My Year in Books

It’s that post-Christmas, pre-New Year lull where, replete with chocolate orange and too much Prosecco, jaded from one too many Facebook posts of Christmas trees, the mind starts wandering through the pages of the past twelve months, wondering where the hell it all went and if it was really as horrendous as your exhausted body is telling you.

So as I sit, under a blanket on the sofa, having lunched finely off tea and cold stuffing balls picked direct from the plate in the fridge, I have my book diary in front of me and it’s telling me exactly where most of my year went: in the pages of other lives.

A grand total of eighty nine (I think I did some other things this year too) books were devoured, poured over, considered, fretted about, put to one side, taken to bed and accidentally sat on. The dog trod on at least two, I dog-eared countless pages, and the Teen quietly plucked one (How to be a Woman) from my hands on the grounds that if I didn’t stop reading, I’d hyperventilate.

There was a blissful period in Autumn where every book I picked up seemed tinted with gold. They carried me superbly away from myself and I had to reluctantly tear my eyes away whenever the real world intruded. Interestingly, those six novels were all written by women. They challenged and enthralled in equal measure.

So here is my list of books that have made me laugh, weep, think, love and rage against the world (my favourites have links* go look them up, go read them…they’ll change your life, I promise):
January: Dracula, Unpleasantness at the Bellona, Eat Pray Love, The Brontes

February: Winters Bone, Jane Eyre, Gossip from the Forest, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon

March: Life After Life, A Walk in the Woods, An Italian Affair, Carpe Jugulem, Harnessing Peacocks

April: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Married Love, Pies and Prejudice

May: Possession, The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, Johnny Reed’s Cat
June: Ted Hughes’ Letters, A Fair Maiden, Touchy Subjects, Making it Up, The Road Through the Wall, Extra-Virgin, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

July: Handful of Earth, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Neither Here nor There, Ordeal by Innocence, Fanny Hill, Taken at the Flood, A Pause Between Acts, Offshore

August: The Brontes (different author), Ammonites and Leaping Fish, Lunch in Paris, Murder on the Links, Fludd, Where’d You Go Bernadette?, Family Album, A Book of Silence, Claudine and Annie, Nothing to be Frightened Of

September: The Chemistry of Tears, A Murder of Quality, An Education, No Fond Return of Love, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, How it all Began, As I Walked out one Midsummer Morning, The Thirteenth Tale, Where Angels Fear to Tread, Mom & Me & Me & Mom, Dear Life

October: Digging to America, Engleby, Killing at Badger’s Drift, To Love and be Wise, Singing Sands, A Shilling for Candles, Between Friends, Lasting Damage, I Feel Bad About My Neck, That Part was True

November: Miss Mapp, Aunt Margaret’s Lover, Don’t Tell Alfred, Burial Rites, The Tortoise and the Hare, Belman and Black, Love in a Cold Climate, We are all Completely Beside Ourselves, Stranger on a Train, Housekeeping, Another Life, Mapp & Lucia

December: Notes from a Small Island, It Could Happen to You, Queen Lucia, The New Moon with the Old, Lucia’s Progress, The Pure Gold Baby, How to be a Woman, Death on the Nile, Mystery in White, Strong Poison.

Taking this time to look back, I can see my predilection for inter-war genteel crime dramas, thoughtful women authors and the Brontes (like that was news to me) guided most of my choices. Currently by my side, I have the Penelope Fitzgerald biography, The London Train, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, The Years (it’s time I read more Woolf than Mrs. Dalloway), and Lost for Words. On my phone is a long list of books that I’ll track down throughout the year: as the Teen and I are discussing getting rid of the telly, and the library is within walking distance, I might actually manage to work my way through it.

So now I’m curious. What have you read this year that’s stayed with you, haunting your days? What have you gone around shouting about and pressing into the hands of nearest and dearest (or random strangers)? Or even, which book would you never touch again and would happily erase from memory?

*none of the links go through to an Amazon page. Seriously, go to a proper independent bookshop. Visit the library. Save these places from disappearing – lives are infinitely richer with them.

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2 thoughts on “My Year in Books

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  1. I’m also a bit of a reader, ploughed through 100 this year, which was greatly down on last year’s 150, but I think that was because I’ve started reading a lot more non-fiction, and they slow me down. I love Dorothy Sayers, and I thought Miss Pettigrew lives for the Day was a truly lovely book. I have We are all completely beside ourselves but haven’t got to it yet, perhaps I’ll move it up the list. Looking back at my year on Goodreads, I’m not sure many of my favourites would resonate with you, as they are more fantasy and crime, but perhaps Mitch Benn’s Terra, and I read Maya Angelou’s I know why the caged bird sings for the first time this year, which was deeply affecting. I also polished off Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, which was also very powerful. Ah, and Patrick Ness’s The Crane Wife was beautiful, I think you might enjoy that.

    Wishing you a lovely 2015 filled with wonderful books! Ellen

    1. Non-fiction slows me down too – the biography I’m currently reading is proceeding at snail’s pace. Luckily, I usually have one or two more on the go at the same time so I can swap over when I feel too overwhelmed by facts. This year is going to involve a long slog through Roman Britain thanks to my course.

      I’ve been meaning to read Terra for a while, so I’m glad of the recommendation. My reading can be quite eclectic, usually judged on nothing more than the front cover and a snatched reading of a random chapter. If I like both, I read it! Oh, and I used to compile a list from the Guardian Review section, but now I’ve stopped buying it, I no longer have that pleasure.

      Wishing you the same, book-filled 2015, and thank you for following! Tonia

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