Because new year’s resolutions are invariably doomed to failure, for the last couple of years I have opted to set myself challenges instead. Go for a ten-mile run every Sunday, cut refined sugar out of my diet completely, take up drawing lessons so that I can learn how to sketch all of those pigs flying by…
Of course my challenges have been book-related. In 2016, following all the media discussion around a “Year of Publishing Women“, I embarked upon a year of only reading books written by female authors. I won’t dwell on what I took from that experience right now; suffice it to say that I successfully stuck to my rule, and read a total of 46 books.
This year, my challenge/goal is a little simpler: to read a minimum of 50 books by the 31st December. As we are now a third of the way through 2017, this seems like a good time to take stock of what I have read so far. As of this moment, I am ahead of schedule, with 18/50 books read (I’ve included the full list at the end of this post, in case anyone is interested). A few thoughts on what I have read so far:
- After first realising last year just how great short story collections could be, I continue to be blown away by some utterly stunning collections. Best of the year so far has been Mark Haddon’s The Pier Falls. I also enjoyed Irenosen Okojie’s Speak Gigantular (“Why is Pepe Canary Yellow?” was utterly brilliant), although I am becoming increasingly aware that surrealist stories don’t quite draw me in the way realist ones do.
- The Tidal Zone was utterly beautiful. Given the simplicity of its premise – daughter collapses, family has to adjust – I was unsure whether it would really appeal to me. I am so glad I gave it a try, encouraged by a review from Jen Campbell. I urge everyone to pick up a copy.
- I’m rapidly becoming a Virginia Woolf fan. I made this realisation while reading a novel that wasn’t even written by Woolf. Michael Cunningham’s The Hours (another Jen Campbell recommendation) can only be described as a love-letter to Mrs Dalloway. It reaffirmed everything I love about her writing: the thoughtful tangents, quiet observations, and sentences that build endlessly into a single moment of clarity. I’m mid-way through Orlando at present, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about that when I’m finished.
- So far, my least favourite read of 2017 (of an admittedly strong collection) was Ready Player One. I had heard such hype around it, and it did not live up to my high expectations. Not necessarily a bad book, just not my type of book.
My 2017 bookshelf, part 1 (January-April):
1. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
2. The Hours – Michael Cunningham
3. Homegoing* – Yaa Gyasi
4. The Good Immigrant – Nikesh Shukla
5. The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss
6. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi
7. A Room of One’s Own* – Virginia Woolf
8. Life After Life* – Kate Atkinson
9. The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami
10. Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller
11. The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
12. Ariel – Sylvia Plath
13. The Book of Night Women – Marlon James
14. The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon
15. The Unseen World* – Liz Moore
16. My Name is Lucy Barton* – Elizabeth Strout
17. Speak Gigantular – Irenosen Okojie
18. The Mirror of Ink* – Jorge Luis Borges