I love to read, and I love to share my thoughts on the books that I've devoured; especially those with beautiful covers and end papers.
In a new literary-link-up devised by Laura Fisher of The Lovely Jumble, myself and a host of bookworm-bloggers will be sharing our Blogger's Year in Books - the journey so far - and celebrating what it is to get lost in a good book - or not...
Here's my list in roughly chronological order, from January to now (17 in total):
The Mammoth Book of Shark Attacks - Alex MacCormick
OK, I'm a little obsessed by sharks - my Nana was a lifeguard on the beaches of Cape Town, South Africa - and I've been working stop-start-stop-start on my 'family story' of her life and my mother's early life. I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight about sharks, whilst also feeding my fascination for them (see what I did there?)
The book was very interesting, if gruesome in parts. I had a lot of shark-related nightmares while I was reading it.
War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden, Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry - Lindy Woodhead
This was a rich and detailed insight into the lives of two famous, female pioneers in the beauty field. It was quite hard-going in places and took me a long time to read, despite it being such an interesting story of innovation and rivalry.
I don't think it was the fault of the book per se, it's just hard sometimes to absorb so much detail in non-fiction form; remembering all the dates and names of those involved. Ultimately it was a huge insight into the lives of these two women and all that they gave us: it was Helena Rubinstein who first came up with the mantra of 'Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise'. Amazing!
The Amateur Marriage - Anne Tyler
It took ages to read this book too (maybe a month) because I wasn't prioritising my reading at this time. I enjoyed it but I kept having to re-read pages because I'd lost the thread of the story. The characters felt real and true though and I loved being immersed in the wartime nostalgia of Polish 'Polka' dances and that first heady sense of falling in love, the backdrop of war, the sense of community. Moving and tragic.
The Good Communist - Doris Lessing
Based around a group of squatters who come together to 'join the revolution' in the early eighties, Alice is a conscientious home-maker who cooks and cleans for her comrades, all in the name of 'the cause'. I was fascinated by the details of life as a squatter and the careful force of Alice's character. I was left at the end with a sense of wanting more (always a good sign), and the story still lingers dark in my mind.
In the Prison of her Skin (L'Asphyxie) - Violette Leduc
I'd seen a film of her life and been inspired to read this, though at first I struggled to get into it. She writes in a clever and spare manner using metaphor to convey meaning on subjects that are shocking and revelatory. The story lingered on in my mind after I closed the last page; haunting and sad.
Office Girl - Joe Meno
Crazy, mad, wonderful - I read this in a few days and soaked up the adventurous exploits of the protagonist Odile with delight. Find out what I did, as inspired by her 'guerrilla acts'.
A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
Loved this book - beautiful and mesmerising and once I'd read the first few chapters I couldn't put it down. Read my detailed review.
Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir - Cyndi Lauper
An interesting insight into her early life and struggles. I kept having to look up all her music videos as I went along - she has passion and she's never been scared to show it.
Shop Girl - Mary Portas
Little snippets of her early life connected through memories of music, fashion, food and drink, as well as the devastating premature death of her mother which left her bearing the brunt of familial responsibilities. I find this kind of book very inspiring as it proves that so many people experience hard times, setbacks, heartache and are shown 'tough love'. It's what you do next that counts.
The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
A page-turner, Kate Morton really knows how to tell a story. Very evocative and beautiful too, filled with atmosphere and meticulous detail and a castle that whispers with the distant hours...
Snapper - Brian Kimberling
A book about birds and life and finding your path. The second or third chapter had me a bit bored but then I rampaged through to the end in one sitting. Funny and inspiring. Here's a little quote:
On June 22 that summer between five and eleven in the morning I found twelve nests. That's more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. Two were Kentucky Warblers and one was an Ovenbird. The females of both species are deeply crafty."
The Baroness: The Search for Nica the rebellious Rothschild - Hannah Rothschild
I found this book fascinating and it led me off in so many tangents, discovering the jazz compositions of Thelonious Monk and wondering about moths and butterflies. It covers a lot of ground and is peppered with sadness.
There was a parallel with Pannonica and my Nana - both set sail for faraway shores on large passenger liners, finding out upon arrival that their mothers' had passed away. That really struck me.
Pannonica lived her life to the full though and took risks and had it all - money, furs, jewels, a Bentley - and was admired. She wasa good person and did so much to help and champion those less fortunate than herself. That was the lasting take-away from this book, and is in itself so beautifully inspiring.
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
Completely hilarious, truly laugh out loud funny - I couldn't stop laughing and read this in a day.
The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion
As above. Maybe not quite as funny, but I was still laughing, a lot, out loud (and the first/only book I've read on a Kindle.)
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
By far the best book I've read this year, I read it within a week. I wrote a detailed review with some of my favourite quotes, including:
She was the golden thread running through everything, a lens that magnified beauty so that the whole world stood transfigured in relation to her, and her alone."
More, Now, Again - Elizabeth Wurtzel
I've read this before and it is a pretty shocking account of being addicted to Ritalin, amongst other things, and the obsessional behaviour of someone in the grip of addiction. I kept putting it down and reading other books in between but that's probably because I had read it before.
Some of the detail is so extreme I can't believe she was able to remember - and then reflect back on this period in her life - to write the book. I also remember reading her 'Prozac Nation' as a teenager and being riveted.
Henry's Demons - Patrick & Henry Cockburn
Very interesting read. I read it primarily for research purposes but it was an engrossing story told from the point of view of both a father and son, of living with schizophrenia.
I'm surprised by the number of memoir/non-fiction books I've read this year - 8 out of 17. Also by the number of books that I've read that I've found so sad. Am I drawn to that kind of book? Is life - and therefore the mirror that is fiction - just brimming over with sadness?
I think it's interesting to document the books you've read - and also how you felt about them/how they made you feel - to both remember and reflect but also to see how much more you could have read if you prioritised reading a bit more.
I read an article (can't remember where) from a blogger who had deliberately published a list of all the books he'd had time to read while eschewing all television and social media. I rarely spend more than an hour a day watching television, if I watch it all, and I've often said that if I lived alone I wouldn't choose to own one at all.
Food for thought?
And have you read any of these books this year?
Continue the inspiration and find out what the rest of the bookworm-bloggers have been reading:
The Lovely Jumble
Bird and Fox
She Who Rambles
One Small Life