My Reading Challenge 2017: did I make it?

My failed Reading Challenge 2017

If you judge how late this blog post is then you’ve probably guessed already that I didn’t complete my Reading Challenge 2017.  Well, you guessed right, I didn’t – I may as well confirm this now.  Although it does start this blog post on a rather bad note, doesn’t it?

Oh well, I’m disappointed (and kind of embarrassed) that this is the second year in a row I’ve not managed to complete a Reading Challenge.  In my defence, I’ve had quite a busy year.  But let’s lift those spirits up a little bit and talk about the books!

Reading Challenge 2017

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I actually managed…)

17.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Apologies to Reese Witherspoon, but Wild (the film) didn’t urge me to read the book.  It wasn’t until I listened to Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete podcast with Cheryl Strayed that I really wanted to read it. But not only this book, but other books Strayed has written too.  For purposes of my Reading Challenge 2017 however I’ll stick to this one.  (Well the truth is I’ve only read this one.)  It’s an epic true story of when Cheryl walked the Pacific Crest Trail – from California to Oregon, and how the pieces of her life fell away and lead to her decision to do it.  An incredible and at times emotional tale, I’m so glad I listened to that podcast otherwise I may have never read it.

18.  Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
Oh look at that – this wasn’t even planned!  I probably couldn’t wait any longer before I dove straight into Emma Gannon’s memoir on how she grew up online. (Again, this read wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her podcast.)  Emma and I are the same age, so plenty of the memories in this book and cringeworthy moments are quite familiar to me.  If you’re part of the generation that chatted to friends on MSN Messenger and learnt minor coding from designing your MySpace page, you need to read this book.

Reading_Challenge_2017

19.  Paris by Lonely Planet
Is it cheating to put a travel guide in my Reading Challenge 2017?  To be honest, I discovered Lonely Planet when I was backpacking and some of them are written so poetically, it’s like reading a novel anyway.  So that’s why I included this.  Plus I had my nose buried in it nearly every morning, whilst on the metro and in the evening when I was in Paris.  Just as lovely, yet informative, as their Asian counterparts that I’ve read, with some beautiful descriptions of Paris.  I usually never go on holiday without one.

20.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Have you noticed a pattern here?  I watch a movie, like it, then want to read the book.  I’ve got to say this one was definitely as good as the film, if not better.  The casting was also spot on with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, but I’ll keep to my review of the book.  Written fantastically from the perspective of two different characters; husband and wife.  If you don’t know the story (which lucky you if you don’t) it’ll keep you guessing and hit you with some twists you won’t see coming.  A story I couldn’t put down, even when I was in Paris.

21.  Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
One of the reasons I wasn’t able to finish my reading challenge could be down to a few chunky books I’ve tried to get myself through before the end of the year.  Such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.  I love Bruce, but he had me reading 528 pages to get to know more about him.  I don’t hold it against him though, as every story and memory was written in the same beautiful way he writes his songs.  He sets the scene on his trips and shows across America, throwing in his thoughts and feelings in a way that’s inescapable to think and feel just as he does.  I love Bruce even more after reading it.

Reading Challenger 2017

Total: 21/25 books read

So I didn’t make it, but I’ve read some pretty good books on the way.  One of the biggest things that slowed me down was getting stuck trying to read a book I wasn’t enjoying, which was rather chunky.  This was much earlier on in the year and although I felt I was catching up after the summer, I was short of just 4 books to completing my Reading Challenge 2017.  (3 if I pulled my socks up more during Christmas.)

Will I lower my amount of books to read in 2018?  Rather stupidly no, actually.  2018 will be the last year of my twenties, so I think it’s kind of apt to aim for 30.  If I stick to books I both enjoy and are not too big, I can make it!  What have you been reading?

Follow my Goodreads account here.

FOLLOW ME:
    

All front cover images on this post are embedded from Goodreads.com, please contact me if any image that appears here should be removed.

Continue Reading

My Reading Challenge 2017: 9-month update!

