Random Bookish Thoughts – 13 November

On things being a little spooky

So, we’ve had Halloween and Friday 13th within a couple of weeks of each other. I’m not normally one for spooky reading – my imagination is far too overactive – but I found myself at home, on Halloween, at a bit of a loose end, and so I read Susan Hill’s classic The Woman in Black.

I’ve got to say, I think I just don’t really ‘get’ Susan Hill’s ghost stories. I mean, people rave about this book. They study it for GCSE, for heaven’s sake. Daniel Radcliffe was in the movie adaptation, and – well – after Harry Potter, isn’t that a pretty high bar? I’ve read a couple of Susan Hill novellas before – The Mist in the Mirror, and one or two others – and they didn’t leave much of an impression, but I always thought this one would be different.

Well, sorry. It just wasn’t. It wasn’t bad, exactly. The whole thing just left me a little….meh.

I downloaded The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) to my Kindle at the same time, but haven’t read it yet. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of my favourite favourites, so I have high hopes.

On the honest-to-goodness God-damn-awesomeness of David Mitchell

I’m going through a wee bout of insomnia at present. (Being only two weeks back from California,  I blame jet lag, rather than a subconscious impact of Susan Hill’s ghost stories. But there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, etc.) Anyway, for whatever reason, I haven’t got to sleep before 2.30am any night this week. It’s a trial. But at least it gives me plenty of time for reading.

On two consecutive nights, I stayed up late finishing David Mitchell novels – on Sunday, The Bone Clocks, which I read in a day. I’ll review it, at some point, but really, you shouldn’t wait till then to read it. You should go and read it right now. If not sooner. Seriously, if you’re still reading this, stop it and go and read David Mitchell. You won’t regret it.

And if you’re still reading this, then I can only assume you’ve already read The Bone Clocks, and are mulling over whether to read Slade House. Well, that was the one which kept me up till the small hours on Monday night, so – you should. Problem solved. Although maybe don’t read it alone, in a quiet house, at 2am like I did. Cos, you know, at 2am the boundaries between fantasy and reality sort of….thin out. A bit. Enough to stop you getting to sleep, anyway.

On things I’ve recently read, am currently reading, and am possibly reading next, as well as arbitrary targets and deadlines

Apart from all the spookiness and David Mitchell, I’ve recently finished Down Under by Bill Bryson (funny and informative, like all the best non-fiction), and The Cocktail Party, a play by TS Eliot (not great, if I’m honest, despite its author being the best poet of the 20th century). I’m halfway through The Lake House by Kate Morton, which I downloaded as a little light relief, and which is diverting enough, but somewhat unfortunately almost identical to every novel the author has ever written. Perhaps I’m just getting old.

I’m close to admitting that I’m not going to reach my goal of reading 100 books this year. Once it becomes a clearly impossible task, I’m anticipating a little relief, because I’m actually finding myself drawn to longer books  – and classics – for winter. I’m not sure I’ll set myself an absolute reading target again. It drives me towards quantity over quality, and in a world where more books are published each year than one could possibly read in a lifetime, what on earth – really – is the point? I’d much rather (she says sniffily) focus on the books which I actually want to read, the tomes recommended by people I trust.

I do like a good list, though. Well, we’ll see, when the new year rolls around.

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Welcome to 2015 – bookish goals

22 hours into 2015, and I have done nothing productive. I’m OK with it. Everyone knows the real new year doesn’t start till January 2nd (right?). I have, however, been thinking today about what I’d like to get out of this year. I’m always a little nervous of making goals and plans public, in case I change my mind or get busy/distracted/bored halfway through – always dangerous to have a public record of grand plans. But it’s good for me to get out of my comfort zone occasionally, and so here they are:

1. Numbers first – read 100 books this year. I’ve done that once before, in 2013; last year the total was much lower – 60 – because of a three-month reading slump, too much time working, and a lot of non-fiction. The challenge is going to be reading more books whilst still keeping up with my non-fiction and classics club aims – in 2013 I found myself reading a few ‘filler’ quick reads in November and December, just to make sure I got to the magic number.

2. Get stuck in to my Classics Club list. I put the list together in November and have only read one so far (Great Expectations); I’m about 150 pages into Bleak House but stalled a bit over Christmas. Listening to Radio 4’s adaptation of War and Peace today made me want to get on with that one, too. Always good to start the year with a couple of light reads (!). But I really need to read at least one a month, to make a dent in the list this year.

3. Read from a wide range of genres, and read at least one non-fiction book a month (on average). This is one of my favourite things about my reading habits over the past couple of years; it’s really only since 2012 or so that I’ve had much interest in non-fiction, but it made up more than half of my favourite new reads last year.

4. Engage more with social media. I started this blog a while ago but have been sporadic to the point of neglect. I’m going to start by trying to post at least twice a week in January. I’m going to try to get better at keeping up with Twitter, too, rather than my current phases of checking every hour interlaced with not looking for a fortnight. I’m also looking for some interesting challenges/readathons to join in with, so watch this space.

5. Be less apologetic about re-reading. With a TBR pile running to several hundred volumes, and an Amazon wishlist of a similar length, I sometimes feel bad about reading something I’ve read before – but I nearly always get something new out of it when I do.

6. Try to buy fewer books than I read. (Quite frankly it’s that, or move to a bigger house.)

They don’t look too scary when I see them written down like that, with the possible exception of 6 (I have a little problem with willpower). I’m actually quite excited to get started! Right after watching the rest of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince…