Jan 2015 TBRA busy post this time, but we’ll get there. Thanks for bearing with my massive book review posting session this last few days as I read and read and read … although I think this post got missed by a few people in all the late-night confusion. Here to the left is the current state of my TBR – not too bad at all, given that 10 books joined it over the Christmas period! But, as I’ve said, I did a lot of reading over the Festive Season, in fact managing to finish 12 books in December, which is something of a record for this rather lacking reading year! Read on for my Top 10 reads of 2014 and reading plans for 2015 …

Top 10 books of 2014

First, some terrible statistics. I only read 104 books in 2014 (50 fiction and 54 non-fiction). Oddly, I read almost the same number of non-fiction books as last year; it’s fiction that was much lower. I was basically down over 40 books on last year. I don’t know why: I’ve been about as busy as ever with my business, didn’t think I’d been exercising more or doing more other things, but there we go. I’m going to try to devote more time to reading in 2015. I’ve only done a top 10 as that’s just under 10% of my books read, so here we go – some real crackers in here, I have to say. They’re in order of reading …

Winifred Holtby – “The Crowded Street” – read in a lovely Persephone edition, a Christmas 2013 present, this classic novel of the early stages of the modern women’s movement is an absorbing story as well as a novel of ideas.

E. Arnot Robertson – “Ordinary Families” – one of those eccentric families you find in Virago books, and full of sailing and birdwatching – a real joy to read.

George Eliot – “Adam Bede” – I continued my gentle meander through those of Eliot’s works that are NOT “Middlemarch” (I love “Middlemarch”, but it was the only Eliot I read for years and years, even though I read that particular one several times during those years and years) with this Hardyesque tale of village life: you can’t help but fall in love with Mr Bede.

Halldor Laxness – “Independent People” – a great slab of a book about the bitterness of life in Iceland before mod cons came to the island, but my goodness it was a good read and held my attention. It’s comparable to the great sagas in its language and themes, and it helped my understanding of the place when I got there.

Guy Deutscher – “Through the Language Glass” – an accessible and fascinating book looking at whether the language you grow up speaking influences your experience of the world, or vice versa.

Ruth Adam – “A Woman’s Place 1910-1975” – an excellent Persephone detailing in social history terms the experience of women through much of the 20th century, wearing its learning and research lightly and very readable.

Bob Harris – “The International Bank of Bob” – worthwhile but never worthy, the author starts off doing a few Kiva loans and ends up travelling the world meeting people he has helped to support – a brilliant read and a nice companion to my own (lower-key) Kiva lending activities.

Frances White – “Becoming Iris Murdoch” – a book about my favourite author, by someone I’m lucky enough to call a friend, and mentioning my own research in passing, so how could it not make the top 10 – plus it happens to be a moving, intelligent and highly readable account of a period in Murdoch’s life which has not been so well studied.

Michael Swan – “Learner English” – a book all about the effects that people’s native language have on their production of English – utterly fascinating, hugely detailed and highly useful for a large portion of my work. What’s not to like!

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche – “Americanah” – fabulous novel about the experience of a Nigerian woman in the US and back in Nigeria; this explains why I don’t do this top 10 post until 1 January every year, as I only finished reading it on Christmas Day!

Honourable mentions

These books were excellent and highly enjoyable reads that were just outside the Top 10 …

Edward Hancox – “Iceland Defrosted” – I read a few books about Iceland before our visit in June, fiction and non-fiction, but this one was by far the most helpful and inspiring, explaining the nation and its people and sharing the author’s love for the place. Recommended reading for anyone planning to visit Iceland.

Katharine d’Souza – “Deeds not Words” – a book set in “a” Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and other familiar locations, with a great story and satisfying characters.

Charlie Hill – “The Space Between Us” – and I have to make space to mention a book set in the Moseley of my own student days, the first novel about road protestors, and a thumping good read (I have a review in my notebook but not on here – how?)

Reading plans for 2015

Jan 2015 coming upThese are the books that are coming up next on my TBR pile, and very good they look, too. I’m not doing my Month of Re-Reading until February this year, because coming after Christmas and in my Birthday Month, having a month where I don’t hook anything off the TBR shelf isn’t the best and most relaxing thing I can do.

Apart from reading books from the TBR, I am planning to do the following two reading challenges …

Re-read “The Forsyte Saga” – I’m doing this alongside Heaven-Ali and Kaggsysbookishramblings: we are going to read the three trilogies plus extras over the year. Watch out for linked reviews as we go.

Read some Trollope – this is my own adventure – I’ve never read any Anthony Trollope but I think I’d like him, so I’ve downloaded all of his Barsetshire and Palliser novels onto my Kindle and I’m going to read through them as it takes my fancy.

Continue Reading the Century – I announced my plan to do this “naturally” (i.e. not forcing it and not reading a book just because it fell under a particular year) this time last year, and I’m doing quite well with my list: I’ve now read books for 36 of the years, and I have another 13 coming up on my TBR (or in my Kindle) and will include one Galsworthy in the list. I have a massive gap around the 1950s and 60s – I’m sure I can fit in an Iris Murdoch, but I’d love recommendations for books from those years I might enjoy, as it’s an obvious gap!

So, there we go. Have you got any big reading plans (or small reading plans) for 2015? Did you read and enjoy any of my top 10? Happy New Year!