Everybody I know is committing to reading challenges for 2017, full of really ambitious and specific goals, but my goal is simply to read more this year. It has been difficult studying literature for such a long time, because it can really suck the enjoyment out of reading – it becomes something that you have to do, rather than choose to do. But this year I’m going to read widely and adventurously, but most importantly, read for fun. I am cutting all junk reality television out of my life this year – when you add up all the hours it can take up in a single week, I could be moving (literary) mountains with all that time! So here goes: every month I will keep this as a rolling list of what I’m reading, whether I finish it or not, and what I thought of it. If it has no information after the title, I’m still reading it. Let’s go!
Bold means read, plain text means still going (or going to pick it back up later), red and strikethrough means abandoned.
- How to Write Your Blockbuster by Fiona McIntosh – this particular author is one of my writer idols. She is so absolutely driven and is incredibly disciplined about how she approaches writing; she’s not an abstract vision of a tortured artist languishing in obscurity, she is very businesslike in her approach, which is exactly what I have been lacking. Her book is such a wonderful resource for anybody aiming to change their writing from a private hobby to more of a career. I especially appreciate her insights on commercial publishing and writing for commercial audiences/publishers, because until now I’ve been so focused on literary writing that it’s been a huge blindspot for me.
- The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done by Terry Matlen – it’s too hilarious that I still haven’t finished this book. Must have gotten distracted….
- America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I don’t usually read a lot of YA, but I’d heard good things. It was so desperately sad. Something that I really enjoyed was how seemingly effortlessly he inhabited the teenage voice of Hazel, while incorporating so much veiled sophistication throughout the book. It really did take me back to being sixteen and being so childish about certain things at the same time as feeling like my brain would explode with all the deep, earth-shattering philosophical discoveries I was making or discovering.
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – quietly unfolded into something unexpectedly horrifying, but also very poignant. I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since I finished it, and now I want to watch the film, even though they are apparently quite different.
*** For months and months, things weren’t great and I didn’t read much, or take note of what I did read. But, back on the horse… ***
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – I haven’t finished yet, but it’s my second time and I love it. That first chapter is utter perfection.
- Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman
- Bury Me Deep by Christopher Pike – total throwback to being a preteen.
- Awakenings by Oliver Sacks – very dense and sometimes a little arduous, but so worth it. It made me cry, it made me so terrified about how little we know about the human brain and how easily life as you know it can be taken away from you.
*** More months of reading practically nothing. Wedding planning has a way of sucking up all spare time ***
September – the month that I rediscovered what so many years of literary studies had sucked out of me – reading for pleasure!
- Chain Letter by Christopher Pike – I love these books, even if it’s goofy to be thirty years old and still reading teen thrillers from the eighties and nineties.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – ever since reading Gone Girl, I’ve had a renaissance of my love of psychological thrillers. I think the difference is that for so long, this genre was dominated by gritty stories all about men, with male villains, male protagonists, male problems, male psychology. Not that men can’t be interesting, but it’s so refreshing to read stories that are more centered around women. It is somehow more thrilling to read about stories where the psychology behind it is closer to my own.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett – I loved this book. I felt like it was so much more nuanced than the movie, and the characterizations were so much richer. I loved that there were villains and victims on both sides, and I just wanted to give Celia Foote a hug – the stories about her showed that prejudice and hatred is rooted in class as well as race. I was surprised at how different the film and the book were, in a number of ways – I love the movie, but I love the book more.
- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – this is the first book since The Time Traveler’s Wife that made me cry. Sebold’s construction of heaven made me feel warm and happy in a way that I’ve never felt before – I think I’m adopting it as my own personal idea of heaven, it was so comforting. Especially the part where Susie sees Holiday again.
- The Mummy Bloggers by Holly Wainwright – still reading this, not sure how I feel about it. It’s definitely amusing to see shades of various notorious bloggers being skewered, but it’s not really grabbing me so far – the women feel kind of vapid. We’ll see with this one!
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – still reading. The writing is good, I kind of wish I hadn’t watched the movie before reading it though, because now I know how it ends. I’m going to anger disability advocates though by stating that I think it’s extremely, extremely important to not shy away from depictions of disabled people who do opt for euthanasia for themselves. It’s such a personal choice, they are not making a comment on the worthiness of other people’s lives, it’s about them and their families alone, and after all the controversy over this book, I wish that more people could see that.
- White Oleander by Janet Fitch – still reading, a re-read, this is one of my favourite books from when I was growing up. It always stuck with me how each woman is linked to a particular perfume that encapsulates exactly what type of person they are – I’m still searching for the signature perfume that will be my calling card.
- The Girl Before by JP Delaney – not good, unfortunately. It was extremely predictable and the characters were pretty one-dimensional in how awful they all were as people – not a lot of nuance. And based on multiple mentions, I don’t think the author know what the word ‘gristle’ means, as you would never describe a silky piece of lobster sashimi as ‘gristle’ – funny how such a little thing can be so off-putting and make you completely lose faith in a story.
- White Oleander by Janet Fitch – after I finished, I watched the movie. I’d seen it before, maybe ten years ago, but I was struck by how pallid and insubstantial it was compared to the book (even though the actresses were great). I love the book, it probably one of my favourites, but it’s such a hard read – even harder now than when I first read it, when I was in the same age category as Astrid. The Claire chapters were probably the hardest of all. It’s pretty confronting to find a character that feels like a mirror.
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – still going. It’s funny, but I’m not sure if I like it though.