Listening and Learning

I mentioned in my last post that Five by Hallie Rubenhold was one of my favourite books from last year. It is essentially a biography of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper and is very much a book about their lives and not their deaths – although those are covered too.

It is an utterly fascinating book and I was genuinely gripped by it. I wanted to know what happened to those women and how they ended up on the streets of Whitechapel.

Non-fiction can be a struggle for me. No matter how much I am interested in a subject and want to read the book, I do not tend to pick them up. Instead I go for stories. I can’t really explain it but I love to get lost in another world.

In the case of Five, it had been sitting on my shelf for months just waiting for me to pick it up. Every time I started a new book it was overlooked. Then I thought of audiobooks and borrowed a copy from the library.

It was a revelation. I was hooked and just couldn’t stop listening. Which was potentially awkward at times when I had forgotten my earphones – if someone had walked in on me and just heard snippets out of context it might have sounded odd!

Audiobooks are definitely a great tool and something I will remember the next time I want to read a non-fiction book but am putting off starting it. I should manage to learn much more this way!

A Year of Reading

I’m a little late with my round up of last year’s reading because I wanted to post about Christmas last week.  It is still nice to reflect on the year though so better late than never!

2019 was a good reading year for me.  I’m not overly driven by numbers – it is much more important for me to feel that I have been enjoying my reading.  There were a couple of times when I got bogged down in a book I didn’t much like and which really slowed down my reading but on the whole I can say that I read a lot of books I loved. Most of the time I just wanted to get back to my books.

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That being said, I do know that I read 128 books last year – of which 16 were re-reads – which was a big jump up on the 91 of the year before.  Of course, part of that is because I listened to 44 audio books – up from 14 in 2018.  That definitely helped!

I am not at all good at picking favourites – they change so much depending on my mood.  There are a few which stick in my mind though – I loved Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Waverley by Walter Scott.  Hallie Rubenhold’s Five was fascinating and I was completely hooked by it.

As for reading resolutions for the new year, I have stopped setting myself firm reading lists as for me they creates too much pressure and stop me enjoying the books so much.  The only resolution I really have is to read the books which bring me joy.  I so much loved reading my cosy books over Christmas that I want to carry on doing the same all year round and not pressure myself into reading books I think I ought to read.  That sounds like a pretty good year to me.

Jólabókaflóð

I am sure that by now most of you will have heard of the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð or book flood on Christmas Eve. If you haven’t, in Iceland it is traditional to give each other books on Christmas Eve and then settle down to read them and eat chocolate.

For several years I have wanted to adopt this practice for myself and this year, finally, I managed it.

We actually had company for dinner so we couldn’t spend hours reading but once they had gone we shared our books and settled down to finish the day. I received a lovely copy of Dear Enemy – the sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. It is one I have read before but I wanted a nice vintage copy because my previous one had been print on demand and didn’t contain the pictures which add so much to the story.

I wasn’t disappointed either – I loved the pictures and was once again swept up by the story. It was the best way to wind down on Christmas Eve and I will definitely be hoping to do the same thing again many times in the future.

Cosy Comforting Christmas

Christmas reading time is here! One of my favourite things about Christmas is the long, dark evenings which can be spent in front of the fire with a board game or a book. It is just so cosy and wonderful.

It has to be the right kind of books though and I have made a tentative stack of books I may read over the next few weeks. Or possibly not. The whole point is to read exactly what I want and what makes me happy.

Most Christmases I try to read lots of my favourite children’s Christmas stories but this year not all of the books are obviously Christmassy. Some of them do have hidden Christmas scenes – I am reading What Katy Did at School primarily for the wonderful Christmas box the girls receive – but what I really want right now are cosy comfort reads. In fact, I have been looking forward to these books for weeks – which makes me think that perhaps I should read more of them throughout the year!

I have just finished reading Daddy-Long-Legs (I still love it as much as I ever did) and have moved on to Katy which I have not read for years. I know I am going to thoroughly enjoy the next few weeks!

Do you have Christmas reading (or other) traditions? I would love to hear them.

Queen Victoria

Last week I got to go and see Lucy Worsley talking about Queen Victoria. I was lucky enough to get to see her Jane Austen talk last year and she was brilliant so I was very excited about seeing her again.

It was blowing an absolute gale on the way over but I had such a good time. Lucy Worsley is a great speaker and of course the subject matter is so interesting.

