2015 Reading Highlights and 2016 Reading Resolutions

Well I had planned to post this follow up to my reading by numbers post around New Year, but between one thing and another I ran out of time! So it’s a bit late and 2015 already feels a very long time ago, but anyway, here’s my reading highlights from the past year.

1. Best Book of 2015: For entirely subjective reasons, I’m going to go with The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett as my favourite overall.

2. Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2015The Girl with All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey. I read this for book club, and to be honest probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise as I’d assumed it was another fairly bog-standard teen dystopia. I was very, very wrong about that – it’s a fresh, literary and extremely well-written take on the zombie survival genre.

3. Book You Recommended the Most to People in 2015The Wicked and The Divine, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This is the best comic book/graphic novel series I’ve read in a long time, and I’ve been pressing them on everyone I know. Volume 3 of the trade paperback is out next month, hurrah!

4. Favourite New (to me) Authors Discovered in 2015: Kieron Gillen (The Wicked and the Divine), Clare North (The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Touch), Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings)

5. Most Hilarious Read of 2015How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran – had me crying with laughter throughout!

6. Most Thrilling Unputdownable Read of 2015The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Clare North. I almost raced through the entire thing in one sitting, and enjoyed it so much I immediately went out and bought Clare North’s second book, Touch.

7. Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2015: Very difficult to judge this one – I’ve read some books with some very beautiful cover art this year! I’m actually going to go with On Liberty, by Shami Chakrabarti, as I like the boldness and simplicity of it. (I also have a massive fangirl crush on Chakrabarti after seeing her speak at a conference this year!)

8. Most Memorable Character of 2015: Tough call, but probably Holly Sykes from The Bone Clocks.

9. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2015: Another tough one! I’m gonna go with The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart. I just love her writing.

10. Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2015H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (this was also in the running for “most beautifully written”, above!). This is a truly extraordinary meditation on bereavement and grief, wrapped up in a fascinating exploration of hawking. I’d recommend it for anyone who’s ever been bereaved and struggled to explain how it felt and what it does to your life.

11. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2015 to Read: I haven’t really read any “classic” literature this year! I’d probably go with Fragile Things, a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman published in 2007, just because it’s been on my wishlist for several years but I hadn’t got hold of a copy until this year.

Reading Resolutions

Before I set some reading goals for this year, I’m going to have a look back at my 2015 resolutions and see how I did…

  1. Finish the year with fewer than 100 books on my TBR list… Um, no! I managed to finish 2015 with 129 books on my TBR list, more than the 104 I started the year with!
  2. Explore books by more diverse authors… Last year I read 7 books written by people of colour, and and one translated book. That’s pretty poor if I’m honest, but at least I’ve started to pay attention to it now. The same thing happened when I started making an effort to read more books by women – I didn’t realise how badly skewed my reading was in favour of male authors until I started counting them!
  3. Read at least five books that are 600 pages plus… Almost! I read 3 books that were longer than 600 pages (the longest being A Feast for Crows, George RR Martin, at a whopping 976 pages), and the next two longest were 592 (so close!) and 576 pages. I’m going to give myself a pass for this one, as taking my five longest books together, the average page count is 732 pages.

So out of three resolutions, I’ve… almost managed one. Ah. Ok, let’s see if I can set some more realistic goals for 2016!

  1. Seriously, stop buying so many goddamn books. I need to be more realistic about the books I pick up and when I will actually have time to read them! I’m going to set myself the same goal as last year: try to end the year with fewer than 100 books on my TBR list. Let’s see if I actually manage it this time!
  2. Read at least 10 books by people of colour, and/or in translation.
  3. Review more books!

Re no.3: I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard writers work to get an audience, and how difficult it is to compete for attention and book sales in an increasingly crowded market. I have a few friends who are writers, and I follow a lot of writers on Twitter, so I’m aware of how hard they work. The most consistent advice I’ve seen for writers on promoting their books is to rely on readers to do it for you – nothing sells like word of mouth!

I didn’t actually post any book reviews here in 2015 (although I did a couple on the Leeds Book Club blog), and I kinda miss reviewing books. I also know how helpful a good review is, particularly for less well-known writers, and especially somewhere like Amazon where most people will look for book reviews! I’m therefore going to make more of an effort to blog book reviews here, and post reviews of books I enjoyed on Amazon. This is partly for selfish reasons – I enjoy reviewing, and I also want writers I like to do well so they’ll continue to write books – but also I do love recommending books to people, and reviewing is really an extension of that!

I’m actually going to start my third resolution right now, as I read some great books over the Christmas holiday that I’d love to shout about! So look out for my next blog post, I promise it won’t be a three-week gap this time…

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