The further I get into the year, the harder I find writing these wrap ups. You know the drill, I read three books, they were great, they were as follows:
The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak – a book that I read years ago, but had no recollection of the vast majority of. All I could remember was that there was a girl who went to live with adopted parents, a woman who called her Saumensch, Death is the narrator, and the setting is World War II. I’m so glad that I decided to pick this one up again and reread, because there was so much that I didn’t remember and characters that I fell in love with all over again. A true classic that I think everyone should read, even if it’s only to read a book where you have a narrator almost more interesting than everything else that’s happening.
The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward – I picked this book up because I was going on a short holiday away and needed a light book to take with me (along with The Book Thief, which I was so close to finishing). I had no idea what this book was about before I started, and I’m actually very glad that I didn’t. This is memoir that is part prose, part verse about childhood, growing up, and the bonds of family. I read this in a few sittings, and could have done it in fewer had I not chosen to take breaks. A really engaging, powerful read.
The Bear and the Nightingaleby Katherine Arden – now this is the kind of book I adore. Sweeping fantasy tangled up with historical fiction, with beautifully written prose, fantastical creatures, and a great plot. Set in the wintery wilderness of Russia, this story follows the grandchild of a woman who was called a witch and appeared from the woods. You follow her along with various other characters she encounters as an old evil gathers strength near by.
I set a goal of reading 45 books this year, and currently I’m at 40 – whether I can read 5 in December who knows, but we’ll see what happens…
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.
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.
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.
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 Matter. Pachinko 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.
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 InsomniacCity 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.
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.
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.
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).
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 Caraval, The 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.
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.
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!
*A Man Booker nominee
**A Baileys nominee
*A Feminist Book cover to cover
**‘A Blue Cover’
*A Graphic Novel
A Horror Book
***Finish a series you’ve started
A friend’s favourite book
*Book over 500 pages
*Book under 150 pages
Book with a character with your name
***A book from your TBR
*******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 & Zooey. Crown’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.
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 Mistborntrilogy 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 Ruinby 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.
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.
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:
*A Man Booker nominee
**A Baileys nominee
*A Feminist Book cover to cover
**‘A Blue Cover’
*A Graphic Novel
A Horror Book
***Finish a series you’ve started
A friend’s favourite book
*Book over 500 pages
*Book under 150 pages
Book with a character with your name
*A book from your TBR
****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.