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.
I have always read for pleasure. I was never one of those people who resented the books I had to read for school or university – I did choose to study English lit after all. But I must admit I looked forward to the time after my degree when I would be free to read whenever I wanted to.
And that is what I have aimed to do ever since – reading by whim, not feeling bad about setting aside a book I’m not enjoying, or choosing a gripping crime novel over a slower, more “literary” alternative.
Except of course, my reading wasn’t entirely free. I have some self-imposed logic behind each choice. There are books I have agreed to review, selections for book groups I attend, reading challenges I’ve signed up to. And even beyond those, the reasons for my choices are not purely pleasure. There’s also self-education – expanding my horizons, reading books I feel I ought to read and literally learning stuff – and the guilt of the TBR, that I really should read that book my Dad bought because I put it on my Amazon wishlist 10 years ago in an ambitious moment.
Reading just for pleasure is surprisingly rare for me. And it’s also hard to pin down quite what that means. Because there is a certain enjoyment in racing through an easy, pacy read, but they can be badly written and the effect is not unlike eating junk food – very tasty initially but even before you’re done you feel bloated and dissatisfied.
I have not read many books this month. I am, however, part-way through not one, not two, but three books. And for the first time in a while I’m riveted by my current read. I have missed that feeling.
This month we have again been busy. We went to the Great British Beer Festival (many beers, but it felt odd drinking them in a conference centre) and to the Science Museum (always excellent), revisited Reading University campus, watched 1987 film classic The Lost Boys on an outdoor screen at Bristol Zoo (bats flying over the audience added to the atmosphere and walking past the lions at night is genuinely a little scary), did a treasure trail around Bristol Harbour and celebrated our 15th anniversary. So maybe it’s not surprising that I struggled to find time to read.
I chose my online moniker more than 10 years ago when I joined Flickr. I ran through various options, including some I had used before, such as “The onion girl” – the cheesy idea that there are many layers to me, shamelessly stolen from a novel of the same name by Charles de Lint – but none felt like me until I hit on “Nose in a book”.
It’s not an original term, and I’m not the only “Nose in a book” on the Internet, but it’s a phrase that has described me all my life. As a young child if I was going to flout rules, there was probably a book involved: reading through my meals despite the “no books at the dinner table” command; reading in bed long after lights out (I always had a torch and books stuffed down the side of my mattress); even reading when I had invited a friend over to play, and leaving my sister to occupy the poor guest. My parents, being reasonable sorts, didn’t actually mind this type of rule-breaking (though some of my potential friends probably did) and would tease me gently about it.