Reading update

ambelin

As August draws to a close I thought it might be worth checking in on my reading goals for this year. As in previous years, I set myself the goal of reading 52 books this year. One per week always sounds entirely reasonable, but I’ve been shocked to see how short I have fallen from the goal in some years. As I check in on my Goodreads stats for 2014, it tells me I’ve read 46 thus far, and am nine books ahead of schedule. Awesome. I’m pretty sure I got a substantial boost from the large collection of books I managed to devour while on holiday in the UK, and more recently on a trip to Cairns, but I’m still really pleased to that I might finally reach my goal. One of the factors that has definitely helped has been my Kobo, which I can now pop into a bag and take anywhere with hundreds of books at the ready. Previously I’ve had to consider whether I should lug various big or bulky books with me, particularly on holiday, but with the Kobo it is all so much easier.

Of these titles, I’d say my favourite is Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Tribe series, which blew me away for its technical prowess in structure and character story arcs, and in impeccable world building and beautiful use of mythology. I also found a beautiful collection of short stories that finally offered Josephine Rowe’s Tarcutta Wake and my classic favourite Peter Carey’s The Fat Man in History some competition for my favourite collection of Australian short stories. I only just finished Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil, so I’ll see if its stories haunt me over the coming months the way Rowe’s did, but I think it is safe to say they are some of the finest examples of what short story collections can and should do.

Of my 46 books 32 were written by women, 12 were by Australian authors (this is much lower than it would usually be thanks to my ‘reading books about the UK or by UK authors while in the UK’ challenge) of which only two were men (sorry lads (not sorry)). Only 7 were non-fiction and 8 were young adult. I noticed my reading had lacked writers of colour, and thanks to some generous advice was able to put together an enviable selection of books by authors from diverse cultures and backgrounds, some of which I’ve already managed to read. I’m looking forward to adding more in as the year progresses.

All in all, the reading year is going well. Melbourne Writers’ Festival draws to a close today, so I’m looking forward to some of the excellent books I’ve added to my reading pile after seeing authors speak at various events. Any recommendations for me?

Reading UK Authors While in the UK

Kobo

In my recent travels around the beautiful continent of the United Kingdom, I set myself the challenge of reading works either written about, or by people from, the UK. I asked for recommendations on Facebook, compiled a wish list of reads, loaded up my Kobo and set off on a trip intended to be both an opportunity to research and learn more about the UK literary world. More on that aspect of the trip can be read here.

So how did my reading challenge go? Quite well. Overall I read 12 books, which may seem like a lot for a three week trip, but includes two audio books and a couple of shorter titles. None of them were doorstoppers, and one is not quite finished. I read a lot at night (the joys of holidaying with a small child, your night time adventures are somewhat curtailed) and while in transit (we drove the length of the continent, from London to the Scottish highlands, took the train from Edinburgh to London, and of course the interminable flights).

Of the 12, nine I had never read before, six were written by women, three were YA, one was non fiction, two were crime, one was science fiction.

My favourites were probably the David Walliams audiobook of The BFG (it had all three of us in stitches, and it was so cool to introduce Ave to Roald Dahl), Brick Lane and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

Reading Evelyn Waugh while staying in one of the hotels he frequented and wrote in was amazing. Visiting the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire, wandering around the village that inspired so many of his stories and buying The BFG audiobook and collector’s edition for Avery was amazing. Visiting Brick Lane after reading Monica Ali’s beautiful portrait of its immigrant roots was amazing. Thinking about Mrs Dalloway’s London while hearing Big Ben chime was amazing. Overall, I think I would say that immersing myself in writing about the locations I was actually in was amazing. Amazing? Yeah, amazing.

Of course I came home with more recommendations of UK authors to read, so I imagine there will be a sharp increase in them for the remainder of 2014.

The full list of the books I read, and some ratings and thoughts on those books, is on my Goodreads page.