Stats and Best Books of 2015 plus (parlous) state of the TBR January 2016


Jan 2016 TBRAs we all probably know by now, I don’t like to post my Best Of until the first day of the New Year, just in case I read THE BEST BOOK EVER as the last book of the year. I almost did this year, too. So here’s my pic of the year’s books, but some stats first …

In 2015, I read 115 books – 83 fiction and 32 non-fiction. In 2014, it was 104 in total, but 50 fiction and 54 non-fiction. I’ll blame my flu in May and a couple of colds for that. Interestingly, although my top 10 include books by 6 men and 4 women, I read 71 books by women and 43 by men (and one by a man and a woman, in case you’re adding up). However, 19 of those 71 were by Debbie Macomber or Georgette Heyer, so a lot of shorter, lighter reads there. I’m surprised at how little non-fiction I read this year, as I certainly have a lot of it on my shelf at the moment.

Top ten books of the year

In order of reading …

Robert Tressell – “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” – always meant to read it, this was the year I did

Anthony Trollope – “The Warden” – started my love of Trollope!

Helen Cross – “The Secrets She Keeps” – wonderful, funny, moving novel

Gillian Dooley – “From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction” – all the interviews Iris Murdoch did, beautifully edited

Robertson Davies – “Tempest Tost” – re-read of a favourite, still marvellous

Arnold Bennett – “Clayhanger” – first in a series and so absorbing

Carol Ann Duffy – “The World’s Wife” – the first time a book of poetry has made it onto the top ten, I think

Vita Sackville-West – “The Heir” – I loved “The Edwardians” too, but I loved this more

Steve Silberman – “Neurotribes” – uncomfortable reading in parts but really important and fascinating

James Kelman – “You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free” – dialect, yes, but such an unputdownable read

Special series mentions go to …

Arnaldur Idriðason – The Reykjavik Murder Series – I’m only on Book 2 but I love these and I love love love the setting!

John Galsworthy – The Forsyte Saga – nine wonderful books read this year in good company


My DNFs and one Finished But Only Because It Was A Review Copy:

Wolfgang Iser – “The Art of Reading” – Too Hard. But I got what I could out of it

John Algeo – “British and American English” – not what it was advertised as being – it translated British into American and I wanted the other way round. No indication of this on the blurb!

Jonathan Franzen – “Freedom” – I liked another of his books, this was angry and horrible and I gave up

Tracy March – “Should’ve Said No” – indeed. A queasy mix of sex’n’museums

Reading challenges past and future

I read the Galsworthys and did #20BooksOfSummer in the summer (failed that one slightly). I’ve got up to 55 years filled in my Reading the Century project, pretty well naturally (i.e. not many books bought to fulfil it) but I have filled in lots of popular years now so might have to aim for the 60s this coming year!

I’ll be continuing Reading the Century, continuing reading Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series and will be doing Heaven-Ali’s #Woolfalong project, which reads novels and essays by and books about Virginia Woolf.

State of the TBR January 2016

Jan 2014 bSee above. Oops. Only all fits on because Christmas and post-Christmas is horizontal (you can see it on the right, on the back row). The January 2015 TBR looked like this, which was far more manageable! But I’m definitely Making More Time For Reading now, so hopefully I can get through them to the delights I’ve picked up recently.

Jan 2016 currently readingI’m currently reading Ken Livingstone’s memoirs (which are quite dull, but in a good way, if you see what I mean) (note the Morrab Library bookmark, reminding me of Cornwall friends), plus “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking” which is quite good if you need that sort of thing, but not QUITE for me, and a book about not buying things on my Kindle.

Jan 2016 coming upComing up, it’s time for another Dorothy Richardson (hooray!) and Ali’s Woolfalong is starting, so I’ll need to check what I’m meant to be picking up for that. Then these books are next on the TBR – you can see it HAS shifted, because this picture is actually different to those of the last few months!

Every year at the end of the year I think “Do I actually want to bother carrying on with the reading blog?” I do always note my reviews in a paper journal, but I do enjoy the interaction I have on here with other book bloggers, even though this is not the most popular blog and doesn’t get as many comments as others. I cherish my comments and commenters, so I’m going to carry on and I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.

Have you posted your Top Books yet? I bet you have. What challenges are you doing and what have you got coming up in January? Have you read any of these books on my shelf?

Important information for Google Reader subscribers


Hello there! This is aimed at people who subscribe to this blog and my other one via Google Reader.

Google Reader will be shutting down at the end of June 2013, so you will need to export your feeds to another reader, or you’ll lose them.

I have moved over to Feedly which allows you to import your Google Reader subscriptions and offers functionality for tagging and saving posts until later. I’ve found it’s good and reliable and easy to use, and it works on desktop computers and tablets, phones, etc. This is not an affiliate link or paid advertisement – I took some advice and looked at some alternatives and this looked best for me.

Of course, there are other RSS feed aggregators out there, and Library Guru Phil Bradley has kindly gone through and assessed them all for us in this blog post.

If you don’t want to use RSS feeds anymore, you can subscribe to this blog via email – just look at the top right hand side of the screen and you’ll see a link in the sidebar.

I hope you are able to continue to subscribe via Feedly or email or some other form and that I continue to see you over here. Any questions, please ask!

Name this blog!


