Friday, December 16, 2011
A milestone reached - 52 books in 50 weeks
With two weeks to spare, today I reached my goal of reading fifty-two books for the year. A week ago I was beginning to wonder whether I would make it and then I discovered The Hunger Games and ploughed through three books in two days. It was a good way to round out the year, and surprisingly indicative of my experience reading this year.
It seems like an inane thing to say, but I very quickly learned that the best way to read a lot of books is to read a lot of books you love. In the list below you'll notice two books listed as 1/2. I count these as one because I read half of each and tossed them away because they were driving me mad! There were others along the way [that I didn't record] that I abandoned when I found myself struggling through the chapters. I know there are some people who will always finish a book they start, but I reckon there are too many brilliant books in the world to waste time reading crap!
I've spent a lot of time at the Ghana Book Trust this year buying books for a library here (and buying for my own stash...) and every time I go there I'm reminded of the volume of books produced in the world. As a writer there are times when I find that daunting and wonder why I should even bother putting another book out into the world. I'm sure if no more books were written for ten years, we'd still be finding good books to read. But then I stumble across another wonderful book and the joy of discovery inspires me to keep reading and keep writing.
Because my reading material has been culled from a range of sources my reading list for the year has covered a diverse range of subjects. Trawling through second hand stores tends to send you in directions you wouldn't ordinarily go. Organised book stores are convenient, but they invariably draw you back into the familiar - whether it be authors or genres. However, it's nice to venture into new territory now and then. Books like Louise Steinman's The Souvenir, for example, were unexpected gems.
Keeping an eye on Teya's reading has also thrown up some wonderful books. I very nobly 'volunteered' to read Rick Riordan's latest novel Son of Neptune aloud and was rewarded for my generousity! He is a truly wonderful writer - very clever and very funny. I also pre-read The Hunger Games series to check whether it was appropriate and ended up disappearing into an anti-social haze while I ploughed through the three books back-to-back.
My three favourite fiction books for the year are a diverse bag.The first Cutting for Stone is a superb book. It is brilliantly plotted and beautifully written. This book kept popping up in my Amazon recommendations and I eventually bought it for Nyani to read when he was travelling. He loved it, I read it and loved it and we've since bought it for many other people. The second favourite, The Help, was likewise an Amazon recommendation. Then the movie came out and it was being promoted widely. I like reading the book before seeing the movie so went back to the book. I'm glad I did. The book delivers far more than the movie. The last was a Book Trust find, although I've read other books by the author before. Hmmmm, how to describe The Contest by Matthew Reilley? Pure unadulterated escapism that will keep you reading into the middle of the night, and make you feel slightly embarrassed for having enjoyed it so much! All the rest on the list were also good, although I was disappointed with Son of a Witch after really enjoying Wicked.
In the non-fiction category I discovered a lot of great books. Any on the list below are worth a read, except perhaps Ellen Degeneres' contribution. Let's just say I love Ellen, but she shouldn't write books. EVER. Enough said. The highlights were definitely The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Happiest Refugee. Both are a must read.
The personal development category threw up some interesting books. Drew Rozell's The Very Cool Life Code would be my recommendation from the list. I enjoy reading new books in this genre and Seth Godin's Domino Project has promoted a number of really interesting books this year that I've read purely on that recommendation (and also because a lot of them were free!). In many cases I find that I don't come away from a book with a new outlook on life, but there are always take away gems from each one.
So often challenges like this are one-offs; something you achieve, take pride in and then move on. However, this is definitely one to repeat. It's certainly been good for my writing, has broadened my horizons, and most importantly, has delivered hours of blissful entertainment!
Son of Neptune – Rick Riordan
Poison Study – Maria Snyder
Magic Study – Maria Snyder
Fire Study – Maria Snyder
Stories for Parents and Children – Paulo Coelho
My Sister from the Black Lagoon – Laurie Fox
Spiderwick Chronicles – (1&2) – Holly Black
Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
Seriously…I’m Kidding – Ellen Degeneres
Here Comes Trouble – Michael Moore
The Last Resort – Douglas Rogers
In Buddha’s Kitchen – Kimberly Snow
The Souvenir – Louise Steinman
Truth and Beauty – Anne Patchett
Confessions of an Economic Hitman – John Perkins
Immortal life of Henrietta Sacks – Rebecca Skloot
Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
Africa Diary – Bill Bryson
Bossypants – Tina Fey
Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
Lost in Shangri-la – Mitchell Zuckoff
Going Solo – Roald Dahl
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Very Cool Life Code – Drew Rozell
Warrior of the Light – Paulo Coelho
Manifesting Change – Mike Dooley
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield
½ War of Art – Steven Pressfield
½ Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
Sea of Miracles – Amy Oscar
Four Agreements – Miguel Ruiz
The Flinch - Julien Smith
Brida – Paulo Coelho
Love Walks In – Marisa De Los Santos
Wicked – Gregory Maguire
Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire
A year in the Merde – Stephen Clarke
Bel Canto – Anne Patchett
19 Minutes – Jodie Picoult
Sing Me Home – Jodie Picoult
Contest – Matthew Reilley
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Twilight – Stephenie Meyers
Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
Chocolat – Joanne Harris
Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese
Goddess of Fried Okra – Jean Brashear
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Must Love Dogs – Clair Cook
The Intelligencer - Leslie Silbert
Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici