State of the TBR October 2020

8 Comments

We have no piles! I finished eighteen books (EIGHTEEN BOOKS!) in September (one was one I’d been reading for months with my best friend and one was a cartoon book, but still) and even though only five of those were from the physical shelf (five were ebooks, three review books that came in during the month, four were off the piles on top and one was from my main shelves) and I took one off that I just did not fancy reading (“Julian Grenfell” by Nicolas Moseley, a Persephone I bough in Oxfam, which I will gift onwards) it was enough to shift things around so that everything can stand up.

In fact, can you see, at the end … there’s a GAP! I can’t remember when I last had a space for one book on the TBR without creating Piles! And there aren’t many balanced on the top now, either, just three WW2 Angela Thirkell novels left to go!

I’m just finishing off the wonderful “Kitted Out” which I am reviewing for Shiny New Books, that will be done by the end of the day, and I’m currently reading “Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey” by Madeleine Bunting, which is a wonderful book taking its time on each of about 20 islands, with history and reportage and nature, and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” is my current readalong with best friend Emma. We’ve covered the first chapter so far – I did know a fair bit of the history it covers, much thanks to David Olusoga et al’s excellent Alt HIstory strand “Black British History We’re Not Taught in Schools“, but not all of it by any means, so I learned a lot about Black support organisations and fascinating individuals and I’m looking forward to reading more tonight.

Next up I need to read “Slay in Your Lane” by by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, which shared stories of successful Black British women and offers advice to Black women wishing to follow their paths, because I won their follow-up book, “Loud Black Girls”, where 20 writers ask what’s next on NetGalley and that’s published today. Then my Paul Magrsathon carries on with “666 Charing Cross Road” which I’ve selected because Bookish Beck can get hold of a copy and it fits into her plan for spooky October reading. Also recently published in Arvin Ahmadi’s “How it All Blew Up”, another NetGalley win, which is described thus: “A nuanced take on growing up brown, Muslim and gay in today’s America, HOW IT ALL BLEW UP is the story of one boy’s struggle to come out to his family, and how that painful process exists right alongside his silly, sexy romp through Italy. “

And after that, as I’m now beautifully almost only a year behind myself, and as the books on the start of my TBR, with one notable exception, are a bit samey – monocultural to an extent, and mainly about nature! – whereas the newest ones are a bit more diverse in all ways, I think I might start alternating again, especially now I can get to the back shelf without moving Piles. I do of course still have a million books on Kindle too, so those will feature as well, and I know of at least two review books winging their way to me. Fun times!

I have a week off work next week so hope for a good batch of reading then. Not going anywhere as I’m in the middle of the Midlands extra lockdown region and very near some big hotspots, so no day trips or meeting up with friends in their houses or gardens, let alone holidays, but some clearing out and, yes, lots of reading …

Have you read any of these featured books? What are your October reading plans? Any challenges?

State of the TBR September 2020 and only a tiny #Bookconfession #20BooksOfSummer20 #paulmagrsathon

22 Comments

I’m very pleased with the state of my TBR at the moment – yes, there’s a Pile and some Loose Matter, but that’s not major and there were two Piles last time. As I reported in my round up of my 20 Books of Summer project (here), as well as completing my 20 Books of Summer reading with days to spare, I achieved my aim of getting a load of books acquired in 2018 off the shelf and read. Let’s not mention how many books I’ve acquired in lockdown – they might just fill the whole back shelf! In total I read 13 books in August (or finished, as one of them I’d been reading in sections since May) and nine of those were from the physical TBR.

September 01 2020 TBR

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Horse Crazy” by Sarah Maslin Nir, which the publisher kindly made available to me on NetGalley. It combines a social history of horse-lovers in the US with a memoir of the author’s own obsession with horses. Each chapter is named after a horse she’s loved so I hope it’s not too heart-rending!

I’m also going to be continuing with my reading of Angela Thirkell’s wartime novels, which she wrote and published as the war was going on – so there’s an immediacy there which will be fascinating. I want to have them all read by the end of the year, or earlier if I can, now that I finally have them all! I’ve already discovered the resolution to the cliffhanger from “Cheerfulness Breaks In” in “Northbridge Rectory” (review to come) – phew!

