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Monday, 16 January 2017

What I read last year ...

Last year (2016) I read a total of 46 books (includes non-fiction and short story collections/anthologies). This is accurate because I keep a separate notebook to record all the books I read, often with additional comments to remind me of what I loved (or hated) about them. As a writer I agree with Stephen King that you should "Read, read, read" long before you ever start writing, and I thought this was probably about the usual number of books an average reader gets through in a year. So I was shocked by Grumpy Old Bookman's feature in January's Writing Magazine, where he quoted literary agent Jonny Geller telling the Guardian that "... the average person reads between one and five books a year." This was after the Bookman revealed from a report in the International Publishers Association that "British Publishes released  184,000 new and revised titles in 2013", which equates to "roughly twenty new titles every hour." Even if I took up the GoodReads challenge to read 100 books in 2017, I'd still fall well short of keeping up with new books coming out each week. I haven't set any reading goals for this year as I believe reading is something you should want to do, not feel obliged or pressured to do (whether you write for a living or not).

Here's LitPig showing off six of my top reads from 2016. You can see I'm struggling to keep up with current releases as many of these have been out for some time, but often I pick up a book because of a friend's recommendation. Luckily, my friends have exceedingly good taste ...

Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel - a wonderful post-apocalyptic novel weaving past and future together with exceptional prose. This is the book I WANT to WRITE!
Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier - a retelling of Homer's Odyssey set at the end of the US Civil War (the film with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law does a pretty good job of recreating the novel). Sublime writing and storytelling.
A Robot in the Garden, Deborah Install - a charming, gentle and often comic novel. I dare anyone to read this and not fall in love with Tang the robot.
Merivel, Rose Tremain - concluding Robert Merivel's life-story after Restoration set in the reign of Charles II. Sir Rob is one of my all-time favourite literary characters and as with Restoration this is a novel I will re-read many times.
A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler - master of the 'quiet' novel, Anne Tyler is quite simply a genius.
The Bones of You, Debbie Howells - a gripping, page-turning psychological thriller which I read in one afternoon. Enjoyed this even more because I recognised the local setting, as the author literally lives down the road from me.

Here's a selection of other books I'd enjoyed (in order of reading):
Longbourn, Jo Baker
Tastes Like Fear, Sarah Hilary
Writing for TV and Radio, Sue Teddern & Nick Warbuton
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Joanna Cannon
Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
The Woman in Blue, Elly Griffiths
Deadly Elections, Lindsey Davis
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
The Ice Twins, S K Tremayne
The Shut-Eye, Belinda Bauer
Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
Beyond Black, Hilary Mantell
If I were a River, Amanda Saint
Last Rituals, Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Into the Woods, John Yorke
Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
Lightbox, KJ Orr
The Colour, Rose Tremain
Llama Sutra, Melanie Whipman
Mr Mercedes, Stephen King

Like any sensible control freak I also keep a record on my GoodReads account and often leave review/comments there. Wherever possible I try to upload a review onto Amazon if I enjoyed a book, as I believe that helps the writer just as much as buying their book in the first place.

Did you also read any of the above? What were your favourite reads of 2016? Please share ...


  1. I've read some of those too. I read Cold Mountain years ago but this year my reads included Tastes Like Fear,(very good) also Longbourn (last year I think,) mixed feelings about it - started well, ending not up to much) and The Girl on The Train, which I loathed! I have Goats and Sheep on my TBR pile - next up! I will look out for some of your other choices. Thanks.

    1. I enjoyed Longbourn, Lindsay, but did feel the premise wasn't sustained. Bit miffed when it followed one character off to war - I just wanted to stay at Longbourn with the Bennetts.

  2. Hi Tracy, I read Girl on a Train last year, and loved it to bits! I also read Mr Mercedes, which was another enjoyable read.

    I have no idea how many books I read and listened to on Audible in 2016 as I don't keep a record.

    I've just finished Fellside by M.R. Carey which is a supernatural thriller. I loved it, and will definitely see what else the author has written.

    One thing i don't do, is persevere with a book I'm not enjoying. Life is too short, and there are far too many books I want to read!
    Thank you for sharing your reading list.

    1. I will check out Fellside, Maria, as I've written a supernatural crime novel. And I feel the same about books I can't get on with, once upon a time I would keep reading but now like you I move on quickly.

    2. Mike Carey wrote The Girl With All the Gifts, a book with zombies, but is good. He has a new one out - The Boy On the Bridge. Mike came to the Finchley Lit Fest and he is a super nice guy. He was working on the screen play of Girl at the time and we did a reading of a small piece. I don't know why he didn't immediately cast me as Miss Justinau. Perhaps because Gemma Arterton is rather more glam and young!!!

    3. Thanks, Lindsay and how could Gemma Arterton be more glam than yourself!

    4. I'll look those two books up Lindsay. :-)

  3. I smashed my 12 book goal on Goodreads last year. I am shocked at the average person, and wonder what on earth do they do with their time?
    I do like to challenge myself to read more, but I completely agree that it should also be about pleasure. I keep trying to read genres that I wouldn't normally read, and have been pleasantly surprised on occasion.

    I may buy a notebook just for books (any excuse, eh?) and copy what you do!

    1. The notebook is helpful, Ingrid, as I often forget which books I've read. I can also see that when I'm writing intensely then I tend to read less, which is interesting.

  4. The only one on your list that I've read is 'The Girl on the Train', which I really enjoyed (I'm not interested in the seeing the film). At the moment I'm reading Brick Lane by Monica Ali, which is a wonderfully rich tale. Then next on the pile is another Lee Child.

    1. I have Brick Lane on my bookshelf, Julia, so planning to read at some point. A friend of mine is a massive Lee Child fan & has read everything of his.

  5. You are so good reading all these books and leaving reviews. On your recommendation. I read Station 11 and Restoration - both great reads (thanks for lending 😊)

    1. And of course you recommended Cold Mountain to me, Wendy. In fact I remember being nagged quite a bit to read it, but you were absolutely right about it being a beautiful book.

  6. Really impressed with your total, Tracy! I keep meaning to keep a record and even have a book for it but keep forgetting at the time. I read lots between my kindle and paperbacks. Loved Longbourn.

    1. Thanks, Rosemary. I'm the same with forgetting and often have to fill in several books at a time, but its good to look back over the year and remember again the really great books.

  7. I don't keep a record of the books I read, but I leave an Amazon review for most of them, so I suppose I could check back.

    1. I always leave a review if I've enjoyed a book, Patsy., but only if I have something positive to say. I'd hate to put someone off reading a book because I didn't get on with it. In my notebook I record everything I read or attempted to read, so it has a few more in there.