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The Good, The Bad but Nothing Ugly – Halfway Through 2021

Does time speed up as we advance in years? I’d only just got used to writing ‘June’ in emails and forms, when suddenly it was July, Which is a roundabout way of saying that we crossed the midpoint of the year before I realised that I hadn’t given even a moment’s thought to doing a reading/blogging update.

To save my embarrassment I’m going to pretend that I’ve been in a time warp for the past few days and only just returned to 2021 where it is July 1 and time to do a mid year update. I could promise that normal service will be resumed by the end of the year but unless you’re a fan of long hoards, don’t go betting your family jewels and Swiss bank account stash on that.

Favourite Reads

Let’s start with the fun part. Everyone loves a list so here’s my selection of six books I’ve enjoyed most this year.

The Spire by William Golding: My first book for #20booksofsummer and what a great choice this was. Golding delivers an intense psychological portrait of a religious figure determined to achieve, at all costs, his vision to build a great spire atop a cathedral.

Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, Bennett’s novel is a fluid and engrossing tale that tackles issues of identity, family bonds and racial “purity”. Yet to write a review because I’m still thinking about the issues she raises.

Twelve Nights by Urs Faes In my review I described as this as a “superbly atmospheric novella of a man’s journey through a snow-laden valley in search of peace and and reconciliation.”

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. A terrifically powerful novel of the personal and political fall out when a young boy is groomed by ISIS to become a radical. Review coming soon(ish)

Family Money by Nina Bawden This novel revived my interest in Nina Bawden’s work. I do enjoy novels that make an older woman the centre of the narrative and Bawden does that so well in this book. We’re in the territory of a woman who is not frail or losing her faculties but whose children and friends think they know what’s best for her.

Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa I read this in March and I’m still thinking about the way this novel shows how a totalitarian state can control every aspect of its citizens’ lives. Ogawa also reflects on the importance of memory. It easily qualifies as the most unsettling novel I’ve read this year. 

Reading Projects Update

I started out this year, intending to make it a year with as few pressures as possible. So no targets for number of books read, or any major challenges. I had just two goals:

1. Expand Reading Horizons.

My plan was to finish my World Of Literature project by reading authors from nine more countries to take me to the total of 50.

I haven’t done all that well. Only two more countries completed: The Book of Jakarta (Indonesia) and Twelve Nights by Urs Faers (Switzerland). I’ll need to get a move on if i’m to get to the finishing line by end of this year. I

There was better news with the  European Reading Challenge 2021 hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader. I’m easily on track to achieve the “Five Star Deluxe Entourage” Level which involves reading books set in five different countries or by authors from five different European countries. I’ve read authors from four countries: France, Switzerland, Russia and Wales. My tally would have been higher but the rules counts the UK as one European country and doesn’t recognise the four nations (Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland). I’m not getting precious about this however, it’s just a bit of fun.

2. Take Part in Reading Events.

I’ve managed to dip into several short reading events this year, even if it was only with a contribution of two books for  Japanese Literature Challenge and one each for the 1936Club and Ireland Reading Month.

I’ve backed away (almost) completely from all challenges that involve reading from a pre-selected list of books. I say almost because at the last moment I succumbed to 20booksofsummer hosted by Cathy at 746books.com. I did bend the rules so instead of 20 books, I gave myself a list of 30 books from which to choose.

As of end of June I’d read four:

The Spire by William Golding. One of my favourite reads of this year

The Madness of Crowds by Louse Penny. A new episode in her long-running crime fiction series set in Quebec province, Canada

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor. A not all together convincing novel set in post apartheid South Africa

His Only Wife by  Peace Ado Medie . A debut novel set in Ghana. Very strong on the setting and atmosphere but the plot wasn’t fully realised.

I gave up on another at the half way mark. The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena by Elsa Joubert  was voted one of the hundred most important books published in Africa during the last millennium.  I found it rambling and a terrible mess of third person omniscient narrator and first person.

At this pace I’ll be sure to have read 10 books by the end of the three-month challenge but 15 will be a stretch

Blogging Update

February was celebration time as I marked nine years of blogging here at BookerTalk. I’ve learned a few things along the way, often by making mistakes. I started sharing my tips via the A-Z of Book Blogging posts. They made their first appearance in spring 2020 and I’ve continued to add to them this year with tips on managing your media storage in WordPress, getting categories and tags organised and how to create a review policy. There are now more than 40 tips – if you’ve missed them, you can find them all here.

Don’t forget: if you’re struggling with book blogging and need help or want to bounce around an idea, do let me know. If I can’t answer your question, I’ll draw on the wisdom of other bloggers who read these posts. One of them will be sure to have an answer.

What’s Next?

More of the same really. I’ll be trying to finish the World of Literature Project and the 20booksof summer project. There are some reading events which are calling to me including Women in Translation month in August and Australia Reading Month in November. I’m also thinking of reviving the View From Here feature I had on this site some years ago where bloggers around the world talk about books from their country. One thing I can be sure of – the second half of the year will speed by as quickly as did the first half.

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