My bookish year in numbers

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It’s become a bit of a tradition now for me to do a final stats post to mark the end of each year. I like it; it’s only when I write these posts that I really think about what I’ve read and what it says about my reading habits.

I had a sneaking suspicion that I hadn’t read as much as usual this year but it’s nice to see that really the damage isn’t as bad as expected. Here is my reading year in numbers:

In 2017 I read 25 novels and 2 short stories.

Before cancelling my Audible subscription I listened to 2 audio books (Charlotte Bronte: A Life by Claire Harman and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – both unblogged).

I failed to finish 1 book (Doctor Zhivago).

The oldest novel I read was published in 1848 (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) but the two short stories I read were published in 1837 and 1838.

The newest book I read was published in 2016 (The Essex Serpent).

Only 8% of the books I read this year were published before 1900.

56% were published in the 20th century.

36% were published this century.

Just over half – 52% to be precise – were by British authors but in total I read books by authors of 12 different nationalities from 5 different continents.

I visited 8 new places on my Around The World in 80 Books tour.

15 books were written by women and 10 by men.

The longest novel I read contained over 800 pages (The Luminaries – I’ve now lent it to a friend so I can’t give you an exact figure on the page numbers).

The shortest had 190 pages (4.50 From Paddington).

I read 2 more books from the BBC’s Big Read (Midnight’s Children and Katherine).

My most popular blog post of this year – based on hits received – was this post on the books I’ve struggled to finish. Since it was published last month it’s been viewed 55 times which, for this quiet little blog, is loads.

One of the things I like about these posts is being able to compare to previous years and I’m reassured to see I’ve only read one book less than last year. I read more books by women this year (a conscious effort) and far fewer classic Victorian novels (completely unintentional, I had no idea). For some reason my choices seem to be shifting back towards modern literature but I think that’s because I’m still trying really hard to read books by a more diverse range of authors. That’s going pretty well all in all; I read slightly fewer non-English authors this year but I did read books by authors from Algeria, America, Finland, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Scotland and the West Indies. I’m pretty happy with that.

I just realised I didn’t read any French or Russian authors this year. How strange.

Anyhoo, before I go I’ll leave you with an entirely smug and gratuitous photograph of all the books I received over the holidays from my lovely family and friends. I’m a lucky girl.

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They are currently piled up in an armchair while I work out where the hell I’m going to put them all. Ho hum….

Happy new year all 🙂

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Top Ten Tuesday: Oldies and Newbies

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme asks participants to look at some of the unread books that have been on their shelf for the longest. I’ve decided to give you the five oldest books as well as the five newest unread books. 

Here are the oldest:

1. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. A throwback to the old BBC Big Read days.

2. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Oh my stars. I’ve started this and given up again more times than I can remember. It’s embarrassing.

3. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. One day, Bulgakov, one day.

4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Officially the oldest unread book on my shelf. It’s been there years and years and years.

5. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Another BBC oldie but one that I hope to get round to fairly soon.

And the newest:

6. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozie Adichie. Purchased entirely based on the recommendations of the blogging community!

7. Byron: Life and Legend by Fiona MacCarthy. A lovely birthday present but one that will probably have to wait until a holiday when I can laze around reading for days at a time.

8. Shylock is my Name by Howard Jacobson. Another birthday present but one that I’m looking forward to jumping into quite soon.

9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Purchased for a whopping 19p from the British Heart Foundation shop in town.

10. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. Another birthday present but not for me (sadly). I bought it for a friend last week and am having to resist the urge to read it before I hand it over!

A very quick and easy TTT this week!

August round up

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I’m ashamed of how rubbish I am at not buying books. Here are the spoils of the last month:

Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories by Rex Collins (ed.) 

A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel 

Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg (blogged here)

The Plague by Albert Camus 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Emma by Jane Austen 

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

The last three were bought for the grand total of £1 in a sale of old stock in the library so at least I don’t feel like I’ve wasted a huge amount of money.

Framley Parsonage caused a significant amount of embarrassment because one of the librarians had kept it aside for me, knowing I’d been looking for similar books recently. As I walked into the library she called over that there was ‘a good Trollope’ waiting for me at the desk. The lady who was standing at the desk at the time didn’t find it funny. At all. Damn Anthony Trollope and his unfortunate surname.

After all the confusion and apologising that followed I didn’t really feel that I could walk away without purchasing the offending book, despite the fact that I haven’t read the three that precede it in the series. Oh well!

July round up

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Oh it’s been a busy month! Full of work and more work and not enough reading or sleeping. I’m not really sure what happened to my weekends. Did they happen? Thankfully I’m off work for most of next week so I’m looking forward to a few relaxing days at home.

These are the books I purchased in July:

Persuasion by Jane Austen (blogged here)

Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee (blogged here)

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope (blogged here)

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (blogged here)

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Funnily enough the first four of these were purchased at the same time, on an impromptu trip to the Oxfam shop one lunchtime when I fancied something nice and modern to read. There is nothing particularly ‘modern’ about any of the four books I came away with, the newest of which was published in the 1950s! Fail. I’ve got a bit of a backlog of TBR books at the moment so I’m going to try to go a bit easier in August.

In other literary news, I also saw two Shakespeare plays this month. The first was our local ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ performance of King Lear, performed out in the open as Shakespeare intended, in between the tennis courts and the pavilion. The second was a live broadcast of The Merchant of Venice from the RSC at Stratford. We’ve seen a couple of these live screenings and they’re always excellent. Next month we’re hoping to see Othello.

