It is the love of books that made me want to write one of my own. While it’s true that I don’t have the time to read as much as I used to –and mostly because of writing and its associated tasks– I still enjoy spending my free time with a good book. Each year for the past several, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge in which I set a goal of reading from a list of books within the year. My goal was to read 20 books in 2017 –a modest amount for a woman who used to read a book a week before becoming an author herself!
I am happy to say that I surpassed my goal and read 25 books! Here is my list:
- W.B. Yeats and the Muses – Joseph M. Hassett
- A Farewell To Arms – Ernest Hemingway
- Too Loud a Solitude – Bohumil Hrabal
- Loving – Henry Green
- The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
- Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
- Heartbreak Hotel – Jonathan Kellerman
- Princess Margaret, A Biography – Theo Aronson
- The Complete Works of William Blake
- Pills – Jack Binding
- Camino Island – John Grisham
- Storm Of Steel – Ernst Junger
- X – Sue Grafton
- The Whistler – John Grisham
- Regeneration – Pat Barker
- Crowned and Dangerous – Rhys Bowen
- Speaking In Bones – Kathy Reichs
- The Obsession – Nora Roberts
- Time To Lie – Phil Taylor
- The Human Factor – Graham Greene
- Batman and Psychology – A Dark and Stormy Knight
- Black Chalk – Christopher J. Yates
- Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- Bistro – Roger Moore
As you can see from the list, I don’t only read novels. The list includes two collections of short stories, two biographies, two non fiction books and a collection of poetry. Choosing a favorite from this group is difficult. Comparing books of different genres is like comparing apples to oranges, but I’ll share some of the standouts in the list, for better or worse.
I was fascinated to read the perspective of a German officer during World War One in Storm of Steel. My research on the Great War had been, with the exception of All Quiet On the Western Front, written from the standpoints of Belgium, France, Britain and the rest of their allies. Ernst Junger presents an enthusiastic (without being unrealistic) narration of his experiences as a soldier in the German Army. This is a marked contrast to the reluctant soldier (a character with whom we highly sympathize) in Erich Remarque’s All Quiet On the Western Front.
Watching season one of The Crown on Netflix made me curious about the romance between Group Captain Townsend and the Princess Margaret. Her biography was intriguing and sad. The book paints a story of a woman who embraced her royal status as much as she rebelled against conformity –quite the tale of two women. The thwarted love affair with Townsend is especially interesting and ironic considering the latest “Meg” to join the royal family is divorced, American and of mixed race. My, how times have changed! (For the better, at least in these kinds of situations.)
Black Chalk was the standout favorite of all the novels on the list. It is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator telling the story of a group of friends who begin a game in college which has consequences that grow ever more serious as time goes by –even to the extent of ruining lives. It was awesomely chilling!
And the biggest disappointment of the group was The Bell Jar. This is one of those books that I was ashamed to admit I had never read. Well, I finally crossed it off my to-do list but I can’t say I’m any more enriched for the experience. And I know many of you will say ‘what is wrong with you?’ when I tell you this but I was bored with the story. Bored and worn out with all the similes. The curtains didn’t just flutter in the breeze, they fluttered like the wings of half dead moths (or some such thing). Descriptions like that were stacked one top of another and it got tiresome. I also kept wondering what I was missing. This is supposed to be a life-changing book. I didn’t get it.
The previous year (2016), I failed my reading challenge thanks to an overly aggressive writing and blogging schedule and I realized I didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t taking in as many stories as I was putting out. I strongly believe that a good writer must be an avid reader. That means something different to everyone, as we all have busy lives. Most of us are carving out time from our ‘day’ jobs and our family and friends to make time for writing. How does one find the time to read as well?
My reading time is divided two ways: I read a little before bed every night and I listen to an audiobook while I exercise (nearly) every day. I may read research material for a project I’m working on as well. In 2018, I’m setting my goal at 25 books and we shall see if I can manage it with my writing goals for this year. Here’s what I have on my list, what’s on yours?
- Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
- The Catcher In the Rye – JD Salinger
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- The Man In the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
- The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way – Bill Bryson
- The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance Of Horror
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
- The Quiet American – Graham Greene
- Siegfried Sassoon: Soldier, Poet, Lover, Friend – Jean Moorecroft Wilson
- Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
- The Obituary Writer – Ann Hood
- Madame Bovary – Gustav Flaubert
- Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
- Y – Sue Grafton
- In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
- The Pearl That Broke Its Shell – Nadia Hashimi
- The Art Forger – B.A. Shapiro
- Testimony – Scott Turow
- The Complete Works Of Percy Bysshe Shelly
- Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
- The Breakdown – B.A. Paris
- Ghostwriter – Alessandra Torre
- Moonglow – Michael Chabon
- Party Going – Henry Green
- Artemis – Andy Weir
And if you want to read any of my books, The Bucks County Novels, you can find all four (soon to be five) on Amazon. For a preview, visit The Bucks County Novels page on my blog.