR, whilst The End We Start From and Who Runs The World? has ticked off a book published in 2017 (again). I think I’ve exhausted that category. It’s apparent that I’m reluctant to tackle that ‘classics’ challenge, but I think I’m going to try to add at least one more classic to my reading pile for July. I’m still, however, searching for a horror book – so recommendations are still more than welcome.