That’s it for this month! Good bye July. Hello August!

A London trip and some new books

The Dickens Museum

The Dickens Museum

This’ll be a relatively quick post – partly because I’m all tuckered out after a busy weekend but also because the last episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will be on the telly shortly! Priorities and all that.

So – as the title of this post suggests – I spent yesterday in London with my best friend B. We’d been planning a bookish day in the capital for months but it kept getting put off because of work and weddings and money troubles and other such annoyances. We managed to cram a lot in to our trip, including a quick stop at the British Library where we saw Jane Austen’s writing desk, a Shakespeare First Folio and the original manuscripts of Jane Eyre and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (amongst others). We also went to the Dickens Museum, which is a short walk away. It’s housed in Dickens’ former home on Doughty Street, where he lived for two years early in his career while he was working on Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby. I was particularly interested to see his enormous writing desk and a panel of bars from the Marshalsea Prison, where his father was imprisoned for debt and where he set some of the scenes in Little Dorrit. I don’t remember either of these items from last time I was there (admittedly that was over ten years ago) and I was struck by how much more modern and interactive the museum felt this time. I would have liked to have stayed longer but we had a more important task at hand: book shopping!

Our plan was to head to Leicester Square so we could explore some of the second hand shops that are rather neatly clustered around Charing Cross Road. I’d set myself a decent budget of £40 and made a mental list of books to look for so I was feeling pretty optimistic. We did make it to quite a few of the shops we’d identified, including the teeny tiny Marchpane, which specialises in rare children’s books. It had two whole bays of shelving devoted just to copies of Alice In Wonderland. Sadly the actual purchasing part of the trip wasn’t overly successful, mainly because I’d forgotten how much I hate the West End. I’m rubbish in crowds and not only was it rammed with tourists but it was also on the route of the Pride rally so it was even busier than usual. It was hot and noisy and hectic. Instead of having a relaxed wander round the shops we just got a bit cross and stomped about looking for a pub so we could get a cold drink to cool ourselves down (and failing miserably at that too). In the end I came home with just two new books – both from the great Henry Pordes – having spent just £6 in total. It was a bit disappointing but at least I’ve learned a lesson about book shopping in tourist hotspots on a Saturday in the summer during Pride.

This leaves the new books purchased/received in June looking like this:

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The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (already blogged here)

Coraline & Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

1215: The Year Of Magna Carta by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham

Latin Grammar by E. C. Marchant & G. Watson

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

This isn’t a bad haul so I shouldn’t really complain too much about my failure to buy heaps of books yesterday. It wasn’t that long ago that I was complaining about not having enough room to store them all!

May book purchases

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Crikey. I bought a lot of books in May.

Here are my fiction purchases:

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (already blogged here)

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

Down There On A Visit by Christopher Isherwood

Oscar And Lucinda by Peter Carey

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

And some nonfiction:

Amo, Amas, Amat… And All That by Harry Mount

The Condor And The Cows by Christopher Isherwood

Discovering Churches by John Harries

England’s Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins

In my defence, I did take a box of old books to the charity shop last week so at least we have a bit more shelf space now. But, still… We have too many books.

Maybe we need a one-in/one-out policy like in a nightclub. I’ve suggested it before but P won’t agree and I can sort of see why. It would make spontaneous book buying difficult and spoil the fun of unexpected finds (like The Condor And The Cows – discovering that in the British Heart Foundation shop made my day infinitely nicer). I think regular clear outs will have to be the answer for now, at least until we have more room.

Northumberland and some new books

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I’ve had a lovely weekend in blustery Northumberland, where P has been working for the past week. The scenery up there is incredible – so bleak and dramatic. We camped on a hillside, hiked along Hadrian’s Wall and spent a day on Holy Island amongst the Lindisfarne ruins.  I was hoping that we’d be able to stop in at the famous Barter Books while we were near Alnick but unfortunately I misjudged the tides and we didn’t make it back onto the mainland in time. But nevermind, there’s always next year.

P is staying up there for another week so this morning I said my goodbyes and began making my way home. I caught the slow train to Newcastle where I had a two hour wait for my connecting train. It was raining pretty heavily by then so I dumped my luggage in a locker, had a quick tea and a pasty in Greggs and then set off in search of a good book shop in which to while away some time.

         Books for Amnesty

It took a while but eventually I stumbled on Books For Amnesty on Westgate Street. I sometimes find that charity bookshops can be a bit limited but this one was perfect for me. I had a quick glance at the first editions and antiquarian books before moving on to general fiction, the classics, poetry, British history and finally world history. I stayed on the ground floor and found everything I wanted but I think there was more upstairs if I’d fancied venturing further. I spent £9 and came away with two non-fiction books (both on English church history) as well as Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Added to the four books I purchased at the library old-stock sale last week, and another I purchased at the Roman Army Museum on Saturday, this is nine books this month. Eeek!

I’ve since resolved not to buy any more until I’ve made more headway with the unread books I have at home.

A little bit later I also found a good sized Waterstones near Grey’s Monument. I had a quick gander but generally I try not to buy new books. Although, there’s something about the smell of a Waterstones that nearly makes me change my mind every time I’m in one. But as wonderful as new books are I usually chicken out before I buy anything. Sometimes it’s just nice to go in to browse and enjoy that smell.