Reading Reflection & Favourites

As the final days approach of the year that needed to end, I feel the familiar tug to reflect on my reading adventures through the last twelve months.

Year in Reflection

The most surprising thing about my reading this year was that I read A LOT. I didn’t plan this and I’m honestly astonished by it because I have no idea how to replicate it in the coming years. My original plan was to actually cut back on reading, yet I will finish the year slightly over (if I finish a few things in the next day or two) 270 completed books. INSANITY.

Due to this result, I’ve needed more than ever some dedicated reflection on my reading habits. The main things I changed this year was that I made sure I was reading multiple books at a time and to have an audiobook handy. I didn’t always have 6 books on the go or an audiobook on loan, but I did these things more often than other years. Having choices when time appeared for reading melded well with my inconsistent moods, because if I was feeling too stressed to read a literary book, I could switch to a mystery or a chill memoir. This meant that instead of deciding not read at a given time because I wasn’t in the mood for the book I was reading, I could still read. My increased audiobook usage has also helped with reading when my health flares up and I have trouble holding a book or focusing on the page. Combining the impacts of these two trends in my reading has led to me reading more than ever before, and being able to still read when in the past I would’ve found my mood or health a hurdle to sitting down with a book.

Now I have read a lot of books, but not all of them were quality. According to my Goodreads stats, the majority of books I read this year were 4 stars or lower, which is not too bad. The drop in my award of 5 star ratings may be due to the quantity of books read, since the more I read, the more tools I have to decide whether a book is good or not. Or the drop in ratings may be as simple as a reflection on my shifting moods this year. Either way I still believe that the more I read, the more critical I am towards what I like to read, and this will ultimately result in less 5 star ratings.

Favourite Reads of 2017

There have been some standout books in the midst of all the books I read this year. I’ve decided to keep this list as small as possible to highlight the best of the best. There are definitely more books I would recommend from this year of reading, but they are so numerous that my fingers would fall off before I could finish the post.

Without further ado, here are my top seven books of the year, in no particular order.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
892602

I am aware I was slow to this bandwagon and I’m now just another on the Rebecca fan-train. This book was amazing. It is few and far between that a book is able to fully transport you into their world like Maurier does. The atmosphere that tempts to suffocate you is the winning feature of this book. Narrated by the unnamed new lady of the house, the household and the protagonist attempt to fill the shoes of the seemingly flawless predecessor, Rebecca. This novel is built on secrets and the sense of impending doom that seeps into every nook and cranny. It was thrilling and delectable. Reading Rebecca is a treat and I was so glad to have finally gotten to delve into this treasure of a novel. If you haven’t read this, pick it up sooner rather than later. You won’t regret it.

 

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

16432972

My first Jeanette Winterson. I was utterly blown away by her prose and I knew immediately that this book would become an all-time favourite. The weaving of the themes of love and the body, even when it fails, was so masterful that I couldn’t have considered putting it down. This book presented me with a subjective story that felt universal in its understanding of the human condition. Whilst this book is short in page count, it packs a punch with its delicate prose that permeates an understanding of life that feels divine. This is definitely one I am glad I own so that I am able to return again and again to this nugget of brilliance.

 

Girls Will be Girls by Emer O’Toole

23699151This was another book that became an instant favourite. Never have I read such an approachable understanding on the performative nature of gender and how this understanding can be used to break free from practices we are conformed to perform from birth. It made me feel more comfortable in my comprehension of gender roles with its accessible style of writing. Reading this felt like having a deep conversation with a well-informed friend. I’m enamoured with the fact this book was able to be academic without alienating readers. I hope to own this book so that I can go back and find the passages that really spoke to me. The experience of reading this book was one of great delight and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

 

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

29095634

My love for this book was one of the biggest surprises of the year. I picked this up without expectations and I was blown out of the water. Not only was Springsteen’s prose insanely good, but he delivers his autobiography with an honest heart that is impossible not to fall for. I didn’t enter this tome with a love for Springsteen, but I left with it. His life story was relatable, not through experience, but by his attitude and insight into humanity. The sections where he delves into his struggles with mental health were some of the rawest and most beautiful passages of the whole book. I absolutely fell in love with this book and the love has stuck with me all year. I recommend this to fans and non-fans alike.

Compass by Mathias Enard

30347698.jpg

I didn’t pick this book up because I’d heard of it and it’s nomination for the Man Booker International Prize. I picked it up on a whim because the cover is shiny and the first page had me hooked. Whilst the cover is impressive and probably my favourite this year, the contents far surpassed with pure genius. At times, this book was a labour of love. It was the type of book that deserves to be read slow and taken in with care. The intermingling of European and Oriental culture and the reflection of this by a supposedly dying man resulted in an magnificent commentary on the intersection of culture in the midst of the homogeneity of globalisation. This book to me is a cave of wonders. Every page gave me more to love. The best surprise to come out of my reading this year.

