Reading Challenge 2019

Posted by on Dec 19, 2019 in Updates | No Comments
Reading Challenge 2019

In 2018, I realised I’d somehow got out of the habit of reading. It felt odd, given that “reader” has been part of my identity since I was a child, leafing through Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton.

I decided to commit to reading more in 2019. I set myself a target (using the Goodreads Reading Challenge) of reading 24 books, just a couple a month, as I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself.

I’m happy to say that I passed that target back in July, and I’m now up to 38 books (well, technically, 37½, as I couldn’t finish Daniel Goleman’s prolix tome Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.) I might even manage another couple by the end of the year, for a nice round 40… 

Edit: I did. Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing, a re-read of Adam Hall’s The Tango Briefing (I tend to re-read old favourites when I’m ill, and I had a Christmas Cold. Joy) and a hasty dive into George V Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle (after finding it was due back to the library and couldn’t be renewed!) took me to 41 before the end of the year.

This year’s books so far (in order of reading):

Great ExpectationsCharles Dickens
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)Ann Leckie
Thin AirRichard K. Morgan
How to Crack Cryptic CrosswordsVivien Hampshire
Slow Horses (Slough House, #1)Mick Herron
How to Read a PoemMalcolm Hebron
How to Master The Times CrosswordTim Moorey
The Art of Taking ActionGregg Krech
Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London, #7)Ben Aaronovitch
Agatha Raisin and the Witch of WyckhaddenM.C. Beaton
The Lonely Hour (Bryant & May #16)Christopher Fowler
Essays of EliaCharles Lamb
N or M? (Tommy and Tuppence, #3)Agatha Christie
Foundation Licence NowAlan Betts
The Lock ArtistSteve Hamilton
Hall of Mirrors (Bryant & May #15)Christopher Fowler
Visualisation: Oxford Centre for the MindGary Lorrison
Cider with RosieLaurie Lee
WaldenHenry David Thoreau
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineGail Honeyman
The October ManBen Aaronovitch
The StardroppersJohn Brunner
Tiamat’s WrathJames S.A. Corey
A Classical EducationCaroline Taggart
World of PtaavsLarry Niven
The Father Brown StoriesG.K. Chesterton
Emotional IntelligenceDaniel Goleman
Man-Kzin Wars IXLarry Niven
Zeroes (Zer0es, #1)Chuck Wendig
The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and ProcedureMichael O’Byrne
It’s Not Always DepressionHilary Jacobs Hendel
Embers of War (Embers of War, #1)Gareth L. Powell
The PossessionMichael Rutger
Ragged AliceGareth L. Powell
Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2)Ann Leckie
The CV BookJames Innes
England’s FinestChristopher Fowler
Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch, #3)Ann Leckie

They’re not all novels, and they’re not all big, but I’m counting everything. Some of them were dreadful (I’m looking at you, Agatha Raisin) and some of them were pretty damn astounding. I’d highlight Thoreau’s Walden, the Father Brown stories and Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy as my favourites, I think. The last is a good example of how great science fiction is actually about people, relationships and emotion but can still have time for spaceships, aliens and improbable weapons.

Some of these books made the list because of my continuing desire to get better at the Times crossword. My crossword-inspired education might be working, as I set a new personal best of 20 minutes for the Times cryptic this year. (I’m still wildly inconsistent in my solving times, though: I spent 58 solid minutes on this morning’s offering…)

I think I’ll have to dive a bit deeper into classical studies with next year’s reading list — I already have Mary Beard’s SPQR ready to go, among others — but as you can see, I try to mix the heavier stuff up with pure entertainment. It’s easier to cope with a hefty dose of history if you know there’s a Charlie Stross up next…

As well as adding to my already-full shelves, I’ve been using the library a bit more (which was a joy, at least, for the beautiful 1906 Everyman’s Library edition of Essays of Elia that Bristol Central Library is surprisingly happy for people to cart off the premises and read at home. It smelt of wisdom, history, and a whiff of school dinners from Christ’s Hospital…)

I’m still buying too many books, though. I try to limit myself, but it’s very hard when you happen to find yourself in a bookshop, or at BristolCon

(My current favourite bookshops in Bristol, by the way, are the tiny Waterstones in Clifton Village and the even tinier but just as well-curated Dreadnought Books on St George’s Road.)

I’d say my 2019 challenge was a success: I appear to be in the reading habit again. Given the state of my shelves, though, I may have to set myself some new challenges for 2020: to read more books than I buy, and to do some bookshelf spring cleaning…

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