I’ve come across Reading Bingo several times over the years since I started this blog but never joined in because it seemed the idea was to commit to reading books that fitted the squares. I know from experience I am hopeless at reading to order. But this year I’ve seen a few bloggers Marina at Finding Time to Write , Cleo at CleopatraLovesBooks and Susan at ALifeinBooks fill in the squares in retrospect first. Since I am too stuffed with Christmas pudding to move too far from the sofa it seemed a fun way to look back on the year and see how well I could match my books read with the 2017 bingo card. I’ve done way better than I expected with just two blank squares…
A Book with More Than 500 Pages – weighing in with more than 600 pages is the Booker-award winning Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
A Forgotten Classic – Gerard Reve’s The Evenings has been called a masterpiece of Dutch literature (I’m not convinced about that). Published in Amsterdam in 1946 it took 60 years before an English language version became available.
A Book That Became a Movie – You may not have heard of the book Vertigo by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac but I’m confident you’ve heard, and may have watched the version by Alfred Hitchcock.
A Book Published This Year – Larkinland by Jonathan Tulloch brilliantly captures the atmosphere of Hull in UK at the time when the poet Phillip Larkin was head of its university library.
A Book with a Number in the Title – one of the best two novels I have read all year is Jon McGregor’s superbly constructed Reservoir 13, A contender for the Booker Prize in 2017, it sadly lost out in the final round.
A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty – I don’t know Alys Conran’s exact age (it would have been impertinent to ask her when I met her at the Wales Book Awards) but I’m confident she is younger than I am so that’s enough for me to justify including her hear with her multi award-winning debut novel Pigeon.
A Book with Non-Human Characters – Limited options here since I dislike books of this kind. The nearest I can get is Strangers by Taichi Yamada which features ghosts.
A Funny Book – HagSeed by Margaret Atwood is a touching and imaginative retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There are some genuinely funny scenes set in a prison where the inmates become the cast members and have to decide what swear words will be acceptable.
A Book By A Female Author: The most extraordinary novel I read all year was The Vegetarian by the South Korean author Han Kang. It’s a short novel but deals with some big issues such as the clash between personal desire and society’s expectations.
A Book with a Mystery – an easy one this since the word mystery appears in the title. The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts, comes from the Golden Age of Crime and is part of the British Library Classic Crime series. A meticulously plotted murder mystery that will test your powers of memory and logic.
A Book with a One-word title – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi won multiple awards and a six figure advance from a publisher (good going for a debut author). I enjoyed many elements but overall felt it could have been an even better novel.
A Book of Short Stories – Failed on this one. I have several collections of short stories but seldom get around to reading them. I did start one collection but only read three stories.
Free square – My Antonia by Willa Cather, a classic of a farming community set in Nebraska. It was so beautifully written I’m keen to read more by Cather.
A Book Set on a Different Continent – Even though I haven’t read as many novels in translation as I would have liked this year, I did read a few set in Australasia. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey was one I highly enjoyed.
A Non-fiction Book – The Good Women of China by Xinran relates the real life stories of women who live within the constraints of a society that doesn’t value women. All the stories were featured on her radio programme.
The First Book by a Favourite Author – Fail again. Although there were a number of authors I read this year whose work I have enjoyed in the past (John Banville, Anthony Trollope, Margaret Atwood for example) none of the books were their first published works.
A Book You Heard About Online – I can’t believe it took me so long to discover We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson but it was only through other bloggers that this came to my attention.
A Bestselling Book – Published in 1930, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, may well pre-date best seller lists so I can’t tell you how many copies of this have been purchased. But it’s never been out of print and has spawned many tv and screen adaptations including one in 2016 so on the basis of its enduring popularity I’m classing it as a best-seller.
A Book Based on a True Story – Off to Philadelphia in the Morning by Jack Jones is a fictionalised account of the life of Joseph Parry, one of the most famous composers to hail from Wales. Born into the extreme poverty of the iron and coal-mining town of Merthyr Tydfil he moved to Philadelphia with his parents at a young age. On his return to Wales he became the first person from Wales to gain a Doctorate in Music from Cambridge University.
