This is the blog post I intended to write last Sunday night, but I was exhausted from having such a full weekend so I curled up on the sofa with a book and fell asleep. It’s not a bad way to end the week!
And what exactly did I fill last weekend with? Well, I’m going to start with Friday morning because that way I get to mention something I’m super proud of: I ran 8 km before going to work last Friday. That is the furthest I have run yet, and marks the first time I felt actually confident that I will be able to run 10 km by early May, when the Bristol race that I’ve entered comes around. (I tried to repeat the achievement this week and managed 7.5 km, which is not to be sniffed at, but slightly disappointing when I now know I can beat it!)
This month had some pretty big ups and downs. I had a lovely birthday. I successfully managed to run three times every week. We had a fantastic weekend in London, looking at art and watching the stage show Lazarus.
I have also despaired at the news even more than usual. On Monday evening I joined thousands on College Green in Bristol protesting against the US “Muslim ban”. These really do feel like dark scary times but I have to hope that continuing to raise my voice against injustice helps.
To distract myself from world affairs, I’ve managed to read a decent amount and I’ve also watched a lot of films. I thought La La Land was a lot of fun in the first half, then kinda bittersweet. Not the best film ever but very good nonetheless. Plus Tim and I have ploughed our way through almost four whole seasons of Dexter. (Speaking of which: has anyone read the book it’s based on, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay? Would I like it?)
Here’s to February, hints of early spring and escaping into books! In the US February is Black History Month but in the UK it’s LGBT History Month (we do black history in October) so I’ll be choosing some reading based on that. What are your February reading plans?
During Trump’s first nine days in office I have been constantly thinking about civil rights, women’s rights…human rights, basically, and how they are being threatened and outright denied. As well as doing practical things to help – donating to refugee charities and subscribing to newspapers that I feel are doing vitally necessary journalism – I also wanted to base my reading around these subjects. And then I heard there was already a BookTube project to do just that.
Tim and I have just got back from four days in London. We saw lots of art, mostly photography, hence the new purchases below. I highly recommend the Malick Sidibé exhibition at Somerset House. And I have loved Philippe Halsman’s work ever since being prompted to seek him out after reading a novelisation of his life, called The Jump Artist, five years ago.
But the eagle-eyed will spot that not all the below books are photography-related. We also bought the script of Lazarus, the musical written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh in 2015. The main reason for our trip to London was that my Christmas present to Tim was tickets to the production of Lazarus in London. It’s the Broadway transfer, so we got to see its original star Michael C Hall, AKA TV’s Dexter. That was pretty exciting.
One of the things I like about having my birthday right at the beginning of the year is that I always get to start the year with new books. Whether that means I’m given books (I generally am) or I buy them for myself because I’m allowed to treat myself on my birthday (I often do), new year equals new books. Which is awesome. Here’s this year’s haul.
Happy New Year’s Eve! To quote Tim’s newest T-shirt, 2016 sucked. I’m not sure how, but I have to hope that 2017 will be better.
That said, this year wasn’t all bad. There has been great music, great theatre, great art and of course great books. I read 80 books this year (less than last year) or 20,571 pages (more than last year). I read 12 classics towards the Classics Club, including finally getting round to reading books I’ve had on the TBR for many years.
I read 21 books in translation, from many different languages (my spreadsheet shows 10 languages but in addition, Angela Carter’sBook of Fairy Tales was translated from all over the world), which is more than double what I managed last year. 24 books were by authors from a country other than the US or UK, which again is up on last year.
I read 32 books by men, 40 by women and 8 by authors of both genders, which I’m happy with. I read 4 poetry books, 4 short story collections, 9 non-fiction books and 20 comics, leaving an overwhelming 43 fiction books. I think I should read more non-fiction next year.
Happy holidays! I’ve had a week off work and I have read half a book. Crazy! In fairness it’s a big book – 684 pages in the edition I have. And I finally finished it this morning, just in time for a New Year fresh start. If I feel like reading today, I’ll dig out a short story or three, but I think we’re running out of time to do stuff before going out for New Year anyway.
I have sadly failed to complete my reading bingo card. Even cheating a little bit by including short stories for two of the remaining categories, I didn’t manage to tick everything off. But I think in general I did pretty well and it did encourage me to read a few things I otherwise wouldn’t have – including my epic reread of Sophie’s Choice.
Tomorrow I’ll weed out the TBR a little as my kind and generous family gave me 10 new books for Christmas and I’m expecting/hoping for a couple more for my birthday next week. Lovely lovely bookses.
But for now I’ll quickly list my December reads and then get to my annual stats in another post.
I have long felt a special affinity for 23 December. In my childhood we called it Christmas Eve Eve, which delighted me. For several years (or maybe only three, but enough for it to feel like a tradition) this was the day when we would go to the woods in search of holly, mistletoe and other foliage to decorate our house with (along with all the usual paper and foil stuff).
I’m not sure why this was a big deal to me. I mean, I loved romping through the woods, but we lived in the Forest of Dean so that wasn’t exactly unusual. It’s been a long time now, but my memory of those Christmas Eve Eve forages is overwhelmingly of being with my Dad, so perhaps that’s what it was – he worked long hours so time with him was (and still is) precious.
This past week I celebrated 10 years in my current job, which means that last month Tim and I completely missed celebrating 10 years of living in Bristol. 10 years! For Tim that’s the longest he’s spent living in one place (though not quite yet the longest in one house as we have moved around Bristol a little); I still have a ways to go on that front as I lived in the same house from age 0 to 20. But I’m happy enough in Bristol that I can well believe I’ll still be here in another 10 years.
I love Bristol. And not least because the music scene here is fantastic. This week I’d made a note that Amy Rigby was playing at a pub near our house, but then realised we wouldn’t be able to see her because we already had tickets to see Kate Tempest that night. Which I can’t complain about at all because the Kate Tempest gig was one of the best of my life. Absolutely incredible.
She performed her new album Let Them Eat Chaos in its entirety, which is the only way to do it as it’s a single story told in poetry, rap and song over the course of 50 minutes or so. It is smart, politically and socially motivated, beautiful, funny, angry and hopeful. As when we saw her perform this without musical backing at the Downs Concert, Kate put so much of herself into it that she was in tears at the end, and not just one or two stray tears either. I love Kate and truly think she is a force for good and positivity in this world that seems to be sorely lacking in those things far too often.
This blog post is part of a blog tour organised by Virago for the release of Lauren Graham’s new book Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything In Between. Obviously I am very excited about this book, and the new Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and the excuse to talk about Gilmore Girls.
Gilmore Girls used to be a guilty pleasure for me, until I realised how very much love there is for it, allowing me to stop hiding my love and full-on geek over it! It’s basically a really high quality soap opera. I’ve always related to both the main characters, Rory and Lorelai. Rory is a bookish nerd, as I was as a teen, but Lorelai is cool, capable and almost always cheerful, as I aspire to be now. I can never hope to be as beautiful as Lauren Graham or Alexis Bledel, but I can definitely learn a lot from how Lorelai is such a great friend and all-around person.
Which brings me to my favourite Lorelai moment. I suppose this includes some minor spoilers if you’ve not watched any Gilmore Girls, but most of these details aren’t intrinsic to the longer plotlines through the series.