Monday, 26 December 2016

My 2016 in books

It's been so quiet on here recently. So much stuff takes a while to process, and I think Great Thoughts but then don't get the space to articulate them while they're fresh. Honestly, I might regain the habit in 2017, but something I did manage this year was to log everything I read on Goodreads. I'd rather have written a proper blog post about each, but that seemed a sheer steep challenge, whereas two lines on Goodreads was manageable. Something that's interesting to me is how some books can make a massive impression while you're still in them, but fade away quickly like a cheap takeaway, and some burn more slowly. This doesn't really get captured if you're logging and writing about books as you read them (but I wanted to do this for the sake of keeping my stats up) so I felt sure I'd enjoy looking over my list for the year to see what stood out.  

January 2016 - 7 books
 January usually starts with some impulse reads, picked up for peanuts in the kindle sale, and there were some turkeys in here. I didn't enjoy the Danny Baker autobiography anywhere near as much as I'd hoped I would, and War Horse was a proper letdown - yes, I know it's a children's book, but I really don't think that's an excuse. But it was my time for falling in love with a new author, too - Sarah Moss captured my soul and heart with Night Waking which I think I might reread once a year while my children are still even slightly small, and then Bodies of Light which is a sort of follow up, or maybe you'd call it a companion, was just as wonderful.  

February 2016 - 6 books
A funny one - I seemed to rate most things at four stars and I feel odd about the only one I truly loved - The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It helped me to crystallise a resolution not to read anyone else's Goodreads reviews before I wrote my own, because I want to be honest and also not to be influenced by others' strong feelings. So many people railed against this one but I can't help it, I loved it (though I remember so little about it already, beyond how much I liked it). I was fascinated by Do no Harm, the memoir by a neurosurgeon, though I'd not read it again.

 March 2016 - only one book??
 Struggling to know what happened here. The only thing on my list is Lean In which is an exceedingly readable long essay, really, on what you might call "corporate feminism" - it gave me vague echoes of how past-Helen might have bought into all this stuff, before past-Helen went off and had babies and changed her views somewhat. Ah! Realised this was also the month I read The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2 which I couldn't find on Goodreads but actually did manage to blog about here.

 April 2016 - 6 books
  All becomes clear! There were some short reads in here, including several of the Little House on the Prairie series, and gosh, a small book of poems, Newborn by Kate Clanchy which I guzzled down in one sitting, sobbing, and then again the next day, sobbing again. It's just exquisite, start to finish. But - the big point is that I finished Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety: what a read, it took me so long, and pretty much stopped me reading anything else in March. I still don't know what to say about it - I remember it as a slog, and worth it, but still disappointing to me because it wasn't Wolf Hall, and in fact for me has been the least engaging of her books. I'm glad I read it, but it was a big time-spend.  

May 2016 - 2 books
Again this is a mystery to me. I was thrilled to discover Elizabeth Taylor - it was Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont that I happened to pick up, because it happened to be in the kindle sale, but I'm looking out for more. It was small in scope, and subtle in action, and entirely delicious. I enjoyed Our Endless Numbered Days too, though one part of the plot irritated me, and was slightly taken aback to see the author had read (and liked) my Goodreads review.  

June 2016 - what happened?
Goodreads says I didn't read anything. I think this was partly my new job, and partly a logging failure. Looks like I caught up the next month.  

July 2016 - 9 books
I read the rest of the Little House series, some in June, I think, and some more gorgeous perfect Sarah Moss, this time Signs for Lost Children. I was properly intrigued by Kirsty Logan's The Gracekeeper though seemingly not enough to give it five stars.  

August 2016 - 2 books

Again I dimly recall something was slowing me down here, because the two I read were both quite enjoyable - The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Sweet Home but both properly slight, in the way modern fiction is. It's becoming a noticeable pattern for me that if I'm reading something on my kindle that I'm not enjoying, it stops me reading at all, because I feel I'm not "allowed" to start anything else. This puts me in a cross mood and generally flattens everything for me, and I'm still not sensible enough to notice when it's happening and get a grip (by, for instance, closing the book).  

September 2016 - half-hearted Bookering

 I read Eileen and His Bloody Project which were both sort of fine, but uninspiring, and I've forgotten most of already. Then I got significantly stuck in the next one.

 October 2016 - NOTHING  

November 2016 - 6 books
 In a perfect illustration of my observation above, I got completely jammed in The Sellout. For about the first quarter I thought I was beholding genius. Really, I was spellbound, but reader, the spell wore off. This let me get myself in such a state that I abandoned the Booker shortlist project only half way through. Highlights after this, though, were the lovely Hollie McNish poetry and prose collection Nobody told me and then Olive Kitteridge which was just burstingly sad in an autumnal sort of way, like the Elizabeth Taylor it is just exquisitely drawn on a small canvas, and has put Elizabeth Strout very high on my list to read more of as soon as I can.

 December 2016 - a rush to the end with 7 books, and the month not even over yet
Some dross in here, but I think All the Light We Cannot See will stick with me for a long time. I was a bit let down by dear Sarah Moss with Cold Earth, which didn't quite live up to my hopes, but then, it was her first novel, and the mood it created was powerful, and besides I love her and will hear nothing bad said of her. Also at my great age I have finally read The Dark is Rising and it was just as excellent as I'd been led to believe it would be.

 What's next?
So much to read in 2017. I've a stack of more and less accessible books on feminism which are calling out loudly to me, and some things lined up on the Kindle, and am hoping to pick up a big batch of 99p bargains, though the sale so far this Christmas has been rubbish. I do love my modern fiction, and this will help if I up my target from 2016's 48 books (which I just about managed) to a neat 52. But I don't want to resist the longer reads, and rereading A Christmas Carol the other day, as I do every year, has made me want to go back to Dickens. So we'll see. I need to be bolder about stopping books if I'm just not enjoying them, and I need to keep focussed on picking up my kindle rather than wasting my brain browsing the internet on my phone. But mainly I just want to keep reading, and keep noting what I've read, and keep talking about books to anyone who will listen. It's been a long post, and I can't promise I won't do another one about everything else in 2016. Somehow the books bit is the easiest to pin down.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to read your post. I can't quite believe how much you do manage to read given the two energetic boys, work, LLL stuff, every day household stuff and MMBooks and and... Anyway, I recognise most of the books you mention, but not all, so I will check some of them out! All the best for 2017 dear Helen. T xx