Coming up next …

I need to be reading Kevin Maxwell’s “Forced Out” soon, not least because my friend Gill has loaned it to me and needs to lend it to a police officer next! It’s about the experiences of a Black, gay man who had always wanted to be a police officer but ended up having terrible experiences of homophobia and racism. And my re-read of Paul Magrs’ “Exchange” will be my Magrsathon book for this month (did you read my interview with him yesterday?).

On top of “Horse Crazy,” I want to pick up some other NetGalley reads. I will then make a start on the beginning of the TBR and I’ll be starting “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which is the new book my best friend and I will be reading together over the next few weeks (watch out tomorrow for a review of the one we read in May-August).

Then, further in the future, apart from continuing with my reading of Angela Thirkell’s wartime novels, this is the start of my TBR – the oldest books on it. Not hugely diverse, I have to say, apart from “A Brown Man in Russia” and “The Good Immigrant” but that aspect should be covered in my NetGalley reading. I was quite clearly in a nature phase during this part of 2019!

Book confession!

I was delighted to receive a copy of Elizabeth von Armin’s “Father” in the post from the lovely folk at the British Library Women Writers publishers. It’s out on September 03 and I won’t have it read and reviewed by then but I will get to it asap! What a pretty copy, too!

State of the TBR August 2020 plus one more #Bookconfession #20BooksOfSummer20

20 Comments

Although some might say that this TBR shelf has gone a bit extreme again, with its not just one but TWO piles of horizontally stacked books to fit them all in, I’m actually really chuffed with this.

TBR shelf August

What I’m chuffed with is the beginning of it. And yes, I’ve acquired a lot (see all posts with book confessions here), but thanks to my 20BooksOfSummer project, I have finally shifted a load of the books that were sitting at the beginning/oldest point of the shelf.

This was my June TBR right at the start of the project, and books from 2018 stretch to pretty well half-way along the shelf. Those have pretty well all gone, just the Angela Thirkells waiting for the reissue of the books that come before and between them, and a good chunk of early 2019 also gone.

June TBR

But also, those books at the start had been stuck there for aaaaages! This was April 2020:

and this was January 2020, with that Tahiti book still prominent quite near the beginning and not much leaving the shelf between Jan and March.

So on the whole I’m very pleased, I’ve acquired some smashing books and I’m reading more than I have for months, so should be able to maintain the momentum.

I read (or should say finished, as one of them was the Grayson Perry book I’ve been reading for ages) 17 books in July (18 if you count the Spanish children’s book with about 100 words), nine of which were from the physical TBR (the others were review books that sit separately so I get to them in time or e-books).

Currently reading

Oxford illustrated history of the bookI’m currently reading “The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book”, edited by James Raven, which is as sumptuous as you can imagine. Although I’ve got a pdf review copy (I’m reading it to review for Shiny New Books), the illustrations have come out beautifully in that and it’s still a good reading experience. I’ve just finished reading about the first iterations of books across the world and am about to dive into Byzantium, and I will spend quite a lot of this weekend on it as I have three review books to read by the middle of the month. How lucky I am – and how diverse they are (one on trespass and one a republished woman writer, see below …)

Coming up next …

Three books coming up, described in textSo coming up very soon will be Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass” which is the story of trespass in the UK and how that was instrumental in setting up and maintaining rights of way, plus information about land ownership. That’s a review copy from Bloomsbury (thanks, again!) and then I also have “Dangerous Ages” by Rose Macaulay, which is one of the new British Library Women Writers publications.

My Paul Magrs for the month I THINK is going to be “Exchange”, a lovely re-read, however I need to check that Bill in Australia, who won the copy in my competition at the start of the year, is able to access his copy to read! Otherwise I’ll be sharing a great interview I’ve done with Paul, and I’m considering which of his books on writing to pick up for a later month.

Vriagoes and PersephonesAfter/among these will be the last 7 books in my 20BooksofSummer project. I’ve been doing so well, got up to Book 13 yesterday (a low viewing and commenting rate on that review, though, so far, really not sure why!) so on track. This section has changed slightly in that “The Three Miss Kings” is going to wait for AusLitMonth in November, and I’ve swapped in “There’s a Good Girl” by Marianne Grabrucker (which is a lot shorter, and also covers Women In Translation month!). You can see one Dean Street Press book on there and once I’ve read this pile for 20Books and All Virago (etc.) / All August, I will be picking off some more of those (I also have one more ebook of their new set to read and review) plus some Virago Angela Thirkell reprints to round off that challenge.

