This bookish post is loosely based on the end-of-year book survey from Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner, but I feel I’ve done quite a few Q&A style posts recently, so I’m going to rework it slightly.
Number of books read in 2014: 104 complete books, although many, many chapters and articles from books for my degree that probably add up to at least a dozen books in their own right.
Number of re-reads: Is that books I’ve read in 2014 that I’ve read before, or books I read twice this year? A lot. I love re-reading. From a quick skim of Goodreads, I’d say about 25 of those books were rereads, which is actually fewer than I was expecting. Possibly I reread some books but didn’t list them on Goodreads.
Most common genre: I’m going to hazard a guess and say fantasy, but that may not be true.
Favourites and let-downs
It’s hard to choose a favourite book from this year. Glancing at Goodreads, all my 5* ratings were actually re-reads. Of those, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor were probably my favourites. The latter I reread ahead of finally reading the final book in the trilogy, but while Days of Gods and Monsters was good, it didn’t entirely live up to my expectations. Not least because I was told it was heartbreaking, and didn’t find it so at all.
Although I enjoyed Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, it could never surpass its prequel for me because of who I am at the time of reading. So that wasn’t a let-down as such, but it wasn’t ‘screaming to the rooftops about my new favourite book’ either.
I really enjoyed Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, which features a biracial policeman who becomes a trainee wizard. It’s handled with humour while never forgetting that Peter is defined to a certain extent by the environment in which he grew up, and his aversion to the phrase ‘black magic’ was both entertaining and thought-provoking.
In terms of LGBTQ reads, most of those I came across weren’t deliberate. I picked up Quicksilver by R.J.Anderson by chance, and found it had the only canonically asexual character I’ve ever found in YA fiction, while I went into Fingersmith by Sarah Waters with no idea that there would be lesbians. I also reread Scrivener’s Moon by Philip Reeve and had completely forgotten about its queer female protagonist, so that was fun to read.
There were other diverse books, but these were some of the ones that stood out.
I read a few ‘Classics’ this year, though probably fewer than last year. Several of them were because I was obliged to do so for school, like Tess of the d’Urbervilles: one of my least favourite books. I thought it was okay when I first read it at about the age of thirteen. By the time I finished studying it I wanted it obliterated from the face of the earth.
Despite my love of Hamlet it wasn’t until this year that I finally got around to reading Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, which was shameful of me. Should definitely have read that earlier: it’s very quotable, and both funny and profound. I also read Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis, which I’m not 100% sure counts as a Classic, but it’s old and profound and stuff. I found it … interesting. I’m not sure I took in as much of the ending as I should have done, and perhaps it would have had a greater impact if I’d read it more slowly.
This year I tried out some graphic novels, which is new for me. In part this is because I wanted to know more about Marvel comics, rather than just the films; it was also because I’ve had poor mental and physical health and sometimes reading an entire book is too daunting, so something with a lot of pictures can allow me to enjoy stories without the strain of reading too much.
I started with Marvel’s 1602, written by Neil Gaiman, which is pretty awesome. I also read two volumes of Black Widow — the first was better. It had a better story, and although the cover suggested it would have more of the traditional boobs-and-butt comic style than its sequel, it actually had far less. I preferred the style by a long way. Then, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve worked my way through four volumes of Scott Pilgrim which were bequeathed to me by my brother.
(Father Person has an inexplicable grudge against Scott Pilgrim, which of course led to my brother, at my suggestion, sticking a full-colour SP poster inside his wardrobe door. It stayed there for about a week until he emphatically gave it back to me and now it’s on my wall, just to annoy him.)
As already mentioned, I enjoyed the Peter Grant series a lot. I read the first two books in 2013, and the second two this year: I’ve got the fifth book reserved at the library and I’m looking forward to it a lot. I think there are fairies involved. Those books are awesome partly because they take place in a city very familiar to me, London, and I enjoy recognising turns of phrase that people use as well as places I recognise.
The bookish, bloggish life
I don’t follow a lot of book blogs: it’s more that people I follow generally also blog about books. I did, however, start a book blog for myself on which to write reviews… and didn’t write many of them. But I’ll do better this year, maybe. My most popular book review over there was The Demon’s Lexicon, probably because the author tweeted about it. However, I really enjoyed both reading and reviewing Shakespeare’s Rebel by C.C.Humphreys.
I didn’t realise until I glanced at Jamie’s prompt questions that I didn’t go to any book signings or events this year. The closest I came was pre-ordering a signed copy of Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Unless you count the poetry evening that I went to that was organised by Cambridge PEN for the Night of the Imprisoned Writer: I performed at the open mic at the end, and there were a few other poets and stuff there.
I’m massively looking forward to the final Raven Cycle title by Maggie Stiefvater, and I hope it lives up to my expectations. I’m also hoping to get hold of Holly Black’s latest book, The Darkest Part of the Forest, when it comes out early this year, because it sounds right up my street and I enjoyed Tithe so much when I was younger.
I haven’t set myself a target number of books yet, because I don’t know how well I’ll be able to balance reading with university life, but I do have a number of books that need to be returned to the library before I go back to Cambridge, so I should probably get on with that.
And of course, there are the books I got for Christmas to work through.
But for the moment, I am condemned to Old Irish and Old Norse translation, and to working through the Poetic Edda. Let’s hope it’s more fun than the Prose. I think it is, from when I read it back in 2012, but then again, I didn’t realise how much I dislike Old Norse back then, so I may have a different response this time.
Why oh why does my degree have to steal all the time I used to spend reading for fun? I doubt I’ll write again before 2015 (!!!), so have a great New Year: don’t get too drunk, don’t kiss anyone who doesn’t want to be kissed, and keep reading. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some quotes from books I enjoyed this year:
“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”
“Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.”
“I thought research would be more glamorous, somehow. I’d give the librarian a secret code word and he’d give me the one book I needed and whisper the necessary page numbers. Like a speakeasy. With books.”
“Nick observed the flicker of appreciation in her brown eyes. He wasn’t particularly surprised. She was just the type to like them tall, dark, and carrying a lethal weapon.”
“Pirates could happen to anyone.”
“And there’s no sex, hardly any love stuff at all, in Middle Earth, which always made me think, yes, the world would be better off without it.”
“Want and need were words that got eaten smaller and smaller: Freedom, autonomy, a perennial bank balance, a stainless-steel condo in a dustless city, a silky black car, to make out with Blue, eight hours of sleep, a cell phone, a bed, to kiss Blue just once, a blister-less heel, bacon for breakfast, to hold Blue’s hand, one hour of sleep, toilet paper, deodorant, a soda, a minute to close his eyes.
What do you want, Adam?
To feel awake when my eyes are open.”
“There we were – demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance – and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air. We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. Don’t you see?! We’re actors – we’re the opposite of people!”