When I was younger, I would read a lot – I remember reading Lord of the Rings well before the films came out, and going to World Book Day dressed as Legolas when very few of my classmates knew who that was, and I remember devouring the Harry Potter books on the day of release and having to keep quiet about spoilers. I remember the impact that books like Noughts and Crosses or the Handmaid’s Tale had on Young Debbie.
I wanted to get back into reading so I started a reading challenge at the beginning of the year – 26 books across the whole year, which worked out to a book a fortnight! Yesterday, I finished my challenge, four months ahead of schedule! This probably means I underestimated my reading speed and so I’ll need to add more… Generally I had no rules for the challenge – I could only include books I actually finished, obviously, but otherwise there was a mix of fiction and non-fiction, of short stories and novels, of sci-fi and Shakespeare. I tried to read things by a fairly diverse range of authors – so not all white, dead men! – and featuring a diverse range of characters. My only other rule was no re-reading.
I didn’t like all the books I finished – I’ve heard great things about some, like ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ but I personally disliked it. As is often the way, my top 5 are mostly books I’ve read more recently – as I’m quite a fast reader, I do tend to forget books unless there is something that makes them stick with me. The full list is here – https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/12152913 – though now that I’ve finished it, I might up the target. Quite a few of these are ones I’ve had on my shelf for a while, and this provided a good motivation to read them!
5. Book of Dust, Philip Pullman
I read the original trilogy as a child, and especially loved Northern Lights. I really enjoyed stepping back into the world Pullman has created – it felt like meeting an old friend.
4. Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
I really loved this book – it was very short but I could hear Carrie’s voice in my head as I read, funny, wise and self deprecating.
3. Eat Up, Ruby Tandoh
I don’t usually read books about cooking, but this wasn’t ‘just’ about cooking – it was about food and race, food and class, food and sexuality, among other things. I can’t really do any cooking at the moment, certainly not without help, but this was an interesting read!
2. Record of a Spaceborn Few, Becky Chambers
This is the third in what I think is a trilogy. I don’t love it as much as the first two (A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit) but that really just tells you how much I love them as this still made second place on my list! I recommend this trilogy to everyone, and I’m never sure what my favourite aspect is – the worldbuilding and the characters are fantastic though, and I love how it works queerness in as integral to both those things without ever coming across as ‘preachy’ or using queerness as a plot device.
- Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
At the moment, this is my favourite of the books I’ve read this year. I bought it mostly on the strength of reviews and the fact that it has won a lot of awards – this isn’t always a good sign, but isn’t a bad tactic, and in this case it turned out very well (so well, in fact, that I immediately bought another book by the same author, which I can also recommend!) It’s one of those books that are driven more by the characters than by plot, but that suits me and what I want from books!