On the Red HillAnd one book confession to round things off, and sorry it’s a picture of me (with my long lockdown locks, which I quite like and am keeping, even though my hairdresser is being terribly safe and careful), but I had shelved the book behind that right-hand pile before I realised I didn’t have a flat pic of it) – my friend Liz shared that she was reading this book about two gay couples who live sequentially in a house in Wales, and how moved she was by it, and I had to get a copy!

State of the TBR July 2020 #20BooksOfSummer20 #Paulmagrsathon

24 Comments

Whole TBRGiven the number of books that have come into the house this month, I’m quite surprised that I’ve managed to fit everything on to the TBR shelf with only one pile (I have taken the review books from their position balanced on top of the front row, but you’ll see those in a minute. I did read thirteen books this month and of those, I took seven plus one DNF off this shelf, which has helped – and I’ve also taken off one of the ones I’m reading at the moment.

Currently reading

Two Queer Eye BooksThe book I took off to read was the (new) Queer Eye book – it’s a big, square volume that nothing could fit in front of, so was effectively taking up two spaces on the shelf. The new series has started and is excellent as ever, and I also, as you can see, have the ORIGINAL book! So I’m going to read the new one then re-read the original. I think there are quite a lot of differences between the two series and the two sets of experts, so it’ll be very interesting to compare the books.

I’m also finishing up the huge book on Grayson Perry  by Perry and Jacky Klein for review in Shiny New Books, and one of my older ones from NetGalley “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis, which is about the value of keeping your business small (but also about being a “company of one” in a corporation.

Definitely coming up this month

Four books to read this month

As well as my next six 20 Books of Summer, I’ll be reading these review and project books. Lev Parikian’s “Into the Tangled Bank” is an exploration of the British relationship to nature and is a review copy from Elliott and Thompson that comes out early this month, so this will be started soon. Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass”, kindly sent to me by Bloomsbury, is out in August but a mighty tome, so I will start it this month, too. In my Paul Magrsathon I will be reading “All the Rage”, his book about a two boys / two girls band in the 80s. I think I last read this in May 2002 and I have a dim memory of a scene in a shopping centre … (I sent “Exchange” off to its Australian winner a few weeks ago and will schedule to read that when he has it ready to read). Then “I will not be erased” by the gal-dem collective, “Our stories of growing up as people of colour” which I bought in September last year will be the next on my Black Lives Matter reading theme – I’ve decided to read a few books about people’s experience in the UK to get more of the background before going on to “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” and “White Fragility” to underpin and explain how I feel reading and working through “Me and White Supremacy”.

I will also add in at least two of the lovely volumes Dean Street Press have sent me which are coming out in August.

Up next / 20 Books of Summer Month 2

next on the TBR

The front (older) end of the TBR is looking very different to how it looked in June (and, indeed, for a good few months before that). 20 Books of Summer 20 is really shifting those older books and I’m up to 25 December 2018 now! So next up around the books above will basically be anything that’s not a Persephone / Virago / Dean St Press in this picture (the Persephones and DSPs will be read in August; the Viragos are waiting for more Thirkell reprints in late August that come before and around these two). Once I’ve got to Tim Parks’ “Where I’m Reading From” which was originally Book 13, I have one to choose to finish the month out of “A Brown Man in Russia”, “Our City” and “Naturally Tan” – whichever I choose will at least be contributing to diversifying the 20Books pile a bit! I’ll see how much time I’ve got at the end of the month.


So there we go: a successful reading month in June and some really good reads to look forward to in July. How’s your TBR?

State of the TBR June 2020 #20BooksOfSummer

23 Comments

I finished 13 books in May, one of which was 908 pages long, and also read parts of two more, plus have three on the go, so not a bad reading month. And after having a lot of the shelf piled up, most of the back and one pile in the front, I’m now down to one pile at the back, so pleased with that.

