* Drinking Game: Take a drink every time I use the world 'goal/s or 'year/s'. Take a shot for every run-on sentence.
Ignore the Goodreads Challenge.
I've been setting Goodreads goals for about five years, and every year I have set that challenge somewhere between 40-60 books, depending on the kind of place I was in with my reading, and what the next year was likely to bring.This year I've done something a little different. I've set my goal to...one book, and have already surpassed that. I've been reading with a number at the back of my mind for so long now that it feels strange to be planning, and thinking about, a year of reading without that goal to aim for.
The reason I made this decision is because I feel that reading to a quota is definitely something that has shaped me as a reader and influences my decisions when choosing a book, and I've noticed a quantity over quality mindset creeping in. If I'm falling behind, I pick up a few graphic novels to get myself back up to speed, and fly through them without really paying attention. I've been put off bigger books because they take a long time, or denser classics and nonfiction because they require a slower, more thoughtful approach and it's a lot of investment for just one more book towards my goal. This really isn't how I want to read.
I want to choose books purely because I'm excited about or interested in them, regardless of page count or content. I've put off reading the second and third in Robin Hobb's 'The Liveship Trader's' series because the first took me so long to read and I didn't want to waste time when I could be racking up the 'books read' count with graphic novels and novellas. I've also noticed that every year, I more or less meet my goal. Perhaps a few over or just missing it by one or two but the number I set is always close to the number I read, and I feel that this just shows how far my reading habits rely on having that goal. If I'm far ahead I see it as a reason not to read, and if I fall behind I force myself to read just so I can get back on track. I'm not saying the Goodreads Challenge is the devil, far from it, I just want to have a more organic reading experience this year, and read for the sake of it, not because I've got a schedule to keep.
Maybe this is just wanky navel gazing and no1 curr, but I'm looking forward to a year of reading without feeling like I'm working to a quota. A year in which I can read at my own pace and rediscover what that pace actually is, and of reading just to be entertained, or informed. Just because I enjoy reading.
Read it or Give it away
This one is fairly straightforward. I own a shit tonne of unread books, (in the seventies at last count) and for me, that's bordering on madness. This year I want to get my bookshelves boiled down to 'I've read this' and 'I just bought this and will get to it in a week or so'. Anything I own now that I know I won't read, or have read but don't feel has value to me any more I'm going to donate. I've already cleansed my shelves of about twenty books, and the local Blue Cross have some nice new additions to their books section which will hopefully be perfect for someone else and do a little good in the world if they buy it.
This particular resolution ties in nicely with some personal goals I have this year regarding ethical living and minimalist values. I have prided myself for so many years on having this big sprawling personal library full of books, but as my views are shifting I feel like it's just silly to hold onto things I've either read but didn't enjoy/find valuable, or books that I bought on a whim and am not really that interested in reading. So I've giving myself an ultimatum. If I really want to read it that badly, I'll read it by the end of the year, and if I haven't it's going where it can make someone else happy. Which ties in nicely to my last goal
Read new books within six weeks of buying them
I've always hoarded books a little bit, but the biggest turn in my book buying habits came when I started at Waterstones. I suddenly found myself exposed to new releases the second they entered the store, access to proofs and constant micro browses while walking out for lunch or tidying the shelves, all the while having access to the very dangerous staff discount card. The volume of books that I bought in the first few months working there is actually beyond comprehension. Since then I've become a lot more savvy with my spending, but I still want to improve and make sure I'm only spending money on things that I want and will get use from. When I buy books they will be books that I've been thinking about for a while, rather than just passing fancies and impulse buys like before. Hopefully this new approach will mean that I not only save money, but that I'm more likely to buy and read books that I love, because I've really considered them.
The only exception to this is the books I get from Mothbox. I'm going to do a full post about Mothbox but, in a nutshell, it's a new book postal service put together by Mercedes over at Mercy' Bookish Musings championing books published by smaller and independent presses. Each box comes with two books and I've decided that during the months that I purchase a Mothbox, I will leave room for one more book to be bought. Mothbox is fairly new and it's definitely something I want to support next year. It's a way to support indie presses, a new business venture and someone that I really admire and respect all in one go! Plus it means I'm going to discover books I never would have found otherwise.
This is a long-ass post. Have a cat.
So those are my reading goals for 2017. I'm hoping I will get to 2018 with a smaller, more curated bookshelf, a slightly less depressing savings account and knowing I've done a bit of good in the world at the same time.
Let me know if you've made any reading resolutions this year!
Well everyone we liked as kids is dead, Europe thinks we're the worst and an evil butternut squash is president. But despite it being the most depressing year ever, I discovered some absolutely amazing books! I also read some actual shite. Where I have done a full review of a book mentioned, it will be linked in the title.
Let's start with the things I loved this year.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet* and A Closed and Common Orbit* by Becky Chambers
Long Way was the very first book I read this year and it still gives me butterflies when I think of it. The world that Becky Chambers created and the way she folded you in the arms of her lovely cast of characters and made you feel a part of the team made this book truly special and it's sequel is no different. Her book are all about humanity and confronting difference in a positive way and facing your fears with the people you love by your side. The sci-fi novel incarnation of a group hug and a set of BFF necklaces. There's going to be a third and I'm actually incapable of being more excited about it.
