The year so far

Booker Prize project: the end is near

If I could get frequent flyer miles for every time I travelled to the land of best intentions this year I’m sure I’d have enough to circle the globe.

So many times I’ve got out of bed with the firm plan to write a review or check out some of the blogs I follow. Then bed-time arrives and I have no idea what happened to all those intervening hours. Other than I never did write the review and the list of unread items in my blog feed doubled.

Instead of blogging I’ve been filling my days catching up with friends from schooldays (I think I know every coffee shop within a 10 mile radius), creating a blog for my family history research; doing a lot of house redecoration (or rather supervising others to do the work) and going to the gym. That’s in between trying to learn German in preparation for a holiday and writing some scripts for performance at a cemetery in Cardiff. I’ve never written anything for performance before so this has been an eye-opening experience. It’s not until you hear the piece delivered by an actor that you realise how clunky some of the dialogue sounds…

Reading has taken somewhat of a back seat. It’s strange but when I was working there were many days where I would think “I’d love to be at home now, curled up on the sofa, just reading.”  But you know what, now that I can, the appeal has diminished….

Consequently I’ve read less this year than I have in all the years since I started blogging.  I refuse to get worked up about that however. It’s not about quantity but about enjoying the reading experience.

Since we’re now just over a quarter of the way through the year it seems like a good time to give you all an update on what I’ve been reading and what the future holds

State of the personal library

Let’s start with the good news …

… the TBR hasn’t gone up (round of applause please)

The not so good news … it hasn’t gone down.

I’m at exactly the same number with which I started the year – 245 to be precise.

I’m still acquiring books though at a vastly lower rate than has been the case over the last 5 years. And have off-loaded some that no longer appealed to the library book sale. Which has given me the space to accommodate the books I get through my monthly subscription to the Asymptote book club (I have yet to any of them so far) and those I need for the two book clubs in which I participate.

Year of Reading Naked

At the start of this year my only plan for 2018 was not to have a reading plan. Instead of creating lists of books to read (and then failing to read them) I decided to make 2018 my year of reading naked. By which I meant choosing what to read based on my mood at the time. I’ve stuck to that more or less. I did join in with the Reading Ireland Month hosted by Cathy at 746books but that didn’t involve making a list in advance. I just went to the shelves and found something by an Irish author. Job done.

This is so much more enjoyable than making a list and then finding when I come to read the books, they have lost their appeal…..

Read so far this year

I read the first of the books in my ‘Year of my life’ project as initiated by Cafe Society. It didn’t get off to a good start. I chose Muriel Spark’s The Comforters to represent 1957. Some of the characterisation was excellent but generally I thought the plot overly complicated and I lost interest long before the end. You can see my review here.

I’m now down to the last four books in my Booker Prize project, having read Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. 

That leaves me with G by John Berger, History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst and James Kelman’s How Late it Was How Late.

Best book of the year so far? That’s a toss up between A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola.

On the horizon

Today marks the start of the #1977club hosted by Stuck in a Book and Kaggsy’sbookishramblings, a week where we read, discover and discuss books from this particular year. I wasn’t going to join in because when I looked at the list on Wikipedia of books published that year the only ones that were of interest were ones I had already read. There seemed a lot of short story collections, science fiction and ‘popular’ fiction. But then HeavenAli drew my attention to The Danger Tree by Olivia Manning, an author I have long intended to read. This is the first title in her Levant Trilogy and is set in Egypt where the British forces are engaged in a fierce struggle  against the German forces. The conflict provides a backdrop against which one couple, Guy and Harriet Pringle,  struggle with their marriage. The stars must have been in alignment because I have just finished my current book and was wondering what to pick up next and then discovered my library has a copy languishing in its archive.

After that it will probably be back to the Booker Prize and I have Eleanor Oliphant is Absolutely Fine by Gail Honeyman to read for the next book club meeting. And that’s as much as I want to plan right now.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on April 16, 2018, in Bookends, Reading Naked 2018 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. I’m with you and Travelling’ Penguin, I am not reading anywhere near as much as I thought I would when I retired – as I wanted to, really – because life is so full and busy. I would like to read a bit more because I still love it to bits, but I can’t see my current priorities/commitments/responsibilities changing much in the near future.

    I am impressed with your Booker reading though. Well done.

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    • i don’t see things changing much for me either. As an example, today I took a friend out shopping because she cannot drive due to a brain operation 2 months ago. Then I did a mini interview with a not for profit group about being involved as a trustee; finalised some details about props for a performance event next week in a cemetery in Cathays for which I’ve written two pieces. And just now I finished the last of the reviews I promised for Shiny New Books. Phew……

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  2. My TBR sounds about like yours – although I did read one off the shelf randomly last week 😀 So yay for a barely perceptible dent in it.

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  3. I think it sounds like a wonderful year 🙂 So what if you’re not writing many reviews – I often remind myself that blogging is not a job, it’s for fun – enjoy it when it suits you!