I’m currently reading “Don’t Touch My Hair” by Emma Dabiri, which is a fascinating book I won on NetGalley about the sociology and cultural importance of black and dual-heritage women’s hair written by a Black Irish woman. I’m over half way through and learning a lot. Because my 20BooksOfSummer list is quite monocultural, I’m trying to explore the experiences of people who are different to me in the gaps between project books.

I’m also working my way through Jacky Klein’s wonderful monograph on Grayson Perry, which is worth lingering over. This is for Shiny New Books but I might review it in full on here, too. It’s the last of my books from Thames & Hudson for that publication, and I’ll be sharing my first two reviews next week.

Coming up of course are the first swathe of my #20BooksofSummer (read about my Pile here and find links to all my reviews as I write them up here). So I have books about Tahiti, an Icelandic travelling woman, the sociology of birdwatching, West Penwith, a pub landlady, Tolkien and the last remaining parts of the British Empire to enjoy this month (it seems to make sense to split them up into a seven, a six and a seven) and I’m looking forward to them, having succeeded in removing a book about the Inklings (DNFed) and a Pamela Brown book from the 2018 books already.

At some point in proceedings I will be continuing with “Rewild Yourself” by Simon Barnes, which I’m reading alongside my best friend and which I really need to get on with, and Paul Magrs’ “Lost on Mars”, which is proper sci fi but I am sure I’m in safe hands with Paul.

Let #20BooksOfSummer commence, and let’s hope I continue reading at this rate! Are you doing any challenges this month? Have you read any of these?

State of the TBR May 2020 and Shiny fun @ShinyNewBooks

33 Comments

I read 11 books in April, which I was very happy about, as I was working very much full time and did not have a week’s holiday and flights like I did in March. I had a few acquisitions, one of which you’ve not yet seen but will in a moment, and everything has miraculously just fit onto the TBR shelf!

and things have moved around a little bit, at least. Honest!

One new book just in is Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” which I bought with a token for the rather lovely Topping and Company Books which my friend Helen from my photo-a-day group gave me (we have a “thing” for pay it forward acts of kindness in the group at the moment; I sent another friend some hot cross bun flavoured chocolate!). It was a slight challenge to use the token remotely but we got there in the end and the book popped through the post this week (shown with the other arrival, my RED January 2020 medal, as I did a bit of fundraising for Mind as part of RED January again this year). It looks like I will need to swallow my “But I’m not like that” reaction and pay attention to what the author’s lived experience is, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of reading it.

I really enjoyed doing a few readalongs last month and thank you to those who suggested books for me to read. I haven’t added enough books to make the TBR different enough again, but I will certainly consider doing that again in the future. I’ve kept “Rewild Yourself” out of sequence while I wait for my best friend to finish “Difficult Women”.


Talking “Difficult Women”, my review of that marvellous book was published on Shiny New Books yesterday. I did review it here, too, with a more personal reaction, whereas my more book review-y reaction makes a slightly different statement.

There is a powerful call to action at the end of the book:

 Ultimately … the cure for feminist ennui is feminist campaigning.

The patriarchy is outlined as the main culprit, pressing men as well as women into repressive and uncomfortable roles. She uses a series of demands sets out at the Women’s Liberation Conferences in the NINETEEN-SEVENTIES (for goodness’ sakes) to show that there’s still a lot of work to get our teeth into, some partially achieved, some where we need to look at the intersection of gender, race and class, some that are still so far away. The description of a Difficult Woman at the very end is a masterpiece and I wish I could quote the whole thing: I encourage you to go and get a copy and read it! [read the full review here]

I also had my review of David Crystal’s “Let’s Talk” published last week.

In a series of main chapters and shorter vignettes, we learn about what conversation is, and isn’t, about discussions on conversation that have been going on for millennia, about taking turns, not taking turns, what we talk about and how we talk about it. The shorter pieces include fascinating notes about topics from battle rapping to conversation cards shared in Victorian times and break up the text nicely – although it’s never heavy-going or overly academic: Crystal is sublimely good at making things readable and understandable. [read the full review here]


What’s up next? Well, excitingly, it’s my dear friend Heaven-Ali’s Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week coming up this month. I won a copy of “Rebecca” in her giveaway last time she did this (she swears it wasn’t a fix!) and then Cornishgirl from the LibraryThing Virago Group sent me “Jamaica Inn” for my Not So Secret Santa gift last Christmas and even though I promised Mr Liz I would read “Where the Crawdads Sing” soon, I do want to try to get both of these read in the first part of the month. I also have my next Paul Magrs, “Fancy Man”, his lost novel, unpublished until Lethe Press did their reprints in 2016 – how exciting!

