I have to admit to being a bit of a nerd when it comes to books. I like lists of books. I like to hear what other people have read. I’m always interested in other people’s thoughts about their own reading habits.
After all, if you want to be a writer, you have to read. A lot. My problem is remembering what I’ve read and where I read it. You know, that excellent bit of characterisation, that fantastic plot structure.. but where was it again? Worse if you use the library or if someone raids your bookcase and doesn’t return their borrowings.
So I’m going to use this blog to record the occasional random thoughts about stuff I’ve been reading, and I’m going to start by casting my mind back over the last year.
As per usual it was mostly fiction, but there was also David Lodge’s autobiography Quite a Good time to be Born. I’ve been a fan of his writing for many years, so it was interesting to read about his childhood, how this shaped his writing, and also to hear about his career in academia. Anyone who has read Changing Places or Nice Work will recall his fictionalised versions of that world. I can remember muddling him up with Malcolm Bradbury (History Man) on occasion, so it was interesting to discover that they were friends and colleagues. Probably not writing buddies – did these exist back then? – but definitely influencing each other.
There was also the Bookshop Book – a perfect book for book geeks. Jen Campbell writes about several quirky bookshops throughout the world (I so WANT that commission!) I’m almost ready to set off on a round the world tour with that book tucked under my arm. Glad to see she mentions Alynwick Bookshop – one of my favourite stopping places. And now Wigtown is on my bucketlist.
There was also The Year of Reading Dangerously – how 50 great books saved my life by Andy Miller. Someone else reading Moby Dick and Tolstoy so I don’t have to. Reading a book about someone reading books is probably the ultimate in nerdom – and I loved it.
But the year was mostly fiction.
Over the years I have read quite a few time travel books. I’ve always loved anything to do with time travel, and I guess I’d like to write something in that genre one day. My favourite time travelling book of last year was The first 15 lives of Harry August. Harry doesn’t so much travel in time, but he gets to re-live his life over and over during the same time period. It’s reincarnation, but Harry remembers everything. Of course there are huge possibilities for altering time, and like many good time travel books, it becomes a battle to keep time on its intended path.
I also enjoyed the YA Time Riders Series – 9 books in all. Each book sees our protagonist travel to a different historical (and indeed pre-historical) time period to prevent someone altering the time frame. The series lagged a little in the middle, but a mysterious through thread kept me reading.
I also discovered an older series by Linda Buckley Archer, about Gideon the Cutpurse, which had to be a new favourite. Really well written, and superbe exploration of the paradoxes of time travel.
Lots of other YA as well – memorable among those, Eleanor and Park a beautifully written love story; The Rest of Us Just Live Here by favourite author Patrick Ness, who has to be top of anyone’s chart for unique premises.
I also discovered the works of Morag Joss, and totally adored Half Broken Things as well as Across the Bridge. Reminds me a lot of Barbara Vine- psychological thrillers with a slow burn, which nevertheless keep you turning the page.
The rate at which I acquire books always has me believing that I don’t read much, but when I scan the bookcase and notice all the books I’ve read, just in the last few months, I realise that I do read a lot. It’s just that my buying habit probably outpaces my reading habit. Only slightly, but enough to have the “pile to read” now taking up a small bookcase of its own.
Better start the next book then.

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