My year in books

This year has been an excellent one for books, but not so much for me and reading. Mainly because of the iPad. When my Kindle packed up, I decided rather than replacing the Kindle, I’d spend the refund money on books. Because we have a Kindle app on the iPad, so I figured I didn’t really need a Kindle (but of course I always need more books).

But whenever I pick up the iPad to read a book, this happens: Check email. Check Twitter. Check Facebook. Check Google Reader. Check Instapaper. Kindle app is next, but it’s been at least 30 seconds since I last checked email and Twitter, so I check them again. And again. And again. Depending on how much I’m enjoying the book I’m reading, this stage can last from between 10 minutes to ALL FRIGGING DAY. (Actually, sometimes even if I’m really enjoying the book I’m reading and am gagging to get back to it, I can still spend a ridiculously long time in social media limbo, cursing myself all the time. What is wrong with me?!) Sometimes, even when I finally click on the Kindle app, I tell myself I need to read some of the samples (to get them out of the way) before getting back to my book and then, of course, once I’ve read a sample, I have to go and check email, and Twitter, and… *smacks self hard in face with iPad*

(At least I’m not alone – this piece by Kevin Barry, found via Ben Johncock, was very familiar. Although I only self-Google once a month, honest.)

Anyway. Despite the above madness, I managed to read the 52 Books I “reviewed” on here and a bunch of others I haven’t mentioned (cos I forgot… or couldn’t be arsed). So in no particular order…

My favourite adult books (no, not 50 Shades of Grey…):

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My favourite young adult (and slightly younger) books:

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My favourite non-fiction books:

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Some authors have two books on my faves list, so I’ve bundled them together:

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If I had to pick one absolute favourite book of the year, I think it would be Attachments – I didn’t want it to end and I’m still actually a bit annoyed that it did – but it’s so hard to choose!

Finally, one of the best things I read all year was a WIP by Louise Jones. I think it was only 10,000 words or so, but I absolutely loved it and have been nagging Louise for more ever since. Sadly, she’s been too busy carrying the Olympic torch, heading off to university, appearing in documentaries, and having talks with agents. She’s going to take the world by storm (actually, she already is) and I can’t wait to go into a book shop and buy her book.


52 Books: A Natural Woman by Carole King

12953257I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Carole King – I didn’t know all that much about her, apart from knowing she’d written some iconic songs and had one of the best-selling albums of all time with Tapestry. I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if I hadn’t been sent it by the publisher.

I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t really gripped by it. King is very laid back about her awesome (and I mean that in the original sense of the word) career and glosses over some of the most fascinating periods in music history. I mean, she worked in the Brill Building in the 60s writing songs like Will You Love Me Tomorrow and then moved to LA in the 70s and became part of the Laurel Canyon scene, but I don’t feel like this book gave me much of an impression of what either was like.

She was admirably honest about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her second husband, but then spent way too long describing a court case she’d been involved in with her third husband (over the property rights to her home – was this a huge story in America? I can’t imagine why she included it in such detail otherwise).

I was left with a definite feeling of admiration (and a new Spotify playlist), but I still feel like I need to sit down with her and say, “But what was it all REALLY like?”

52 Books: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

images-1I’ve absolutely loved the three Jojo Moyes books I’ve read (her last three published books) so I think I should probably make reading her entire backlist a priority for next year.

This book seemed to take me forever to read – no reflection on the book, I just had a bunch of distractions – but that was also a good thing, since whenever I did have some time to read, I knew I had a wonderful book to get back to.

The Girl You Left Behind has more in common with The Last Letter From Your Lover than it does with Me Before You, but if you’re interested in great storytelling, gripping historical detail and completely believable characters, you must read this book.

Pedro & Me by Judd Winick

I’m cheating again because I read this book a couple of months ago and I haven’t finished a book this week (I don’t know what’s wrong with me) (actually, I do – it’s the iPad), but I did read it and didn’t blog about it at the time so it still totally counts.

I’d had this book on my wishlist since I started my wishlist – I think I added it in early 2006. God knows why I didn’t buy it sooner – I think maybe I was worried about Feeling All The Things, because I was so obsessed with and in love with The Real World: San Francisco and I was devastated by Pedro Zamora’s death. Honestly, I can remember crying uncontrollably and feeling disbelief – he’d been so vibrant and alive in the show, it was almost unimaginable that he was dead.

