Now I’ve managed to close the lid on 2018 (see my wrap up post here), its time to turn my attention to 2019.
I’ve been wrestling with the question of whether to join some of the many challenges that are available. But on balance I decided that last year’s experiment with “Reading Naked” (by which I mean picking my next book randomly) was liberating so I plan to continue using that approach this year.
That doesn’t mean my year will be entirely without structure. But I’ll focus on projects rather than challenges. Challenges usually involve meeting a specific goal – reading a targeted number of books for example, or specified categories of books by a set date. I prefer the more open-ended nature of a project that I create for myself, where I get to decide on the scope and parameters. I want the flexibility to go wherever my mood takes me.
Here’s how the year ahead could pan out.
I’m going for simplicity; largely avoiding specific goals in favour of general directions. Most of these are continuations of existing projects and activities but – just to ring the changes – I’m going to start two new activities.
- Finish the Booker Prize project. This is the only specific goal I’m adopting this year. It should be a piece of cake since I have just two books and then I’m done. Although I have copies of the 2016 and 2018 books I’m not going to count them. If I manage to read them this year, they’ll be considered as bonus.
- Re-connect with the Classics Club project. I’m now 12 books away from the target of 50. But I keep finding new titles to add so this could be a movable feast.
- Travel the world: I stalled last year in my plan to read authors from a broader range of countries. In a year when the UK is supposed to say goodbye to the EU, it feels appropriate to make sure my reading tastes have an international dimension.
- Move through years of my life: I have a feeling that by reading more from my Classics Club list, I will be able to make progress on the Years of My Life project without having to make a special effort.
Booker Talk Team Expands
Booker Talk is approaching its 7th anniversary. I’m marking this milestone by expanding the team. Two new faces will be making an appearance on this site shortly, contributing reviews and articles on reading, authors and books.
Cerian Fishlock is currently studying for an MA in Publishing. She’s an Agatha Christie fan who’s desperate to find a modern author that can match the Queen of Crime . She loves novels with a psychological edge and “if that can be combined with defeating the patriarchy, even better.”
Edward Colley is a retired newspaper editor and graphic designer with an eclectic taste in books. He counts Thomas Hardy among his favourite authors. In between reading fiction he enjoys biographies and travel writing .
Connecting with Welsh authors/publishers
For the past year I’ve been trying to support and promote literature from my home country of Wales, through reviews and the odd feature article on this site. Now I’m going a step further by creating a new series where we get to know some of the authors based in Wales.
I’m calling this new series Cwtch Corner. The idea is to get into a conversation with an author about their favourite authors and books, how and where they get their inspiration and what readers can expect from their own novel/s. This is a spot where authors could pitch their work to potential readers.
Never seen that word Cwtch before? It’s a word used in the Welsh language to describe a physical place – a small cubbyhole for example or a small room in a pub. But it also denotes a form of affection, love and caring. Think of it like a cuddle or a hug. So authors taking part in Cwtch Corner are hopefully going to find the experience a bit like being wrapped in a warm embrace.
I’m reaching out to authors to participate at the moment but if you know someone you think might be interested just ask them to contact me via Twitter using @bookertalk. Please note however that I am not intending to feature self-published authors.
According to Lisa at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog it’s time once more to play A Year in First Lines.
The idea is to:
Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.
Let’s recap on the year…
Jan 2018: Reykjavík Nights by Arnaldur Indridason
Sometimes the brain just craves crime.
Feb 2018: Snapshot February 2018
Throughout 2017 I was making a note on the first day of the month of what I was reading and the level of what I call my personal library (otherwise known as the TBR mountain)
March 2018: Books to mark Wales’ special day
March 1 is St David’s Day in Wales —St David being our patron saint — so usually a day for celebration of all things Welsh.
April 2018: Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
One of the most memorable episodes in Alan Bennett’s series of dramatic monologues Talking Heads features an elderly lady who has taken a tumble in her home while doing a little illicit dusting.
May 2018: WWWednesday 2 May 2018
Currently reading: The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda. This is a book I picked up on my holiday late last year in South Africa when I asked a bookshop owner for recommendations of South African authors.
June 2018: An alternative Golden Booker Prize
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize.
July 2018: New additions to the shelves
After months of admirable self restraint, the flood gates opened in the last few months and all my attempts to whittle down my stack of owned-but-unread books have been thwarted.
August 2018: Classics club spin falls on Mitford
The anticipation is over and the result of the latest Classic Club Spin is in.
September 2018: Six Degrees from film memoir to crime
It’s time for #6degrees which this month begins with a memoir: Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson.
October 2018: Lullaby by Leïla Slimani
It takes a brave author to begin a novel by revealing the ending.