I have to admit also to a very long queue of NetGalley books waiting to be addressed. Here’s the full stack and I know it’s not too many but it’s also not none! I did really well chipping away at the older books on our holiday, but I need to keep going with the up to date ones while working at the older ones. Any strong recommendations here? I know I have a few reviews saved for “The Authenticity Project” …

Work should (please!) be a little less frantic this month, so hopefully I’ll both get some physical books moved off the TBR and some electronic ones consumed (this of course is by no means all that is on my Kindle!

Are you doing any reading challenges this month? Any NetGalley books there I should immediately grab and make a start on?

State of the TBR April 2020

38 Comments

I was discussing with my best friend whether we fancied reading a book ‘together’ at this time of isolation, and decided to get it ALL out (and this isn’t even all of it actually as I’d put the Piles to one side. I’m not getting it all out again though!

and here’s the more usual view of it. In fact, it’s doing quite well (a bit well), because the books on the back aren’t all in horizontal piles any more, just two piles and a normal row of books.

That might be down to the fact that I read FIFTEEN books in March, although a lot of those were on Kindle on our holiday at the beginning of the month. FIFTEEN though. And I’m still working very much (very, very much) full time at the moment.

apr-2020-up-next.jpgComing up next are these four lovelies. I’m just finishing Jane Linfoot’s “Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop” (I’ll be reviewing the three in this series I read in March together next) and then it’ll be on to Ada Leverson’s “Love at Second Sight”, which is the third volume in the “Little Ottleys” trilogy. Volume two was a bit nail-biting as the Ottleys’ marriage is threatened, and I had a little change before going back to the third. I’ll be reviewing those together, too, and was reading them along with Heaven-Ali so we will try to link our reviews when they’re done.

Then it’s on to my Paul Magrs of the month: “Could it be Magic?” which is the third in the Phoenix Court series and features a man giving birth to a leopard-skin furry baby, as you do. After that comes Helen Lewis’ “Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights” for which I did the transcriptions; I want to read it anyway and am reviewing it for Shiny New Books. Hopefully I’ve persuaded a couple of other people to read it alongside me, too – hooray! And then Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” for which I have seen both glowing and scathing reviews but which Matthew read recently on audio book and absolutely loved, so exhorted me to buy and read.

There have been some more incomings on the Kindle front, via NetGalley, which I am always forgetting to update on here.

Clare Pooley’s “The Authenticity Project” is a cafe-based random acts of kindness novel that appealed in January.

“Diary of a Confused Feminist” by Kate Weston is a YA book about trying to be a feminist as well as everything else in today’s times (well, not today’s actual times right now: that would involve sitting in your house being a feminist at Joe Wicks’ PE or something, wouldn’t it).

Catherine Sanderson’s “The Bystander Effect” is about the effect peers / crowds have on helping behaviour and will hopefully have hints on how to stand up for what is right, because that’s how it was advertised.

“Our House is on Fire” is by Greta Thunberg’s parents about what it’s like raising and living with a world icon in climate change activism.

Beth Moran’s “How not to be a Loser” is a novel about a come-back to running with an inspirational group, I saw it on another blog and requested it.

And Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half” is a novel about twin sisters who grow up together in a small southern American black community but then take wildly different paths, one remaining at home and the other moving away and passing as white.

That’s only the most recent ones but I am looking forward to everything there!

A readalong a readalong a readalong a readalong?

So I was wondering, does anyone have any of these lovely books coming up and would like to read along with me? I’m going to share the whole TBR now, apart from two really old 2nd hand books no one is going to have, and I managed to miss Madness’ “Before We Was We” off the photos below but am up for that one, too. I hope you can see these, let me know in the comments if you’d like to draw together and do a shared read of any of these in April/May. Something to look forward to.

