2020 was a funny reading year for me. I actually read more books than I have since I started recording my reading but partly that was because I had more time and partly because so much of that time was spent re-reading old favourites. I also got through a lot of audiobooks! The year started off very well with me reading through my unread shelves but that tailed off dramatically as we headed into lockdown and I needed comfort reading.
This year I intend to do better. I have given up setting myself specific goals as for me they always make reading feel too much like homework. Especially if I have a definitive list of titles to read – then I feel I can’t read anything else until I have got through the list but I’m never in the right mood for those books and I end up not reading at all.
However, it would be nice to get through some of my unread shelves so I have recreated them in my reading journal in the hope that being able to see my progress will motivate me to read more. There are 99 books there after all – surely I should always be in the right mood for one of them!
That number is considerably lower than it was last year as I have had quite a ruthless turnout. It is always hard getting rid of books but at the same time very freeing to no longer feel obliged to read something. The counting was problematic – I have a lot of books I bought to sell and there are many of those I would love to read but haven’t got around to yet. For simplicity though I chose not to count them and just stuck to my personal collection. There are bound to be some I missed but this is a start.
There are certainly enough to keep me going – not that I will put myself under a book buying ban. I will just try to only buy books I know I will read straight away. I will also be attempting the monthly challenges set by The Unread Shelf Project – hopefully those will ensure that I read at least one of my unread books a month!
My main aim for my reading this year though is just to enjoy it. To read whatever I want and not worry about the numbers or how literary it is. As Samuel Johnson said, ‘A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.’
At the moment I should be spending two weeks in the Hebrides. I love spending time in Scotland and was very much looking forward to the trip but I have been determined to make the best of the time and try to make this fortnight feel different to the rest of this time at home.
I started by wanting to read books set in the right area. I had intended to take Dorothy L Sayers’ Five Red Herrings with me as it is set near where I was due to be staying. It is several years since I read it last but I have always remembered it as one of my favourites in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. I had forgotten how complicated it is though – this time around I had a terrible time keeping all of the various alibis and timelines in my head!
I intended to read more books set in Scotland but have ended up reading whatever happened to take my fancy. Apart from Five Red Herrings I have been trying to restrict myself to my TBR shelf which is once again getting out of hand. I was hoping that the lockdown would help me burn through it a bit but I’ve spent a lot of time seeking comfort by re-reading old favourites. I also know that there are a whole load of brand new books I will buy as soon as I’m back in a bookshop. I have a list.
For my ‘holiday’ fortnight I have been just browsing the shelf and taking whatever I happen to feel like reading that day. The result has been quite eclectic – so far I’ve had Backstage with Peggy by Doris A Pocock, The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer, October Man by Ben Aaronovitch, The Girl Who Reads on the Métro by Christine Féret-Fleury and I’ve just moved on to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I am currently feeling the call of L M Montgomery though and I may soon have to abandon the TBR for her.
So far this week has been even more laid back than last week and I have spent many happy hours outside with my book and a cup of tea. We have been getting quite inventive with the places we choose to sit – much use has been made of the ponies’ fields – in order to make this fortnight feel a little different. It is working though – is really does feel like a holiday.
At the moment, reading is a very important escape for many of us. For me, that takes the form of comfort reading. I do not want to be reading books which make me miserable and if that means I spend a few weeks or months reading only children’s books then I am okay with that. In actual fact though, there will probably be at least some cosy crime books consumed, if not some nice middlebrow fiction (my Mum is currently reading the Mrs Tim books by D E Stevenson and making me want to read them again).
I am just getting to the end of The Cricket Term by Antonia Forest. I borrowed the first book in the series from the library many years ago and loved it but have only come across one of the intervening books in the meantime. I love this series but I do need to find the rest of the books – and probably the first one again – as there are a lot of passing references to events about which I know nothing!
I very rarely make myself a set reading list but I have gathered together a few books which I think will be good for me at the moment. I am about to read Daddy-Long-Legs for the umpteenth time and will probably finally read my lovely, hardback, unabridged copy of The School at the Chalet. I am yet to read Catherine Aird’s latest book – Inherintance Tracks – and now may be the time when I actually get around to reading some books I have seen recommended many times – including The Penderwicks and All-of-a-Kind Family.
I am also just getting to the end of listening to Pride and Prejudice and have already decided that I will go back and re-listen to the Needlecraft Mysteries series by Monica Ferris. I listened to almost the entire nineteen book series (my library doesn’t have the last one yet) within a few months last year and they are exactly the kind of cosy mystery which I know will be comforting right now.
What is your go-to comfort read? I would love to have some more recommendations!
Like many of you I love to have beautiful books. Given a choice between two editions of the same book, I will always choose the one I think prettiest (unless it is ridiculously expensive!).
This can cause me a dilemma though. Sometimes one of my very favourite books will be reissued with a stunningly beautiful cover and I have to decide whether I can justify purchasing another copy of the same book.
In some cases it is easy – I bought all of the hardcover reissues of the original Swallows and Amazons covers to replace my battered paperbacks which were just not so pretty. When my sister found a box of vintage Famous Five books – mostly with dustjackets – going for a song at our village fête I didn’t hesitate to get rid of those paperbacks either. Although, I did keep my 3-in-1 copy of the first three books because it brought back such wonderful memories.
Sometimes it is harder though. There are some beautiful editions of Anne of Green Gables available now and I would so love to have them on my shelf. My copy is not all that pretty but I am quite attached to it and it is stuffed full of pressed flowers and other memorabilia so I am loathe to part with it.
I know many people have multiple copies of the same book and that would solve a lot of problems but also create a whole new one – where would I keep them all? I barely have room for the books I have now so having many different editions of a book is a slippery slope I have so far avoided. It can be hard to resist though!
I quite often find that my reading slows down over the summer. There is just so much to do outside and I have been particularly busy this summer – see my alter ego Gadding About with Galahad if you want to know why!
Not that I haven’t been reading – I have made a reasonable dent in the TBR shelves I showed you in July (ten books read) as well as several extra ones I snuck in. It is just that I wasn’t reading as much as I would have liked.
However, the onset of autumn always makes me want to read. It’s partly all the back to school stuff in the shops and partly the long dark evenings when a blanket and a book by the fire seem like the most wonderful idea. Either way, I’m hoping to read a great many more books over the next few months!