Thursday 22 December 2016

Reading Challenge

In an effort to read more this year, I picked up Modern Mrs Darcy's reading challenge in January and have tried to use it to inform my reading this year. It has certainly made me read things I might not have picked up otherwise, which is a great thing. Here's what I've read this year:

1. The House by the Lake - a book I had been meaning to read.
This was serialised on Radio 4 during the Christmas holidays last year which meant that I caught snatches of it three mornings in a row as I drifted in and out of consciousness first thing in the morning. I kept hearing about the Delft tiles. It took me a while I find out which book it actually was but when I got hold of a copy I devoured it, and then bought copies for at least two other people. It's a memoir of a house built next to a lake just outside Berlin: a great walk through 20th century history from an unusual point of view.

2. David Mitchell: Slade House - a book I read in a day. Delightfully creepy, I heard an excerpt on Radio 4 on my way home from a late meeting at work last December and was so spooked I felt nervous walking from my car to the house in the dark. The story is utterly bizarre and had full on Victorian Gothic overtones for me.

3. CJ Sansom: Winter in Madrid - a book I own but had never read. My last go at non-Shardlake Sansom was Dominion which is probably in my top five books of all time, so I was putting off Winter in Madrid in case it wasn't as good. Sadly, I didn't think it was. It was still a cracking read but not as good as Dominion. It's set in Spain shortly after the civil war and follows British people living under the new regime.

4. Ira Levin: The Boys from Brazil - a book published before I was born. I think I must have bought this during a Kindle sale many years ago. I assumed it was about Nazi hunters in south America after WW2, but then I heard it referenced as a sci-fi so I was prompted to dig it out. It was a little unsettling - not at all what I was expecting. It's about Mengele carrying out medical experiments in the Brazilian jungle and other people trying to stop him.

5. Alex Dilmount: Jew Date - a book recommended by an old school friend. This book was written by somebody who was in my class at secondary school (that is a pen name...I can't help but feel there is something a little saucy about it, too). She converted to Judaism in her late twenties to marry a Jewish man. It's an interesting insight into how difficult this actually is.

6. Leanda de Lisle: Tudor: A Family Story - a booked recommended to me by Twitter. This isn't a close family member or a librarian/bookseller but I asked the community of history teachers on Twitter for some help preparing for the new A-level; this was on the list and available when I popped into Waterstones, so this was the first one I read. I really enjoyed it, too. Finished it in 5 days which is some kind of record for me, for non-fiction.

7. Peter Ackroyd: History of England vol 2: the Tudors - a book I needed to read for school (almost but not quite on MMD's list). This was quite heavy going. It was really important for me to read something else quite general about the Tudors, but I was sorry it was this. Unfortunately I was in Vietnam by the time I realised so it had to be read. I did not get on with his writing style. And Henry VII isn't even in there. Tutt had to be quite stern with me on several occasions through the summer to make me finish it.

8. Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall - a book that intimidates me. Everybody said it was a really difficult read but I did not find it so. I absolutely loved it: so much, that I had to slow down because I didn't want it to be over. I am savouring Bring up the Bodies and might wait until there's news of when the third will be published before I read it.

9. CJ Sansom: Dissolution - a book I have read before. It's been a while since I started the Shardlake series and this was a timely re-read after Wolf Hall. I was curious to know how much my increased knowledge of the time period would adjust my understanding of the book.

10. Melvin Burgess: Junk - a book that was once banned. I picked it off the banned books list I read during Banned Books week at the start of October, because it is (a) set in Bristol and (b) teen fiction, which I thought would make it quite good for bus reading. I finished it in just a few days. Very good in an utterly brutal kind of way; made better by the fact I cross City Road (site of Gemma and Tar's squat) every day.

11. Thackeray: Vanity Fair - a book I have previously abandoned. I started reading this again on my Kindle during my lunchbreak at work. I don't love it. It's so wordy. I'm still only about 20% finished with it, but I will keep plugging away. I quite like the story and, in amongst the verbosity, there's the odd good joke.

12. Jason Porath: Rejected Princesses - a book published this year. I pre-odered this from Amazon because it looked so good. It's a book all about forgotten female heroines, illustrated with big Disney-style pictures. I haven't read all of it but what I have dipped into has been great.

I twisted the "recommended" categories a little but otherwise I think I did quite well. I think this is probably the most I have read in one year for a while, at least; there are a few other books on here (mostly about the Tudors or the Spanish Empire) that I have read portions of, too.

Hopefully there will be another challenge along next year; or I might attempt this one again.

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