Cut by Hibo Wadere
A very different topic. Cut explores the devastating truth of FGM and Hibo's experiences as a victim, both in her native Africa and here in the west, where she thought she had escaped the culture. Hibo's testimony is vivid and terrifying and was a real wake up call for me in terms of clarifying my own thoughts about feminism, and what it is we are actually trying to achieve. Women's rights are often dismissed as women getting offended when they're offered help with manual work, but Cut shows the reader just what the stakes really are and how much suffering goes on directly due to gender inequality. FGM is happening and little girls are being viciously mutilated right under our noses and we are ignoring it. This book needs to be read by everyone.
The Girls*by Emma Cline
This novel is the one I wish I'd written. A compelling, claustrophobic novel about coming of age and how easy it is to be drawn into things you don't understand when you're looking for somewhere to belong. Screw you Emma Cline, with your effortless, dreamy writing style and your poignant thoughts expressed so intelligently and your compulsive interesting plot and your ability to express the goddamn truth about what it is to be a teenage girl all in your debut novel. Like how dare you. Who gave you the right??
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.
My first foray into Hobb's world. If you've tried the Assassin's books as an 'in' with Hobb but found yourself stalling, I'd definitely recommend trying these instead. They were recommended to me by a seasoned Robin Hobb reader as an alternative starting point from the Fitz and the Fool series and I got along with this so much better. All of the characters were completely infuriating in a thoroughly understandable and human way. The human drama would have been enough to sustain my interest but the incredible and original fantasy elements woven throughout cemented this as a favourite. Despite being a bajillion pages long and taking nearly a month to read (plus reading a few things in between,) there was never a point in Hobb's plot where I wasn't interested and invested in the story. It's chunky but it's worth the effort, and the other two books in the series are some of the first things I'm reading come the New Year.
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix.
Some of my friends at work absolutely love this book, and I put it off for a while because it was labelled as a horror novel, but eventually I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did. This is a horror book... in that it has some scary, creepy moments in it and is kind of about demon possession, but it's also way more about friendship, and girls growing up together and about what it means to really really love someone, and how far you'll go to help that person. This book is an utter delight, rich and fun and so incredibly satisfying.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Before this year my graphic novel collection had been 70% Batman and pals, with the other 30% being essentially 'other superheroes n' shit'. Over 2016 I've really branched out and found some amazing graphic novels that have captured my heart. The one I've probably enjoyed the most is Saga. A wacky, oddball space adventure following two star crossed lovers from opposing sides of a war. The story and world are so creative and interesting, the characters, despite being some of the weirdest creatures imaginable are so human and real, and every issue ends with you wanting to keep reading to find out where the hell things are going next.
Positivity over with, let's get on to what sucked ass:
All That Man Is * by David Szalay
Apparently all that man is, is a boring horny narcissist with zero depth or human interest. Szalay can write with the best of them but the pretty words are wasted on a jumble of dull pointless snippets about people who want nothing but to bang the nearest thing to them.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and JK.
I understand that this probably worked well as a play, but it feels like the printing of the screenplay was a bit of a cash grab and it led to a lot of people being very dissapointed. The result was a shrug worthy plot, a big fuck-you to previously established rules within the universe, some really oddly thought out characters (Christ Rose how did Hermione and Ron raise you to be such a shitbag?) and the possibility for the first openly queer couple in the Potter canon being thrown away like an old chocolate frog wrapper. Uncool J.K.
The Wicked + The Divine by some people my bookshelves are far away and I'm not walking over to see.
So the art in this is absolutely gorgeous. The premise is incredibly promising. The storyline is erratic and makes literally zero narrative sense and whoever did the dialogue between the characters appears to have been copying from a transcript in which there was a printing error and half the lines got lost. The sequence of events that we follow feel like they get picked out of a hat, which is a shame because the premise is so cool and the art is fucking amazing. I'm sure the storyline is building up to a big conclusion where all the gaps will be filled in and everything will fall into place but graphic novels take a long time to come out between volumes and there's no way I can stay interested in something that seems so badly thought out for that long. I finished volume three and what was supposed to be a big plot twist felt completely bizarre and gimmicky and I really don't want to put myself through volume four.
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski
This years foray into the Young Adult genre. Still can't get on with it. Thought the characters were flat and unconvincing, the writing was perfectly nice but lacked any real personality, the romance made me do an Office style fourth wall stare several times and STOP USING RESCUE FROM AN ATTEMPTED RAPE AS A WAY FOR THE ROMANTIC LEAD TO BE THE HERO WE'RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT. Also this book completely undermines the idea of the slave narrative and how harrowing life as a slave is and given that I was reading 'The Underground Railroad' at the same time I just really couldn't be doing with it. I attempted to start the second book but got fifteen pages in before realising I didn't give a fuck. Next year is Patrick Ness! Hopefully he'll do better.
What did you love and hate this year?
All books provided by publishers are marked with a *. All opinions are my own :)