So, I tried changing the name of this blog from “Adventures in Full-Time Self-Employment” to “Notes on self-employment, reading and writing” but that’s a bit dull (say people on Facebook: and they’re right).

Can you think of a good title?

You can win … um … endless gratitude, a book from my BookCrossing Availables, your name and link to your blog or business placed prominently on a post … kudos … karma … you get the idea.

What the name must get across: there will be posts on

  • Self-employment (from a personal point of view)
  • Books (reviews mainly)
  • The books I’m writing (non-fiction)

What I don’t like:

  • Mention of Busy / Bizzie Lizzies

The url will stay the same as that’s a pain to change and I have links between this blog and my other one …

Edited to add – this new theme shows the tagline, which is useful!


Thank you!

On not fishing for compliments …


scribbly booksOK, so I’ve been posting book reviews on here for a while now, and some people do read them, like them and even post comments. But I don’t have many views per review, not many at all, and not more as time goes on, and I’m getting the feeling that people aren’t really interested.

So, I ask myself, is it worth typing these reviews up on this blog any more, or should I just keep my paper journal?

Can you help me decide?

How do you read this blog?

Do you all read it on Google Reader or another RSS feed, not clicking through to this site (so not being captured in my statistics)? So do I have more readers than I think? I know I have 85 followers on WordPress and emails, and again, I don’t know if you just read it on your feed or an email that gets sent to you, whether that comes through to my stats. So, is that what you do?

Is it too confusing?

It’s been pointed out that the blog url and title don’t reflect the idea of book reviews. This is a repository for musings on being a full-time self-employed person (obviously, past the first year, these have diminished, but there will be more when I publish my book on the subject), stuff on my research project, and book reviews. It’s made pretty clear on my About Me page, but should I change the title (I can’t change the URL). Will this put people off? Do you read this blog (if you do) in spite of or because of the range of subjects?

Are my reviews just not good enough?

I appreciate that my reviews aren’t very long and detailed. I don’t think that’s going to change – I don’t have time to write massive long reviews. I hope I give a flavour of what the book is about, maybe introduce you to some new ideas for reading, etc.

Please do respond!

It would be so helpful to know what people think. I’m not going to waste my time putting out stuff that no one cares about – or yours having to skim over something in your facebook or twitter feed or RSS reader. So please, be honest. If there’s something I can mend quickly and easily that doesn’t involve a) starting another new blog b) spending significantly more time on this one, I’m all ears. If you think it’s boring and you just don’t care, that’s fine! If I get no comments, I’ll know why! Oh – and I do know that blogs grow, audiences grow, etc., etc. I also know that while the audience and hits on my other blog have grown and grown, this one has pretty well stayed the same since I started it.

Thank you for reading!


Season’s Greetings

1 Comment

Dear readers – do pop over to the other blog, where you will find Season’s Greetings to all Libro friends and clients.

The power of ‘we’


Blog Action Day is here, and the Power of We is making some noiseIt’s Blog Action Day today, and a good opportunity to talk about something I’d wanted to mention anyway. When I worked at the University, I met a lady called Sylvia Gardiner. She’d visited Ethiopia when her son was working there, was hugely moved by the poverty she found there, and instead of doing nothing about it, or sending a few parcels, she got down to it and founded a charity called LUCIA to support women and girls in the country.

Of course, this is about the power of Sylvia as much as the power of ‘we’, but she’s so good at encouraging people to take part and support the charity in whatever way they can. While I worked at the library, I was proud to provide (free) minuting services for their meetings for a year, and when I started running in races it seemed a foregone conclusion as to which charity I would choose to support.

I’ve raised over £1000 for LUCIA in the time I’ve been running for them – mainly the Birmingham Half Marathon (or Great Birmingham Run as it’s called now). I benefit them and they benefit me – how’s that for the Power of We? Because I might be making money to support people, but there’s nothing like having those people to think of if I’m making a fuss or whining a bit when I’m running 13.1 miles. Not with a herd of goats that are my only livelihood, not with a tottering pile of stuff to sell, not with water I’ve dragged from a well, not trying to work out how to feed my family or get to school, but well-fed, warm and comfortable, with expensive running kit and a good lifestyle.

And the power of we works so well with a small charity. I’m not worried about how much of the money I raise goes to admin costs or buys something different from what I thought. If I choose, I can ask the LUCIA committee what my money has actually gone towards, and they can tell me, “You put a roof over the head of 30 schoolgirls for 6 months”, or whatever their current project is. How wonderful is that! And everything is good, grass-roots stuff: a goat to start a herd, help setting up a credit union, helping people to help themselves.

When you watch these big race events on the telly and you see all the ‘fun runners’ (horrible phrase!) streaming past, that’s the Power of We, too. Imagine how much money all those people are raising for their chosen charity.

My chosen charity is LUCIA. I doubt I’ll ever go to Ethiopia. But I can help a few fortunate people support a few people out of poverty, and that feels pretty powerful to me.

The Power of We is this year’s theme for Blog Action Day. I found out about Blog Action Day from Coral Musgrave – thanks, Coral! If you would like to sponsor me as I run my fifth Birmingham Half Marathon, please click on the link to my Justgiving page or this delightful pic of me running for LUCIA a couple of years ago. Thank you!