    I’m also planning a trip to Germany – still settling itinerary but I think Berlin, Dresden, Munich are locked in. Where are you going?

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    • We went to Berlin and Dresden two years ago. Dresden is such a beautiful city – there is a good exhibition which shows you images of how it looked after the bombing attacks and then you look at what they have achieved. We’re going to be driving down the Rhine valley from Dusseldorf, taking in Koblenz and Cologne, then looping back through the Mosel valley.

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    • When are you going Kate? Or have you already been? I’ve VERY late to this post! I would highly recommend Weimar, if you are able to fit it in. Our last trip to Germany we came in near the south, then up via Fulde to Weimar and Berlin, and then across to Mainz, via Leipzig, before flying home from Dusseldorf. I loved it all but somehow Weimar is the place that has stuck most.

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      • We’re off in August. Starting in Dusseldorf just because that is where the flight from our local airport goes – and then heading down the Rhine valley, crossing over to the Mosel valley and circling back towards Dusseldorf via Cologne and somewhere else I have forgotten about. Or at least thats the plan – now we are working on it in detail we are finding that many hotels are full so we may have to go to plan B or even C…… Berlin we went to the year the wall came down. What an experience. We then returned three years ago – such a change!

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        • Sounds great, except for the hotels being booked out bit. I bet Berlin had changed!

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        • Well west Berlin hadn’t changed much but the East – it was all grey and sombre when we saw it before, now the only way to know you are in the east is that the signs on the traffic lights to let pedestrians cross are a different style

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      • I’ve been to Germany a few times but taking my family for their first visit later in the year. I haven’t been to Weimar and afraid we won’t be able to fit it in (this time!). We arrive in Munich then will make our way to Nuremberg and then to Berlin (with a two night detour to Prague).

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        • Ah. You have German background? I’ve been twice, and all being well will go again next year. My husband lived there for a year, in Baden-Württenberg, back in the 70s, before I met him and, now retired, is in a German conversation class.

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        • No German background but was an exchange student there in the 80s (in a small town near Sinsheim – which is near Heidelberg). Although that part of Germany is beautiful, we’re visiting some parts I’ve never been to this time so there is something new for me as well (selfish 😬). My German is not great but whenever I get there, I manage!

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        • My husband was there in the mid 70s, in a place near Ulm called Biberach an der Riss… His German is very good but he’s worked on it a lot since retirement.

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  4. I have heard so many people say that they were busier than ever once they retired. It sounds like you’re filling your days most enjoyably. I’m especially intrigued about your cemetery performance project! I hope you’ll tell us more about that once it happens.

    Are you planning to take part in any of the Golden Booker events in the summer?

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    • I shall make a note to talk about the cemetery project. It’s very different. I’ve written three pieces so far, one was a missionary to the leper colony in Robben Island,South Africa, another was a ship engineer who was shipwrecked and the third is an irate inmate of the cemetery who’s upset that no-one comes to visit her grave.

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  5. Look forward to your thoughts on the Manning!

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  6. I can’t believe you’ve nearly done all the Bookers – congratulations!! Which are you most and least looking forward to out of those? I love your Year of Reading Naked – I did Reading Ireland for the same reason, I had some books on the TBR, and I also am doing 1977 Club because I have a book I’ve wanted to re-read for ages from that year (not that I’ve started it yet!).

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  7. That doesn’t see such a bad way to spend your time, Karen!

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  8. I’m a great enthusiast for making book lists, but that doesn’t mean I stick to them. I’m just as enthusiastic about revamping them whenever a newer, shinier book comes along. 😉 Sounds like you’re doing loads of other enjoyable stuff, which is a great excuse for not reading a lot…

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  9. I loved The Ladies Paradise.
    Had to laugh over your “Land of Best Intentions.” I’ll have to quote that some time.

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  10. I can relate to this post so much. It made me laugh. Best intentions and all of that. When I was working I used to always say the job really interfered with the lifestyle. Now the lifestyle really interferes with the reading! I have been on a roll though and will participate in the 1977 read but only one book. It sounds like you are doing the right thing – enjoying life!!

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  11. I hear you! The first year after I retired I read more than ever. Then I came up with all kinds of other projects to do, some more rewarding than others. It is harder than I thought it would be to be my own boss. I finally got my stride back this year. Though I do follow lists I have made, I give myself many breaks to read “naked.” Always refreshing in the long run.
    As far as your Booker project goes, I loved A Brief History of Seven Killings but it is definitely not everyone’s cuppa. Also though definitely NOT women’s fiction. I hated The Line of Beauty. It seemed pretentious, as though the author was trying to be someone he is not. I was in the minority that time.

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    • somehow I missed your comment Judy – can’t believe its taken me this long to find it…
      I’m intrigued by your mention of projects that have captured your interest (some more than others) – do tell. What have you been up to??

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