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

30241499

The Passage, the first book in this trilogy, has been my favourite book since I first read it back in 2010. I’ve since read it three more times and it fills me with love every time. I was a little hesitant picking this up since it is the concluding book in my favourite trilogy, but not only was that hesitation unjustified, this book was the best in the trilogy (however The Passage wins on nostaglia). It is by far the best concluding book to a series I’ve ever read. It ties everything together and tells a story that is transcendent of time. I loved the backstory set in present time as much as I loved returning to beloved characters. This book was so inventive and thrilling in ways I didn’t expect. I love this book immensely and it has cemented this series as one of the loves of my life.

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

31451186.jpg

I was not prepared for how this book would blow me away. The recurrent theme of this book is what it means to be a person and how this shapes our lives and the lives of those around us. Set in a world that is weird and terrifying, Borne is a creature that defies definition. He subtly invades and revolutionises the life of Rachel. Delivered with masterful prose and presented in an environment that is inconsistent with normalcy, this book was a new take on the investigation on the meaning of life and why that even matters. Borne is both child and monster who is the vessel of meaning and consistent inconsistency that makes this book insanely unique and a fresh addition to the genre.

 


And there we have it. This year has been tumultuous but being surrounded by books has remained a necessary constant that has provided joy and escape. I am so grateful to have these books in my life. I hope that the new year brings more bookish greatness.

Happy New Year everyone.

Advertisements

My Problem with “Fitting In”

I’ve spent this last year relatively distance from blogging, where it has normally been a day-to-day priority. This may be due to a shifting in my online persona. I only started using this blog and username across social media about a year ago, and I’ve found it hard to find my passion this year. Book blogging has been a solace and a personal inspiration for about six years and this year has been a sudden break from that. I’m not condemning my choices since I’ve probably needed this break to find myself and in all honesty, start over. Start over with renewed passion and focus. Start over knowing why doing this fulfils me and acts to enrich myself, rather than being a passive staple of who I am.

I’ve attempted to reflect on why I needed to start over. I started book blogging on Tumblr because the knew the platform well, having been on the site for about three years before actively focusing on books. Initially, there was nothing wrong with my motivations; I started book blogging because its naturally what I spend my time thinking and talking about and I wanted to share that online. It helped hone my love for books. Knowing how much I love books and reading has solidified a large part of my personality and has led to me knowing myself better. I thank book blogging, especially the booklr community for this.

The reason I felt I had to take a break from the tumblr book community (which meant all blogging for me), was that I felt there was no place for me. This is just my opinion but book tumblr popularises the generic. I mean this in the sense that my most commented posts where about popular series (i.e Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games) and that if you were reading or posting about books that everyone was reading then you may as well not exist.

This was obviously not the environment for me but it made me feel like maybe I don’t belong anywhere in the book community. I thought maybe my tastes in books are too varied. I don’t fit into a box easily. I read a mix of new releases (both YA and adult) but it doesn’t even compare to the amount of books I read that are “backlisted”.

I don’t exactly want to condemn the book community for creating an environment that focuses on the same series/authors and that rarely leaves the Young Adult section of the bookstore. But this is a reality for the online book community and it leads to a feeling of isolation to those who wish to be be included in a space that is dominated by this type of media.

I’ve felt like it doesn’t matter if I spent time writing a review for an exquisite piece of translated fiction because it only has a Goodreads rating of 3.3. I’ve also perpetuated this feeling of exclusion to prevent creative choices such as creating reviews or pursing booktube videos that focus on my specific opinions.

I’m aware that this is internalised isolation. It obviously matters to me if I do or don’t create content online, so I shouldn’t be focusing on how it will be received to prevent the initial creation. It has been a major part of my life for such a while and I don’t believe I’m ready to let it slip away. I want to focus on defying this definition¬† I’ve placed on the entirety of the online book community. If I am more than that definition (e.g. reading backlisted books, non-YA books), then I definitely am not the only one. A community is not defined by any one individual or even by a sample. A community is the culmination of difference, and stepping outside the conformity that I’ve conceived to be inherent in the book community is intrinsic to fortifying and experiencing 21st century book culture.

My voice still matters (even if its just to me) in this community. I want to focus on my content; the real reason behind my desire to feel included in the first place. I will be included in this community by virtue of contributing my voice, and that is the focus I want to bring into the new year. I don’t want to forsake being me and creating content I’m proud of for a perception of exclusion. I want to be unequivocally me.