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

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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 …)?

 

State of the TBR – November 2019

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Well, may I say that this is in a much better state as it’s all vertical – I did have a Pile but I’ve been reading quite a lot this month.

Thanks mainly to our holiday at the start of October, I read 13 books last month, and most of them were print ones, too. So that did have an effect, and although I acquired a few, it’s still just about in balance.

Currently reading

I’ve actually just finished Clair Willis’ wonderful “Lovers and Strangers” about the first wave of post-WWII immigration into the UK. It’s made me want to join Nonfiction November so I might just do that, as I think I can still just squeak in. Simon Napier-Bell’s “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay” is an exposé of the business of music. It’s started with the history of music publishing from the 18th century onwards, and is written in an accessible and somewhat scurrilous style. Different enough from the book on record shops I just read.

Coming up next

I’m continuing my sort of plan to do one of my oldest books on the TBR, then one of my newest, so up next for  my downstairs read will be Bill Jones’ “The Ghost Runner” which I bought last week. Then it’ll be my next Iris Murdoch, “The Green Knight”, one which I have loved before. Then I picked Philippa Ashley’s “A Perfect Cornish Summer” off the piles on top because I’ve won the Christmas one from NetGalley, and “Crazy In Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop” because I recently bought the sequel to that one, so reading these two will enable the reading of two more.

Coming up afterwards – oldest acquisitions

Here’s the current start of the TBR (it’s changed at last!). I might have to leave the first one, on political and protest songs, as it might be too much music industry in a short space of time. “Footnotes” about why we run is calling to me, as is the wonderful Dave Heeley’s autobiography. Looking at this, I can see why I fancy doing Nonfiction November!

Coming up afterwards – newest acquisitions

Here’s the End of Things, with the tiny book on gender I re-bought, notes on rewilding yourself which I also gave to Emma for her birthday, so might do a readalong, and that Winter Kiss novel that comes after “Crazy in Love”.

All good books to keep me going! And something from the Kindle of course …

What are you up to?

Any of these pique your interest? Did you see my post about my next reading challenge? It’s good to have something to look forward to as I wend my way to the end of Iris Murdoch, and she will pop up again then …

State of the TBR October 2019

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So it’s state of the TBR again and amazingly, even with all those incomings, it still fits (exactly) on its double-stacked shelf!

 

Having started and very much enjoyed Phillipa Ashley’s “Cornish Cafe” series, I decided to pull the rest of that trilogy plus another Cornwall book (having a trip coming up makes me want to read and take with me  books from the place I’m going – I assume everyone does that) off the TBR (the two trilogies I have were balanced on top of the back row). Then, as we’re busy stocking some shelves that go at a rate of knots, I pulled some BookCrossing books off to read and release. So here’s my next-up stack.

Gavin Knight’s “The Swordfish and the Star” is a non-fiction (supposedly) book about the area we stay in, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from local folk so will take it with a pinch of salt.

“Dispatches from Pluto” by Richard Grant – an adventure writer spends a year in the Mississippi Delta after having originally looked to buy in New York. A fish out of water/ethnography book recommended and sent by Cari.

In “Running Outside the Comfort Zone”, runner and writer Susan Lacke decides to get her running mojo back by taking on runs involving all sorts of challenges. Another from Cari.

Tony Wilson’s “24 Hour Party People” is apparently a novelisation of the film, but tells the story of Factory Records and the Hacienda. I do like a good music book and thank Sian for this one.

Of course I also have my Iris Murdoch of the month to read: “The Message to the Planet” this time, which I am slightly worried about as it has not traditionally been a favourite. However, I have changed my mind on a few of hers this time re-reading them, so you never know!

Do you read local books when you travel? What’s your best intersection of book and place? Mine might be reading Murdoch’s “The Philosopher’s Pupil” (set in a spa) in the reception area of a Turkish hammam ….

State of the TBR August 2019 #WITmonth #20BooksofSummer @PersephoneBooks @ViragoBooks @ShinyNewBooks

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OK so although the TBR is about the same size as it was last month, it has been worse within the month, as I had to turn the end of the front shelf into a pile to fit it all in.

I completed eight books in July and one of them is yet to be reviewed here, as I read the rather marvellous “The Seafarers” to review for Shiny New Books – I’ll share some thoughts on the book and my review when it’s up.