A Book at the Bottom of Your TBR Pile – as a literature student I dipped into A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf regularly but never read the whole essay. I corrected that ommission this year. You could say I left it a bit late after 37 years but at least I got to it …
A Book your Friend Loves – I read By the Pricking of my Thumbs by Agatha Christie as part of the #1968club hosted by Simon of Stuck in a Book and Karen at kaggsysbookishramblings. My sister, who is a Christie fan, loved it more than I did.
A Book that Scares You – Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel isn’t a scary book in the sense it is populated by aliens or things that hide in the woodshed. But it did send shivers down my spine with its premise that the world is hit by flu pandemic so virulent its victims die within 48 hours. In a few short weeks it claims the lives of 99.99 per cent of the world’s population. What made me nervous was that the survivors find a lot of the objects and technologies they had felt essential to their lives (like mobile phones) prove useless in this new world. I started to worry that I don’t have any of the skills that would help me survive.
A Book that is More Than 10 Years Old – What a joy it was to read Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. Yes it was sensational and a romp of a story but du Maurier also managed to underpin this with a more thoughtful theme about the female situation.
The Second Book in a Series – Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a prequel to his best seller Shadow of the Wind but was actually his second to be published. It’s more patchy in quality than Shadow of the Wind but is still a fast moving adventure story that can be enjoyed just for its setting in Barcelona.
A Book with a Blue Cover – Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin. The story is complex (multiple narrators and timelines) but is handled well and is strong on atmosphere. The cover is gorgeous.
If you haven’t come across Reading Bingo before, do give it a go. You might be as surprised as I was. And do take a look at the other bloggers who have participated so far this year:
Marina at Finding Time to Write
Emma at Book Around the Corner
Cleo at CleopatraLovesBooks
Many bloggers like to mark the end of a year with a look back over the last 12 months. I’ve not done this before but some recent posts from Lisa at ANZLitLovers and Sue at WhisperingGums alerted me to an interesting variation on the end-of-year meme.
This involves taking the first line of each month’s post in the past year to see what light it shines on the blogging year in general.
The ‘rule’ is to use the first sentence in the first post of each month.
I’ve had to bend this rule a little because I discovered that my first post was often a meme or in the Snapshot category. This is where I try to capture what I’m reading on the first day of the month, what I plan to read next and the state of my unread books collection (aka the TBR). Just using those posts for this exercise wouldn’t make for very interesting reading.
So I adopted my own rule where I selected the first substantive post of each month.
This is how the year worked out for me.
Post Title: The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul
By the time they’ve reached the end of the novel, most readers of crime fiction expect to find the author has answered the key questions: who , committed the crime, how and why.
The Murder of Halland was published by Pereine Press in 2012 as part The Small Epic series. Translated from the Danish original by Martin Aitken.
Post Title: Dominion by C. J Sansom
C.J Sansom took a gamble with his political thriller Dominion in which he imagines a world where, having failed to defeat the Nazi regime, Great Britain becomes one of Germany’s subject territories.
Post Title: The Greatest Novels from Wales? #WritingWales
A few years ago, the Wales Arts Review magazine asked readers: Which is the Greatest Welsh Novel?
Post Title: Tomorrow by Graham Swift
Some protagonists are designed to be annoying. Some simply are that way. But no matter how annoying, frustrating or distasteful they can still be fascinating and memorable for readers.
Post Title: The Cheltenham Square Murders by John Bude
The town of Cheltenham has a reputation for being the rather genteel, upmarket part of Gloucestershire.
Post Title: My Ántonia by Willa Cather
It’s taken me long enough but the experience of reading Willa Cather’s My Ántonia was well worth the wait.
Post Title: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
If you’d asked me a few weeks ago whether I’d be likely to enjoy a novel about everything from Zen and the meaning of time to the Japanese tsunami and environmental degradation, I’d probably have said no way.
Post Title: Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee
I approached J. M Coetzee’s Booker Prize winning novella The Life & Times of Michael K hoping against hope it would be easier to penetrate than the last novel I read by him: The Schooldays of Jesus
Of all the books long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker prize, Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor was the one I most wanted to read.
