Reading review of 2015

It’s come round to that time of year when I go over the books I’ve read and try to pull together reading goals for the next 365 days. Except, of course, this year I have been rubbish at keeping track of what I’ve read. There have been a lot of books I’ve picked up and abandoned as well as finding comfort in numerous re-reads (Marian Keyes and Emily Barr’s respective back catalogues have been amazing comfort blankets). So I’ve cobbled together some of the highlights that I can remember:

Blossom by Lesley Riddoch was one of my reading highlights of last year. I came late to this book, finally picking it up over five months after the Referendum had taken place. At times it can be a heart breaking read which examines the lost potential of a Scotland strangled by centralised politics whilst ignoring local community power, lack of clarity surrounding land ownership and it’s own stubborn attitude of a wee country. How can Scottish folk even address the possibility of independence without picking apart the constraints that hold us there? A worthy read for anyone wishing to explore how Scotland really can be a better country to live in.

Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change by Caroline Lucas compliments Blossom in many ways. Caroline Lucas made history in 2010 when she became the first Green MP elected to the British Parliament. This fascinating ‘insiders’ account reveals hilarious, baffling and sometimes quite shocking activities that go on in this little community. The title Honourable Friend comes from the tradition that MPs in the Debating Chamber cannot address each other directly by name. It is as Honourable Friend or Honourable Lady – nothing less. This is a bubble that needs to be burst.

Fishnet by Kirstin Innes was a delightful read whilst I was on holiday on the Isle of Skye during the Spring. I was able to read the book almost entirely in one sitting. The politics of sex work is bound up in a family’s story of a missing daughter. Innes has taken a tough subject that sparks debate amongst feminists, politicians and everyone in between and crafted a novel that is very distinctively Scottish in its characters, outlook and wry humour. It’s also the winner of the Guardian’s Not The Book Prize in 2015 and deservedly so.

What does 2016 hold? I’ve decided to take the plunge and not purchase any new books until I’ve read my backlog of books currently resting on my shelves. I’ve also decided to practise what I preach and borrow more books from my local libraries. Like most public services, they’re facing cuts even in the leafy suburb that I live in. I’ll be keeping better track of where my books come from and trying to wean myself off my Amazon habit.

I’ll be spending the final hours of 2015 trying to finish one of my Christmas book bargains, bought in a moment of weakness at The Works after a particularly stressful day at work. Happy New Year everyone – lang may yer lum reek!


Reading Report Card 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, I find myself looking back upon my reading habits for the year. This has been my best year of keeping track of which books I’m reading and my thoughts on them. Many thanks to Evernote and their nifty app which has been a key player in making this happen.

You can find a list of which books I read in 2014 at the end of this blog post. However I thought it would be more fun to have a look at the stats thrown up by my reading habits, good and bad.

This year I managed to plough my way through 35 books. Not bad but certainly not the glory years when I was a student and could easily make my way through 50 books a year, thanks to the long summer breaks. April was a good month for reading as I made my way through seven books. I suspect this was due to going back to part time hours at work which left me with more time on my hands. I also re-read Denise Mina’s magnificent Garnethill trilogy for an article which featured on For Books’ Sake during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Every year I make two vows to myself: that I will read more books by women and that I will read more non-fiction books. Let’s take a look at the first vow. After looking at my list, 28 of the books I read this year were written by women. This was the year I re-discovered Curtis Sittenfield, by returning to her debut novel, Prep. Lying on a Cretan beach, I devoured Sittenfield’s tale of Lee, a highflying student that gains entry to a prestigious boarding school but then discovers it was not what she expected. Prep is one of those books I wish I had read at that tricky age of 19 – one foot in my late teens, the other poised and about to enter my second decade.

Alas I did not do as well with non-fiction books. Only 3 books I read this year were non-fiction, with two of these firmly landing under the category of ‘Self-development’. 2014 has also been the year that I have got over my aversion to books normally filed under the self-help sections in book stores. Having spent most of my 20s not having a clue about myself, I have resolved to enter my 30s with a bit more self-development under my belt. Perhaps this is something that comes with a bit of age and some experience thrown in for good measure.

One surprising quirk on my reading list is that I have been favouring books about female time travellers. This year began with Blackout by Connie Willis, and I quickly moved onto the sequel, All Clear. A tale of historians from the future being able to travel back in time to ‘observe’ events appeals to my inner History student. Diana Gabaldon ’s Outlander books, about an English woman from the 1940s travelling back to the Highlands of Scotland in 1744, are a good historical romp although I do wonder about the enlightened, and rather contemporary, attitude of Jacobite Jamie McKenzie, the leading man in this series.

After some feedback from the Twitter hive (thanks folks), I came to the realisation that I have a preference for writers that are white women, middle class and aged 25-early 40s. There was a good start to the year with Zadie Smith’s NW but it all went downhill after that. Whilst I have been patting myself on the back for reading more women writers, I have been neglecting to check up on their backgrounds. It appears I have been a wasp reading about other wasps.

What should 2015 hold then? I definitely need to expand my reading horizons, with more women of colour on my list. The death of Maya Angelou earlier this year made me regret not reading more of her work. Toni Morrison’s Jazz has sat in the back of mind, since reading a short extract on a writing course quite some time ago.

Fiction is obviously my comfort zone, especially as this category accounts for over 90% of my reading output this year. I also noticed that I had no note of any poetry reads this year earlier which is strange as I’ve turned to poetry during my writing slots.

If someone can recommend some kick ass women of colour autobiographical poets, then I would greatly appreciate it.

How was 2014 for you in reading terms? Have you got any books you’re looking forward to reading in 2015?

Reading List of 2014

  1. NW by Zadie Smith
  2. The Little Coffeeshop of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez
  3. Blackout – Connie Willis
  4. The Strain – G. Del Toloro and Chuck Hogan
  5. All Clear by Connie Willis
  6. The Liberation of Celia Kahn – J. David Simmons
  7. My Madder Fatter Diary – Rae Earl
  8. Big Brother – Lionel Shriver (re-read)
  9. Filth – Irvine Welsh (re-read)
  10. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  11. The Highly Sensistive Person – Elaine N. Aron
  12. The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult
  13. Garnethill – Denise Mina (re-read)
  14. Exile – Denise Mina (re-read)
  15. Resolution – Denise Mina (read)
  16. Sing You Home – Jodi Picoult
  17. The Red House – Mark Haddon
  18. Labor Day – Joyce Maynard
  19. Another Cup of Coffee – Jenny Kane
  20. The Jukebox Queen of Malta – Nicholas Rinaldi
  21. Prep – Curtis Sittenfield
  22. Prime Time – Jane Wenham-Jones
  23. Barracuda – Christos Tolkais
  24. Any Other Mouth – Annelise Mackintosh
  25. Frog Music – Emma Donaghue
  26. Bicycle Diaries – David Byrne
  27. Outlander: Cross Stitch by Dianna Gabaldon
  28. The Man of My Dreams – Curtis Sittenfield
  29. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
  30. The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber
  31. The Immortal Case of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  32. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  33. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying – Mari Kono
  34. How to Build A Girl – Caitlin Moran
  35. Outlander: Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon