Top Ten Books of the Year 2016 (and reading report)

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jan-2016-tbrWell, the TBR started the year as above and (sneak preview) finished it like this, so that’s some progress, right?

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In 2016 I read 126 books in total (up from 115 in 2015): 77 of them were fiction (83 in 2015) and 49 non-fiction (32 in 2015) and I had 6 Did Not Finishes (3 in 2015). 84 of the books I read were by women and 42 by men (very tidy stats). As to diversity of location: not so much. 59 books where the location could be identified were set in England or the general UK, 24 in the US, 9 in Iceland, 4 in Switzerland, 3 in France, 2 each in India, Ireland and Scotland and one in Wales. Then there were 1 in Canada, Morocco, Japan, Spain and Europe in general. None in Eastern Europe, Russia or China? No South America or Africa as a whole? Hm. I re-read just five or six books, half for Woolfalong.

Top 10 books of 2016

So here are my top ten with links to their reviews.

Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour – community, nature, science, learning, wonderful novel.

George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss – just wonderful: these are classics for a reason, aren’t they!

Katharine d’Souza – No Place – set in a Birmingham that’s so recognisable and a fabulous story.

Lisa Jackson – Your Pace or Mine? – removed the last traces of shame at being a slow runner and the author even emailed me on marathon day.

David Kynaston – Modernity Britain – his volumes of social history always make my top ten.

Joan Russell Noble – Recollections of Virginia Woolf – such a special book of pieces by her contemporaries.

A.S. Byatt – Ragnarok – a good old-fashioned read and about the Norse mythology.

Simon Armitage – Walking Home – a bloomin good read about a long walk.

Bob Stanley – Yeah Yeah Yeah – the definitive history of pop and SO entertaining.

Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse – difficult to choose between this and some of her others.

Honourable mentions to:

The rest of Woolf

Margery Sharp – brilliant and just pipped to the post

Jo Pavey – This Mum Runs

I know you’ve all done your top 10s now but have you read any of these?

Challenges completed

I got on well with my own A Century of Reading and now have read or own 70 of the years.

I completed 20BooksofSummer this year!

I completed #Woolfalong, reading a book for every section and thoroughly enjoying the process.

I read all of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series.

Happy reading for 2017!

Thanks to all my followers, readers and commenters; hope you have a great year of reading.

Coming up later: Christmas book pile (yay), state of the TBR and challenge plans for 2017 …

 

A Year in First Lines

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hand-writingLots of people have been doing this and so I thought I would, too. The idea is to take the first line of the first blog post of each month and put them all in one post. Because my actual first post of the month is always a State of the TBR one, I’ve included that for the picture of my waxing and waning (OK, waxing) TBR and then the first sentence of my first review post. So the month name links to the blog post and you get a photo of the TBR for that month (watch that big Kynaston book move up the list as the months wear on …).

January

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Two in the “popular non-fiction” genre to start the year off – both started last year, which was a bit untidy, but never mind.

February

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Two sets of rather contrasting books today – and also two from last month and two from this.

March

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Two books for two challenges today, although I will admit here that I heard about Reading Ireland Month, thought I didn’t have anything on the TBR for it, then looked down at the book I was reading at the time and caught the word “Waterford” and thought, “Oh, yes!”

April

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Well, it’s Mary Hocking Reading Week, hosted as usual by Heaven-Ali, and of course this year we have the excitement of the fact that Bello Books have been busy reissuing Hocking’s novels, half in February and out already and half to come in July (read more about that here).

May

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Two very unlike books today, I’m afraid – wanted to get the Woolf reviewed as near to the end of Heaven-Ali’s #Woolfalong Phase 2: Beginnings and Endings project as I could, and then I picked a tiny one off the beginning of the shelf to read in scraps of time.

June

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Two books, one about books, one about the alphabet – you can’t get more booky or a more appropriate start for me for my #20BooksofSummer project, can you?

July

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I seem to have been working, eating, sleeping and running and not really reading very much – argh!

August

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Today I’m thrilled to review an excellent new novel by Katharine d’Souza.

September

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On Saturday, I had a lovely trip to Astley Book Farm, near Bedworth, with three booky friends.