Post Title: Chocky by John Wyndham #1968 club
Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child? Apparently I did for a few months when I was about four years old.
Post Title: Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood
I usually ignore reinterpretations and retellings of classic novels but the premise of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed was so enticing I set aside my normal cynicism.
What does this tell me about my blogging year?
- It reflects accurately that I’m a butterfly reader. I flit around a lot between classics (My Ántonia and Chocky), Booker prize winners and contenders (Life and Times of Michael X and A Tale for the Time Being) with a smattering of crime (Cheltenham Square Murders) and translated fiction (Murder of Halland).
- Most of my posts are either reviews or memes (I do the Six Degrees of Separation and Top Ten Tuesday memes). The Between the Lines post in September is a new type of content for me this year where I do a Q&A with an author.
- I’ve clearly not made much progress with two of my long term challenges (Classics Club and Literature around the World) since there were very few posts on books in those categories.
- My new interest in fiction by authors and publishers in Wales is beginning to come through with three of the posts reflecting that topic.
- I’ve read very very little new fiction this year.Reservoir 13 was published this year as was Larkinland. It’s not quite as dire as this set of first lines suggests but it doesn’t surprise me considering that one of my goals for 2017 was to read more of the books I already own rather than buy yet more.
- My intro sentences need a bit of jazzing up. I know they are taken out of context which doesn’t help but they do sound rather dull to me.
Although the idea, which originated with The Indextrious Reader., is to use this exercise to reflect on the past year I’ve found it’s also been helpful in giving me some ideas for next year. I’d like to do more Between the Lines interviews for example. I think my interest in Top Ten Tuesday has fizzled out and will come to a dead end next year. I’ve already skipped many week’s prompts because I found the topic wasn’t that interesting. It was fun for a while but I’m feel I’m getting list fatique. But all that is still in the future since 2017 isn’t yet over…
If you are minded to play along with the Year in First Lines, but want some further inspiration take a look at what some of the other participants have published.
I’m going to ignore the fact this week’s Top Ten is meant to be about debut books that will be published in 2017. Since I am planning to restrict my purchasing habits for at least the first half of the year I really can’t be tempted this early on can I? Hence my list is going to be ten books that are on my wishlist that I’d dearly love to buy but will have to await their turn.
- The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. Published in 2016 I’ve seen several positive reviews for this including Kim at Reading Matters and Lisa at ANZlitlovers. Click on those links to see their reviews.
- Solea by Jean-Claude Izzo. This is the first part of his Marseilles trilogy. It’s apparently a classic of European crime fiction that was the catalyst for the foundation of an entire literary movement (Mediterranean noir). It might be the closest I get to the South of France this year 🙂
- Transoceanic Lights by S. Li tells of three families who immigrate to the US from post-Mao China. After my delightful experience with Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say we Have Nothing last year, I’m ready for another immersion in the culture of China.
- Rumours of Rain by Andre Brink. One to help deepen my knowledge of South Africa’s past. I already own another of his novels – A Dry White Season.
- All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan. I read the debut novel by this Irish author (The Spinning Heart) and loved it. His latest novel has been recommended by A Life in Books and Lonesome Reader. Follow those links to see their reviews.
- Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okpranta. I wish I’d had a £1 for every time I saw this mentioned last year – either on blog sites or in ‘best of’ and ‘highly recommended’ lists but I never got around to this tale of a young girl learning to understand herself amid the turmoil of civil war in Nigeria.
- An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire. There are so many good books coming out from Australia and yet so few of them seem to be known about outside the southern hemisphere. My own knowledge of the literature from Australasia is limited to the handful of Booker prize winners so I want to rectify that. This novel which examines the aftermath of the killing of a young girl in a small town of Strathdee comes highly recommended.
- The Tower by Uwe Tellkamp. Having spent some time last year in East Germany, including Dresden, this tale of the experience of the Communist downfall caught my attention.
- Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan. This is a tale of a family set against the background of Taiwan’s history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial.It was nominated in the historical fiction category of the Goodreads awards 2016.
- Ru by Kim Thúy. The author based this novel on her own experience of fleeing Vietnam who has to make a new life in Canada on a boat with her family.