Friday 29 December 2023

2023 Round up: Reads

A slightly better year for reading, this year. I continue to go to the library and browse, which helps with picking out books I like the look of, rather than just going on recommendations or books by authors I've previously read. As you'll see, though, I do have some authors that I return to. I've particularly enjoyed the work of Claire North and Karen Maitland this year. Maitland's books set in the middle ages are intensely creepy and don't seem to ever have a happy ending, which I curiously enjoy. 

Ian Rankin - Exit Music

Hafsa Zayyan - We are all Birds of Uganda

Laura Shepherd Robinson - Sugar in the Blood

Sarah Winman - A Year of Marvellous Ways

K J Maitland - Traitor in the Ice

Phillippa Gregory - Dark Tides

Claire North - Ithaca (highly recommended. Some absolutely killer lines)

Kate Grenville - The Secret River

C J Carey - Queen High (it turned out this was a sequel, which explained a lot when I realised) 

Karen Maitland - The Gallows Curse

Claire North - The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (AMAZING...I thought she couldn't have beaten Ithaca but this was probably my read of the year)

Phillippa Gregory - Dawnlands

Gavin McCrea - The Sisters Mao (unfinished - I didn't really rate it)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi - The First Woman

Alan Garner - The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (reverting back to easy reads as we slid into December)

Claire North - The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (I read this a second time, see above)

Karen Maitland - A Gathering of Ghosts

Candice Carty-Williams - Queenie (not what I was expecting or I wouldn't have started it. It wasn't bad. It's just that I am a bit over beach-read stories of women in their 20s)

Finishing up the year with The Winter Spirits - Ghostly Tales for Frosty Nights, a collection of short ghost stories by various authors. I was weak in Waterstones and bought this on a whim but it's perfect bedtime reading for December. 

Non-fiction - exclusively on audiobook this year as Mr Z installed a new stereo in my old car and so I can link my phone to it now. I can get through an average audiobook in about two weeks. 

Dipo Faloyin - Africa is not a Country - this was my first listen of the year so I don't remember it too well, but - as with Brit-ish and Natives last year - it was helpful in presenting another perspective on world history, particularly as I continue to teach about the early British Empire. 

Kit Malthouse - The Maths of Life and Death - interesting but didn't catch my attention, this one took a long time to get through.

Peter Frankopan - The Earth Transformed (unfinished) - this is 30 hours long and I didn't get past the ancient bits. Frankopan narrates and it made me chuckle that he can't pronounce some of the long words he loves to use. 

Jessica Hill - See What You Made Me Do - I loved this but it was a really tough listen. Made even better by the fact that Hill narrates it and sometimes is near tears with the stories she's having to tell. Most interesting was the case study of the town in America that started using public shaming (with support) to cut domestic violence rates. 

Patrick Radden Keefe - Say Nothing - about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was OK, some interesting historical points, such as how the IRA saw themselves as very leftie. Coming off the back of the previous listen, it was interesting to consider how much was leftie freedom-fighting and how much was toxic masculinity, in a country where half the male population were subjugated. Not read by the author and, imo, suffered for it - the reader clearly hadn't read the book ahead of time, there were weird pauses where he was obvs turning the page and hadn't prepared to do it, emphasis was wrong in places. 

Johann Hari - Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention - ironically I listened to most of this while stuck in a three-hour traffic jam trying to get to Portsmouth. I didn't think there would be much to know but, as it turns out, it's all a bit creepier than I realised, what with the invention of infinite scroll. I already tightly control the notifications my phone is allowed to give me but this made me want to get hold of that 'How to break up with your phone' book, or at least uninstall some social media for 2024. 

Thomas Halliday - Otherlands - what a gorgeous book. I loved it. Each chapter is set in a different age of the world and written as a narrative description of what you might expect to see. I particularly liked the story of how the eastern Mediterranean refilled; the comment that everywhere, always, life builds on previous life; the explanation of how volcanic gases can smother a lake and kill everything in it; and the stories about how the world is changing through climate change - less coral but more glass sponges. I might buy this in hard copy to keep as there was so much I didn't know. 

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