I picked up this book after listening to an interview with its author, Sebastian Barry, on Radio 4’s Front Row. The interviewer, Samira Ahmed, had clearly been enchanted by it. I took that as a recommendation1.
In 2014 I read a pitifully poor number of books – just nine. So, for 2015 I set myself the challenge of reading 12. One a month seemed like a good target. I did it. In fact, by the end of the year I’d read 15.
Always looking to make improvements, I set 15 as my target for 2016. By September I’d reached it and I embarked upon a new reading challenge.
Now we’ve hit 2017, where will my reading goals take me next?
In September I extended my annual reading challenge. Not just content with reaching a numerical goal (I’ve now read 16 books this year, my target was 15) but looking to vary my choice of book, and challenge myself to pick up something I might usually avoid.
When I set this new challenge there were gaps in my list. So here’s an update with all categories assigned and another couple checked off. The books in bold are those left to read.
Charlotte Brontë published a ‘Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell’ in the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights, shortly after both of her sisters had died.
Here she comments on their decision to assume masculine names when first seeking publishers for their writing.
For 2016 I set myself the challenge of reading 15 books. It may not sound ambitious, but it’s a step up from the number I read last year – 13 (my target was 12).
I find myself in September and I’ve already read 13 books, so I’m well on my way to meeting this year’s target. And hopefully exceeding it. So, taking inspiration from Jo, I’m going to step up my challenge.
This year I set myself a reading target. It was pretty modest at one book per month. But given I only managed to read nine books in 2014, it seemed realistic.
I reached my target early in December. I’m currently reading my 13th book of the year and I hope to finish it over the Christmas holiday.
The latest meme doing the rounds on Facebook is ten memorable books or ten books that mean something to you. I’ve been nominated to share mine by my former English teacher and who can say no to that? So here they are (in no particular order):
- Boudica by Manda Scott – never have I been so enveloped in another world. The summer I read this all I could think of was becoming a warrior. In reality I think I’m more of a dreamer.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – the book that taught me I could enjoy classics.
- The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff – where my fascination with the Romans began.
- Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household – the first book I remember my Dad giving me to read from his library.
- The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – fulfilling my need for a good detective story, and you get three for the price of one.
- Hiroshima by John Hersey – horrors, etched in my memory.
- Asterix and… by René Goscinny – audio books narrated by Willie Rushton, the sound of my childhood.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I know, I know. But I can’t help identify with Scout.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – something to turn to when in need of some soul searching.
- The Book of Buns by Jane Mason – the best cookbook a baker could own, the beginning of my journey baking with fresh yeast.
In the last year I have:
- Read 15 books
- Drunk 57 different beers
- Watched 74 films
I’m pretty pleased with the number of books I’ve read. A little over one a month is good for me. I’d like to up that a bit for 2014. My favourite book read this past year is the final part of M.C Scott’s Rome series, The Art of War.
The number of different beers I’ve tried does not surprise me; I rarely drink the same beer twice. A few stand outs from the past few months are Batemans’ Mocha Beer, Siren’s Liquid Mistress and Orkney Brewery’s Clootie Dumpling.
And films. Well. Here’s an interesting stat for you – I’ve seen 58 of those 74 films since June! There are a number of possible reasons for this, the most likely are a subscription to Netflix and returning to the city that boasts the best independent cinema in the UK. The two films that are far and away the best I’ve seen in the past year are The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and The Selfish Giant (2013).
I have recently started listening to a new podcast, What Are You Reading. In all of the episodes I’ve listened to so far the host, Matt Debenham, has asked his guest about what they read as a child. This got me thinking about my reading history and I thought it would be something interesting to share here.
When I was very young I progressed from picture books to audio books (or story tapes as we called them then). I wasn’t a big reader at all, instead I would listen to one side of a tape before I fell asleep at night. My favourites were the Asterix books (read by Willie Rushton), later I moved on to some classics; Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and The Little Princess (read by Maureen Lipman).
I get easily hooked on things and this is the reason I rarely read standalone books. I much prefer series or at least books with a recurring central character. When I think about it now, this started when I was a kid first with the Hardy Boys (I clearly remember the distinctive covers) and later V.I Warshawski (I read all the available titles in the school library). Here clearly also began my love of crime fiction.
The other recurring theme in the books I read as a child was the ancient world and specifically the Roman Empire. I have recently re-read a childhood favourite, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. It is still fantastic and I would recommend it to children and adults in equal measure.
Somewhere along the way I also dabled with vampires (didn’t we all?) reading Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire series. I have a very vivid memory of finishing the last in the series on a plane! Today I discovered that three more books have been added to the series since then. Don’t think I’ll be going back for them.
What happened next? Well nothing much really. I’m still reading lots of historical fiction (mostly set in the Roman Empire) and detective novels (they’ve got a bit darker though).