October

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This book was kindly sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

November

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Well, a novel and a book about novels – I’m already feeling twitchy enough about leaving my last October book hanging around until this far into November.

December

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Well, I have finished Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” sequence and right on time, too. The 13 volumes have taken me 13 months to read, and I could not have done it without having the other lovely bloggers and LibraryThing Virago Group members to see me through.

I’m not sure how wholly illuminating this is, but it does show the TBR in all its glory and encapsulates the Woolfalong, 20 Books of Summer and Dorothy Richardson challenges I’ve been doing, plus the fact that sometimes people kindly send me books and sometimes I go on book-buying trips.

If you’ve done one of these posts or plan to, do link to it in the comments below: it does give quite a good snapshot, doesn’t it!

State of the TBR December 2016 (and a small confession)

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dec-2016-tbrDecember should be a time of clearing the decks and making sure I’ve got room on the bookshelf for lots of lovely books that usually appear for Christmas and then my birthday in January. Hm. Well, all those trips to bookshops and booky towns are going to take their toll, aren’t they. And I didn’t even stop today – I was busily trawling the local charity shops for goodies for Not So Secret Santas and presents for friends and managed to buy one for myself … Anyway, here’s the resulting TBR, not toooo bad, I think, and look at the lovely gap in the Pile now!

dec-2016-currentI’m currently reading some rather monochrome books … Yes, still reading “Yeah Yeah Yeah” – it’s REALLY good, but I need some proper long sit-down time with it, not just bits at mealtimes. Mollie Panter-Downes’ “London War Notes” came up on the TBR and seemed to work well as a bed read, though I hope it doesn’t get too graphic. It’s interesting at the moment to read the view of an outsider reporting back to the US. And of course it’s the start of a new month, so for the 13th – yes, the THIRTEENTH – month in a row, I’m going to be reading a volume of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series. The last one. I basically have 105 pages to go. Watch out for a fun (maybe) competition to WIN the whole set of four when I’m done with them …

dec-2016-coming-upNot pictured is Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves” which I have got all prepared on the bedside table but forgot to photograph. That will fill in the last round of the excellent #Woolfalong. Maybe not one to read too close to the Richardson, though.

Coming up after those is the next set on the TBR – though I fear the first two will have to wait until one of the chunky ones is finished with. At least with everything from the Tove Jansson onwards, I’m up to the books bought at Astley Book Barn, which takes us up to September buys (amazingly – what was I doing between Christmas last year and then??). There are some good and varied ones here, anyway.

dec-2016-confessionAnd my confession. Well, as I mentioned above, I was trawling around the charity shops today, I spotted this one. It’s not on my Wish List, so not too much danger of someone already having bought it for me, and it falls under my Collection Development Policy, see? Language, publishing, books, AND by a descendent of Vita Sackville-West. I’ve read a lot of Nicolson’s works and in fact have his “Atlantic” there on the front of the TBR, so all good, honest!

What are you up to reading-wise in December? Are you expecting a lot of book-shaped parcels under the Christmas tree? And are you planning your book challenges for next year? I know Ali has eschewed them and, apart from 20 Books of Summer, I think I’m going to the same. I want to do Mrs Oliphant in 2018 so I think I’ll just try to get through some more lovely Trollope and that will be it. Freedom!

State of the TBR – November 2016

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nov-2016-tbrWell, considering October involved book-buying at the beginning and end of the month, I’m quite pleased with how the TBR is looking! Six out of the ten books I read last month were from the shelf, and I discarded one before I started reading it, so that’s going to have helped, and I did take quite a substantial one off the shelf yesterday, although I am already part-way through it, so that’s fine!

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Currently reading or about to start, I have the fun “The Novel Cure”, which prescribes novels to read for various ills and ailments on the go at the moment. “Footprints in Spain is being read for Shiny New Books, and of course there will be the PENULTIMATE volume of “Pilgrimage”!

