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
During the clean up of my email in box (now down to a more manageable 250 unread emails) I came across an old post on the 101 books blog where Robert had commented that he doesn’t like reading book reviews on blog sites. “Book reviews are boring,” he declared, a simple statement which provoked a lively debate. To be fair, he also said that he finds the act of writing them on his own site rather tedious and he would rather just write about other book related topics, facts about authors that you didn’t know for example.
People who left comments seemed to agree on a few things: writing a good review takes time and effort and you need to do more than just explain the plot if you want to engage people. A few people said they were not at all interested in other people’s reviews or that they only read those where the featured author was one in whom they were already interested. One big area of agreement seemed to be that blog sites which featured only reviews were a turn off.
I can certainly relate to the comment about how much effort it takes to write a review that might be worth other people reading. Hence why I am about 10 reviews behind right now – I keep procrastinating because I want to say something more than just whether I enjoyed the book. There is an art to this reviewing business, especially if you want to do more than simply regurgitate the plot or repeat the publisher’s blurb. I look at pieces written by professional reviewers in some of the leading newspapers and sigh because they are light years ahead of my attempts. Despite sniffy comments from some quarters (Andy Miller, author of The Year of Reading Dangerously was one of the guilty ones here) some bloggers are equally as skilled in reviewing and even though I don’t particularly have an interest in the author or the genre, I enjoy seeing what they think or feel.
But just as a diet of ice-cream and cakes would get tedious after a day or so, I’m not enthused by reading review after review after review. I find that I can get through only so many straight review items in my feed reader before I’m longing for something different. I’ve tried mixing up my own posts to try and avoid equally boring my own readers – actually I find these non review posts much more fun to write. And I’ve been experimenting too with how I write the reviews – giving them a (hopefully) more interesting title than just the name of the book and the author. So far I’ve just done two reviews using that new approach – my ‘5 reasons to read The Miniaturist’ and ‘A question of identity: Marani’s New Finnish Grammar’. A small start but at least it’s a start.
What are your thoughts on reviews – do you try to mix them up on your own site with non-review posts? What do you think of sites that have very few reviews?
Here’s the original post on Robert’s blog if you are interested: http://101books.net/2014/06/27/5-things-your-mom-didnt-tell-you-about-book-blogging/