Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Reflections On 2013 - Not A Great Year For Reading

At the start of 2013 - I set myself a challenge, that challenge was to clear a backlog of books that had been laying about my house for some time, before I allowed myself to buy more - I listed the books I had and proceeded to cross them off.

Along the way a few things happened - I became infinitely busier as my personal circumstances changed and I had a lot less time for reading. I joined some book clubs and the library, as well as continuing to volunteer in a charity bookshop and therefore had other books not on the list to read.

More than this though - 2013 was in general what I would class as a "poor year" in terms both of how many books I read (66 - with the last 2 unreviewed)  but also in terms of  how much I enjoyed what I did read, in no longer buying books, or rather buying them less, I narrowed the scope of what I had to choose from - and found myself frequently disinterested in my limited choices.

Also, I played Candy Crush Saga way too much. FACT.

The challenge backfired - and I think this may be the year I fell out of love with reading. Many of the books I read were either average or below par - or in certain cases above average yet not my cup of tea.

The full roster is as follows :


1)Exodus by Leon Uris
2)The 100 Most Pointless Things In The World by Armstrong/Osman
3) The Song Of The Lark by Willa Cather
4) The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing
5) The Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham
6) The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
7) The Minds Eye by Oliver Sacks
8) Tender Is The Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald
9) The Angels Cut by Elizabeth Knox
10) A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale
11) The Pillars Of The Earth by Ken Follett
12) And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrisson
13) All Fall Down by Voss/Edwards
14) The Personal History Of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber
15) Restless by William Boyd

I got off to a great start in 2013 reading 15 books over the festive season up to the end of January. January's WINNER is Patrick Gale's A Perfectly Good Man, the affecting story of a local vicar which connects to his previous work Notes On An Exhibition.


16) A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
17) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
18) Shadows Of The Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
19) Farewell To The East-End by Jennifer Worth

February is a short month but my reading was already slowing by this point. In part this was due to the length of time February's WINNER : Hilary Mantel's A Place Of Greater Safety took to read. An engrossing tale of the architects of the French Revolution the complexities of the politics of the day occasionally make it a difficult read.   


20) Beautiful Creatures by Garcia/Stohl
21) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
22) Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgeway
23) We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee
24) The Stand by Stephen King
25) The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
26) Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

I liked no book that I read in March enough to declare it a winner, and found them all no better than average. Gone Girl had plotholes. Agnes Grey bored. The 100 yr old man annoyed me. Hawthorn & Child was pretentious.  The malaise which pervaded my year in books had begun.....


27) The Back Road by Rachel Abbott
28) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
29) The Mayor Of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
30) Shattered Blue by Jane Taylor Starwood
31) C by Tom McCarthy
32) HHhH by Laurent Binet
33) Fatherland by Robert Harris

The malaise continued into April and none of these books particularly shone for me. I HATED American Psycho passionately - and was disappointed in the Hardy after my high expectations were not met. Again, I can't really single out a book during this month for particular praise.


34) Perfume by Patrick Suskind
35) Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas
36) The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
37) No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Though the final three books here are listed on the blog as June they were read on holiday during May and reviewed in June. Perfume is a terrible book, a disaster, and the others are middling to good. No stand outs here either.


My records show that no books were read in June - and it feels like Huh?! This is me! This must be some kind of mistake - but actually it just goes to show that 6 months into my challenge - and 37 books in - having had about 8 books stand out and most of those in January that I was becoming well and truly fed up. Reading and I were on a break. I even took to posting favourite lists to remind myself why I love books.


38) The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
39) 1984 by George Orwell
40) The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
41) Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
42) The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
43) Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller
44)Weight by Jeanette Winterson
45) When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman

In July I tried to pull my socks up and it became the best month I had both in terms of what I read and how many books I read. All the books I read in July are very very much worth reading but having had no winners in March/April/May/June, I'm declaring a FOUR WAY TIE between reincarnation story Life After Life, modern fable The Crane Wife, obsession story Notes On A Scandal and myth retelling Weight. All of these books were brilliant and well worth reading.


46) The Red House Mystery by AA Milne
47) Memories Of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
48) Broken Homes by Ben Aaronvitch
49) A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
50) The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Rian Malan
51) Stoner by John Williams

This months WINNER has got to be Memories Of My Melancholy Whores. Original and touching, this book was the surprise of the year for me.


And yet in September the tumbleweed returned and I have no books listed for this month at all.......


52) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
53) To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis
54) The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
55) The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
56) The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale

October's WINNER has got to be the Agatha Christie which genuinely beat out all the others listed or this month for sheer entertainment value


57) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
58) The Rapture by Liz Jensen
59) Absolution by Patrick Flanery
60) The Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory
61) The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
62) Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
63) The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
64) Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

In this month I resorted to buying two Philippa Gregory's just so that I knew I would probably enjoy something I also enjoyed the two Diane Setterfield's.

In December I read Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson and The Quality Of Mercy by Barry Unsworth but I haven't even reviewed them. For one, I was too busy, and for two my apathy and despair at nothing really lighting my fire all year save for the books I read in January and July had meant I was too frustrated to care.

So far my challenges have been to read 100 books (failed 2011, passed 2012)  and to clear my book mountain (spectacularly failed in 2013)

For 2014 - The Roz Reading Challenge will simply be - ENJOY READING AGAIN and start to really assess what it is about a book that excites me or just leaves me cold, with reviews that talk more about the experience of the book than simply what it is about.

Please, regular readers, help me enjoy reading again, by making suggestions as to things that might light my fire.

Happy New Year - And Happy Reading In January.

Thank you all for your continued support of the blog - I promise to resume normal service shortly!