Notwithstanding what’s coming up on the TBR main shelf (see just below!), I do want to read the second volume of Virginia Woolf’s “The Common Reader” and, if I have time, “A Writer’s Diary”, so I’ll be leaving the last bit of #Woolfalong for December (do I have a copy of “Jacob’s Room”, “The Waves” or “The Years”? I fear not …

I do appear to have 11 fiction and around 25 non-fiction books on the main TBR, so I’ll be introducing a few more Reykjavik Murder Mysteries into my reading, I’m sure.

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Coming up on the shelf are these lovelies. “London War Notes” was a Christmas 2015 present, then the next two were part of a 2-for-3 on 29 December (sounds like a book token spend) and then we leap forward a bit so I should stay caught up until I reach October 2017 … So a Persephone, a book about reading, a book about language, TWO books about music and one of Iris Murdoch’s letters – certainly they don’t cover all of my non-fiction tastes, but I’m looking forward to reading them!

What are your reading plans for November? Have you read any of these?

State of the TBR – October 2016

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oct-2016-tbrI’m going to say Ta-Da! Look! One shelf! How long has that taken me to get to?? There is even a little gap that would fit one book at the right-hand end of the shelf. Yes, there’s a pile, but it’s only one pile, right? So I’m calling that a win. I read 13 books in September, pretty well all from the physical TBR, and gave up on one, so that big wodge of lovely Viragoes is gone, for a start.

Unfortunately / fortunately, I’m going to be in at least two places this month with unexplored charity shops, and you know what I’m like with those. As I’m in a few Not So Secret Santas, this is my last blow-out with the wish list before I have to keep it under control, so who knows what I’ll find? (actually, if I’m ‘allowed’ to buy lots of books, I don’t tend to find things I want to buy, whereas if I’ve got a huge shelf to read, I find millions more. Why IS that???).

oct-2016-next-readsSo what have I got coming up? I neglected #Woolfalong in September, but now is the ideal opportunity to read “The Common Reader”, as I’ve been working on my Iris Murdoch research, which uses the concept of the ‘common reader’ (my participants prefer to be referred to as ‘ordinary readers’ but this is the background to it). I have read the books before but can’t find them (were they in the school library, maybe?) so I treated myself to these nice new editions, although they seem to have used an old print block. And the two Viragoes? Well, a new month means a new Dorothy Richardson volume (only short now, remember) and for Karen and Simon’s 1947 Club, I went all over-excited and bought a copy of E.H. Young’s “Chatterton Square”, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

oct-2016-coming-upComing up on the TBR after that is a bit of a mixed bag. Two bits of social history in “Stranger in the House” and “War Notes from London”, a weird Icelandic novel (my last one on the TBR!), Simon Armitage’s poetic travels, a book about working with J.D. Salinger, “The Novel Cure” which looks like a lot of fun, and another book about reading (which appears to be part of a three-for-two purchase-fest from just after Christmas last year – I must have had a book token!).

Have you read any of these? How many challenges are you doing in October? How’s your TBR doing? Do share!

State of the TBR – September 2016

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Sept 2016 TBRIt’s TBR time again, and it’s TBR-ta-dah for me – look how svelte it’s looking!! Your eyes are not deceiving you – there are only THREE books on the front row, and even the Pile is short enough to let the books behind it peep over the top! Wow! This was helped by reading 14 books in August (a bit of a record for me, and very much helped by having my journeys from Cornwall and to and from Iceland), and my DNF happened to be a substantial volume, too, which helped.

Unfortunately for my TBR, however, I’m soon going on a trip to the Astley Book Farm, which is a wicked, evil largest second-hand bookshop in the Midlands type place. So expect me to be bursting at the seams again soon. Oh well.

