75 Books in 2014

I’m finally getting round to rounding up my year in books. It might seem slightly redundant, because I do a monthly books post, but I like to do a yearly round up for my own satisfaction, and I do enjoy looking back at them.

As I mentioned in my December post, I only just reached my target of 75 books for the year. It was a sprint finish, which resulted in me reading fifteen books in the last month of the year, and seven of those books over Christmas and New Year! I had the time, because I had two weeks off work, and it was rather enjoyable to just sit and read and read and read, but ideally, this year, I won’t leave it so late!

A few stats:

  • Although I can’t be sure that it’s entirely accurate (because of differing editions, etc), Goodreads tells me that I read 24,922 pages in 2014. This is marginally more than my 2013 total of 22,656. This year, I’m planning to keep a note of the pages I read myself, so I can be sure of an accurate total.
  • My most read author in 2014 was J.K. Rowling! I embarked on a Harry Potter re-read, though I stopped shy of reading The Deathly Hallows (mainly because I couldn’t find my copy, but partly because Goodreads won’t let me add it twice, and it’s in my 2012 total). I did read The Tales of Beedle the Bard though, and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (I know that doesn’t technically count!). So after Rowling with seven comes Mark Kermode with four, and Simon Mayo and Jennifer E. Smith with three each. Not at all surprising to see our two Wittertainers there, given my level of that particular obsession this year.
  • Because of Harry Potter, I have rather more re-reads on my list this year than last, when the total was one. The six Harry Potter books, as well as The Go-Between made up seven re-reads.
  • I changed the way that rated books halfway through 2014; instead of rating everything, I only rated books that were four or five stars. It is still a flawed system, and I can’t decide whether to do away with stars altogether, but until I decide, I will stick with it. The books that got five stars in 2014 were Fangirl, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, We Are Called to Rise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Itch Rocks, The Bookshop Book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Yes Please, Shakespeare, and Only Remembered. I’m very happy that there have been so many excellent books in my year!

I know a lot of people prefer not to set themself a goal like this, preferring to ensure that they read one good book rather than a pre-determined number. I don’t feel this way, obviously. I love having a goal to work towards, and I try to make sure that all the books I read are good, and if they aren’t considered ‘good’ by awards committees and best books list-makers, I make sure they are entertaining and enjoyable to me.

As you’ll know if you’ve seen my What to Do in 2015 post, I am going for 75 books again in 2015. Aside from the fact that I have had to rush at the end for two years in a row, I feel confident that I will be able to reach it again!

Did you set yourself a target in 2014? If you have read anything good, please let me know if you think I might like it! Please feel free to add me on Goodreads and share your recommendations with me!

Library List 001

As I have mentioned many times before, I love the library. I’ve always been a big fan, ever since I was little, and as an adult, I use it very regularly. I make very good use of the reservation service; the library in my village isn’t very big at all, and as such they hardly ever have the books I want to read. So I reserve a lot of books, and try to wait patiently while they make their way to me.

In my on-going quest to make my blog even more bookish, I thought I’d make a regular feature of sharing what’s on my reservation list. At the very least it might provide a book recommendation for you!

  

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
I read the first book of this Young Adult series last year, having watched and loved the film (in a totally non-ironic way), and I was eager to read the next in the series. The fact that this book has been on the list since December without moving up suggests that both the library copies have been lost, and I’ll probably never get it.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I have heard nothing but good things about all the books of Patrick Ness, and this one in particular, so I thought it was about time I tried him out. Luckily enough, having been waiting for this one since the start of January, it’s finally arrived so I’ll be going to pick it up tomorrow morning.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
I recently watched the television adaptation of Case Histories, and enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d read the books. I really like the character of Jackson Brodie (and not just because he’s played by Jason Isaacs), so I hope a lot of his characterisation comes directly from the books. I’m number one on the list, so I shouldn’t have too long to wait for this.

  

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Someone I like tweeted about about this book, saying how wonderful it was. If someone whose opinion I value likes a book, that’s enough for it to go onto my To Read list. This seems to be a memoir written in the form of a novel by a Norwegian writer. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m number one on the list for this one too.

Itch Rocks by Simon Mayo
I finished the first Itch book last night, and I really enjoyed it, so I’m glad that I had the foresight to reserve the second book, Itch Rocks, a couple of weeks ago. It has already arrived, so I’ll be starting on this as soon as I go and pick it up.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Somehow I’ve still never read any Atwood, despite having borrowed A Handmaid’s Tale from the library some months ago (I had to take it back before I had a chance to read it). I was looking through the long list of the Bailey Prize the other day, and Madd Adam is on it. I want to read that, but it’s part of a trilogy, so I decided to reserve Oryx and Crake, the first in the trilogy. This one has already arrived too.

  

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
I heard Hannah Kent talking about Burial Rites on the radio ages ago, and I really fancied reading it. I added it to my Goodreads list, but for some reason didn’t get around to reserving it at the library. Then I read the Bailey Prize long list and saw it on there, which reminded me to reserve it. Set in Iceland, it tells the story of a young woman who is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. It sounds bleak and stark, and utterly wonderful. I’m number ten on the list, and I can’t wait to read it.

