Twenty-fourteen is almost behind us, so it’s time for me to account for my reading activities over the past year. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of my visitors a very happy and bookish 2015.
How many books read in 2013?
Only 92 this year, which is probably the fewest since records began. In my defence, I was rather busy with finishing my thesis and preparing for my viva.
There were 51 novels and 41 works of non-fiction.
I read 38 books by men, so that means 54 by women.
Favourite book read?
I always weasel my way out of choosing just one favourite, so here are the top five (in no particular order):
- Stoner by John Williams (This is a rare instance of my enjoying a much-hyped book – I thought it extraordinary.)
- Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine (An incredibly important book, and also one that is delightfully well written. Fine combines insight with common sense and humour. Brilliant.)
- Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe (I’m giggling at the mere thought of this book. Stibbe is an exceptional comic writer.)
- Deep Sea and Foreign Going by Rose George (As I don’t have an intrepid bone in my body, I enjoy reading about impulsive people who go off and have adventures. George makes the shipping industry sound exciting to someone who likes to have her pins firmly on the ground.)
- Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins (It seems odd to flag this novel as a favourite, given it’s based on the true story of a Victorian woman neglected and starved to death by her family. However, the writing is magnificent and Harriet herself is accorded much dignity by Jenkins. Valancourt Books are publishing a new edition in 2015, and I’m writing the introduction.)
I thought Dave Eggers’ The Circle was absolute pants. It was such an interesting premise, but the novel just seemed to get worse and worse.
Oldest book read?
Wuthering Heights from 1847. It’s 166 years old, but still prompts new readings. I must confess to having been a bit ambivalent towards it, but an exceptional lecture by one of my colleagues at the University of Brighton really jolted me back into recognising its significance.
I don’t pay much attention to when books are published – you could never accuse me of being in the vanguard. From a cursory glance down the list, I reckon it’s either Hannah Vincent’s wonderful debut novel Alarm Girl, or Rory Maclean’s magical Berlin: Imagine a City.
Longest book title?
That was A Female Genius: How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s Daughter, Started the Computer Age by James Essinger. Unfortunately, I found it bitterly disappointing.
That’s a draw between John Williams’ Stoner and Laurie Graham’s highly entertaining At Sea.
How many re-reads?
19, which is rather a lot. I had to re-read a large pile of Victorian classics for teaching this term, which was no great hardship. I also cheered myself up by re-reading Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader and George & Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody. I somehow neglected to re-read Three Men on a Boat, but did chuckle my way through Three Men on the Bummel again, and even published an ebook edition.
Most books read by one author this year?
That’s Elly Griffiths, who has written a series of novels about a forensic archaeologist called Ruth Galloway. They’re not the sort of books I’d normally read, but Griffiths gave a very enjoyable talk at the Hove Literature Festival this year and made me want to find out more about her creation.
Any in translation?
Nope, but I did read some in German. Admittedly, they were straightforward detective stories, but I’m building up to something more challenging.
And how many of this year’s books were from the library?
14 came from either the London Library or the Jubilee Library in Brighton. (Fortunately, The Circle was borrowed, otherwise I’d have asked for my money back.)