Monday 20 July 2015

Books read in 2015 so far

I always aim to read more than I do. At heart, I'm still that little girl who always had her head stuck in a book - the family joke was that I didn't know my way anywhere because whenever we were in the car, I was looking at a page rather than out the window. Many years later, when I learned to drive - guess what? Turns out it wasn't a joke. I had to use a sat nav to get to my Granny's house, where she's lived my entire life.

Growing up though, meant less time between the pages and more time out in the real world. I've driven to work for the last eight years, and apparently reading at the wheel is pretty frowned upon. I actually really like driving to work, but I do sometimes think it would be nice to hop on a train instead and spend the journey reading.

This year though, I've been working in London once or twice a week, and it's given me the chance to recapture it, a little. Last year, I kept a track of the books I read on Pinterest and was on 25 by the end of the year - this year I'm on book 15, only halfway through, so I hope I'll beat last year (25 doesn't seem very many to me!). And I thought I'd summarise them here....

1. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
I'm hesitant to say too much about Grasshopper Jungle, because I think it's best to go into it with no prior knowledge, like I did. It took a chapter or so to grab me, but then I couldn't put it down. I learned after finishing it that Edgar Wright is planning on directing the movie of this, so yeah - it's going to be huge. Read it now, and then you can be smug when the movie comes out!

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
You've already read this, right? Everyone has! With the film coming out on DVD earlier this year, I wanted to read the book first, and devoured this on a train journey to Wales. It's compulsive, which isn't always a mark of quality, but this is really well written and not at all predictable. The film is a really great adaptation too (the book's author wrote the screenplay) so I massively recommend both. I figure you already know this, but if not, it's the story of a man whose wife goes missing, and how he deals with being a suspect in her disappearance. I loved it.

3. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I love Amy Poehler. Everyone loves Amy Poehler. In fact, the only bad things I've heard about Amy Poehler were in this book, by Amy Poehler. It's half advice book, half autobiography, and while it maybe seems a little rushed, she's so likeable and warm that I didn't mind one bit. Plus, bonus gossip about Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation!

4. Room by Emma Donoghue
This is such an interesting book. Interesting, but did I like it? I'm not sure. It's the story of a woman who was abducted as a teenager and has been imprisoned in a room for years, along with her son Jack, who was born in the room and doesn't know any different. It's told in first person, by five-year-old Jack, and the author was inspired by the Fritzl case. It was really hard to put down, but I didn't love it, and I can't really put my finger on why. I'd recommend it though, as it's very different.

5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
This is a short read, but one that will stay with you. It's been written from the point of view of someone who has locked-in syndrome, so he can't move or speak, but is completely aware of everything around him. It's a frightening affliction, but rather than focus on that, this book is positive and life-affirming. I loved it.

6. My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler
This is a eBook I've had on my iPhone forever, and decided to give it a go during a boring train journey when I didn't feel like anything heavy. It was ok, with amusing moments, but I was left with an overwhelming feeling of 'Why should I care?' It's a book about Chelsea's one night stands, and while part of me kind of liked that there wasn't a message, and it wasn't preachy - at one point I did wonder if it would end with her in Alcoholics Anonymous - it just didn't really leave an impression. I'm actually struggling to remember how it ended...

7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
I wasn't sure if I was going to read this young adult book, because I thought it would make me sob as much as The Fault in our Stars did. It's a really short, quick read about Mia, who has been in a car accident and is having an out of body experience while she's in a coma fighting for her life. It's an intriguing premise, but it didn't hit me emotionally. I didn't really get why it was such a big hit, but maybe it was one of those situations where a young adult book is really aimed at the YOUNG adults. Not the 30 somethings.

8. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
My friend Jo got me this for my birthday last year, and it took me about six months to read it. I'd pick it up on holiday or a long trip, read a couple of chapters, then forget about it when I got home and read something else. It just didn't grab me. The frustrating thing is that once I actually sat down and said 'Right, I am finishing this book', it absolutely did grab me. About half way through, the plot gets seriously compelling and exciting, and I can see why this is such a classic. Stick with it, but I feel it's a holiday book - something you can read over a few days, rather than dipping in and out of. It's about Rebecca, the dead ex-wife of the narrator's new husband, and how she effects everything about her, even after she's gone.

9. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
After finishing Rebecca, I was in a classics phase so gave this a go. I've never read any Agatha Christie before, but it's clear why she's still renowned as one of our best mystery writers. This is a classic locked-room murder mystery that I've seen emulated and spoofed so many times before, but surprisingly I didn't clock whodunnit until it was just about revealed.

10. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Still in the classics phase! I decided to try Orwell out again, as I hadn't read him since school (more on that in a second). Animal Farm is a quick read - I think I finished it in an afternoon - but good, although I found the metaphors a bit heavy handed.

11. 1984 by George Orwell
I decided to stick with Orwell and read 1984 again. I read this as a 12 year old, intrigued after an assembly, and rereading it now I can't imagine that I understood anything in it at that age! I didn't remember much about the first read, actually. But I enjoyed it. It's fascinating reading it now, seeing how much of it has gone into popular culture - Big Brother, Room 101... it's a scary vision of the future, and although I felt like the second half wasn't as good as the first, it's still an incredible book that's had a huge impact.

12. September Girls by Bennett Madison
Oh, I LOVED this novel. It's about a boy's summer at the beach, first love and a little bit of magic. A perfect holiday book, but lovely to read at any time. Yes. Read it.

13. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I went on a major Diana Wynne Jones phase last year but neglected to read this one for some insane reason. I am insane, we all know it. This is a fantastic novel about quiet Sophie, who gets cursed by a witch and makes friends (well, sort of) with a wizard. It's also a pretty wonderful Studio Ghibli film, so I recommend you devour both, pronto.

14. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This is basically the new Gone Girl, and I picked it up after it seemed like everyone on my Twitter feed was posting about it. It's just as compulsive - pretty much impossible to put down actually, I started on the way to work and spent the day trying to resist the temptation to read it under my desk! It's about Rachel, who gets the same train every day and likes to watch the people in the houses that she passes - something I'm sure a lot of us do. But it all goes a bit far, and then it gets a bit strange. I won't say any more, but it's an excellent summer read.

(Yep, I know the image isn't working, I'll fix it as soon as I can)

15. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I've had this on my bookshelf for about three years, and once I finally picked it up, I couldn't believe I'd waited so long. It's SO good. I love Patrick Ness - his Chaos Walking trilogy is one of my favourite series ever and made me sob - and his follow up book, More Than This, is equally amazing. A Monster Calls is about a boy whose mother has cancer, who is visited by a monster. It's a powerful look at adolescence, grief and coming to terms with the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. Read it, do.

I'm currently reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, but I think this is another Rebecca in that I've been reading it for a few months and keep picking up other books instead (I'm also halfway through rereading To Kill A Mockingbird). I've also got Wild by Cheryl Strayed to read, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt but I am always looking for recommendations - what have you read and loved this year?

1 comment

  1. 'i am pilgrim' was SO great (900-odd pages but i read it in about 2 days) - quite cinematic, very gripping.
    'every day' was really original (to me, at least) & exactly the type of book i wish i'd written.


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