It’s been a strange reading year. I only just managed to make my Goodreads Challenge of reading 40 books this year, finishing a biography of Emmeline Pankhurst on New Year’s Eve. I found some books a real slog, even giving up on The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith by Peter Carey. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older but I find it harder to continue with something if I’m not absolutely loving it. I absolutely hate not finishing things – there’s always the possibility that it will get better – but when you are ignoring a book and getting out of bed and working instead of lying in and reading then you know that you need to have rethink. I also seem to have less reading opportunities. Partly because I’m writing more, partly because I’m doing more examining work. So I don’t get as many books read as I used to.
To be honest, the year started badly. I was still struggling through Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow which I started the year before for a reading challenge. It was hard work and seems to have set the tone for the year. I’m all for reading books that are considered challenging and there is kudos to be had from having finished it but it was not a fun reading experience.
The best books this year were The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith which was a thrilling read, Choke by Chuck Palahnuik which I enjoyed even more than Fight Club, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes which was a great piece of science fiction and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx which was an absolute revelation. A great read that I would definitely recommend.
That brings me nicely onto the TBR challenge, hosted by Roof Beam Reader (sadly for the last time). I managed to read 12 books – although as I abandoned Tristan Smith, I had to read one of my alternates – ending with Emmeline Pankhurst on New Year’s Eve. I read one a month and I probably could have made it less difficult by reading them more quickly. As ever, they were a mixed bunch. Sometimes books have stayed on your shelf for a reason. The highlights were The Shipping News, The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, Thank Your For the Days by Mark Radcliffe and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Less enjoyable was A Room with a View by E. M. Forster, The Beetle by Richard Marsh and The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory which was my only one star read this year.
I also read a couple of books that have been popular and I’m always curious to know why. I don’t know why I do this as inevitably I don’t like them must. This year’s were Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher which seemed like just another version of the girl needs to die so the boy can have a revelation about himself and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman which I just found annoying. It was easy to see why both these books struck a chord with people though and were probably justly popular.
As for next year, I’m not sure what to do. I’ve set the Goodreads challenge to 40 books again but I’m undecided as to whether to do a reading challenge or not. Ideally, it would need to be something like the TBR Challenge which focuses on the books on my shelf. Challenges with categories often require me to buy books and I’m trying not to do that at the minute. Also, there always seems to be some category that I know I’m going to hate before I even start and that seems pointless. The two books I’m currently reading (In the House of Lies by Ian Rankin and Middle England by Jonathan Coe) are both very good so I hope I have got this year off to a better start.