Wool by Hugh Howey
Eagle eyed followers may recall that I have already had this one from the library, but I didn’t get around to reading it and had to return it! So I promptly re-reserved it, and it’s arrived already! Another book that I hear fabulous things about, it’s the first in a science fiction trilogy and I’m going to make sure I read it this time!

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell
I actually added this book while I was writing this post, because I was catching up with Call the Midwife, and I wanted to check the name of the actress playing the new midwife Patsy. Turns out Emerald Fennell is also an author, and she has written Shiverton Hall, a child’s ghost story. I’m not always a fan of a ghost story, but I’m willing to give this one a go. Probably because, as a children’s story, it might not be too scary. I’m number one on the list.

Essex Book Festival

On Monday night, I was lucky enough to go along to the launch of the 2014 Essex Book Festival at the University of Essex. The Essex Book Festival has been running since 1999, although this is the first year that I’ve actually had the chance to go along to anything!

I went along with my friend Hannah, and it was nice to be back on campus (we both studied at the university from 2007 to 2010), even if it looks totally different in places. The multi storey car park is certainly a new addition! We used our tickets to get a complimentary drink, both plumping for a cider, though we were a bit ridiculous about not knowing if we were allowed to take them into the lecture hall with us, so ended up leaving half. That’s a pretty unforgivable waste of cider!

The event was an audience with Joanna Trollope; she was in conversation with BBC Essex’s Dave Monk. I’ve never read any of her books; I had one from the library a little while ago but didn’t get a chance to actually read it before it went back. But listening to her talk about her new novel, Balancing Act, left me wanting to read it. Trollope clearly puts a lot of work into her writing; she talked at length about the amount of research she does before embarking on a new novel. Balancing Act is a novel about female entrepreneurs, set in Stoke on Trent, and she had obviously done her homework about the pottery industry.

Trollope talked a lot about her characters, it is clear that she sees them as living, breathing people while she is writing them, but she was insistent that she doesn’t miss them when they are gone, and has never been tempted to write a sequel to any of her books. She is quite happy to pass them on to her readers when she has finished with them, and likened the characters’ lives to a train journey; they come along on a train and we, as readers, join them on the train for a while. They have already been on the train for a while, and they will still be on when we get off. We join them for just a short period of their lives.

Joanne Trollope was engaging and fascinating to listen to; she has some strong opinions on the likes of Amazon and eReaders, and she seemed genuinely interested in the audience questions that were posed to her when Dave Monk opened up the questioning to the people who had come along.

All in all she left me feeling quite inspired about writing my own novel, something that I have always wanted to do but have somehow always put off. This evening with Joanna Trollope was the perfect way to launch the Essex Book Festival, which runs throughout March with various events across the whole county. There really is something for everyone, young and old, so check out the schedule and get yourself along to something!

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32 Before 32 ~ It’s Only a Movie by Mark Kermode

Since the start of the year, I’ve mentioned Mark Kermode a lot on this here blog. I know I’m a little late to the party in terms of becoming a fan of both him, and his and Simon Mayo’s 5 Live film show, but frankly, I’m enamoured. I really think he’s my favourite film critic; our opinions seem to line up fairly frequently, and though I don’t always agree with him, I do enjoy hearing what he thinks about films.

When I realised that he had written a number of books, I knew that I had to read them. I already finished his book on The Shawshank Redemption last month, and last weekend I read It’s Only a Movie. I didn’t really know what to expect; I knew it wasn’t an autobiography as such, more an account of his life as a movie critic, and how he got to be where he is today.

Mark Kermode is the sort of person who has a thousand anecdotes that he likes to tell on multiple occasions, so because I am going back through the Wittertainment archive and listening to old podcasts, I have heard some of his stories before. The time when he was with Werner Herzog when the German director was shot, for example, is a fantastic story that I’ve heard mentioned at least twice. But there is plenty in there that I didn’t know about; Helen Mirren taking him to task at the Baftas made me laugh out loud, and his first foray in radio broadcasting was also worth a giggle.

My favourite chapter was the one where he described his working relationship with Simon Mayo, simply because I’m such a big fan of their radio show. It was really sweet to hear Kermode worrying that their partnership would be coming to an end if the show was to move to Manchester, and his relief when he realised that Simon Mayo’s future plans might just include him was just lovely.

I’ve given this book a four-star rating on Goodreads, because I really did enjoy it so much (even if I did think the chapter on his adventures in Russia and Belarus was slightly on the long side). But I honestly don’t know if anyone who isn’t a huge Kermode fan would enjoy it as much as I did. There’s not much here on his life outside of his love for cinema, which some people might have preferred. But I’m happy to read about how he came to love films, and how much he clearly loves Simon Mayo. It makes me happy to think that, for all the bickering, they love each other really.

Four down, six to go on number two of 32 Before 32 – read ten non-fiction books.