End of year reading review
This year, 2016, has been the first time that I have ever consciously kept a note of all the books I’ve read. I’ve also made an effort to obtain more books, especially now that I have discovered some good sources of English language books at a couple of charities here in France. I’ve developed a healthy ‘to be read’ pile and joined both a virtual and a ‘real-life’ reading group. These few changes have certainly prompted me to read more, and this is something that I plan to continue next year. Spending so much time reading on screen, the only way that I can read for pleasure seems to be real paper books, the Kindle has had very little use this year and I’ve never liked audiobooks.
Goodreads – a great discovery
Recently, I discovered the Goodreads website and am now addicted to it! There is nothing I like more than lists, and here it’s possible to create any number of lists, or virtual bookshelves. Currently, I’m trying to remember all the books that I’ve read in the past, going right back to childhood and creating my own virtual library. It’s a brilliant resource, because there’s no need to actual hold on to these books once you’ve read them (unless you enjoyed the book so much you plan to read it again), the record is there. Another thing I enjoy nearly as much as creating lists is a challenge, and the opportunity to tick things off a list, so I was happy to discover the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Here you can set a target of the number of books you aim to read in the year and monitor your progress. I joined this challenge a bit late this year and I’m not sure that I will achieve my target of fifty books in 2016, but there’s still a few days to go.
So far in 2016, according to my Goodreads records, I’ve read 46 books (and I’ve got number 47 on the go). In the last quarter, covering October, November and December, reading has so far equalled the previous quarter’s twelve books, though I’m hoping to squeeze in another couple over the end of year holidays. I’ve realised from looking at my lifetime reading history that I’m a bit of a sucker for completism – if an author writes a series of books then I like to read them all and in the correct order. In fact, I was surprised at the number of series that I’ve read over the years. This quarter started with a couple of books from the gently humorous, but beautifully written, Alexander McCall Smith series The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. There are seventeen books in total and I was fortunate to pick up the first eight as part of a recent charity shop haul. This quarter I’ve read six of those and I’m now on the lookout for the later books.
The remainder of my ‘more serious’ reading has all been in English, all charity shop finds. I enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, the first in the Jack Brady series. (I’ve read the whole series now, although not in the correct order!) My next choice was Lionel Shriver’s We need to talk about Kevin followed by Any Human Heart by William Boyd, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed for the gripping storylines and superb writing. My next choice was Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, the only book I didn’t enjoy, and in fact, did not read to the end. In the past I’ve read several of Faulks’ wartime novels, Charlotte Grey, The Girl at the Lion D’or and Birdsong, but this novel comprising what were effectively five separate stories I felt was weaker than his previous writing. It reminded me of one of my husband’s favourite remarks when watching a well-known actor in a highly publicised but poor film ‘…he must have phoned in his performance’.
My reading year concluded with two novels that have been on my ‘to read’ list for some time: The Bookseller of Kabul by Anna Seitart, a fascinating insight into life in post-war (?) Afghanistan, and Love in time of cholera by Garcia Marquez Gabriel which is probably going to go down as one of my favourite books of all time for its beautiful descriptive writing, gentle story and deeply developed characters. Looking back over my reading year, I have some particular favourites. Obviously the Garcia novel just mentioned, Annie Proulx’ The Shipping News, which I will read again, The Girl on the Train for its sheer ability to keep me guessing until the very last page, and my favourite French language book, the translated La Biblothéque des coeurs cabossé.
What will next year bring?
I’m planning to set my Goodreads 2017 reading challenge at fifty books again, and I’d like to include a few more French language books. In 2015 I read almost exclusively in French, but new books are expensive here (there’s no discounting allowed). Of course, I could solve this by joining the library but that has been on my New Year Resolution list for the last five years! Now I really must make the effort, especially as one of my plans is to ‘read and re-cycle’ a lot more books. Once I started to build my virtual bookshelf I realised there’s no need to keep books that I am sure I’ll never read again. The real-life book group that I attend encourages book-swapping, and as our meetings are held in the local charity shop’s tearoom there is no excuse not to drop off a consignment of books for sale or swap at each visit.
Happy New Year and happy reading!