 

State of the TBR March 2020 plus new acquisitions #bookconfessions

17 Comments

Well, I have got all the TBR on one shelf apart from my little pile of Paul Magrs’ Phoenix Court novels and Icelandic trilogy. But there are Piles. And I’m going to reveal the back row …

Piles of books

Of course, my little challenge for myself still means I just have to get down to one above Rebecca Front’s “Curious” by the end of the year … Anyway, here’s it all put together.

Piles in the back neatly obscured by piles on top of the front row!

I’m currently finishing “Windblown” by Tamsin Treverton Jones, a book about the Great Storm of 1987, telling the story of the storm in great detail and then talking about its aftermath and the remarkable regeneration that has gone on in the places that were destroyed. Not entirely the best book to read in public (on a train, going down to a book launch) as, having been in the middle of the storm, aged 15, it brought it all back in horrible, visceral detail and quite shocked me. I have read another two books this month which will be reviewed next week, taking my total for February to ten, which is not too bad.

These are the oldest books on the TBR so will be picked up next. I can’t really get at the newest ones at the moment, although I might be able to sneak the very newest off the back shelf at some point. Odd that I ended up with two Tolkien books quite close together. At least this has changed a bit since the picture last month!

Also next up will of course be my next Paul Margs – second in his Phoenix Court series, “Does it Show” is another I really don’t remember as I read it last in 1996! And I really need to dive back into the NetGalley backlog on my Kindle, although that does work against the white male writing I’m seeing a lot of right here. So it’s all good, right?

And new books in …

New books in

OK, so I picked up Rakesh Satyal’s “Blue Boy” at our BookCrossing meetup last weekend: my friend Sian brought it and recommended it. Set in Cincinnati in the 1990s, our hero, Kiran, lacks the knack for fitting in – but some divine intervention is just around the corner. Lovely Kaggsy from the Ramblings sent me “Motherland” by Jo McMillan as she knew it was on my wishlist but had been unable to locate it in her stacks. A mother and daughter, the only Communists in Tamworth, go behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany – sounds fantastic. Everyone seems to be reading Lennie Goodings’ “A Bite of the Apple” which is about her work at Virago Books, ending up their editor, and I was pleased this published earlier than expected, as I’d pre-ordered it (why is that such a thing with me when I have so many books? However, this is the one most likely to slip off the end of the TBR and into my reading hands very soon). David Crystal’s “Let’s Talk” is a book about conversation OUP have kindly sent me to review for Shiny New Books. I love Crystal’s books so am so looking forward to this (which will obviously be read and reviewed soon).

Finally, Helen Lewis’ “Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights” I picked up at the book launch, to which I was invited because I worked on the transcriptions of the interviews Helen did for the book. I don’t just work for ghostwriters and this was one of my favourite books I’ve worked on, and I was honoured to find myself in the Acknowledgements! (I only looked on the train home from London, of course). It’s set to be a fabulous book and I was thrilled to meet a couple of the interviewees, as well as Helen, at the launch – I hardly ever get to meet my clients, let alone the people whose interviews I transcribe, so this was a massive treat.

Have you read any of these? Or are you planning to? What’s your March reading looking like?

State of the TBR February 2020

27 Comments

Well, I’m pleased to say that I finished 13 books in January, of which six were ebooks (I have one left to review), so I feel I’m doing well with the print TBR. Some of those books were from my Christmas acquisition pile but you will see a change in the start / oldest part of the TBR which is cheering after some stasis there.

So here’s the TBR as it stands. The Christmas books are on it (and could have been piled higher!) – you might be able to just see them behind the Magrs Mars books to the right. I am going to leave them stacked horizontally, as (well, hm, see below) they mark the point on the shelf I want to get up to by the end of the year.

Currently reading

I’m currently reading two books from the oldest part of the TBR (I really wanted to read them and couldn’t face shoehorning books from the front row off to get at pre-Christmas ones!). Simon Garfield’s “On the Map” is a really super exploration of the history of maps, from the very earliest ones to modern stuff around Google Maps, etc. It’s got nice illustrations (though printed on the page so a bit fuzzy sometimes) and is very engaging and fun to read. John Carter and Nicholas Barker’s “ABC for Book Collectors” is a newish edition of a firm favourite which I first encountered when I worked in Special Collections at the university library in 1992 – it goes through all the parts of a book and how books are made and described, but is far from dry, as it has all these funny and wry little notes scattered through it. Fun to dip into and perfect for reading at the dinner table.

