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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May Reading Wrap Up

Well, it has happened – I have finally finished university. After a month of essay deadlines and exams, I’m amazed I read as much as I did. I think that’s been the standard theme of this year so far; my surprise each month that I actually found time to read. It definitely helped that I participated in a 30 day reading challenge, and I’m sure that’s why my totals this month (two books over 500 pages is quite the feat for me) are pretty darn fantastic.

First up this month was The Hero of Ages, the third and final instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy that I started back in 2015! I read the previous two books the previous two summers, having saved them both all year for when I felt I had enough time to read them – and then the genius that is 2017 me decided I had enough time to read the final book over coursework season. If that’s not impressive, then I’m not sure what is.

Then as if that book wasn’t long enough, I followed it up with another final instalment to a trilogy: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. This was pure guilty pleasure for me, and I devoured it within a week. Just pure fun, uncomplicated (in a good way) fantasy that you can just lose yourself in. Complete escapism at its best, and a series that has improved so much from its first instalment.

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After that, I finally read a book I’ve been promising myself, and my colleagues, that I would pick up for ages. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was an unexpected joy, Saunders somehow redefining what it means to write fiction and do so in a way that reminds you just how much art there is in writing. He weaves his story from excerpts of various non-fiction literature on Lincoln, interspersed with his own pure fictional writing. The combination of non-fiction, fiction, and non-fiction crafted as fiction, created a completely new way of reading. Although the first few pages I found it difficult to process, once you get used to the formatting you can hardly put the book down.

It was after this that I read Animal by Sara Pascoe, ‘The Autobiography of the Female Body’. For this I’m just going to repeat what I said in Goodreads, which is that this was a great book separated into discussions on ‘love’, ‘body’, and ‘consent’. Pascoe manages to insert humour and charm, but still discusses serious, and upsetting, topics with a sincerity. This is a good book if you want a mix of entertainment, autobiography, well/explained science, and talks on bodies. Of course people who are well versed on the subjects will find fault with some of the scientific facts, but for me it was a perfect balance of digestible science I could understand and Pascoe’s own thought. Whilst Pascoe is addressing matters of the ‘female body’ and does in her footnotes clarify that this can apply to those who do and do not identify as being female or to those who weren’t necessarily born in a ‘female’ body, I think I would have liked more discussion on gender within her ‘body’ section. Overall the book raises some fantastic points that I definitely support, but for a book on bodies and love I think there should be more discussion dedicated to gender itself.

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If you want more beauties like this you should definitely check out my Instagram *wink wink nudge nudge*

After a successful non-fiction read, which I don’t read enough of, I decided to go for something else new – poetry. The only poetry I’ve really read is within my education, and whilst I’ve enjoyed it I’ve never gone out and read poetry for fun. This is why, to start off my journey, I picked up the bestselling collection Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. And, I’m sad to say, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea – which is why I’m going to do a full review either sometime later this week or next. It’s so difficult, because of course you can see how much heart the author pours in, and then to find you don’t really like it, I especially find it hard to give such negative feedback. One thing is for certain – I’m definitely going to pick up more poetry soon to find something I do love.

And that brings me to the end of May, so let’s look how the reading challenge is going:

 

  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

Thanks to Animal, I ticked off an autobiography because that word is within the subtitle so it definitely counts. Milk and Honey also ticked off poetry, so a pretty darn good month. The Hero of Ages and A Court of Wings and Ruin both added a notch to finishing a series you’ve started, as they were both the final instalments of two trilogies I’ve loved. Lincoln in the Bardo added a fourth notch to books published in 2017. Overall, a pretty great reading month. It means I’m still left with 3 Classics (I knew that was going to be a struggle to get to), a Horror Book, a friend’s favourite book, and a book with a character with your name. I definitely have books in mind for the latter two, but still haven’t found a Horror book that I want to read, so if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears. After all, June is my birthday month so I’m planning to do a rather large book haul.

 

Moving on to 2017

Instead of writing a December Wrap Up, I thought I’d talk about my reading year overall and what I plan to do next year. December has been an awful month of reading, as it’s been a chaotic mess of essays, food, and being distracted by the dog (not to mention the Sims 4 City Living expansion which I put off buying until Christmas). So although I started a couple of books (I’m almost halfway through The Northern Lights, and also have started Fat is a Feminist Word for a book club), not much reading was done in December. Essays are still looming, and I also have to read Paradise Lost for a module that starts in January (help), but I’m sure everything will be fine.

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Looking back, I’ve read some absolutely incredible books this year. My top five, in no particular order, are:

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir – this book surpassed all my expectations, delivering a surprisingly witty read that had me hooked from the get-go.
  2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – the only book this year that made me cry, slam it closed, and curse out loud on a train. Fantastic writing, a beautiful heart-wrenching story, and characters that truly feel real.
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I was so excited to discover this author, and this book has been the one to which I judge other fantasy fairytales (none so far are able to compare).
  4. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman – this book still stuns me as it was such a dynamic read. Never before have I read anything like it with the interesting formatting and variety of ways of presenting the story. I really need the sequel.
  5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – a book so beautiful and enticing that I’m doing it for my dissertation. Rich with detail and transforming a story I thought I knew so well, it’s the perfect example of reimagining a well known story.

Honourable mentions of course to The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye and A Darker Shade of Magic books one and two by V.E. Schwab.

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Quirk Books

It’s been a great year of reading for me, and I’m shocked that only two fantasy books were in my top five. But one thing I will say is that, although it was great to reach my goal, there were times when I felt slightly stressed about hitting that target. So, instead of saying that in 2017 I’m going to read ‘x’ amount of books, I’ve decided to do something a bit different. In 2017, I’m going to attempt to complete 17 book challenges, and these are the ones I’ve chosen:

  1. 4 ‘Classics’ (I really haven’t read enough)
  2. A Man Booker nominee
  3. A Baileys nominee (another book award)
  4. A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. ‘A Blue Cover’
  6. A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book (I never read this genre)
  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
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Pinterest

I, for one, am excited to get started on 2017’s reading. I wanted a challenge that encouraged me to branch out and read different things – I never really read plays, graphic novels, poetry, or horror, nor do I read much non-fiction outside of university. Having a challenge like this means that I’ve got room to read whatever I like, whether they count towards the challenge or not. In total, if I complete all the challenges, it means I’ll need to read a certain 20 books. As I read just over 50 this year, I’ll be able to get in quite a lot of other books in addition to the challenge (especially my favourite fantasy books).

Here’s to another great year of reading. Hope you all had a great Christmas and best of luck for the new year (whether it’s filled with books or not).

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