‘Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.’ – Joseph Addison.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking about reading more.
I used to read a lot. We grew up without a television, which meant that books provided a lot of our entertainment. Every Christmas, our last present under the tree would be a pile of books wrapped in festive paper. I would invariably proceed to devour said books as quickly as possible.
I’ve always been a quick reader. My record is finishing the seventh and final Harry Potter book in just under five hours. Of course, I went back and re-read it a couple of weeks later (once my sisters had finished with it), since skim reading often means you miss a lot, but I’ve remained proud of the speed at which I read that book to this day.
As I’ve grown older, reading has slipped down my list of priorities.
Whilst I still enjoy a good book as much as the next person, I don’t spend half as much time with a book in my hand as I used to. Reading has become something I do mainly when I travel. On an average week long holiday, I can finish off three books, four at a push. My increase in reading during periods of travel correlates to the decreased amount of access I have to good WiFi and therefore to the plethora of TV shows and films available to me on Netflix. No Netflix? You see me reaching for my Kindle and downloading a new book.
Netflix is a bad habit that I’m hoping to break. I’ll never throw off the shackles completely – there are far too many good shows – but I want to start reading more just for my enjoyment, and not only when I’m travelling. I want to start reading before I go to sleep, occasionally on my lunch break or when I’m on the tube. I want reading to become my go-to source of entertainment again. Netflix needs to be cut back.
So, in 2018, I’ve set myself a reading challenge.
I am going to read at least one book a month. Each book has been recommended to me by a friend or family member. Once I’ve read the book, I’m going to discuss it a little with the person who suggested it. I am hoping this challenge will help me understand the people I have around me a tiny bit more, and give us a new topic of conversation when I see them. Additionally, I’ll be adding a review of the Book of the Month, complete with marks out of ten, to my recap posts so that I can let you all know my opinion on what I read.
As well as these twelve books, I have a list of other books I’d like to try and read in 2018. You can find said list at the bottom of this post. I also expect there’ll be other random books thrown in along the way – lighter reads that I pick up when I need a break from something heavier.
All that remains is for you to wish me luck… I think it’s safe to say no-one has given me an ‘easy’ read!
The Twelve Books
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I am so pleased G recommended this as her favourite book and that there is an Agatha Christie novel on my reading list for 2018! I read both ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’ by the same author in 2017, and enjoyed both immensely. Christie is a great crime writer, and I’ve no doubt ‘And Then There Were None’ will be of her usual high standard. It has a high rating of 4.2/5 by GoodReads.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. This 1994 award winning novel was recommended by Mum and will be the second book I read. Rated 4/5 by GoodReads, I am curious to finally read the book that I’ve heard mentioned several times over the years. The book is set in 1950s America, with flashbacks to before the Second World War and a plot revolving around a murder trial. Since it was published, this book has been turned into both a film and a theatre production and has been highly acclaimed, so hopefully it will stand up to the hype and be as good as I am hoping.
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia by Peter Pomerantsev. My friend and colleague B offered up this book as his recommendation. It is not a novel but a biography, rated 4/5 by GoodReads. I have a current fascination with Russia and its difficult, often turbulant, history, so I am excited to dig into this book and see what it has in store for me and what more I can learn about this fascinating country.
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. When E recommended this novel, she wrote: …”… [I] remember being completely in love with it while I was reading. It’s about war time London… and has a really interesting structure too…”. As I love reading any book about the Second World War, I have a feeling I am going to enjoy this book! It is rated 3.7/5 by GoodReads – I wonder if I’ll rate it more highly? I’m looking forward to finding out!
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. A loudly sang the praises of this novel when we were talking about my challenge and bought me my very own copy for my birthday. Another book set in America, this time in New York. The reviews I’ve read make it sound like it is going to be a fascinating book – A has warned me it’s a slow burner so I must persist! A couple of reviews have said that it’s a difficult book. One person mentioned they had to put the book down a couple of times as they couldn’t cope with the horror, so I’m sure it will be a challenge! It’s rated 4.3/5 by GoodReads.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke. When my Dad reads a book twice, you can guarantee it’s a good one! This is one of the few he’s read more than once, and since it’s hardly a quick flick through (I took a look at the book over Christmas, it is hefty!), that must mean something. This is an alternative and magical history of England, rated 3.8/5 by GoodReads and with reviews showing varying degrees of enjoyment. Hopefully, I’ll love it as much as Dad does…
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I watched the film version of this classic, I have to say I was mildly underwhelmed. I therefore balked a little when J informed me that this was her favourite book, but I am determined to read it and see if the book itself is better than the film. After all, it’s rated 4/5 by GoodReads and F. Scott Fitzgerald did also write ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ which I enjoyed immensely. Fingers crossed I find the book better than the film!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Having read the blurb, I have a feeling I’m going to really enjoy this book. More light-hearted than some of the others I’ve been recommended, my sister P has chosen this as her favourite book and the one I should read during this challenge. This book sounds like it will touch on some interesting issues, such as loneliness, social awkwardness and introversion. Rated 4.3/5 by GoodReads, I’m excited to have something quite different to read mid-way through the challenge, before and after some heavier reading!
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. This is A’s favourite book and the one she suggested when I told her about my challenge. Rated 3.9/5 by GoodReads, this novel tells the story of one man retiring from the glitzy London theatre scene and moving to the coast to write his memoirs. Things don’t go to plan, everything is disrupted and the book evolves into a story telling of the strange and unexpected visitors and goings-on that change the main character’s life. It sounds fascinating, and I’m curious to see what I’ll make of it…
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. This was the final book to come to my list, recommended by my friend and colleague P. This is non-fiction, a look into the history of humans and how homo sapiens won the battle and became the only human species to survive, thrive and succeed on earth. This is the most highly rated book by GoodReads that I’ll pick up, 4.4/5! I love a non-fiction book, often more than fictional these days, so am looking forward to getting stuck into this come autumn.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My friends and family certainly haven’t let me off lightly in this challenge! There are a number of hefty books here, with this one being no exception. Recommended by P, and rated 4/5 by GoodReads, this book chronicles the desire for solitude and the need for love. Written by a Colombian author and translated into English, this novel is of the magical realism genre, one that Marquez was credited with helping to introduce to an array of readers. Let’s see what I make of it!
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is, strictly speaking, a bit of a cheat. However, I really wanted to round off my year reading a book I know that I love. And love this book I certainly do. It has been a constant in my life since the first time I read it, many years ago now. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is set in a town in America’s deep south. It is a classic coming-of-age tale, with unforgettable characters. Rated 4.3/5 by GoodReads, it is my go-to book whenever anyone asks me to recommend a favourite.
Additional Reading List
The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron.
An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe.
Night Trains by Andrew Martin.
This is London by Ben Judah.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver.
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now by Craig Taylor.
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.
Island Summer by Tilly Culme-Seymour.
Fatherland by Robert Harris.
More In Common by Brendon Cox.
No Place like Home by Steven Primrose-Smith.
Desert Snow: One Girl’s Take on Africa by Bike by Helen Lloyd.
London Orbital by Iain Sinclair.
Women and Power by Mary Beard.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Lost in Mongolia: Rafting the World’s Last Unchallenged River by Tim Cope.
The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse.
A River of Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa.
Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani.
NB: There will be others. I’ll include a full round-up of the books I’ve read each month in my recap posts… Keep your eyes peeled for updates, reviews and, at the end of 2018, the low-down on my favourite books of the year!