My Reading Challenge 2017

After suffering a reading dip over the summer (busy work schedule, multiple weddings, oh and a Glastonbury to remember), I think I’m finally back on track with my Reading Challenge 2017.  (Although I’m still quite far behind reaching my target.)

Looking back on my Reading Challenge 2017: 6-month update post, I’m quite embarrassed that I only managed to cover 3 books.  (3! )  Since then, I’ve manage to read 6.  Nearly 7, but I haven’t quite finished that one yet, so it’s officially 6 – this is me trying to make myself sound better.

It’s going to be a steep reading hill for me to try and hit my target of 25 books, having only read 16 so far.  I hit 21 last year, which makes me feel both hopeful, and a bit panicky.

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I’ve read so far…)

11. How to Be Both by Ali Smith
One magazine article somewhere gave the lowdown on the books to read as a woman.  How to Be Both was cited as seriously important, so I immediately saved it in my Goodread’s ‘Want to Read’ list.  A few years later and I find the book in the Kindle store, reduced, so I bought it.  I wasn’t expecting the opening poetic verses (if you read a particular part of the book first), but I soon settled into it.  There are two sequences in the book which are not to read in a set order.  So, whichever sequence you read first, you’ll soon be engaged in two stories cleverly interwoven with one another, between a child of recent times and a child of the renaissance. There was something quite spiritual about it.

12. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Having read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, again I couldn’t resist another Kindle bargain when I saw The Psychopath Test.  It’s hard for me to really put my finger on which book I preferred out of the two.  Regardless, this was such a fascinating read.  Jon goes on a journey in discovering the history, the psychology, traits and treatment of Psychopaths and even interviews a few too.  It was an addictive read.  I thought twice before sending a single tweet when I’d finished reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.  With The Psychopath Test, I’ve began to assess people I know who might be a psychopath.  (Sidenote: I think I’ve known at least one! )

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson review

13. Face (Compact,): Tools, Skin, Finishes by Sam Chapman, Nic Chapman, Pixiwoo
I was hesitant to include this in my reading challenge 2017 at first, however I’d be the first to defend beauty books and their place in literature and so I’ve chucked it in.  It was a quick read, not just from the picture-heavy pages, but because of the basic language too.  Face (Compact) would be quite useful for beginners in beauty, as I didn’t find anything I hadn’t already known.  (Although I’m not a beauty expert by any means!)

14. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A book I’ve always been intrigued to read and a book that was again on offer in the Kindle store.  The Nadsat language, which was created by Anthony Burgess, is why I wanted to read this.  Mostly to see if I could actually understand it.  Admittedly, it was confusing at first, but I was soon able to translate the words the more I saw them and from the context of the sentences they were in.  What I didn’t know was the hidden meanings behind them, many taken from Russian words, as discussed in the introduction by Blake Morrison.  It’s not all about the ultra-violence that the Stanley Kubrick film was later banned for.  It’s the interesting belief surrounding youth and law that propels the book in its entirety into a read to remember.

15. The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan
I started my Reading Challenge 2017 by reading Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live.  As I begun to read Kang Chol-Hwan’s account, North Korea was back in the headlines.  Having already read a North Korean defector’s tale, it was insightful to see another perspective in the country, although still as shocking.  Kang lived in Japan, before returning to North Korea, to then be sent to a concentration camp.  This is an incredible story and journey, through the horrors seen at the camp, the malnutrition he suffered, to his eventual escape and voyage to safety.  Another eye-opener from a survivor of the secret state.

16.  The Girls by Emma Cline
Based on a review by Estée Lalonde, I’d like this book if cults and the Manson Family has ever been something I’ve found interesting.  That sentence alone sold it for me and she was right.  It’s a fictional tale told from a girl who is drawn into a cult, or rather the story of the Manson family just with name changes, according to reviews on Goodreads.  I feel a bit uneasy about Emma Cline sticking, or even copying, the Manson family story.  Although that doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the book.  It’s dark and absorbing.

