Why reading and writing is the road to happiness...

This blog started years ago as a place to muse on the life projects keeping me entertained. It is no surprise then that it has morphed into a blog about my reading as that has been my lifelong project. Here I review lots of different types of books, with an added focus on Australian women writers. Hope you enjoy - feel free to contribute to the conversation!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Reading Challenge 2014

In a previous post I wrote about how, in August 2011, I had started writing down the titles of the books I read in order to keep track and to remember. Unfortunately, having a weird competitive nature, I noted that in those first 12 months, August to August, I read 30 books (both non fiction and fiction) so the next year I wanted to beat that total. As I noted in the earlier post, it was like an adult 'Premier's Reading Challenge'. So in 2011, I read 30 books, in 2012 I read 32, and now in August 2013 to last month I read a bumper 53! What changed? I'm not working full time, I stepped up the reading merely because I wanted to read more, and... my niece told me that her Year 9 English teacher bet the class that they couldn't read 52 books in a year and my niece was out to prove her wrong - and I naturally wanted in, so read like crazy in the last few months to get over the line. Maybe a few novellas were included to speed me up a bit, and I may have put down Catton's 'The Luminaries' because it would have sucked up too much time (I'll return to it, I promise). Anyway, I was thrilled to get to the 52 and snuck and extra in before the month was over.
I blog about some of the books, not all, due to time. So here is the list from this reading challenge:
1. 'The Lost Boy' Camilla Lackberg
2. 'Tampa' Alissa Nutting
3. 'Let's Pretend This Never Happened' Jenny Lawson
4. 'Beautiful Ruins' Jess Walters
5. 'Night Games' Anna Krien
6. 'Man Vs Child' Dominic Knight
7. 'Murder and Mendelssohn' Kerry Greenwood
8. 'Murder In Mississippi' John Safran
9. 'All Good Things' Sarah Turnball
10. 'The Signature of All Things' Elizabeth Gilbert
11. 'just_a_girl' Kirsten Krauth
12. 'Lionel Asbo' Martin Amos
13. 'Burial Rites' Hannah Kent
14. 'Sea Hearts' Margo Lanagan
15. 'Moranthology' Caitlin Moran
16. 'Banana Girl' Michele Lee
17. 'The Son' Phillip Meyer
18. 'Letter to George Clooney' Debra Adelaide
19. 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' Richard Flanagan
20. 'The Spare Room' Helen Garner
21. 'Mateship With Birds' Carrie Tiffany
22. 'The Fence Painting Fortnight of Destiny' Meshel Laurie
23. 'Forgive Me Leonard Peacock' Matthew Quick
24. 'The Dinner' Hermon Koch
25. 'A Fair Maiden' Joyce Carol Oates
26. 'The Casual Vacancy' J K Rowling
27. 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' Stephen Chbovsky
28. 'Like A House on Fire' Cate Kennedy
29. 'Beams Falling' P.M.Newton
30. 'The Circle' Dave Eggers
31. 'Coraline' Neil Gaiman
32. 'How To Be A Good Wife' Emma Chapman
33. 'A Beautiful Place To Die' Malla Nunn
34. 'The Husband's Secret' Liane Moriarty
35. 'The Mysogyny Factor' Anne Summers
36. 'The Night Guest' Fiona McFarlane
37. 'Blue Nights' Joan Didion
38. 'The Women In Black' Madeleine St John
39. 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves' Karen Joy Fowler
40. 'The Mistake' Wendy James
41. 'The Poet's Wife' Mandy Sayer
42. 'Just Business' Ber Carroll
43. 'Tiddas' Anita Heiss
44. 'An Elegant Young Man' Luke Carman
45. 'All The Birds Singing' Evie Wyld
46. 'The Promise' Tony Birch
47. 'This Is How You Love Her' Junot Diaz
48. 'The Ocean At The End Of The Lane' Neil Gaiman
49. 'Things We Didn't See Coming' Steven Amsterdam
50. 'The Jade Widow' Deborah O'Brien
51. 'Two Boys Kissing' David Levithan
52. 'The Tea Chest' Josephine Moon
53. 'The Cuckoo's Calling' J K Rowling

Book Cover: The Night GuestWhen you write down the titles you can also analyse your style and pull: I read WAY more female authors than males, I am swayed by award winners, I have read quite a few reviewed on the ABC Book Club, and I read a lot of short story collections this challenge. Obviously, by reviewing for the Australian Women Writers Challenge I have read a lot of Australian authors as well, but I naturally gravitated to local authors even before the challenge.
So, to pick my favourite ten: (in no order) Night Games; The Signature Of All Things; Burial Rites; Sea Hearts; Moranthology; The Spare Room; Like A House On Fire; The Night Guest; We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; The Narrow Road to The Deep North. Most impact on my psyche? The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (debut novel, Stella Prize shortlist).
But I can say that I enjoyed reading everything on this list and  believe that there were few off notes in any of these books. Some were flashier than others but sometimes less flash is what you need. I'm intentionally trying to expand my dipping into genres (as you can see, no sci fi here - and there may never be...), and particulalry trying to read some lighter stuff as well rather than getting too caught up in prize winners and critical successes.
For the coming twelve months these are the goals: beat the 52, try to blog about most of them, keep trying new genres and writers, a few more non fiction this year, and continue supporting Australian women writers. And now I'll be noting the number of the book and the type of text so the challenge can be public!

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