Reading goals

Wrapping up 2018

All you super organised people can now look smug at the fact that we’re two weeks into 2019 and only now am I doing a wrap up of last year. While you of course had this all nailed well in advance of midnight on December 31. You’re probably the same people who have booked their summer holiday twelve months in advance. And are never late with their tax returns.

But just remember……

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

I can’t procrastinate for much longer however so here’s the low down on my 2018….

If you’ve followed my blog since January you’ll know that I declared 2018 to be a “Year of Reading Naked” –  a “rudderless, free wheeling” year .

I said back in January 2018:

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.  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 to restrain myself so I don’t purchase zillions of new books but won’t be setting any targets or imposing numeric constraints.

Did the plan work???? 

To some extent yes… 

I enjoy the camaraderie that you get from participating in challenges and reading events. But I also know from past experience that if they require me to read from a list or to fit my reading into pre-defined categories, then I lose interest quickly.

Hence my decision not to join any challenges last year.

I stuck to that resolution almost the whole year but did succumb to Non Fiction November. In my defence this didn’t require any list making or reading; just writing a few posts.

I also cut way down on the number of Net Galley requests and rejected most of the direct offers of review copies.

All of which meant that, apart from the commitment to read for a book club every month, I had complete freedom over what I read. It was so refreshing to be able to browse around the local library and choose whatever took my fancy. Equally refreshing to go to my own bookshelves and select whatever caught my eye.

Somehow I managed to read 12 books that qualify for my Years of my Life reading project . (the link takes you to the list of books I’ve read). When I started that I thought I would read two books for each year (one fiction, one non fiction) but on reflection I think that’s too ambitious so I’m going for just one from each year. I also anticipated reading each year in order but then reconsidered on the basis it felt too much like ‘reading from a list’ which is something I’ve learned I don’t enjoy. So I’m free wheeling.

On the other hand … 

I didn’t make much progress at all with the backlog of books I already owned (far too many temptations at the library).

Despite stating that: “I’m going to try and restrain myself so I don’t purchase zillions of new books….” , what happened was that after a period of restraint at the beginning of the year, things went completely awry at the end of the year.

Hence the list of books I own but have not read, has risen still further.  I acquired 71 new books in 2018, most of them in the last five months of the year. Some pruning of the shelves between Christmas and the New Year helped bring the total down but as we start 2019 I still have 289 books awaiting my attention.

Nor did I do very well with my intention to read more books in translation and from authors in different parts of the world even though I took a subscription to the Asymptote book club for that very reason. Of the 12 books I  received I managed to read only one – The Chilli Bean Paste Clan by Yan Ge. I did tick off one new country (Cuba) from my world of literature project by reading The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa.  By the end of the year I got my total to 37 countries against my target of 50.

Favourite reads of 2018… 

I saved the best until the end. My final book of the year was simply outstanding. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is enigmatic, intense, hypnotic. How this never even made it to the longlist for the 2018 Booker Prize is beyond my comprehension.

Other highly commended books:

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh: the memoir of a neurosurgeon gives a graphic account of the mysterious world of the brain. In between he vents his frustrations of working within the NHS.

Sugar Mother by Elizabeth Jolley. My first experience of this author. A strange but seductive story. I enjoyed her writing so much I went on to read another by Jolley – Miss Peabody’s Inheritance (review to follow soonish)  which was equally superb.

Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon. For once a much hyped book that deserved the accolades.

Now We Shall be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller . Not as powerful as his earlier novel Pure, but still a very polished work of historical fiction

The Ladies Paradise by Emile Zola. Less dark than some of his other novels but still shows Zola’s ability to capture the essence of parts of French society. In this case his attention is on the rise of the department store as a new form of commercial activity.

The Duds of 2018

There have to be some don’t there?


The worst books were obviously the four I couldn’t finish: G by John Berger; Ritual 1969 by Jo Mazelis, When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen and The Librarian by Salley Vickers.

