I set myself a target of reading a book a week in 2016 and managed to surpass this with 58. I’ve set myself the tougher goal of 60 books – or 5 a month for 2017 as, without a house move to undertake this year, I should be able to fit in more reading time.
Goodreads very helpfully tots up the pages – and I managed 16,927 apparently – with the shortest book being a short story collection by Jill Rutherford and the longest being Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Right off I must disclose that I didn’t read every single page of the Ovid – just those stories relevant as background to the book I was writing at the time (The Green Ribbons) – but I think it’s fair to count it as a completed read in the light of all the miserable hours I spent on this in the original for O Level Latin!
Here are my highlights. (Part 2 to follow)
My stand-out best read of the year has to be A God in Ruins. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading it as I love Kate Atkinson. I absolutely fell in love with Teddy – one of the most likeable characters I have read in recent years. I also loved the insights into the life of a bomber pilot and the skilful way in which Atkinson flitted about from time period to time period, character to character in a feat of breathtaking authorial confidence. I wept when I finished it – even though I guessed what was coming. Having read Life After Life I had a clue, but kept telling myself “No – she could never pull that off” – but she did. My father was an RAF pilot in WW2 – not in Bomber Command – but Coastal Command. Reading the book made me think of him a lot – and all the extremely brave and terribly young men of that generation. Brilliant.
I decided to read as many Historical novels as I could – as while I write in that genre, I had not read much Historical Fiction since my schooldays. I have always tended towards Literary Fiction and as a result felt out of touch with what my fellow HF writers were doing. I found most of these really enjoyable reads – several in preparation for or inspired by the Historical Novel Society Oxford conference in September 2016, for which I was honoured to be on the organising committee.
Inspired by a recent Facebook post from Matt Haig in which he rightly decries the snobbery of book classification by genre, I am going to mix up the books and not classify them – which is exactly how I read them – starting with one of Matt’s.
Matt Haig The Humans – I loved this quirky, funny tale of an alien inhabiting the body of a Maths professor he has killed off to prevent the human race discovering the secret to a complex maths problem. I only bought it because I met the author – so glad I did! A clever but touching story that I read in a sitting.
Human Rites by JJ Marsh. This is my first encounter with DI Beatrice Stubbs but it won’t be my last. A well-written international detective thriller with an interesting art crime background, moving from London to Hamburg, Amsterdam and the remote Sylt islands off the Danish coast.