Twelve months in books

I love reading but on the daily commute there’s always a battle for my attention between my mobile and my latest book. I think this is part down to 4G so all my social media addictions load SO much quicker than a few years ago, part due to wifi on the Underground so I can download new articles between stations, and part down to laziness at buying books regularly.

At the end of 2013, after a year of little reading, I bought myself a Kindle and vowed to read one book a month in 2014. So to spur me on to another year of reading I thought I’d share the books I read and hope that you’ll share your recent reads too!

The top tip that got me off to a good start in 2014 was adding books to my wish list on Amazon when I either saw a good book in passing, read a book review or got a recommendation from a friend. This meant I had a book ready and waiting, and I could check the price if there was a Kindle sale. Although I didn’t quite reach my goal of 12 books over the year, reaching 10 by Christmas, the system got me into much better habits and some great reads along the way.

So here they are! (Grab a cuppa as it’s a bit of a long post.)

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Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – Helen Fielding

15 years after the last book was published, Bridget returns older and perhaps slightly wiser. I was sceptical about reading it at first as I’d grown up in my teens with Bridget as a singleton (the character back then now scarily closer to my own age now). And I think there’s parts of Bridget or occasions in her life then that most women could relate to, so I wasn’t sure whether an older Bridget would have the same effect. But I thought it had to be an easy read and a good January pick-me-up so I delved in. It delivered what I thought and hoped for, it’s funny, a bit cheesy and overall quite heartwarming. If you enjoyed the first two books, you may not love this one but I think you’ll at least like it.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

After a light-hearted read followed ‘Life After Life’. A narrative about the life of Ursula Todd from her birth in 1910. At various ages through different events she dies, and each time she then unknowingly re-lives her life again, changing the course of events and avoiding death until later in life and it all happens again. It may sound confusing and it took some concentration to link her various lives together but I do love a book that makes you think and it comes to quite a poignant ending.

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird– Conn Iggulden

I’ve read a few historical fictions (mainly by Philippa Gregory) so when James recommended I try Stormbird I thought it was worth giving it a go. After reading The Cousins’ War series, I enjoyed reading about the infamous Wars of the Roses from another fictional perspective, trying to piece where all of the key characters from previous books read might come together in it. My favourite character in the book is the fictional spymaster, Derry Brewer, he’s smart, funny and I think it helps prevent the story from being a bit dry.

The Red Tent– Anita Diamant

I read this book after a recommendation from James’ sister. I wasn’t sure it was a book I’d usually choose but I’m always keen to try something different based on good recommendations. It’s a fictional tale set around the times of the Old Testament, so you’ll recognise characters from the Bible. But the story focuses on the life of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, and largely centres around the Red Tent where woman spend childbirth and their menstrual cycle. It’s a story which highlights how birth unites women but covers common themes of love, hate, betrayal and jealousy, and is a great read. I’ve read a lot of books set in modern times, the World War or centuries past so it was a refreshing change of context.

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 The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1Graeme Simison

I downloaded The Rosie Project as a holiday read and I think it was the quickest book I read over the year. Possibly down to the ability to spend a few hours reading in the sun (oh how I dream of that feeling now!) but it’s also hilarious. Don is intelligent but completely socially awkward. He decides to create the Wife Project to find a partner, along the way he meets Rosie and tries to help her find her real father. It sounds like chick lit and it is a bit predictable in that way, but I really think men would find it appealing too. There are sides of Don we can all relate to (I love a good list! 🙂 ).

 The Rosie EffectGraeme Simison

As with any sequels, there’s always a danger that a disappointing follow-up ruins your enjoyment of the first. I can’t give too much away without sharing the end of the first book, but I thought Don’s social failings felt more awkward than the previous book. It’s still funny but there were moments when you really feel for Don’s inability to identify where he’s going wrong. In the end, the story reminds you that when you really love someone you accept them for who they are.

Fatherland – Robert Harris

Can you imagine a world where Hitler had won WW2? It’s hard to contemplate. But Fatherland takes this idea and uses it as the background to a murder that leads to the uncovering of some hideous secrets Hitler would rather keep hidden. I was a bit disappointed when the story started to give greater focus to the romance between its main characters, but it has a surprising twist and leaves you with that thought-provoking idea of a lving in world where Hitler still exists.

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey

Emma tells the story of Maud, an eighty-something lady with dementia who is convinced her friend Elizabeth is missing. As she tries to solve the mystery of her missing friend, she actually reveals the mystery of a crime from her youth. Maud’s diminishing memory, her desire to find her friend and the uncovering of a crime makes for a compelling read as you try to anticipate where the threads lead. Emma’s account of dementia and Maud’s relationship with her family seems true and accurate, giving you an insight into the reality of this illness. It’s also laugh out loud funny at times.

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 The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

An epic read at almost 900 pages (I almost count it as two books!), there were times I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the end. But one way or another I became immersed in Theo’s life, the attachment he holds to the painting and the memories of his mother, the kind and gentle Hobie who takes him in, his love for Pippa and his odd relationship with Boris. Like many reviews I thought the Vegas section was too long but it’s worth it once you get through it.

 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

A Christmas classic I can’t believe I’d not read before (probably due to repeat viewings of The Muppet Christmas Carol) and with only a hundred or so pages it was the perfect follow-up to The Goldfinch. I love finding references to London in books and Dickens’ description of Christmas joy, the food and the flavours get you into a good festive spirit.

 

So there are my 10 books of 2014! As for 2015 I’m hoping I’ll reach 12. I’m going to try to avoid reading my mobile on the Underground and read more before I go to bed and see how I get on!

At the moment I’m reading The Miniaturist and I’m getting more and more engrossed by its eeriness. On my wish list now is the Wars of the Roses: Trinity (the sequel to Stormbird), The Taxidermist’s Daughter, plus Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and Yes Please
as I rarely read non-fiction books. I’m also thinking about adding the Costa Book of the Year winner announced yesterday – H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

I love a bit of book chat so if you’ve read any of these books or have any good recommendations, drop a comment below or tweet to @ThisCityLifeLdn! Any top tips on how to keep on reading are welcome too!

2 Comments

  1. February 2, 2015 / 10:35 pm

    I know exactly what you mean – I used to be such a bookworm but now struggle to get through a book a month! I have set myself the challenge of a book a week in 2015 as I like to have a firm goal… but it will definitely be a challenge! Have you read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton? I recommend it to everyone 🙂 It’s not always an easy read but it is completely worth it. Much like The Goldfinch which I also struggled with in places. I also love Kate Mosse and raced through The Citadel – it’s fascinating!

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      February 3, 2015 / 9:00 am

      That is a good challenge! Maybe next year I can up my target 🙂 I haven’t read The Luminaries but I have considered it, from what you say I think I need to get a few other books read before I tackle it! I thought I had read some Kate Mosse books but for some reason I keep getting her confused with Kate Atkinson. I’ll have to add The Citadel to the list. Look forward to hearing how you get on with your challenge!