Categories
Do The Reading I Need To Talk About This Reading Challenges

I read 125 books in 2020 and this is what I learned…

  1. I’ll never stop finding books I want to read.
  2. Reading in this volume made me evaluate writing styles, plot directions, and stock characters in a new way.
  3. There are always new areas, regions, genres, sub-genres, publication forms, and other exciting things to be found. If you think “you’ve read everything”, you’ve not opened your mind to all the possibilities around you.
  4. Having a small community of avid readers in my space has made the world of difference. Especially as my reading family come at books in entirely different ways.
  5. I love talking and writing about books and I want to do that more.
  6. I enjoy giving books as much if not more than I enjoy buying books for me.
  7. Emotionally, I delineate between (1) “books I read for me”, (2) “books I read because I’m worrying about what other people think”, and (3) “books for work”. Sometimes, the intellectual pressure pile yields a gem, but I’d like to focus more on my joys in 2021.
  8. My learning disabilities are present rather than separate in my reading habits. I now understand better what does/does not hold my attention, when in the day I read most comfortably, what kind of writing asks me to find pictures in words rather than offers images easily, which fonts to avoid, that I get anxious reading books with very tight spines, etc.
  9. My triggers and gore thresholds have changed.
  10. I hate conventional book clubs but “buddy reading” – where I read at the same book around the same time as one or two other people – is great.
  11. There is, actually, a balance to “books bought” vs. “books read”. I do not enjoy being surrounded by too many books I haven’t read but I do need a range of choices.
  12. Shock realisation: I don’t want a big library of books unless I love them all. I am really unromantic about a book once it has been read. I’d like to think more about where the books I get rid of go to. I’d also like a designated “unread” bookcase (a small one), so I don’t keep finding things I haven’t read and stressing out.
  13. I am very fussy about the “Young Adult” literature I read and need to keep space between the different YA options I read to have the greatest enjoyment of them.
  14. I still love self-help books and I’m going to try to confront my internalised snobbery about the fact that I like reading about cleaning, wellness, and spirituality.
  15. I still need and love audiobooks. I wish my local library had a richer range of content.
  16. Long books can be a relief as well as a chore. I will definitely keep an eye out for a 500+ page novel in 2021.
  17. If a “classic” or venerated book doesn’t speak to me, I need to move on and not feel emotionally or intellectually negligent.
  18. I need to keep up my non-fiction reading because I value it but…
  19. I should maintain a 1:4 ratio of non-fiction to any other form because I read a lot of fragments of non-fiction when at work.
  20. READING FOR WORK COUNTS AS STILL “COUNTS” AS READING.
Categories
Do The Reading Reading Challenges

Recommend Me a Book

If you are reading this, you have probably volunteered to help me find new books and read new things.

The task: Recommend/Buy* me a book you think I should read or you think I will like. Any format: prose, poetry, non-fiction, graphic novel, or anything else.

Rules (some can be broken):

  • Books under 350 pages (dyslexic friendly)
  • Avoid American authors unless you don’t want to
  • No anti-Islamic terrorism stories
  • No disposable sexual assault plot lines
  • Less keen on YA (because I read a lot). Avoid contemporary school settings
  • Only your most unusual or particularly special crime thrillers

Authors I have read a significant amount of work by/everything currently in print by:

Han Kang; Akwaeke Emezi; Arthur Conan Doyle; Octavia E. Butler; Toni Morrison; Dorothy L. Sayers; John Le Carré; George Orwell; F Scott Fitzgerald; Becky Chambers; Truman Capote; Neil Gaiman; Jane Austen; Anthony Trollope; Agatha Christie; Lisa Kleypas. Alice Oseman; Natasha Ngan; Sue Grafton; Patricia Cornwall.

Favourite books that I have read recently:

  • The Emperor’s Babe – Bernadine Evaristo
  • On a Sunbeam – Tillie Walden
  • Dawn – Octavia E. Butler
  • You Should See Me in A Crown – Leah Johnson
  • The Deep – Rivers Solomon
  • Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds – adrienne maree brown
  • The Death of Vivek Oji – Akwaeke Emezi
  • Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid
  • Jazz – Toni Morrison
  • The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
  • The Unspoken Name – A.K. Larwood
  • Asha and the Spirit Bird – Jasbinder Bilan
  • Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
  • Trans Power – Juno Roche
  • Pet – Akwaeke Emezi
  • Heartstopper Vols. 1-3 – Alice Oseman

*Budget will be supplied by me or I’ll buy the book on your recommendation. Please use independent booksellers.

Categories
Books That Changed My Life Do The Reading I Need To Talk About This Reading Challenges The Isolation Reads

What do you get if you read 100 books in nine months?

Perhaps the most interesting side effect of lockdown for me has been returning to reading in a big way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been an avid reader forever, but I encounter extreme slumps as well as periods where reading just isn’t my preferred way to pass time. Unlike some people who didn’t feel like reading over the last few months, I have (perhaps counterintuitively) found getting back into books has helped me navigate living alone in a (relatively) new city where most of my friends live away. More than that, it helped me to understand the value of moving from computer screens to paper for me as a dyslexic person. I experience screen fatigue (including the TV) a long time before I experience word fatigue. The nights I have gone to bed at 21:00 with a book, I have almost universally slept better. Why? Because I ditch my phone and am really present in a low energy state, generally feeling chilled. I do audit what read before bed, but I also have very familiar audiobooks I listen to at night to counteract any triggering content.