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Harriet Harman’s autobiography, “Woman’s Work” which I’m greatly enjoying (as you can see from the forest of post-it notes sticking out of the side of the book!

I love that, just like when she went for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, she basically wrote this book because she saw all the men writing their self-aggrandising memoirs and wanted to explain the way women’s issues had been tackled and promoted during her time in politics.

It’s very engagingly written and really cooperative, taking time to mention people who’ve helped her along her way – an excellent read.

Next up

Next up it’s time for not one, not two, not three but FOUR reading projects! Oo-er.

I’ll be reading Iris Murdoch’s “The Good Apprentice” for my re-reading project, the Great Iris Murdoch Readalong, book 22 which means there’s not long to go until the end.

Then it’s All Virago / All August month this month, run by the lovely Virago Readers on LibraryThing. I have a mix of Viragos and Persephones (also allowed) to use for this, the pile of which you can see on my piece about my 20 Books of Summer project in my State of the TBR June post, as I’m, as usual, combining the two. First up is my longest-standing Virago on my shelf, Margery Sharp’s “The Eye of Love”. I’m not doing hugely well with my 20 Books, so we’ll see how it goes.

Finally, I’m very much hoping to read Sayaka Murata’s “Convenience Store Woman” for Women in Translation Month. I’ve never managed to take part in this before, as I’m always as careful as I can be with Reading Months etc to only read books already on the TBR. And I’m obviously not great at reading women in translation (none of my Viragoes or Persephones count, for example). You can read more about the Month here and there’s a hashtag on Twitter and it’s all very exciting. It’s a small book with quite big print and wide spacing, so hope I can make it!

I also have two more review books to read for Shiny New Books, both looking lovely and tempting, so they will be joining the roster.

What are you up to?

So what are you reading in August? Taking part in any of these challenges/projects/Months? Think I can read 13.25 Books of Summer in one month and three days??

 

State of the TBR June 2019 and #20booksofsummer pile #amreading #bookconfessions #WolfsonHistoryPrize

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Well I read seven books in May (not all reviewed yet) and a look at the Book Confessions tag will show you that just a few came in. There is a gap at the end of the front shelf but only the size of one book (and next time I see Ali, I’ll be presented with the copy of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” that I somewhat embarrassingly won in her competition). And inconceivably stupidly, I’m sure, I’ve not included any of my review books or my Iris Murdochs in my 20 Books of Summer pile for this year. I think this might be the year I fail!

A small confession

First off, new books in I haven’t told you about yet.

Gill had read “Narrowboat Dreams” by Steve Haywood recently and very wickedly brought it along to our regular Sunday coffee. So there it is. Then Kaggsysbookishramblings had recently read Vijay Menon’s “A Brown Man in Russia” (her review here) and very kindly sent it on to me (more about these below as they are in my 20 Books pile).

Then I was very flattered to be asked to be part of the blogging panel for the Wolfson History Prize 2019 shortlist (see the full shortlist here). I’ve been lucky enough to receive Jeremy Mynott’s “Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words”, which is an exploration of the role of birds in Roman and Greek society and culture. I was aware of fortune telling using, um, birds, as such, but I am enjoying reading all the painstaking research that has gone into this entertaining book. The author wrote a seminal work on birdwatching and our modern relationship with birds, “Birdscapes” which went straight on my wishlist as soon as I heard about it.

My review is scheduled for 6 June and I’m also going to be reviewing it for Shiny New Books. The other reviewers are a great bunch and I’m looking forward to reading their thoughts on their books, too (there’s only one of us reading each book, so not so much a shadow panel or a book tour but yet another way of going about things!).

Now and next

So what am I reading now and next? I’m currently in the middle of Joanne M. Harris’ very entertaining “The Gospel of Loki” which retells the Norse myths from the point of view of Loki. She’s got his trickster ways and egocentricity down to a T, and I love all the little details like what it feels like to change from being a creature of chaos to being embodied. Although there are a few fights and bits and bobs, this is one that doesn’t mind where it’s read, so useful for mealtimes etc.

Then I’m also onto Jeremy Mynott’s “Birds of the Ancient World” we’ve talked about above, and it’s being prioritised of course!

Next up I have my Iris Murdoch of the month, “Nuns and Soldiers” and you can read more about that in my preview post here. I can’t quite believe I’m on Book 20 of my re-reading project, but I’m heartily enjoying it. I’ve chosen what I’m going to do for my next project already, but I’m not ready to share on here QUITE yet.