Finally I decided it was time to buy it and read it and it’s just brilliant. It’s a graphic memoir (as in it’s in the form of a graphic novel, rather than it has graphic content) by Judd Winick who was a fellow Real World cast member – did you all watch it? Do you know who I’m talking about? – who became best friends with Pedro during their time on the show and remained close to him right up to his death. I say that like it was years after the show ended, but it wasn’t at all. In fact it was appallingly soon. One of the things that so upset me about this book was how young Pedro was – he was 22 when he died – and how he spent what little time he had making a difference. (You can read more about him on Wikipedia.)

But this isn’t a depressing read. It’s incredibly sad, yes – for some reason I was, once again, reading it on a bloody train and I had to stifle myself. If I’d been reading it at home, I would have been sobbing, no question – but it’s also uplifting and inspiring. Plus it’s laugh out loud funny. There’s a brilliant anecdote about Bill Clinton that made me do a laugh-sob. It was a busy train too.

If you remember Pedro and Judd, remember The Real World: San Francisco, this is a must-read.

I got a used copy from Amazon.  I was slightly put out when I realised it was a library copy, but then thrilled when I saw which library it had come from. How cool is this?

(I’ve just discovered that MTV’s Tribute to Pedro Zamora is on YouTube. I’ll have to psych myself up to watch it.)

52 Books: Going to Sea in a Sieve by Danny Baker

Until a couple of years ago, I thought of Danny Baker as a slightly annoying ‘laddish’ TV presenter who once went on a bender with Gazza and Chris Evans. But then David introduced me to his Saturday morning radio show on Five Live and I loved it. Turns out Baker is funny, clever, incredibly articulate. Who knew? (Yeah, I know. Lots of people.)

But it was when I heard him on Desert Island Discs that I was really won over and I think I preordered this book the same day. (You can listen to it here.)

The book is just as good as I expected – Baker’s voice comes through perfectly. It’s laugh out loud funny, inspiring, full of behind the scenes info and gossip about the 70s music scene and more. (The chapter about Michael Jackson is enlightening and heartbreaking and reminded me of the Onion’s article after Jackson’s death: King of Pop Dead at 12.)

Going to Sea in a Sieve actually ends at the end of the 70s (or thereabouts) and where that would normally annoy me in a memoir, in this one it thrills me because it means there are more volumes to come. Can’t wait.


52 Books: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

On holiday last week I struggled to read. I’m not really sure why – unless it is as simple as the constant availability of Twitter/email/Facebook/Pinterest/Google Reader on the iPad has in fact destroyed my attention span – but I found myself only reading ebook samples and magazines, and starting books I found I wasn’t really that interested in after all.

I bought The Lover’s Dictionary ages ago in, I think, a Kindle sale. I’ve read and loved a few David Levithan books and this one looked particularly interesting, as it’s written as a series of dictionary definitions (in alphabetical order, so not an entirely linear narrative). The Lover’s Dictionary is adult though, not YA.

I started it on Friday evening simply because it was the next book in line on the Kindle (app) and I thought my frazzled brain could maybe manage the choppy style of the text. And then I didn’t want to put it down. I read to about halfway, but had to admit defeat and go to sleep.

At about half one, Harry woke me up because he’d been sick all over his bed. Once I’d settled him in my bed, stripped his bed, washed sick off the six toys he had in bed with him and fetched him a glass of water and a bucket in case it happened again, I found I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I read the rest of the book. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

52 Books: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I read Rainbow Rowell’s latest book, Eleanor & Park, on holiday this summer and I absolutely loved it. I don’t know why I put off reading Attachments for so long, but then suddenly – possibly because I’ve been chatting with Rainbow on Twitter – it was the only thing I wanted to read (do you ever get like that? Loads of books to read, but suddenly only one will do?) I adored it. Like Eleanor & Park, it’s funny, sweet, sad and true and even though I’m glad I read it, I’m a bit annoyed too, because now I’ve got to wait ages for Rainbow’s next book (which sounds fabulous, btw).