My Reading Challenge 2017

16/25 books read

At the start of the year I calculated that I need to read at least 2 books a month to hit my 25 book target.  With only 3 months to go until the year is out, I now need to read 3 books a month to successfully reach my Reading Challenge 2017!  I’ve got some catching up to do…

Coming up (to-read): Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery by John Bills and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  Share your thoughts, reviews or gripes in the comment section below.

FOLLOW ME:
    

All front cover images on this post are embedded from Goodreads.com, please contact me if any image that appears here should be removed.

Continue Reading

4 Things to Make the Most out of Your Long Commute

4 Things to Make the Most out of Your Long Commute

I’ve decided to do a bit of a different post this week; most of us have a long commute to work in some form or another, but not many of us use it to our real advantage.

As I’ve mentioned before on my blog I’ve started a new job recently, which has a bit of a longer commute than I was used to.

I spend at least 50 mins in a car travelling to work (and back again), which isn’t too tragic I know but that’s nearly 2 hours a day, just me sitting and driving my car.

I’m the kind of person who tries to make the most of my time and moans about there not being enough hours in the day.  This got me thinking about how I could use that time better and to make the most of it, to make it go quicker.

So here’s 4 things you can start doing in your long commute that could help you save time elsewhere.

1. Podcasts

City_worker_listening
Image by James Pond

Podcasts could be listened to on any type of long commute; whether you drive, cycle, catch a train, bus or whatever.  I’ve got to admit though I’m very new to podcasts, so I’ve only recently discovered that there are literally hundreds of podcast series on anything out there, all just waiting to be listened to.

If you’re fed up with your playlist or iPod shuffle then jump on board the Podcast ship and search for anything you have an interest in, seriously.  Lately, I’ve listened to a few Desert Island Disc’s (the Tom Hanks one had me smiling all the way home ) and the hilarious My Dad Wrote a Porno.

There are more knowledgable and cultural ones for the more serious type, for example after introducing my boyfriend to podcasts he opted for a historical podcast about the Battle of Agincourt.   My ‘serious podcast-listening’ will come in time…

2.  Read

Reading_Kindle
Image by freestocks.org

My longest commute was 1 hour 40 minutes.  It was a time before I bought a car and relied on the kindness (?) of trains, not strangers.  London would have actually been a shorter commute for me at this time, which I grew frustrated with.  Until I got back into reading.

I’ve always been a reader but I also found it hard to make the time for reading after I came back from travelling.  So when I started this commute I discovered all the free time I had on the train and so I got back into reading in a big way.  Going through at least one book a week gave me the thirst to read more but more importantly, made my journey seem quicker.  I was soon finding that I’d become so lost in the chapter I was reading it would soon be my stop!

3.  Learn a bloody Language

Sorry for the somewhat aggressive demand above, but this is something I do feel strongly about.  There’s not enough emphasis put on us Brits to learn other languages, although that doesn’t mean I’m not fluent in any other language, but I do try when I go abroad.

Have you always wanted to learn Italian?  Go buy an audio course.  Fancy refreshing your Spanish?  Download one of the numerous free podcasts and get going.

For those of you who drive this is a particularly good way to use your commute.  They say learning languages is all about repetition, so go ahead and listen to your audio course, podcast or whatever, everyday on your way to work.  If you’re in your car you don’t even need to get embarrassed about speaking out loud because no-one will hear you!  (Unless of course you lift share.)  

4.  Blog/Write

Man_typing_laptop
Image by Thomas Lefebvre

Finally, this one is for all aspiring writers, novelists and bloggers out there. You may find, like me, you don’t always have the time just to write.  But if you’re not driving on your way to work there is no stopping you bashing out that witty blog post on the bus to the office.

If you’re a creative person it’s so important to keep that outlet going.  Plus, working in the mornings apparently gives you the best ideas and gets your mind buzzing before work.  So get your creative juices going, who knows you might see something on your commute that inspires a fantastic novel idea.

What do you do on your commute?

Those are my ideas for the long commutes, but have I failed to mention something obvious?

Let me know in the comments section below but more importantly, seize all the time your commute takes to do something useful!  Don’t let your commute become a bore.

Emma x

Follow me:
    

Continue Reading