And then we’re on to the next review book, Michael J. Benton’s “The Dinosaurs Rediscovered” which is about the strides forward in science that have been made in the last 20 years, not just the renaming but finding out what colours they were and what coatings they had. It looks fascinating and appeals to the grown-up non-fiction reader and the little girl who loved dinosaurs in me!

 

 

20 Books of Summer 2019

I’m excited to be taking part in 20 Books of Summer 2019! I’ve done it since 2016 and have a dedicated page for it here with a pic of the books and links to all I’ve read (I’m adding that next so if you’re super keen and clicky you won’t see the updated version!). Here’s the pile …

and yes, there are 19: one of them is an omnibus! Here’s a bit about each one. As usual, I’m including my All Virago (and Persephone) / All August challenge in there, so it’s weighted towards those (also I should have finished my review books by August!).

I’m horribly aware that this pile isn’t very diverse. The weighting to Viragoes and Persephones makes it woman-centric but not that much on people of colour, LGBTQ people, etc. and I am sorry for that. I do have two books about or by people of colour in there, but then I also have two books on Norse and far-northern culture. Not sure about the LGBTQ quotient until I’ve read some of them. My NetGalley list is more diverse and I will continue reading from that amongst these and working to broaden things further.

Here are the non-Viragoes:

Gretel Erlich – “This Cold Heaven” – seven seasons in Greenland. A dense book but came recommended and I do like reading about Greenland.

Lynne Murphy – “The Prodigal Tongue” – she writes a blog about US and UK English and here’s the book, talking about the differences, similarities and histories.

Neil Gaiman – “Norse Mythology” – his retelling of the tales, can’t wait to read this.

Clair Wills – “Lovers and Strangers” – a history of post-war immigration to the UK

Harriet Harman – “A Woman’s Work” – her autobiography

Cathy Kelly – “The House on Willow Street” – her usual multi-character-stranded work, set in a seaside village outside Dublin this time.

Paul Newman – “Lost Gods of Albion: Chalk Hill Figures of Britain” – needs to be read before I run past the White Horse of Uffington (of which I am oddly afraid) when I do my ultramarathon in July.

Joe Harkness – “Bird Therapy” – an Unbound title I supported, about the value of birdwatching to one’s mental health.

Steve Haywood – “Narrowboat Dreams” – man amusingly travels the canals of Britain – maybe our ones!

Vijay Menon – “A Brown Man in Russia” – author from India does the Trans-Siberian Express.

And the Viragoes and Persephones:

Margery Sharp – “The Eye of Love” – you can’t beat Margery Sharp and this promises to be a great novel.

Ellen Wilkinson – “Clash” – the story of a political activist set against the General Strike of 1926

Henry Handel Richardson – “The Getting of Wisdom” – coming-of-age novel by this (female) Australian novelist

Henry Handel Richardson – “Maurice Guest” – a doomed Australian-English love set over 500 pages (this might be the one I swap out but Kaggsy gave it to me so that’s a good sign)

Angela Thirkell – “Before Lunch” – more Barsetshire fun. I have about six of hers TBR so have confined myself to just one for the moment.

Dorothy Whipple – “Young Anne” – her first novel and the last to be republished by Persephone and another coming-of-age novel

Ada Leverson – “Tenterhooks” and “Love at Second Sight” – I read “Love’s Shadow” a couple of years ago and picked up the omnibus also containing the other two.

Edith Ayrton Zangwill – “The Call” – a woman scientist abandons her career to be a suffragette.

Nicholas Mosley – “Julian Grenfell” – acclaimed biography of the First World War poet.

So there you go – 3 June to 3 September, 20 books, 15 by women, 9 non-fiction, will I read them all?

 

State of the TBR May 2019 (plus book confessions!)

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Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear – we appear to have reached Peak TBR. Two full shelves plus stacks and the Pile is not even pictured. This has not been helped by my only managing to read six books in April – two of them were substantial non-fiction works.