Up next

Well first off of course it’s my Paul Magrs book for the month – going back to the Phoenix Court novels which were his first, and “Marked for Life” (which I think he wrote second but published first) so a lovely bit of magical realism set in North-East England estates and precincts. There are two bonus short stories in this Lethe Press edition, plus an intro by Paul. “Mr Loverman” is by Bernadine Evaristo and I’ve picked it off the October 2019 bit of the TBR (bought from a charity shop in Penzance when I thought I didn’t want to read “Girl, Woman, Other” because it was “written in poetry” – rather ironically, alternate chapters are in the same experimental style) because a) my friend Laura has just read it, b) Bookish Beck has just read it and I want to not have to keep her review for another 9 months before I can read it, and c) it sort of ties in with Valentine’s Day, right? It’s the story of what happens when a pillar of the West Indian community in London is discovered to be secretly gay and looks so well done and interesting. Finally, Hiromi Kawakami’s “The Nakano Thrift Shop” which I also bought in October will mean I can take part in The Japanese Literature Challenge 13 – I’m only taking part in challenges I can do from my TBR so was pleased to remember I did have a Japanese book!

Oldest on the TBR

The Oldest book on my TRB picture has changed quite a lot from January, as I’ve read four of the books that were on there and am currently reading another two. As I mentioned above, this really pleases me as it feels like I am actually reading the books I’ve pounced on with such glee in various places. So I have books on travel in Tahiti, running (a history and a memoir about blade-running), a book about the Great Storm of 1997 and the renewal of those fallen trees (how is that long enough ago to have a book about it, mind??), a book about where artefacts belong, one about Icelandic women travellers and one about birdwatchers.

I do have some novels on NetGalley that I will be getting to, as well, and those three works of fiction above, so a good mix, I think. Will I delve further into the back shelf? Not sure!

 

 

New in!

As people who read my running posts (not sure how much overlap there is!) will know, I have a reserve place in the London Marathon with my running club. This means I hopefully won’t have to run it, as the two people who got the places will be all fine and able to do it, but I do need to train up and be ready to do it just in case. So training to not do a marathon. While I intend to do a DIY marathon the week after London, taking a fun trip around a long bus route in Birmingham, it’s sometimes a bit hard to motivate myself, and having had a cold for the last week I wasn’t really adoring my 16-mile training run today. HOWEVER, all was made infinitely better by finding a rectangular parcel when I got home – a gift from the very lovely Verity of Joan Aiken’s “The Serial Garden”, which is all of the brilliant Armitage Family stories in one volume. Hooray!


How was your reading in January and what do you plan to read in February? Have you read any of these books?

State of the TBR January 2020 and reading stats / best books of 2019

38 Comments

Oh, goodness me. Oops, even. So I acquired a beautiful stack of books for Christmas (see them all here) as well as a book token and the exciting promise of a trip up the high street for charity shop book shopping and a cuppa after my birthday, and even with all the reading I did in December, there was NO WAY all those books were fitting on the shelf. So here’s the top shelf, double-stacked, with two pony book reprints and four Jane Linfoots, the Christmas volumes of which I didn’t get to this year, with the previous incomings and my BookCrossing secret santa books tucked in on the back shelf. Colonising one of Matthew’s shelves are my Christmas books in a pile (left) and my upcoming Paul Magrs books plus a trilogy I haven’t got round to and some random books in series where I need to either get the missing books in the series or basically get over myself. Ah well. Worse problems to have, etc.

I other people’s challenges (while I’m here). I have happily found that I have an Irish book (“Too Many Ponies”) for Reading Ireland Month in May and “The Three Miss Kings” for Australia Reading Month in November, plus two Du Mauriers for Ali’s week, enough Viragoes and Persephones for more than All August, and will be doing Non-Fiction November and 20 Books of Summer again.

My first book of the year was Paul Magrs’ “Aisles” and I took a somewhat alarming photo of myself with it for the First Book of the Year blog – it didn’t make it onto there, probably because I committed some terrible transgression, but here you go:

That’s “Aisles” in the middle, with the four Phoenix Court books which are the next four months’ reads, around me. See more on my Paul Magrsathon here.

