2015; A Reading Year in Review

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This is my fourth reading year in review, a baffling feat – I’ve never been this dedicated to anything before. Blogging may have its ups and downs, plaguing me with enthusiasm and boredom, but I do love it. Not only because it pushes me to read (just as reading pushes me to blog), but because I’ve interacted with so many like-minded fellows through it.

I still haven’t matched 2013 in terms of reading brilliance. It was the year I of Ford Madox Ford and Slaughterhouse-Five and nothing has quite matched those reading experiences. Well, almost nothing, the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante was by far the best reading experience of 2015.

2015:

  • 106 books read, 101 new books + 5 re-reads (Harry Potter 1-4 & Our Spoons Came From Woolworths). 5 more than in 2014.
  • 32 5* books. 7 more than 2014, which surprised me – If I went over all of them today I think this number would drop.
  • 2 1* books. Vonnegut and Buchanan respectively. Not all Vonnegut was made equal, for me anyway.

I began the year with Maus by Art Speilgalman and ended it with Kill Your Friends by John Niven – two completely different books for two different Alice’s.

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My top 32 books:

It’s been a good year all in all, I’m looking forward to 2016 being even better.

What are your highlights of 2015?
Have you achieved or done anything special?
What is or will be your first book of 2016?

2014; A Reading Year in Review

Happy new year, book lovers! I hope you had a wonderful NYE and that you’re not hung over. I characteristically did nothing but read to celebrate NYE, it’s too expensive (and tiring) to do otherwise.

2014 was a mellow year, I focused on working hard and saving money – there haven’t been as many highs as there have lows, but all round it’s been a fine year and a great year for reading.

Much like 2013 and 2012 I have discovered many wonderful books. However, unlike its preceding years there were few books that really blew my mind. The more I read the harder I am finding it to be impressed.

I have read 101 books this year, including one I couldn’t finish and a re-read. That is 13 more books than 2013 and 40 more than 2012. Considering I didn’t expect to read more than 50 books I’m fairly impressed with myself, I must really have avoided social situations to have read this much. I am hoping for a more eventful 2015, so I doubt I’ll have another 100 book year.

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I gave 25 books a five-star rating on GoodReads, two more than 2013. However, considering how many more books I read in 2014 I consider this is a lower percentage than both 2013 and 2012.

In chronological order, my five-star books were:

  1. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn
  3. A Good School by Richard Yates
    “Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.”
  4. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
    “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”
  5. Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  7. Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood
    “What a pull he has! What a magnetism! Women jump off balconies and follow him into wars. Women turn their eyes from an affair, because a marriage of three is better than a woman alone.”
  8. Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
  9. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
  10. The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
  11. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
  12. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
    “That life – whatever else it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”
  13. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  14. Precious Thing by Colette McBeth
  15. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    “Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.”
  16. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
  17. Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
  18. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  19. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  20. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
    “Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favourite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in the creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favourite dresses, other people’s trout.”
  21. The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling
  22. Hidden Warrior by Lynn Flewelling
  23. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  24. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
    “The only beginning is birth the only ending is death – if you can’t count on that, what can you count on?”
  25. The Oracle’s Queen by Lynn Flewelling

There is far more fantasy on this list that I think I have had before. I didn’t feel as if anything could replace Parade’s End as my favourite book(s), however, The Secret History came very, very close.

I was surprised by how many books I had considered under par this year, however, the only book in 2014 I regretted reading was Being Binky by Binky Felstead – it wasn’t a book for me.

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Outside of reading, I’ve found some wonderful new blogs this year and written for some of my favourites: Don’t Read Too Fast, EmilyBooks, Shiny New Books. It’s been amazing reading them all, and conversing with you on Twitter, it makes  book blogging all the more enjoyable.

Special shout out to Jenny @ Reading the End for commenting the most in 2014, especially considering I do not repay the courtesy nearly enough.

Happy New Year, ofBooks readers, it’s been another wondrous year reading with you all.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2015?

2013; A Reading Year in Review

At the beginning of 2013 I had promised myself ‘this year would be different’, I would be living in a new city and pulling apart the bubble in which I lived my life. Whilst it’s not gone entirely to plan I have dabbled, experienced, and learnt more this year – outside of my comfort zone – than I have before.

