Tag Archives: books

Where have I been? Reading in a wood, mostly.

23 Jan

Ah, London. How many more ways can I find to spend my time in you?

Between attending some beautiful weddings of good friends (very fun) , working away at my day job (also pretty fun), and you know, having a social life, I spent the last year or so trying to read more, and write more fiction, and spend less time watching TV and knitting. I love TV and knitting too, but I did a lot of that in Korea.

I realised my first year back in the UK that I only read 12 books that entire year. About four of those I read over two months in the summer. There were huge periods of time where I wasn’t currently reading ANYTHING. That was so unlike me, and I felt like I’d missed out. So to encourage myself to watch less forgettable TV and read more things, I set myself a Goodreads Challenge.

People seem to be torn on reading challenges like this, but I say if it works for you, fuck it. Yeah, I tried to hit that target (I set myself the challenge of doubling my total, and reading 24 books in 2014). Yeah I put down books I wasn’t into, and I picked short books up instead of epics sometimes, and I read them faster than I might have. But all that didn’t stop me highlighting, discussing, absorbing and enjoying them. In striving to reach that target I found a way to motivate myself to put down the remote, turn off Netflix, and take on the more active task of engaging with a book.

I didn’t hit my target. I read 20 books last year (including graphic novels/collected comic paperbacks). For the curious, you can see them here: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/1141045. Not bad I reckon. 9/20 women (poor, not even 50%). 18/20 white (very poor, must try harder). I think The Goldfinch was my favourite this year, but True Grit was a close second, with Wool in third. Worst book I read? A tie between the frustrating The Fault in Our Stars or the self-mythologising Ocean at the End of the Lane.

I’m setting myself the same target for 2015. 24 books in 12 months. This time I also want to read more female authors than male, and more non-white authors. I would say ONLY female authors, but I have a couple of comics lined up that I really want to read. This new rule might mean 2015 is another year I don’t re-read the Lord of the Rings. Maybe I’ll re-read Harry Potter instead. That’ll bump the books-by-female-authors quota up.

I’m currently reading Moby Dick, which is kind of a terrible start. Although I’ve never read it before and I’m kind of enjoying it a lot so far.

What about you? Do you set yourself reading goals? What do you want to read more of this year? And what was your favourite book of 2014?

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Hello, 2014.

6 Jan

Wow, 2014. I feel like the last year went whizzing by in the blink of an eye. My 2013 was split into distinct little chunks, which helped it go faster. Until the end of March I was in South Korea and Japan. Between April and September I was living in a tiny village near Oxford. From September until today I’ve been living with friends in St Albans and commuting into London. I’ve also had three different jobs, been in four different countries, and dealt with a lot of firsts – first time living in a village, first time buying a car, and first time watching a grown man eat a watermelon without using his hands (don’t ask) to name just a few.

I bleached my hair and rocked a fringe in 2013. Like you cared.

It was an unsettled year, I suppose. I haven’t felt quite like myself for a lot of it. It made me quite nostalgic for my time in South Korea, where I knew how I fit in. That might seem odd, but getting back the huge number of choices and possibilities I’d missed when I was away actually turned out to be a bit overwhelming.

Still, it’s gone now and 2014 is here and looking more settled already. I have a new full time job, and soon I’ll be moving into London (and saying goodbye to suburban commuter trains! Thank God!). I also have a few aspirations for the new year. I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I know they get a bad rap but I have no clue why – why should people setting goals for a new year be a thing worthy of derision, even if they don’t keep them? Goals should be reassessed, anyway, in my opinion. I tend to look at them again in the summer around my birthday and adjust them. Self-improvement is always a good thing!

Last year’s resolutions were 1) to see more live music and 2) to learn a new skill. I saw four or five bands live this year, some of which were bands I really love and wanted to see. I also went to Download Festival again and rocked out to some great metal legends. Success! I also started taking ukulele lessons – my repertoire at present includes Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again and, er, Moon River. Oh, and Slade’s Merry Christmas Everyone. Second resolution down!

See – you CAN keep resolutions! Admittedly there were definitely more of them that I don’t remember because I didn’t keep them. Shh. Let’s move on to this year’s:

1) Read more books. I use Goodreads to log my reading, and the site revealed to me that I had only read 12 books last year. That seems quite pathetic, especially since I know I read most of those in the summer when I was reading on my lunch break, after work in the garden, and for hours at weekends. I like to read in the sunshine (I’m quite cold-blooded and I don’t do well in winter in general) but that’s really no excuse. My aim for this year then is modest – 24 books. I’ll aim to double last year’s total, and read more before bed and instead of watching TV.

2) Knit more and learn to crochet. This one kind of contradicts the first resolution since I can’t read and knit at the same time. I love TV – I think that good TV is an art form that’s as worthy of my time as reading. Plus I can knit whilst I watch TV. I aim to try to incorporate some audio books which I can knit to, and not allow myself to watch TV idly – without performing another task at the same time. I also want to learn to crochet which will count as this year’s new skill!

3) Write more. I struggle with this because it feels like work sometimes to sit at the computer and create. I used to love it, so I don’t know where this lack of motivation has come from. When I was a teenager I wrote with every spare minute. That was probably before the advent of all the TV streaming sites – perhaps I need to be limited my TV intake to achieve this one. But then that contradicts my other resolution! I think I’m going to be a bit more realistic and try to write for one full hour a week and see if I can wean myself back on to it. I might also try varying projects – a novel seems like a mamoth task, but if I intersperse that with shorter fiction projects and blog posts then I might be in with a chance of keeping this one!

4) Run a 10k. I plan to run the Bupa 10k this May. As someone who is not a born mover (I’m a world class sitter though) this will take the most will power. However I have done some regular running before and started to enjoy it. I also noticed how good it was for my general well being too, so I really need to get back into it. I figured that committing to a race would be a good way to motivate myself – I’ll be so ashamed if I can’t do it!

Sadly "hang out with cute dogs and eat cake" is not one of my resolutions. Maybe it should be?

Sadly “hang out with cute dogs and eat cake” is not one of my resolutions. Maybe it should be?

That’s plenty I think. Two “do more things” and two “achieve new things”! On top of that I want to keep up my ukulele playing which is turning out to be really fun and relatively easy compared to other instruments I’ve tried to learn. Although I suppose there is some danger that with knitting and the ukulele I may become so twee I explode.

So how about you? Any resolutions or goals for the new year?

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