But that was then…

We’re in a new year so it’s time to set new goals. Watch this space …..



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

44 thoughts on “Wrapping up 2018

  • I’m already planning 2020 vacation and my 2018 Recap post won’t post until later this week 😀

    Glad to hear the year went well with you – I’ve enjoyed meandering through my shelves and the library the past few years. I may need to reign it in and try for some more structure in the near future if I want to actually get some of my TBR pile cleared out!

    • 2020 holiday planning already?? Are you planning some mega trip?

      • Hahaaa nah. My partner has to plan the time a year in advance and the last few summers have been sucked up with weddings so this’ll be our first non-wedding restricted trip in three years!

  • Really enjoyed your Wrap Up Karen. I am going to be tougher this year on review copies. I was fairly tough last year, but I need to be tougher as they are driving me too much. I like your World Literature Project, and think I might produce a page like yours to see how my reading stacks up, as I’d also like to broaden the countries I read from.

    Finally, one piece of advice – to avoid being tempted by the library, do what I do and don’t go! You’d probably get through that TBR (I haven’t counted mine but my guestimation is that it would be in your vicinity) much faster. (That said, I didn’t go to the library, and I didn’t buy quite as many books as you did last year, but I still only read 6 from my TBR. Those review copies!!)

    • Having campaigned strongly to keep our local library I feel a strong sense of loyalty to keeping their footfall numbers up. But yes I could do better at avoiding temptations

      • Fair enough. Did I hear that something like 140 British libraries were closed last year? I’d do the same if ours were threatened.

        • Thought I’d replied to this but seems like WordPress swallowed it….. not sure about the number but its far too many….

  • Pingback: 2019: What lies ahead | BookerTalk

  • I just wishlisted Henry Marsh’s other memoir, although I should probably start with Do No harm since it came out earlier. Happy to see you enjoyed it so much. I just listened to his Desert Island Discs podcast and it piqued my interest.

    Hope your reading in 2019 is just as great!

    • Oh I didn’t know he’d been on Desert Island – shall track that one down. Yes I think it would be . best to start with Do No Harm

  • Last year I did my 2017 round up in April, so you’re definitely not too late! And this was really interesting – I am very impressed with 37 countries. I haven’t counted mine, but I suspect it’s probably not more than 10 – though did manage six continents.

    I bought a bunch of Jolley books a few years ago, on the recommendation of Kim from Reading Matters, but have yet to read any of them. 2019 is clearly the year!

    • It was Lisa’s Elizabeth Jolley reading week that got me interested in her. 10 isn’t to be sniffed at – some people don’t manage that many

  • Thank you for further pushing me to read Three Things about Elsie. I keep eyeing it in the library and I really need to read it this year.

  • I’m very much looking forward to Warlight. I bought it a few months ago, and there it still sits. I started well with my Asymptote subscription but because of my ACOB I fell behind, so looking forward to getting back to those books. My challenges last year took up a lot of time. I am not doing any big challenges this year. Though hope to join in with a few events.

    • I’m not surprised you could do with a breather from challenges this year – the ACOB was so demanding (though I know you enjoyed it)

      • I did enjoy it, and will probably do it again, next year or the year after.

  • Judy Krueger

    That was worth waiting for!

  • It *is* lovely not following challenges – I’m with you there! And a shame about the Berger. In contrast to Lisa, I have plenty of books in translation on the TBR and I can’t see that changing either. But they’re not always in the bookshops, unless you’re in London or somewhere like that, so it’s a case of searching out what people recommend or what specific publishers are issuing and then tracking down copies. As for the library – I daren’t go there…

    • I’m not surprised you don’t go to the library, you’d come out with armfuls …. I do have quite a few translated works already most of which were bought on line

  • Although I applaud the self-restraint of book-buying banners (I have to give Madame Bibi a mention here – a whole year with a bookshop on the street where she lives!) for me it would be like dieting: the minute you forbid yourself something you want it even more, and temptation is everywhere. Pleased to see Andrew Miller on your highly commended list. Have you read Ingenious Pain?