I may not have accomplished the life plan I envisioned, but boy has reading been magnificent! Much like 2012 I have discovered much, read old and new, encountered ACRs, and embraced more non-fiction than ever.

I have read 87 books this year, including two I couldn’t finish and not-including any poetry. That is 27 more books than last year and 32 more than the year before. I don’t expect to hit anywhere near this number in 2014, my unemployment being a major factor in such a high number of books read.

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This year I gave 23 books a five-star rating on GoodReads, the same number as last year (freaky!). (In chronological order) they were:

  1. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
    “This was no longer a great passion. Its pleasures were in its unhurried friendliness, the familiarity of it’s rituals and procedures, the secure, precision-fit of limbs and bodies, comfortable, like a cast returned to its mould.”
  2. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    The best piece of twisted fiction I have ever read, I even rank this above McEwen.
    “My lucky number is e.”
  3. Rebecca by  Daphne du Maurier
    I fell so far into this book I felt the anxiety of the protagonist, du Maurier’s writing being that powerful.
    “I was to marry the man I loved. I was to be Mrs de Winter. It was foolish to go on having that pain in the pit of my stomach when I was so happy. Nerves of Course.”
  4. Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
    You could never class be as either being fashionable or being much interested in fashion, apart from Coddington, who is possibly one of my most favourite of women.
  5.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    A stunning piece of literature, my absolute favourite book of the year.
    “The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
    When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'”
  6. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    An idealised portrayal of bucolic English life; wonderful without being saccharine.
    “He stood staring into the wood for a minute, then said: “What is it about the English countryside — why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?”
    He sounded faintly sad. Perhaps he finds beauty saddening — I do myself sometimes. Once when I was quite little I asked father why this was and he explained that it was due to our knowledge of beauty’s evanescence, which reminds us that we ourselves shall die. Then he said I was probably too young to understand him; but I understood perfectly.”
  7. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
  8. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  9. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  10. Maggie & Me: A Memoir by Damian Barr
    “The Grand Hotel survives. So does Maggie. So will I.”
  11. An Unquiet Mind: by Kay Redfield Jamison
  12. Fifty Shades of Feminism
    Everyone should read this book!
  13. My Brother My Sister by Molly Haskell
    “Rooted in the proverbial experience and the potent undercurrents of family, these propulsive forces of desire, rage, inhibition, and guilt affect the jobs we take (or don’t take, or fail at), the people we choose (or reject), our moods and memories. We’re constantly reminded of how often we act in certain ways contrary to our self-interest, or remember only what fits a chosen (or unchosen) scenario. Over and over again, we reenact patterns of behaviour and make perverse choices – older man, triangles, neediest cases, wounded or crazy or destructive partners – which fly in the face of reason and which e are ‘helpless’ to correct, and so which are hardly ‘choices’ at all.”
  14. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie
  15. The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M. Davis
  16. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
    Moving and beautifully written I see my sections of my religious childhood reflected in these pages.
    “I would cross seas and suffer sunstroke and give away all I have, but not for man, because they want to be the destroyer and never be destroyed. That is why they are unfit for romantic love. There are exceptions and I hope they are happy.”
  17. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  18. Straight White Male by John Niven
  19. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
    Naoki is the sweetest boy I could ever hope to read a book by (that sounds unintentionally patronising, but I mean it all the same).
    “Whenever I overhear someone remark how much I prefer being on my own, it makes me feel desperately lonely. It’s as if they’re deliberately giving me the cold-shoulder treatment.”
  20. Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn
  21. Just Kids by Patti Smith
    I have not the words to express how wondrous this book is.
    “We learned we wanted too much. We could only give from the perspective of who we were and what we had. Apart, we were able to see with even greater clarity that we didn’t want to be without each other.”
  22. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
  23. The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

Nothing this year has come close to replacing Parade’s End as my favourite book(s), not quite matching the intense feelings I experienced reading it. However, there have been so many enjoyable reads; I have read many books I would have previously avoided due to genre, and discovered so many interesting ones through joining NetGalley.

I don’t really have any ‘worst books of the year’ for 2013, mainly because if I wasn’t getting on with a book I decided to stop reading and not force myself through it. However, Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Is it Just Me by Miranda Hart, got my lowest rating on GoodReads, with the only one and two star ratings respectively.

Happy New Year, ofBooks readers, it’s been another swell year reading with you all.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2014?