Oof. I have not read much this month. Or at least, I haven’t finished many books. I have started at least three books I haven’t finished and possibly won’t ever finish. Maybe I’ll blog about those another time.
We had two fab weekends away in London, enjoying sunshine, music, art, time with friends and some spectacular thunder and lightning. This month’s highlight was seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform last Friday. I love them so much and they were on top form.
We also visited the South Bank Book Fair under Waterloo Bridge for the first time in years. I used to go there fairly often. It was always pricey and skewed towards maps and antiquities, but books! Tim found a collection of SF short stories edited by Harry Harrison. I found a novel by Yukio Mishima. We went to a bar on a balcony over the Thames and cracked open those books over a drink and a snack. It was beautiful.
This month I also went to the Bristol Old Vic production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I had never seen a stage production of this play before, only the Vivien Leigh film, and it was terrific. Funny, disturbing, full of heat in every sense. Many thanks to my friend T for inviting me along.
As always happens with those first glimmers of summer, my lupus is flaring a little, so I am watching a lot of films and TV and not reading many books. But it will pass. And the month’s reading started off strong.
I am currently halfway through my Easter read-a-thon and bang on schedule: I’ve finished three of the six books I’m hoping to read before the end of Monday. But I am also full of cold and feeling a little rubbish, so the Netflix and Youtube breaks have been getting longer…
Much like this bank holiday weekend, March as a whole has been a mixed bag. It snowed twice, which was pretty but the one time we went out in it further than the local park I twisted my ankle. And that meant I didn’t run for almost a whole month, which makes me worry a little bit about that pesky 10k race in six weeks’ time.
On the plus side we did an awesome gyoza cooking class arranged by a local cafe called Eatchu last weekend and now our freezer is full of tofu, mushroom and spinach dumplings. Surprisingly it seems to be the cooking them part that is defeating us so far but that might be because they require a 100% non-stick pan, not ones where not only the non-stick but all the materials appear to be peeling off in places. I think we need new frying pans.
Brrr. Storm Emma has well and truly hit Bristol and I am cold, even huddled on the sofa under a blanket. The snow has been falling non-stop all day and is expected to keep it up all through tomorrow as well. We’ve changed our weekend plans from going away and seeing to art to hunkering down and maybe venturing out to take some photos – making our own art.
February was a pretty good reading month for me. I finished Anna Karenina and followed that up with a few short books to give myself a refresh. And then I read one of the best books I’ve found in a few years: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal. I loved that book so much. Eventually I will write a proper review, but you can see my initial thoughts below.
Thankfully our local chippy is still open so we have loaded up on fat and carbs to see us through the frozen night. Any excuse gladly taken!
I would like to cut down my TBR without it feeling like a chore. I currently have 133 books that I have bought and not yet read, which is massive. And I know I’m never going to get it down to 20 or 30 books, neither do I want to, but under 100 would feel more manageable, maybe even under 80.
Then again, that would mean almost a year of reading without buying new books. It seems unlikely. And new books always seem more exciting than ones that have been sitting around for a while. (See, for instance, the fact that I started reading my new copy of Anna Karenina as soon as we got back from holiday. Not that I regret finally embarking on this classic, but 822 pages of one book means not tackling four normal-sized books.)
(I’m cheating a bit and backdating this post to 31 December 2017 so that I can find it in future when I look for it.)
We were mid-dream holiday at the end of December, so I didn’t summarise my end-of-year reading at the time. But I read some great books in December so I’m going to dredge my memory for my thoughts on each of them below.
Also, I’ve already picked my top books of the year, but I love to dissect my annual reading stats, so here goes: I read 78 books in 2017, starting with The Girl With All the Gifts by M R Carey and finishing with The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon – which were both pretty good. Of those books, 35 were by men, 42 by women, and one by multiple authors of both genders. 12 were works in translation, which just about hit my target of one per month, though I’d still like to do better. Similarly, I read 8 books from my Classics Club list, which isn’t quite on target so I’m going to have to pick up the rate for the next two years.
I’ve read some really good books this year. And some mediocre ones. But now is the time to sing the praises of the very best finds of 2017. It’s interesting to see the trends in what I have enjoyed the most.
In reverse order, here are my top five books of those I have read this year.
Compiling this blog post I realise I’ve read a lot of comics this month. I have to some extent been saving my brain space for learning Japanese before the big trip to Tokyo, which is now three weeks away (eek!).
I am enjoying winter so far – perhaps because it’s been mostly dry. I love a cold, dry day. It’s lovely to be outside in it, but it’s even better to be indoors looking at it! And of course, the long dark nights are a great excuse for curling up on the sofa with a book or TV show.
After finding myself in a bit of a reading rut in August, I tried a few things in September to get myself reading again. I tried YA, rereads and graphic novels. It all helped, and now I’m back on track and have made headway in a couple of long books: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and A Little Life by Hanna Yanagihara. I think both will be challenging and upsetting, but hopefully also rewarding.
This week, Tim and I took a holiday at home, making a little more of our lovely city than we’d usually fit into one week. We went to the Old Vic theatre, the zoo, the Arnolfini art gallery and a very funny science show called You Can’t Polish a Nerd. Plus some great restaurants, our favourite pub quiz and some very lazy lie-ins. It was pretty great and definitely relaxing.
And then September becomes October, and autumn is most definitely here. Time for some Daphne du Maurier, if I can get through the Ellison and the Yanagihara quickly enough.