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A year of reading

December 29th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

At the beginning of 2023 I set myself a target to read 100 books in the year and, somehow, I have over-achieved by 20%, having read 120 as of today. Its a good place to stop because it makes the maths really easy to work out: an average of 10 books per month. I guess it helped that I did have a few work trips that involved a lot of time in airports, planes, hotels and Glasgow buses. It helped even more that I broke my shoulder and had a few weeks off work, unable to do much more than read. Even so I am quite chuffed with myself.

In the past, I have seen people take photographs of the stack of books they have read in the course of a year, trying to see if they can read through a pile of books as high as themselves. That would be a very short stack for me. Just 12 actual books, plus a Kindle. Looking around my little den, surrounded by shelves of books, I am not sure I could have found space for another 10 books, let alone the 108 I downloaded to read, so ebooks have been a real game-changer for me.

Looking at the split of books I can see that:

  • 12 were printed (2 in hardback, 10 in paperback I think) and 108 were ebooks
  • 17 were non-fiction and 103 were fiction
  • Of the non-fiction I reckon that 5 count as autobiography
  • The 120 books were written by 46 different authors
  • 5 authors accounted for just over half the total!
  • All books were new to me. No re-reads this year.
  • Very few were published in 2023, but there were probably quite a few from the last couple of years.
  • There was only one book that I started but gave up on. Fairly quickly.

During the year I started reading books by authors I have been hearing about for years but never read at all, mostly detective/crime/thriller-type books. This is not a genre I have ever really been tempted by, apart from Sherlock Holmes and Chris Brookmyre, but I have now read all 18 of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne books and 19 of the Jack Reacher books. I also got into the world of Michael Connelly. These are all the kind of book that makes you read quickly to find out what happens next. I’m pretty sure that if I tried sticking to worthy, non-genre, ‘literature’ I would have got nowhere near 120.

I know that, because some of the ‘serious ‘ books I read took as long to read as 2 or 3 thrillers. Georgi Gospodinov’s book Time Shelter is a good example. it seemed to take forever to get through it. The same goes for weighty non-fiction books. I only read one 800-page history book and that was enough.

Favourite books of the year? I think that the Elton John memoir has to be right up there. As a bit of a fan I already knew about a lot of the events so it was fascinating to get the story behind those, but the whole thing was just brilliantly readable and, in places, hilarious.

On the fiction side I enjoyed Bournville by Jonathan Coe. My relationship with his books is like my relationship with Tarantino films. As each one comes out, the premise doesn’t appeal to me and I put it off, and then when I see it I curse myself for that delay, and its the same with Coe’s books. I also really liked Lessons by Ian McEwan. That is a book that really did not go in the direction I expected from the first few pages.

Other fiction highlights were The Warlock Effect by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman, and The Door-to-Door Bookstore by Carsten Henn – a charming story that really sucks you in.

It goes without saying that the new Ambrose Parry book was excellent. I have been buying this series in hardback as they are published, and there is not a lot that I will buy in hardback now. Similarly the new Chris Brookmyre book was up there with his best.

So what plans for 2024? I will probably do a lot more re-reading next year. Maybe all the old Brookmyres or Robert Rankins yet again. Or perhaps re-visit the Foundation books or the Heinlein books. I probably won’t keep count or care too much about how many I read.

What I might do is that I might go out of my way to listen to the musical equivalents of Lee Child, Mark Billingham or Val McDermid – artists that are very popular but I just know nothing about. Perhaps I will surprise myself and find that I like them. I could name a few here, but would it be too embarrassing to admit that I have not knowingly listened to, and couldn’t name any songs by, for example, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran?


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