Naturally, I couldn’t leave without buying a book. I loved the Jane Austen at Home book which went with last year’s talk and so I really wanted all of the books on offer. In the end though I stuck with the book about Queen Victoria which actually related to the talk. I am so looking forward to reading it!

Kindred Spirits

This year I am starting my annual Christmas re-read of Little Women a bit early as I am doing so in the company of some lovely people on Instagram – the Kindred Spirit Network.

Social media is a bit of a tricky topic for me – if I spend too long scrolling – and on a bad day too long can be five minutes – I end up feeling very down and it really isn’t good for me.  On the other hand, I need to use it if I want to promote my blog.  It is difficult for me to find the right balance sometimes.

However, a huge positive side of social media – and Instagram in particular – is the connection I can so easily make with like minded people.  I love having a book club with real people I can talk to in person but none of them really enjoy the same books as me.  Yes, it makes me read a wider range of books and that is great – but sometimes I just want to read a cosy, comforting book which I love.  It is even better if I can share that book with other people who love it just as much as I do.

I am therefore very much looking forward to a couple of months spent curled up with Little Women (and Good Wives – they are usually published separately in the UK).  I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.

Crafting with Audiobooks

I have written before about how much I love audiobooks but I have realised recently that I have been listening to them more than ever.  Before I discovered I could download audiobooks from the library onto my phone I had a limited supply of books – my choice isn’t limitless now but it is much wider.  I am listening to books almost constantly – in the car, working in the stables – any time I can’t read an actual, physical book.

The increase is very obvious when I look at my reading log.  Last year I listened to 13 audiobooks – so far this year I have heard 39, with two months still to go.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been working hard on a pair of crochet socks – I often have spells when I am very enthusiastic about crochet and don’t want to be doing anything else.  Audiobooks are perfect for that as I can lose myself in the story whilst still having both of my hands free.  The only downside is that I have been reading far fewer physical books and I do miss the act of sitting down with my book.

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It has also meant that I can’t necessarily read the book I really want as I don’t have access to it in audio form.  I am, however, reading a much wider range of books – I tend to just browse until something takes my fancy.  I’m sure it’s very good for me!

Summer Reading

Last year I had a big clear out of books. Most of them I had read but some had been languishing on my TBR for years. Genuinely years. Books were taking over the house and so I tried to be fairly ruthless – if I’d had it for years and wasn’t likely to read it any time soon then it was a candidate to go. If it was also still in print or otherwise readily available then it was almost certain to go – when (if) I was ready to read it then it could be replaced.

It wad quite hard to do but was also very freeing. For the first time in a long time I didn’t feel guilty about buying a new book because there were so many others waiting at home that I just had to read. Of course, the idea of having to read something is really nonsensical – reading should be fun.

I was very proud of myself and kept my physical TBR down to a strict minimum (the list of books I want to read has always been ridiculously long but at least it doesn’t take up more room than a notebook). However, I have recently started to notice that it is growing and as I don’t want to have to cull them again I have made a resolution – over the summer I will do my utmost to only read books that I already own.

I am very much a mood reader so do not usually have a set TBR for any given month but, as you can see, there is quite an eclectic mix to keep me going. Some of these are re-reads (Artemis Fowl) and a couple are ones I started last year, put down and never picked back up again (Sylvia’s Lovers and The Italian). It would be so good if I could finish one of those!

There will be a couple of exceptions though. I need to read Erebus by Michael Palin for my August book club meeting and the new Murder Most Unladylike book is published next month. I will almost certainly be buying it as soon as it comes out!

The books on the bottom shelf are too tall to stand upright!

Did I buy a couple of books sooner than I might have done otherwise just because I knew I would be setting myself this challenge? Yes. Yes I did. I am the one setting the rules after all.

Do you see any favourite books? Any you think I should read first?

Reading Spot

Many people have a special reading spot to sit with a book but I never have.  Not that I have nowhere to read – far from it.  Of course, I do have my hammock chair where I love to sit and read but it is not my designated spot.  I will read anywhere and everywhere.

It’s part of the reason I take a book with me everywhere.  You never know when you might have a spare five minutes which could be filled with valuable reading time.  Waiting for a train, a tea break at work, anything is possible.

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This is Moor at 13 in Kingswear, just across the river from Dartmouth. It is a lovely place with the most amazing view!

One of my favourite things to do though is take myself out to a coffee shop, order a hot drink (and maybe a cake) and just sit by myself and read.  It is wonderful.