2018 – a reading review

In a year when I read the fewest books since I started to keep records, the highlights were 12 books I rated four star and 3 which received that rarely awarded fifth star.

They were a good mix …

  • four were non-fiction
  • three were based in Africa
  • three others were autobiographical
  • two dealt with medical conditions I’d personally experienced
  • one was a book on the craft of writing
  • another was a Pulitzer prize winner
  • one offered me a solution to the problem of how to write my personal story
  • one signified a return to top form by the author of the best book I’ve ever read
  • there’s also a few which ended up with four-stars when they probably only appeared to deserve three – but something elevated them, something I’d possibly struggle to define now

Each year I ponder (albeit briefly) on how to approach those unweidly sights – my TBR (to be read) pile and my TBR list. Frankly, I’ve yet to feel I’ve hit on the right solution. One considerable problem is I tend to read what strikes my fancy at the time. I fear to admit I sometimes even tire of browsing through the list of the unread fiction on my kindle and simply dive in to whatever happens to be under my finger at the time. I’ve tried various challenges to ensure I read what I have rather than allowing myself to purchase anything new, but the truth is I’ve probably purchased a fair number of average books and it would break my heart not to buy at least a few potentially excellent new books during the year.

What did happen in 2018 is there were an increasing number of books I DNF’d (did not finish) and which I made an active choice to put aside. Will I return to them? Unlikely, I feel. I see people mentioning they must give a book another go as it’s so highly recommended, I even see people commenting they’re so glad they did give a book another go as it proved worthwhile. But I just don’t see myself doing that now. When I was younger, I never gave up on a book – I’d have ploughed on, determined not to let it defeat me. Now I just think “too many books, too little time” and move on without guilt. So long as I’ve given a book a serious go, I have no need to be influenced by the recommendations of other readers; after all – reading and the books we each love is so subjective.

This year I plan to focus – as far as is possible – on those with the potential for excellence. I say as far as possible, for I believe I need those lighter reads to cleanse the mental palate between the weightier reads. And frankly, some “lighter” reads appeared on my highlights of 2018 list. But let’s see if by setting this intention I gain even more highlights for this year.

2018’s highlights for me were …

Four stars

Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje
The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead
When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalinithi
On Writing” by Stephen King
Record of a Spaceborn Few” by Becky Chambers
A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
Gentlemen and Players” by Joanne Harris
The Golden House” by Salman Rushdie
I am, I am, I am: Seventeen brushes with Death” by Maggie O’Farrell
Three Things About Elsie” by Joanna Cannon
The Return of the Soldier” by Rebecca West
Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

Five stars

Brazzaville Beach” by William Boyd
Lost Connections” by Johann Hari
Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

How about you? What were your stand-outs last year? Despite the overwhelming nature of my piles and lists, I’m always open to adding the potentially excellent! 🙂


© Debra Carey, 2019

 

5 comments

  1. I had a few I loved — and a couple I didn’t. The DNF pile is something I don’t return to: life is too short. I like to write reviews of the books I read, it just somehow helps me to feel okay with the fact that I didn’t like a book that others just love. Yeah, I have quite a few “disappointing reads” that will make others curse… https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/69664009-ronel-janse-van-vuuren?shelf=disappointing-read

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting list, Ronel. It will surprise Sarah J. Maas fans, but even if I enjoy her books, I can see where they are not for everyone. I may have Book 2 of the first series but I’m not in a hurry to read it. Also, I may have to get more critical in my old age – less five stars and more threes.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank goodness for differing tastes eh? After all, without them, writers would all have to write the same books which would make our lives really dull 🙂

      I had a little rummage over to your books read too & have managed to add a couple more writing craft books to my pile! I’m already awaiting the DIY MFA, so much to read & study!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a slow reader – I wasn’t as a teenager – so I’ve become more selective and that means more five star reads, no DNFs, and many books on my Kindle that will remain TBR. I have to learn from my mistakes – like I’ve realised that cozies are no longer to my taste. My standout read of 2018 has to be Elizabeth Wein’s WWII YA novel Codename Verity – reviewed here: https://rolandclarke.com/2018/09/27/code-name-verity-a-review/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. More five star reads is what I’m hoping for too Roland. I’ll still give new things a try as, until 10 years ago, I’d have not picked up anything even remotely science fiction – heavy or light. Now one of those books which opened my eyes is my most regularly recommended – Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog.

    Thanks for the link to Codename Verity. I read it some years ago now, without any inkling that it was YA, especially as it was recommended by a (grown-up) friend. Having enjoyed it – and it’s clever ending – I realised that YA was another genre which I shouldn’t be ignoring or writing off as not relevant to me. So I do dip in there too, from time-to-time, hence the constantly perilous state of my TBR piles & lists 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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