How are we all?
I thought it might be a good idea to take stock of what I’ve been reading this year as we come to the end of the sixth month. I’ll be looking through books I’ve acquired and books I’ve loved to read, as well as how I’ve tried to dedicate more time for reading this year.
So, let’s get started!
Books I’ve picked up:
I’ve tried really hard to not to not go overboard in buying books at the start of this year as I bought so many in the lead up to Christmas. Suffice it to say, I did not succeed as well as I’d have liked. That’s what working in a bookshop does for you, I guess.
These are the books I picked up from the bookshop during those first few months of the year:
While at a Midlands blogger meet-up, I found two Daphne du Maurier novels that I’ve not read before. I love these older covers so couldn’t not buy them (same for this copy of Julius that I purchased while Novel Observations visited earlier this month).
Now, when Novel Observations and I decided to go to this year’s Hay Festival, we knew that having time to spend in Hay town as well as the festival site would be equally exciting and dangerous (to our bank accounts and tote-carrying shoulders). We decided to have a browse in as many bookshops as we could, and go back afterwards for the books we actually wanted. We’d have loved to buy from every single shop – independent booksellers are vital for reading and writing communities – but alas! You can find out more about our trip to Hay Festival (and what I ended up buying) by following the link here!
I’ve also been sent some lovely books from publishers, both for review and as competition prizes, that are pictured below.
The books I’ve received for review from publishers have been really enjoyable this year. Last year, when I was setting up my blog and building those connections with publishers, I had a habit of just requesting anything, which meant there was a lot I didn’t enjoy or found it difficult to review. Now, I take the time to read more about the book first to make sure it’s something I really do want to read.
(Seriously, though, every time I receive a parcel in the post, I’m struck by how lucky I am to be in this position. It’s such a privilege to be offered these books, for free, and read them before anyone else, and I’m grateful to every publisher that has ever sent a book, or invited me to join a blog/Instagram tour).
While I love listening to audiobooks, I’ve found it easier this year to re-listen to old favourites than get into new ones, and I’m not sure why. I’ve finished three new purchases this year, and have two others that I’m currently listening to. The audiobook of White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, is incredible and I wholeheartedly recommend it to you all.
I’ve also made a real effort to continue using my local library, especially for my book club reads. Not only because libraries are important to our communities, and they’re another way to support authors, but also because it encourages me to read the book I pick each month sooner. I sometimes buy books impulsively – I see a beautiful cover or read an intriguing blurb, and think ‘I MUST HAVE THAT NOW’ – but it’s so easy to just put it on the shelf and leave it unread for a while. The time limit on borrowing books encourages me to not leave them lying around unread, and the fact that I can then return them also means that my ever increasing collection of physical books doesn’t expand even further.
In June, I was introduced to The Pigeon Hole, a website and app that serialises books into ‘staves’. New releases are published in these staves day-by-day and readers can then comment and discuss with each other what’s happening in the book. I loved this approach to reading when I tried it with Social Creature, by Tara Isabella Burton. I then won a hardback copy as part of a social media competition run by The Pigeon Hole!
And finally….I received this book for my birthday last week from (you guessed it) Novel Observations. She knows me so well!
My Top 5 books of 2018 so far:
I set myself a Goodreads goal of 50 books this year – not a big number, but still daunting. I try not to stress myself about it too much, and just read at my own pace – I use it more as a ‘guide’ really to track what I’ve read.
Having said that, it’s great to be over halfway towards this goal at the middle of the year. OK, it’s only by one book but I’m really happy with my reading progress this year. After a chaotic 2017, where my reading time decreased dramatically (and partly as a consequence, so too did my mental equilibrium), I’ve made a conscious effort to allocate some time for reading or listening to a book each day. Whether it’s the 20 minute drive to work, my lunch hour, or a whole afternoon on a day off, that time with a book has an amazing ability to refresh my mind, and I feel so much better generally when I read even a little bit each day.
While I’d love to summarise all of my reads this year, it might perhaps make for too long a post, so I’m going to stick with 5 (although this list itself is not ranked – I couldn’t pick a favourite!). You can find all of my reviews by following the links in the titles below!
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gowar – a historical novel set in Georgian London. Jonah Hancock, a merchant trader, soon finds himself in possession of an usual object that the captain of his ship assures him is a mermaid. In his attempts to profit from his new ‘treasure’, Mr. Hancock meets Angelica Neal, a courtesan who must now negotiate her own way again after years of being a kept mistress. This novel is witty and insightful, and Gowar’s prose is stunning.
The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder, by Sarah J. Harris – a crime thriller with a truly unique narrator protagonist. Jasper Wishart lives with face-blindness and a form of synaesthesia, where sounds produce sensations of colour. Though it could be confusing at times, frustrating when people refused to understand him, Jasper was quite happy living in his world of colour. That is, until a new colour appeared: the colour of Bee Larkham’s murder. Poignant, thoroughly researched, and gripping, this book is a remarkable read.
I Am Thunder, by Muhammad Khan – the story of a fifteen year old Muzna, trying to find her place in the world amidst the social pressures of her London school, her parents’ expectations, and growing cultural tensions in the UK. Khan’s experience as a secondary school teacher provides the voices of his teenage characters with an authenticity that lifts the whole work – he understands the pressures they face, and as such, how easy it can be for some to find themselves in horrifying situations as Muzna does.
All The Light We Cannot See, by Antony Doerr (awaiting full review) – set during the German occupation of France in World War II, this Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of paths crossing across enemy lines. Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six, and her father has made it his life’s mission to help her navigate the world using a series of models he makes of their neighbourhood. When he is arrested by the Germans, she must learn to be independent as her world becomes ever more dangerous. Then one terrifying night, her only hope of rescue lies with a young German soldier. This book is long, but the story flows so smoothly, the pages almost turn themselves.
Stay With Me, by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (awaiting full review) – one of my most recent reads, and my word, it is stunning. Set against the backdrop of political unrest in Nigeria, Stay With Me is a powerful tale of love and heartbreak as a couple desperately strives to save their marriage, and each other. Adebayo has a real talent for dialogue and characters, all of which are vivid, textured, and witty. This debut is a fantastic showcase of a bright new voice in fiction writing.
Other highlights include Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, The Lido, by Libby Page, and my current read, The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap (which could well be in my top 5 of 2018 at the end of the year).
What have been your reading highlights of 2018 so far?
***I’d also like to say a huge thank you to you all for reading my blog – I really love talking about books with you all!