I’m currently reading Edith Wharton’s “Hudson River Bracketed”, about which I have heard good things from other reviewers. It’s a great big book but very intriguing so far, with a central character who wants more, more things to learn, more words to describe the ideas in his head. That’s the last of All Virago / All August (which, truth be told, I didn’t do very well with, although I did get four in. You’ll see below the ones that didn’t make the cut last month, though!) and it’s also Book 18 in 20BooksOfSummer, so I should get that done as summer lasts until 5 September. Next up will be the next Dorothy Richardson volume, which I know is another short one …

Sept 2016 new notebook

And this picture isn’t of a book; it was time to start a new written reading journal, and I was frantically casting around for a new one of the same size. I like an A6 size hardbound notebook, preferably with lined pages (or squared ones, I think I know where my next one will come from, the rather naughty Bureau Direct website). I like A5 notebooks for holiday diaries etc. but all these are the same size and that’s what I like to use. Fortunately, I found the last of my lovely oriental-patterned notebooks bought from the late lamented Neal Street East (that’s the only link I could find for it – sob) shop in Covent Garden. I used to LOVE that shop, all the things you could buy, so good for gifts, and was very upset when it closed just after I’d moved in with Matthew in the block of flats opposite it, way back in 2003! And there’s the little label to prove it.

Sept 2016 coming up

Anyway, for this coming up next photo, I shuffled some more books forward. I have a feeling I’ll be alternating those lovely Viragos with other books in the list. There’s a nice easy Debbie Macomber, two books set in Iceland, finally the Wendy Cope autobiography my friend Andy has, too, and FINALLY, the book about Mark Twain in California that my photo-a-day Secret Santa, Tedd, gave me last Christmas (it’s worked its way from its position in the photo at the bottom of my April TBR post and should be reached this month!).

I will be taking part in #Woofalong Phase 5, Non-Fiction, and I might have just bought lovely new paperbacks of Woolf’s The Common Reader 1 and 2 essays (what’s the betting I find them for 50p at the Book Farm?) but I have a perfect time in October for those, so it’s pretty much what you see here, plus the one Icelandic book I have left for 20Books.

How are your (dare I say it) Autumn reading plans going? Are you going to make your 20BooksOfSummer? Are you Woolfing along?

State of the TBR – July 2016

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TBR July 2016

Look! Look! My TBR is definitely going down! I think I only read five books from the actual TBR (plus two from the Pile and two (one DNF) that I bought specially within the month) and removed one large one (the Kynaston social history, which I’m half way through), but I didn’t add any. Well, sort of.

July 2016 coming up 1

I did add these two lovely hardback biographies. But they’re for review, for the lovely Shiny New Books, and they have to be read and reviewed by the end of this month, so they’re not exactly joining the TBR as such. They do look good: I wonder who else has review copies of them at the moment. It’s fortunate that I like a good biography, and especially a mid-20th century arts-and-letters sort of one. I’ll be starting these lovely treats soon.

July 2016 coming up 2

I’m also still working my way through Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series, and this will continue through the rest of the year. I do sometimes get a bit downcast, because they’re Quite Hard, so I took this photo to comfort myself. See that sliver of Volume 3 after my bookmark? That’s July’s volume, just over 100 pages. And then Volume 4, while quite a substantial-looking volume, contains ALL THE REST OF THE BOOKS! So that’s five – FIVE – books in one volume. We can cope with that over five months, can’t we?!

July 2016 current

I’m currently reading, alongside the Kynaston and a light novel I’ve just finished, my book on volcanoes in Icelandic – luckily, a children’s book, but with quite a lot of text still. Working my way on with my notebook and dictionary, it took me an hour to read the front cover, map legend and the first paragraph of the first page, but I’m getting there, and I’m remembering quite a lot of the grammar from Old Norse, which makes it easier for looking up (one day, if you’re lucky, I’ll share the wonderful order an Icelandic dictionary goes in – it does make sense, but it’s a bit hard to pick up!

July 2016 coming up 3These are the next books up on the front of the TBR (do you think I can read them all this month and reach One Shelf TBR? Not sure, as one is a George Eliot with thin pages and small print …). They’re all taking part in my #20BooksofSummer project – not all of the books on the back row are, so that might be interesting – and we’ve got a nice variety, I think, with two classic novels, two mid-century novels, a light mystery, a sports autobiography and an exploration autobiography. Read any of these? Anything catch your eye?

Before I go off and get on with my July reading, a quick mention of a resource that might be useful to some of my fellow book bloggers: over on my professional blog this week I published a piece on driving engagement with your blog. In other words, how to encourage people to read, comment on and share your posts. It’s written for everyone, not just full-time bloggers or business bloggers, and I hope it helps some of you in some way.

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