This year was the first time I set myself a reading challenge. Initially, I set myself an achievable target of 20 books, then I upped that to 25 to make it that bit harder.
Then somewhere along the line I thrusted that number all the way up to 30. Why? I was whipping through books fairly quickly in the first part of the year and thought I could do it. But then lunches at work (where I read) were interrupted (welcomely though I might add) by girly chats, cake club and gossiping! So aiming for 30 might not have been a good idea…
However, staring a new job in September I soon got back into losing myself in a book for approximately one hour on my break. Although I do still miss those cakes, here’s my Reading Challenge 2016.
A Year in Books
1. The New Journalism by Tom Wolfe
I started the year still desperately trying to finish the book I started the year previously – never a good sign. I’d heard about this book from a few of my Journalism lecturers when I was still at university. Better late than never, I gave it a shot. Compiled of extracts, articles and reportage from an era where a ‘new journalism’ was born and explored, I enjoyed some pieces but couldn’t help but feel it doesn’t seem all that groundbreaking now.
2. Slash by Slash, Anthony Bozza
I’m a Guns N’ Roses fan okay? I had this sitting on my shelf for a while and so I finally got round to reading it. I was expecting amazing tales of how Guns N’ Roses got together, but instead it was mostly how they got drunk together. Not a complete waste of time, but I felt it lacked real description. But then again maybe that’s because Slash was drunk. A lot. The most interesting part for me was actually about Slash’s childhood and his mum’s relationship with David Bowie.
3. Buddhism for Dummies by Jonathan Landaw, Stephan Bodian
This one, I know, is a bit random. At the start of the year I was trying to read and pass on any books I had lying round for years, which is the reason for this one. Buddhism is a religion that’s intrigued me since university, so I bought this wanting to know a bit more. I quite liked reading how the religion varies in various parts of Asia and how Buddhists deal with grief and an infuriating work colleague.
4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I doubt this book needs any introduction thanks to its popularity. I was actually recommended and passed this from my boyfriend’s mum and as promised it was a real page turner from start to finish. Rachel takes the same train every day and always spots a suburban couple in their home where the train stops to wait for signal. It’s not until she sees something shocking that her whole world turns upside done. It’s a good one!
5. How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
After getting over the initial shock of the masturbating opening scene, I think I read this in a few days flat! I was on holiday and couldn’t put it down so that might explain it. Nevertheless, a really brilliant read that goes far deeper than you’d expect. It’s hard not to think Caitlin is writing about herself, but it’s also hard not to see some of yourself in main character Joanna, too.
6. Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood, Ian Kelly
I was quite looking forward to this book. My Vivienne knowledge was limited and this definitely did the trick in educating me on her career and beyond. This really is a must read for any Vivienne fan out there, but might make you appreciate her a helluva lot more too, it did me. She’s one of England’s gems and should be more applauded artistically (IMHO).
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’d finally cleared some books from my bookshelf and made a start on my new Kindle! I wanted the first book I read on my Kindle to be special, so which other book could I choose than one of the most loved books ever? I really enjoyed this, it’s full of beautiful descriptions. If you don’t know the story it’s set in the Jazz drenched 1920’s and all about the mystery of a man named Jay Gatsby. I loved it and it was a free download too!
8. The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
You can see the clear change when I began reading books on my Kindle – I started downloading all of the free classics! This was also the first Oscar Wilde book I’ve ever read and it did not disappoint. Eerily creepy in places, Dorian Gray sells his soul to remain young and beautiful for eternity. I now want to see if any of the TV/film adaptations have done it any justice!
9. Ronnie by Ron Wood
Another one I was trying to clear from my bookshelf, but a must read (for me) all the same. I mentioned earlier I’m a Guns N’ Roses fan, but I’m an even bigger Stones fan. They’re probably my favourite band of all time and I’ve read quite a few autobiographical books surrounding them and the band now. This added to some of my Stones knowledge, but felt slightly like Ronnie was peddling it out for cash. Especially as he spoke about his money troubles a lot. Hmm…
10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Another free classic for my Kindle. This one however I’m not sure I enjoyed it so much. Heathcliff is an orphan who is taken into the Earnshaw home and bought up alongside the other two children Catherine and Hindley. Of course we all know Catherine and Heathcliff fall in love, of sorts. Except there doesn’t seem to be much love in this book other than the kind that causes a whole lot of stress and family feuds. It’s a tough book to get through.
11. Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka
The cakes were coming into my lunches at this point, so I chose a nice short book to get my numbers up. Metamorphosis is also considered a classic, even though it has a very unconventional story. One day, Gregor Samsa wakes up to find he has transformed into a giant insect. How his family reacts to his ‘metamorphosis’ ensues and I genuinely found it quite heartbreaking in places. Poor Gregor doesn’t even know why he’s turned into a bug! I enjoyed it way more than all the drama over at Wuthering Heights.
12. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Is it obvious I started reading this after Jon Favreau’s film came out? I’d always wondered how true Disney was to the book so I gave it a go. Many people might not know that The Jungle Book wasn’t actually a book, but a series of articles Kipling had published separately. So Mowgli isn’t actually featured in all of them and to me the bigger character is the country India. The exoticness of location really brings the stories to life, a great read even today.
13. Backpack by Emily Barr
Backpack was mentioned in a must-read books article in Elle magazine as the travelling story, it was also set in south-east Asia, where I went travelling too! This was, I think, my first ever purchase on my Kindle. Tansy’s escapes her London life to Vietnam, except she doesn’t really want to. I quite liked reading Tansy’s development; from being a quite shallow reluctant backpacker, facing her demons and changing herself for the better. It might sound cliché but I really enjoyed this in places, whereas the whole murderer on her trail was a bit of a waste of time. I don’t think it was needed and seemed rushed to get to an ending.
14. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Cue the theme music! Guess who’s missing the TV series desperately? I just can’t wait until next year, so to still get my Game of Thrones kick I started reading the books. The book reads the same as the TV series, almost shot for shot and yes I already know what happens but I did not find this boring. I absolutely loved it, which explains when I finished it I moved straight onto…
15. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
OOH yes! Book number 2 and I enjoyed it more than the first one, things are really getting going now that you know who is dead. Sorry, I do try and avoid spoilers. What sticks out in this book, as with the TV series, is character development, perhaps especially for the Starks and Jon Snow. The only reason I stopped here is because I’m waiting for the third book to go down in price in the Kindle store before I buy it.
16. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
I’m not sure how or where, but I remember hearing this was a good book. It was very easy reading and I liked the simple yet evocative descriptions. Lily lost her mother when she was young, her father tells her it’s because she killed her but she can’t remember herself. She unexpectedly goes on the run with black servant Rosaleen after racial tensions grew in town. I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll stop there, it would make a great holiday book.
17. Anger is an Energy – My Life Uncensored by John Lydon
Can you tell I like musician’s autobiographies? I’d mentioned this in my New Purchases Show & Tell October 2016 blog post and video and still stick by my review. Growing up in a very poor neighbourhood in London, Jon survived spinal meningitis at a young age and of course went on to be a pioneer of punk. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re into this era and paired up well with Vivienne’s account I had read earlier in the year.
18. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
This is by far the best book I read this year. I literally could not put this down it was so good. Set within Stalin’s Soviet Union, officer Leo Demidov is nothing but loyal to the state. But when he witnesses an interrogation of what seemingly is an innocent man he begins to question whether he really lives in a perfect society. I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough and I need to see the film adaptation now too!
19. The Night Manager by John Le Carré
I didn’t expect to enjoy a John Le Carré book quite as much as I enjoyed this. Spy novels don’t usually call out to me, but I decided to give this a whirl when this was on offer in the Kindle store. Jonathan Pine, yes he is a night manager for a luxurious hotel, but has a highly skilled military background that brings him in contact with British Intelligence. Tense, claustrophobic and an all-round great read. I can see why John Le Carré is so celebrated.
20. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin
Bought on a recommendation by an old work colleague (not one of the cake-bearing kind!), although this is a fictional story it was quite educational in places. Turkey, a neutral country in WWII, had allowed Jews for many centuries to take refuge in their country. Many Jews did just this during the War and this story is about their escape to Turkey from Nazi-occupied countries, with a fictional love story too. A fresh perspective on how far the damages of WWII stretched to.
21. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
I was getting dangerously close to the end of the year now so opted for another short and sweet, yet a classic, tale. Actually a play’s script rather than a novel, I dusted this off before Christmas in a day and giggled at the ridiculousness (or should I say Bunburying) of the characters and situation. It took only an hour to read; it’s funny and yet critiques the Victorian class system, bravo Mr Wilde!
So as you can see I didn’t actually complete my Reading Challenge 2016 of reading 30 books… I did fall behind when I started having more social lunches, otherwise I think I could’ve completed it. For 2017 however I think I’ll lower the bar just to be sure, so I’ve set myself a 25 books Reading Challenge. I will complete it this year!
Did you complete your Reading Challenge 2016? Let me know with any of your book recommendations in the comment section below!
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