Up next on the physical TBR are these lovelies. We’re going back to May 2018 here so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get some of these read and get the Christmas books fitted on before I revert back to my one from the oldest, one from the youngest, one on Kindle routine.

So “Footnotes” by Vybar Cregan-Reid (why we run), Dave Heeley’s “From Light to Dark” (his story as a blind runner), Harold Nicolson’s travel memoir “Journey to Java”, Sarah Henshaw’s self-explanatory, “The Bookshop that Floated Away”, Simon Garfield’s “On the Map”, Carter and Barker’s “ABC for Book Collectors”, George Eggleston’s mysterious “Tahiti” and Thor Gotaas’ history of “Running” – I’m hoping to read all of these this month.

2019 stats

For the first time, I’ve kept breakdowns of various book stats. So here they are with little to compare them with apart from the totals and genders!

I have got 2018 (in parentheses) figures for this first bit. So in 2019 I read 116 (115) books, of which 62 (56) were fiction and 54 (59) non-fiction. 79 (75) were by women, 35 (39) by men, 1 (1) by both (multiple authors) and 1 by a non-gender binary person (a new category this year, as it was for a few people whose blogs I read).

Where did my books come from:

gift 20
netgalley 17
bookshop online 16
publisher 14
bookshop physical 14
charity shop 10
bookcrossing 7
bookshop online second hand 7
own 3
bought from publisher 2
bookshop second hand 1
passed on 1
bought from author 1
loan 1
unbound subscription copy 1
author 1

How lovely that so many of my books were gifts!

Most books by far were set in the UK (74) with the US second (17) and then 14 other countries plus one set in a fantasy world.

I read books by 53 different publishers, the most common being Vintage (12) (Iris Murdochs in the main), Penguin (9), Virago (9), Avon (8), HarperCollins (6) and Thames & Hudson (5).

I read most books published in 2019 (30), which surprised me, although I reviewed a lot of books for Shiny and NetGalley. Eight of my top ten years were in the 2010s with only 1941 represented there from a much older decade. However, I did read books from 39 different years, from 1910 to 2020, although no books from the 1930s.

Onto diversity of authors and themes. 88% of the authors I read were white (as far as I could tell), with 12% People of Colour (I put everyone who was non-white in this category after a lot of fretting). The UK is apparently 87% / 13% so I’m  not far off that, but I want to increase the diversity. I might record nationality next year as well. Out of the 116 books I read, I assigned a diversity theme to 39 of them (feels like this should be higher), so 12 books specifically talking about women’s issues, 8 about race (plus one about indigenous peoples’ experience which I counted separately and one about women of colour), 6 LGBTQI+ issues, 4 mental health, 2 about gender in general, 1 about disability, 1 about class, 1 about race and class, 1 about non-neurotypical people and 1 about people with prosopagnosia. This doesn’t meant such themes didn’t come up in other books, just that they weren’t the main theme. It’s good to keep an eye on my intersectional reading and I’ll see if this changes with some of the books I bought towards the end of the year.

Top 11 books of 2019

And finally, my top eleven! Well, that represents just under 10% of my reading, so I think that’s OK. Links to reviews. 7 women and 4 men (about right), 7 non-fiction and 4 fiction (I did read a lot of nice light series set in Cornwall). Not mentioned as they’re somehow a given: the 12 works by Iris Murdoch I re-read this year.

Tirzah Garwood – “Long Live Great Bardfield” (my first book of the year!)

Jennifer Niven – “Holding up the Universe

Stephen Rutt – “The Seafarers

Harriet Harman – “A Woman’s Work

Margaret Atwood – “The Testaments” (because it was such an event and because I HAD wanted a sequel)

Richard Grant – “Dispatches from Pluto

Bernadine Evaristo – “Girl, Woman, Other” (this was probably my book of the year)

Clair Wills – “Lovers and Strangers

Tayari Jones – “An American Marriage” tied with Kiley Reid – “Such a Fun Age” – both important books about modern black lives in America (so OK that’s 12 then)

Joe Harkness – “Bird Therapy

Mark Mason – “Walk the Lines” (see, I was right not to compile this list until today)

Have you read and rated any of these? Are you taking part in any reading challenges? Are you joining me in the Paul Magrsathon (there might be a giveaway tomorrow …)?

 

Older Entries