Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Year of Reading - not so dangerously

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

Emily Dickinson

About a year ago I came to realise that it had been months since I had  last read a complete book. This was shocking to me. I consider myself a life-long reader. As a child I went to the library once a week, if not more, and always took out and read the full quota of books allowed. I think I had two buff coloured tickets for fiction and a green one for non-fiction. One Saturday I waited outside for the librarian to open up my local library in Porth. I chose three books, went home and read them and returned to the library ready to borrow more. When the librarian saw the date for return stamped in them, she presumed I had changed my mind about them and she told me off for being a time-waster. I don't know why I didn't speak up for myself then, but gratefully accepted her forgiveness that manifested itself in allowing me to borrow more books. I am forever grateful to librarians and for libraries.

This is a poem by Nikki Giovanni -

My First  Memory (Of Librarians)

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
    wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
    too short
         For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
    a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books — another world — just waiting
At my fingertips.

I felt it was important to reconnect with a regular reading practice - to feel a book in my hand, to smell the print and paper and to experience that satisfying feeling as the pages mount up on the left. So I made a plan to read four books a month. I gave myself four categories:

1. Fiction
2. Non-Fiction
3. Work related
4. Pure entertainment

Throughout 2016 I have read forty four books. (I did allow myself to include a couple of audible books and one or two as kindle versions). It has been strangely satisfying to see the list grow, and I enjoyed working out which books to read for each category.  I intend to continue with the practice again next year and am alread  planning my four for January 2017.

My Reading List for 2016

1. Non-fiction
2. Fiction
3. Work-related
4. Pure entertainment

2. The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton
3. On Elizabeth Bishop - Colm Toibin
4. W is for Wasted - Sue Grafton
1. The Narrow Door - Paul Lisicky

2. Room - Emma Donaghue
1. A Year of Reading Dangerously - Andy Miller
3. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig
4. Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith

1. Keeping An Eye Open - Julian Barnes
3. 30 Second Philosophies - Law and Baggini
4. Cross and Burn - Val McDermid
2. Blue Diary - Alice Hoffman

2. The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
3. We Learn Nothing - Tim Kreider
1. 25 Lessons I Learned about Photography - Dominguez and Staal
4. The Forsytes Continues - John Galsworthy

2. The Snow Queen - Michael Cunningham
1. Kindling the Native Spirit - Denise Linn
3. NVC - A Language of Life - Marshall Rosenberg
4. Beside Myself - Anne Morgan

2. The Answer and Other Love Stories - Rebbecca Ray
1. Footnotes - How Running Makes Us Human - Vybarr Cregan-Reid
3. Boredom - a lively history - Peter Toohey
4. The Bat - Jo Nesbo

3. The Skeleton Cupboard - Tanya Byron
4. The Spider Truces - Tom Connolly
2. The Language of Dying - Sarah Pinborough
1. Quicksand - Henning Mankell

2. Analyzing Sylvia Plath - Alice Walsh
1. All at Sea - Decca Aitkenhead
4. Taking Pity - David Mark
3. Dog Medicine - Julie Barton

1. Steig Larsson, My Friend - Kurdo Baksi
3. Stuffocation - James Wallman
4. The Blackhouse - Peter May
2. The Unwitting - Ellen Feldman

1. Baggage - Victoria Field
2. Manhattan 62 - Reggie Nadelson
4. Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
3. Into The Magic Shop - James Doty

4. Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz
2. Precious Thing - Colette McBeth
3. How To Age - Anne Karpf
1. Fast Asleep, Wide Awake - Nerina Ramlakhan

2. The Swimming Pool - Louise Candlish
4. Caught - Harlan Coben
3. Me After You - Lucie Brownlee
1. How Did We Get Into This Mess? - George Monbiot

In Anthony Horowitz's "Magpie Murders" one narrator says, "Fiction allows us a glimpse at the alternative". This, and so much more, is what reading continues to allow.