Reading in 2018

I like to take my time with new year resolutions. I quite enjoy the ponderousness of this time of year, thinking about where I’d like to be and what I might be doing in 12 months. Given how incredibly dark the last few mornings have been, it’s rather nice to be focusing on hopeful thoughts about all the things I might achieve (before I roll over and hit snooze and vow to do better tomorrow!)

On the subject of blogging and books, I have definite thoughts. I read in a very loose, impulsive, mood-driven way last year. It was lovely and clearly exactly what I needed, but I feel like recently I’ve been craving some structure. I’ve also stopped challenging myself with books and feel like I might be a little stuck in the comfort-zone. Squishy and reliable it may be, but I can’t shake the nagging voice that keeps reminding me of the rewards there are if you crawl out from under the duvet once in a while.

At the beginning of last year, after the move, I wanted to ‘read my own damn books’. I didn’t  get very far with that and I suspect when the gongs went on 31 Dec 2017, my TBR was longer than ever. On the plus side, I DID fulfil my goal of streamlining. In fact, I went a bit bonkers for streamlining, giving away boxes of books, cutting down my TBR and facing up to what was actually sharing my home. There are still a lot of unread books but they are now sorted, catalogued and on a shelf, leaving me feeling like we’ve all been reacquainted and they’re not going to languish in boxes and dimly-lit corners this year. Plus I made the TBR jar – woop!

So, this year I’m going to choose my books by rotating through the following categories to avoid settling into a rut or letting myself be too ruled by whim:

  • TBR jar
  • On impulse / wild card
  • Recently published (i.e. 2018)
  • Favourite author back catalogues

In addition, I’d love to accomplish the following:

  • Post twice a week – I’ve really enjoyed getting the blog back on track and engaging more meaningfully with all the other lovely blogs I’ve followed for years.
  • Clear the pile of books that seems to permanently loom at my bedside – and not put it back almost immediately afterwards.
  • Take part in some more blogging/reading ‘events’ – perhaps a virtual book tour, or something like the fab #TheDarkIsReading twitter readalong.
  • Write a guest post – I’ve long nurtured the goal of writing a review for Shiny New Books. Maybe this will be the year.

Hoping 2018 is going to bring you all lots of excellent books. Let’s get started.

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2016 – Looking back at books

Looking back:

A lot happened in 2016 that wasn’t about books so I’m particularly proud to have managed to read a fair amount – and a lot of it great. I’ve just been having a browse through my list of books read this year and these are the standouts (in the order in which they were read):

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  • Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – a witty, gentle read by a man whose achievements should put him at real risk of hubris and yet who displays anything but as he explains how he did what he did, with some excellent ‘zero gravity’ stories along the way. Read my review here.
  • Michel Faber’s The Courage Consort – an exquisitely crafted novella about musicians on the brink of crisis. Dark, funny and with a warmth at its heart that I’m amazed Faber managed to create in so short a read. Read my review here.
  • Margaret Forster’s My Life in Houses – a poignant, wise read about how bricks and mortar become the bones of a life. It also came along at just the right time for me.
  • Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife – this was a reread for me and is supposedly a fictionalised look at the experiences of former First Lady Barbara Bush. I’m always drawn to the personal stories behind the political or the historical; the perspective that helps you remember that everyone is also a person, no matter how much the media may obscure that. A gripping and insightful read.
  • Sylvain Tesson’s Consolations of the Forest – the book I feel most guilty for not having written up and perhaps the one I’m most likely to reread soon. Tesson spent six months living alone in a remote cabin in Siberia, fortified by vodka, cigars and tabasco. This book came out of the diaries he kept and is both beautiful, thought-provoking and inspiring.
  • TaraShea Nesbit’s The Wives of Los Alamos – an unusual book about a deeply unusual experience; in this case, that of the women who accompanied the men who built the atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. Read my review here.

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  • Christine Montross’ Falling Into The Fire – a moving and unexpectedly poetic example of how to write about mental illness without dehumanising the individuals involved. Read my review here (which also features Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial, a book that should probably also be on this list).
  • Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings – an expansive book that follows the lives of six teenagers from their first meeting at a summer camp for those interested in the arts. Once immersed, I found this a believable and absorbing exploration of how envy, loyalty, money and passion can affect the relationships between people.
  • Jess Kidd’s Himself – probably my book of the year and a review will follow in the next couple of days. It’s been written for a while but I gifted (foisted) this particular book on a close friend who also occasionally reads the blog and didn’t want to inadvertently reveal the book before she’d received it!

 

 

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Looking ahead:

I tend to love the idea of shaping my reading more than the reality so I’ve been cautious when thinking about reading resolutions for 2017.  Setting reading aside for a moment, I’d like to write more here in the new year. That means featuring more of the books that I enjoy and trying to create more of a dialogue about them. I also have some ideas for how I’d like to develop the blog and some personal goals for my writing in a wider sense that – apologies – I will keep close to my chest for now.

When it comes to reading, like much of the book blogging community at the beginning of 2016, I am now feeling committed to ‘read my own damn books’, whether that be on my shelves or in the ether of my TBR list. Moving house this year brought it back to me anew just how many books I own and the proportion that remain unread. Coupled with a TBR list that seems permanently stuck at around 500 titles, I feel like I could benefit from just hunkering down and reading a few of the books I’m already excited about rather than constantly being diverted by the new and shiny.

I’m also feeling newly passionate about streamlining my book collection. In the past, I’ve always been the type to keep everything, like a rather large and unwieldy ‘diary’ of book exploits past. Now I feel as if I want the books I keep to be those that bring me real pleasure.

So 2017 will be a year of shortening lists and letting go. I’d like to start 2018 feeling a little less overwhelmed by all the books I always intended to read.

Other than that, I shall selfishly continue to read what I want in a gloriously scattergun way!

Happy new year everyone. Wishing you all a lot of love, happiness and books in the year ahead.