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t set a deadline for sharing the favourites of 2018, I like the quiet time to reflect and for me that came in the early days of the New Year.

    I’ve never been a fan of challenges that require lists, the most I manage is an intention to read Women in Translation during August, but I try to read them all year round anyway, it’s more the novelty of knowing there are others that are reading that way during August, which back when it started was rare to find, it’s become more widespread now which is great.

    I’m all for the free wheeling approach, because I find one book often leads to another in ways that can’t be predicted before entering into the mystery of a book. I like to be able to follow those threads and they often form part of my discussion of a book.
    Great list of favourites and I look forward to your reading meanderings in 2019!

    • I should make a note about WIT month – it always creeps up on me.

  • I often read a really really good book right at the end of the year, which is why I do my round-up on 1 January! I am again just doing my Iris Murdoch readalong, plus 20 Books of Summer and All Virago / All August, because I do both off my TBR so it’s not a pain. I have started the new way of reading my TBR (oldest, newest, off the Kindle) but not sure that will work …

    • I had to laugh that you are “just” doing three projects/readalongs etc – that already sounds busy….

  • I like you idea of a free-style flow to your reading choices. I’m interested in some of the reading challenges that you’ve mentioned, although I agree they can make you feel the pressure to read books that you might not want to at the time.Best wishes with where ever this year takes you.

    • You hit it right on the head Rosie – it’s the fact that I do want to read the book, but just not at that moment when the challenge says I “should”

  • thanks for sharing your reading year with us. I’m with you on the free wheeling approach. Challenges are all well and good, and yes, they do take us out of our Reading Ruts but I don’t enjoy the pressure, so have decided they’re not for me. Our Book Club has the Ondaatjie and I’m looking forward to it. You were the person who motivated me to follow the Booker Prize lists, for which I shall always be grateful. So I’m glad you have decided to continue with the event. Happy Reading in 2019!

    • I know there are people who love doing challenges – they get a buzz from being able to tick things off when they are done. But if they become more of a pressure point than a pleasure then there is no purpose really is there? I wonder what your book club will think of Ondaatje….

  • Glad to know that Three Things About Elsie is worth the hype. Happy New Year!

  • All the book-buying-banners I’ve come across either ended up in a reading slump or going on a spree, which is deeply worrying since I am proposing to practice restraint myself this year! Free-wheeling sounds lovely – I feel it’s time to get off the books for review treadmill and do a bit of mood reading too… one day. Hope you have a great 2019!

    • If you have a lot of books sent to you for review then that could easily turn into a chore – a bit like work really! Yes it’s great to get new books ahead of when they are in the shops but not to the point that you feel it’s distracting you from other things

  • I am still working on my summary of last year so you are ahead of me 😄
    Libraries are definitely places of temptation. I never walk out there without a book.

    • I don’t feel guilty though about my library acquisitions since they need the footfall to help justify their existence to people in this country (UK governments) who just seem to see them as costly and not necessary

  • Yup, I’m with you with When the Doves Disappeared. I did finish and review it, but it was a slog, and more than that it was a disappointment because it was my first ever book from Estonia.
    Which brings me to… I bet t there aren’t many books in translation on most large TBRs. It wasn’t something we were exposed to until comparatively recently, and bookshops are still catching up with what’s happening on the web. Nearly all the books on my TBR that I bought in bookshops with the exception of a couple of famous ones like Calvino or Grossman, are not translations. I found the translations at Stu’s blog (Winston’s Dad) and bought them online. So if tried to limit myself to what’s on the TBR, almost all my reading would be from the US, UK and Australia…
    Another good reason to keep on misbehavin’!

    • Now I’m glad I didn’t persist with it. I do have quite a few translated books already. When I embarked on a quest to read more translated works I deliberately searched blogs like Stu’s for suggestions and ended up buying many second hand. Some countries though it seems that nothing exists in English or if there is something, then its prohibitively expensive


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