One reason for the absolute fullness of the shelves is that when I was in London to visit my best friend and to support friends in the London Marathon, I happened into a North London Oxfam Books and found these two lovelies:

Who doesn’t like a book on ancient and not-so-ancient Britain? and I’ll be running past at least the White Horse of Uffington (which I’m scared of, not really taken away by reading the book based on the TV series that made me scared of it) when I do my ultra marathon in July. So Paul Newman’s “Lost Gods of Albion: The Chalk Hill-Figures of Britain” weighed down my rucksack all day on Sunday. And then a Persephone book I don’t have for only a fiver? Nicholas Mosley’s “Julian Grenfell” is now mine, and it’s not as battered as it appears in the photo.

I’ve also won on NetGalley “Brave, Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani (about encouraging women and girls to be one but not just strive for the other), Joe Berridge’s “Perfect City” (totally Cari’s fault, that one: a book about urban planning and how the world’s cities are coping or not coping) and “Don’t Touch my Hair” by Emma Dabiri which is a cultural history of black hairstyling culture as a key in to black oppression and liberation.

Now, I did start both of these on my journey down to London and have nearly finished Simon Armitage’s “Gig” which is a loose collection of pieces and poems about being on the road and doing various ‘gigs’ either with musicians or as a jobbing poet. Mark Doyle’s “The Way Home” is about doing without technology – I’ve not unfortunately taken to the author very much but it is interesting in it’s way so I’m pressing on. That’s from NetGalley, hence the odd cover image on PC screen/real book pairing.

I have also finished “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado Perez and that’s the sixth book for April if anyone’s counting. I’m reviewing that one for Shiny New Books, so I’ll link to my review when it’s written and published there. I’ve just heard I’ve got a possible three more coming from a publisher for Shiny reviews so I’d better get my reading skates on!

My next read after I’ve finished these two (or probably one of them) will be Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea” for my Iris Murdoch Readalong project. You can see the cover images and read the blurbs on my introductory post from yesterday if you like. I really can’t wait to read this, one of my favourites of hers, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read it more than the two or three times I’ve read all of the others. I’ll be reading the one on the end but I do like the three covers I have so thought I’d share them all with you.

I’ll also be reading either one of my new NetGalley books or one of the ones that are sadly languishing on the Kindle.

Here are the start and finish of my TBR and I have a horrible feeling the start is almost the same as last month, while the finish has changed dramatically.

The start …

… the finish

The ones at the start will be read in order but I will probably leave “Julian Grenfell” for All August / All Virago (and Persephone) and skip to “Hidden Figures” and “The House on Willow Street” as I want to lend those to a friend. “Albion” will need to be read before mid-July. I am hopeful of more reading time this month as I have my marathon at the end of the month, so there’s some serious resting, tapering and travelling / recovering to be done during May!

How is your TBR? Have you read any of these?

State of the TBR – April 2019

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Well I was pleased to manage to finish 10 books last month, well up on February’s low total, and it might have had something to do with having a short holiday but whatever. I even got some books off the physical TBR as well as reading a Kindle book or two.

Note: I haven’t reviewed them all yet. I have one that’s gone to Shiny New Books to be published there and one short book I read at the weekend that I will review with a COMPETITION! tomorrow.

I’m currently reading Sara Marcus’ “Girls to the Front”, from the oldest bit of the TBR, which is a history of the Riot Grrrl movement and very good and well done so far, and “Holding up the Universe” by Jennifer Niven, which is a YA book I picked off the very end of the TBR and features a boy with prosopagnosia. I took that off the shelf because I ran quite a long way today and needed something easy but it’s pretty engaging so far.

 

Next up are these two: Caroline Criado Perez’ “Invisible Women” which as we probably all know by now is that book about how data and the world are biased against women, and my April 2019 Iris Murdoch, “Henry and Cato” which is a kind of odd one about inheritance and imprisonment (of various kinds) which I feel suffers a little from coming just before a slew of amazing ones.

I’m still really sad I won’t be able to go to the Iris Murdoch Society Conference, which I’ve attended every other year (ish) since 2008, but it clashes with one of the only other big things in my year, my ultramarathon! But it’s been wonderful re-reading all her novels in order, even if I don’t agree with my former self on some of them!

I’m continuing with my policy of reading a book from the oldest part of the TBR and a book from the newest, then a Kindle book. I shared my new Kindle reads the other day and I imagine I’ll be picking up one of the unread ones of those when it’s e-book time.

Oldest TBR books

Newest TBR books

I’m a bit desperate to get to both sets of these, so I’d better get reading, hadn’t I!

What are your April reading plans? Will you have time over Easter for a good wallow in a pile of books?

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