November 2018: Non-Fiction November: favourite reads
I’ve taken the plunge and joined Nonfiction November which is an annual challenge to read, critique and discuss non-fiction books for a month.
December 2018: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
How long can a series endure before it runs out of steam?
What does this tell me about my blogging year?
- I tend to write in short sentences
- Like practically every other blogger I’ve come across, I buy far more books than I can possibly read
- Even though I stopped doing the Top Ten Tuesday meme, I still seem to spend a fair amount of time on other memes like Six Degrees of Separation and WWW Wednesday
- I managed to read a few books in translation (though not as many as in previous years)
- I have an interest in literature from my home country of Wales.
- I read crime fiction. I’m actually surprised by how much of this I did read this year genre given it’s not a favourite genre
- I am trying to read more ‘classics’. When I saw the August 2018 first line I remembered that, though I read the spin book, I never managed to write the review.
- I keep an eye on the Booker Prize
- I don’t write reviews very frequently (only 3 of these 12 months are a review post)
What does this mean for 2019?
I’m still mulling over my 2019 plans but this exercise has made me realise that I need to adjust the balance of reviews to other content like memes. I think I’ve been doing more of the latter because I’m slow at writing reviews, spending far too long trying to come up with the ‘perfect’ intro whereas memes etc don’t usually require as deep a thinking process. Consequently I am well behind with my reviews….. I feel a New Year’s Resolution in the wind….
“If you really want to be a good presenter, you need to practice speaking naked.”
Reactions in the room varied. A few people laughed nervously. Others shuffled in their seats. Some people looked at each other with that ‘did I hear that right??’ look. They were not quite saying it out loud but clearly more than one member of my team thought I’d gone crazy. I wanted them to stand in front of a room of people and deliver a presentation while not wearing any clothes????
Not what I meant at all. By speaking naked what I meant was they needed to know how to address a group without the aid of Powerpoint slides. They were a crutch upon which people (and not just my team members) relied on far too often.
What does this all have to do with reading you are by now no doubt pondering.
By reading naked I do not mean lying about on my chaise longue or languishing in a sheltered bower as if I were in a Rubens painting.
Nope. I mean reading without the aid of reading lists, prompts and challenges.
Let me rewind a little to explain.
A few weeks ago, as is traditional at this time of the year, I began to think about my 2018 reading goals. What did I want to accomplish in the next 12 months?
I had lots of ideas of my own initially.
One goal could be to finish my Classics Club list. Another to read x number of novels by authors in countries other than UK and USA. Or how about reading x number of novels in translation.
There was equally no shortage of ideas coming through on my reader feed. HeavenAli’s #ReadingMuriel2018 readalong of Muriel Spark was enticing. Simon from Stuckinabook had an even bigger challenge to offer with his Century of Reading project. No doubt about it that the Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey would give me a much needed nudge to read all the non-fiction books languishing on my bookshelves. And then later in the year there would be 20BooksofSummer, Reading Ireland Month; Japanese Lit Challenge, German Lit month etc etc etc.
But I kept pontificating. Changing my mind. Deciding on a goal one day and then scrubbing it out the next. I offloaded on my nearest and dearest expecting/hoping for sympathy. Not one jot came my way. Instead I got a challenge: why was it so critical for me to have a goal at all? Hadn’t I left all that behind me when I stopped working? Who would care anyway?
It took a few days for that little seed to germinate. But germinate and grow it did. Maybe I could take a gap year from goals and challenges and targets?. Could 2018 be a year of free wheeling reading; reading whatever I felt like at that particular moment?
The more I thought about it the more I warmed to the idea. Since I started blogging I’ve had projects and targets and challenges to guide my reading – and very few of them were accomplished successfully. Some people thrive on goals and objectives and do brilliantly at keeping to resolutions. In most areas of my life these work well for me too. But when it comes to reading I’m a dud. Fact is, I’ve realised, that I enjoy making lists of books to read but the minute the list is finalised, I go off the idea of reading the books I’ve chosen. A list makes me feel hemmed in somewhat.
I am therefore declaring 2018 to be the Year of Naked Reading.
I will keep the ongoing projects I’ve been working on for a few years now like the Booker Prize Project (there is no way I am abandoning that right at the last moment) or my World Literature project. I’m also going to start a new one – the Year of my Life reading project initiated by Cafe Society. But I won’t use those projects to drive my reading. Nor When I am ready for the next book I’ll just look around the book shelves and pick out what takes my fancy. With some 220 plus books I own but haven’t read, I will have plenty of choice. I’m going to try and restrain myself so I don’t purchase zillions of new books but won’t be setting any targets or imposing numeric constraints.
So here’s to the beginning of a rudderless, free wheeling 2018.
Anyone care to join me??