            I would love to tell you that this reading spurt has made me more decisive about what I read but that would be untrue. As we speak, I am “stuck” with a book I want to like, but find dull, and can’t quite commit to abandoning. This is really silly given that, when this happened during the alphabet challenge, I immediately picked up pace when I accepted that I was never going to “get” Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. The writing is beautiful but after 15 minutes I would be fidgety and disengaged. In fact, it put me to sleep for one of my two naps in the last 18 months. I wanted to love it and be immersed. Almost all of my reading pals speak very highly of it, but truth be told, it just wasn’t for me. Maybe after writing this post, I will commit to hiding the volume by my bed, removing it from my Goodreads “currently reading” list, and see if I experience any inclination to return to it.

            What else have I learned? I really, really enjoy a reading challenge that has very open parameters. I set myself a monumental task when I took on my own “Reading The Alphabet” challenge. I wanted to tackle my 100+ book To Be Read (TBR) pile and so I committed to read a book by authors with surnames beginning with every letter of the alphabet. I had to supplement here and there. (Thank God I did, because The Autobiography of Malcolm X was a standout read.) But I also got caught up in reading (1)in alphabetical order, (2) at least one fiction and non-fiction entry, and (3) [DON’T DO THIS] as many entrants per letter as possible. What should have been 26 books could have become fifty-two books plus any bonus “extra” reads. The problem here came when I hit A Brief History of Seven Killings. I had read lots of “heavy” books at this point and was really looking forward to a graphic novel a lot of letters away. Finally, I decided to “break” the order and read what excited me, which is perhaps the best lesson of this year. I also committed to skim the James in a 90-minute speed read and move on.

            Not so long ago, I wrote a blog about my trepidations in approaching The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel because it was such a big book! All of my neurodivergence warning bells go off if I could hurt myself dropping a book, the word fatigue means it could take weeks, and it’s a dense story. HOWEVER, I am so glad I started my lockdown reads with it because (1) I loved it, (2) I managed it in a weekend, and (3) it prepared me to try out “bigger” books. I pre-ordered some hardbacks and for the first time in my life, am almost entirely on top of them where I would ordinarily reach for a paperback first. I have no idea how many more books I will read this year. I am loving doing The Black Book Challenge with Leighan so that is pushing me along. I have so many exciting unread titles in the house that I am on a real book buying ban for a while.

            I thought I would end with a list of my highlights of 2020 so far. Note: these are books I have read in 2020, not necessarily books published in 2020. I hope you enjoy some of them, and I look forward to writing up many pending reviews.

P.S. I went to look at my Goodreads to compile this list and got very overwhelmed by how many of these books I really loved.

Hannah’s Reading Highlights so far:

  1. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  2. The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo
  3. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
  4. Trans Power by Juno Roche
  5. Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan
  6. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
  7. Heartstopper (Vols. 1-3) by Alice Oseman [ALL of the volumes are great]
  8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  9. Flèche by Mary Jean Chan
  10. Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe
  11. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  12. The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin
  13. The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
  14. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
  15. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  16. Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
  17. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  18. Jazz by Toni Morrison
  19. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
  20. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  21. Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown
Categories
Reading Challenges The Isolation Reads

Read the Rainbow Challenge

Hi! If you are new here, welcome! I am Hannah, a bookworm with a book buying problem. I am also a workaholic and on annual leave during a global pandemic so I’ve decided to jazz up “shopping” my To Be Read pile.

The task: to read at least one red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink (indigo and violet were impossible) book in one week.

I have made my colour distinctions on the basis of the spines of books but you do you on that. Amazingly, I have a surprisingly large selection of material available to me although I have almost double the amount of blue books (17) and half the green books (5) in comparison to the other options. I hope to read a range of genres, geographical locations, and styles of book but I am not imposing any other restrictions.

My goal: one of each colour. At least 10 books read.

In order to make this fun and manageable, I am not going to write “full blogs” about each book but I will update this post with the titles and some details in the following format:

  • Details:
  • Impression [delete as appropriate]: OMG amazing / I really enjoyed! / Yeah, it was good / Eh, it was fine / I would not buy this if I were you / It’s not for me but ….
  • Summarise in five words:

May the odds be ever in my favour!

RED

Onjali Q. Raúf. The Boy at the Back of the Class. London: Orion Children’s Books. 2018
OMG amazing
Brilliant kids challenge refugee crisis

ORANGE

Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ. Black Star Nairobi. Brooklyn: Melville House. 2013.
I really enjoyed it.
Compelling, pacy, perilous international thriller.

Johny Pitts. Afropean: Notes from Black Europe. London: Penguin Books. 2019
Yeah, it was good.
Social cultural scrapbook with tunes
Geek note: I made a Spotify playlist of songs that are mentioned, are by artists who come up in the book or I really rate. You can find it here.

YELLOW

Amrou Al-Kadhi. Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen. London: Fourth Estate. 2019
I really enjoyed it.
Queerness, family, faith, home, tussling.

GREEN

Alice Oseman. Heartstopper Vol. 3. London: Hodder Children’s Books. 2020
OMG amazing
Pure queer teen emotional intelligence.

BLUE

Mary Jean Chan. Flèche. London: Faber & Faber. 2019
OMG AMAZING
Queer agony fencing with words.

Toni Morrison. The Bluest Eye. London: Vintage. 2016.
I can’t call it “OMG amazing” because I’m not gushingly enthusiastic: Brilliant and beautiful.
Bittersweet stories of neighbourhood pain

Alice Oseman. Heartstopper Vol. 2. London: Hodder Children’s Books. 2019
OMG amazing
Pure queer teen romance feels.

PURPLE

Marina Benjamin. Insomnia. London: Scribe Books. 2019
It’s not for me, but the insights on insomnia (as lived experience) are legit.
Rambling pretentious sleep-deprived whimsy

PINK

Guy Gunaratne. In Our Mad and Furious City. London: Tinder Press. 2019.
OMG amazing
Brutal London tensions burning hot.