746 Books is 4 today!
I usually do a big celebratory round up of the year post on this day, but I’m not sure there has been a lot to celebrate blog-wise lately.
2017 has seen a slow decline in progress in my reading of the 746. I have only managed to reduce my list by a paltry 20 and have only written a handful of posts in the last few months.
I have found it difficult this year to carve out time for writing on my blog. I’m still reading, but just can’t seem to translate that into reviews. It doesn’t help that I have a tendency to write quite long reviews – meaning that sometimes just starting a post can seem like a gargantuan task and I give up before I even start. I did manage to give the blog a redesign this year, but that didn’t even kick start the reviews!
I do try to keep up with all your lovely blogs, but even that is proving difficult lately and there have been times this year when I have wondered if I should stop blogging altogether.
I have also realised that after four years, my book buying ban has to be broken. Because of the nature of my work, it is just no longer feasible for me not to read new fiction and poetry, so while I will continue to try and bring down that now iconic 746, I will be reading and possibly reviewing newer work.
The fact that my book buying ban lasted as long as it did is probably reason for celebration. The way in which I buy books will, I think, be changed forever as I am now much more aware of the fact that buying books is not the same as reading books and that the book that I feel like I must have RIGHT NOW can very quickly become a book that languishes on a shelf, unread for years.
Despite all my complaining, 2017 has still been a good year. Reading Ireland Month was a blast as always and I was delighted by the enthusiasm with which people took part. 20 Books of Summer may have been a miserable failure from my point of view, but so many of you took part that it was a joy to be involved in. Hopefully I will resurrect both these challenges in 2018, although I may stick to 10 books of summer myself!
I was delighted to reach the finals of the Irish Blog Awards this year, and I really enjoyed interviewing two fantastic novelists – Paula McGrath and Sophia Hillen – as part of the Belfast Book Festival back in June.
I also really enjoyed curating the Books that Built the Bloggers series this year, I found it fascinating to hear about the formative books of all my favourite bloggers. Thanks to everyone who took part.
In my work life, I got to meet and work with some fantastic writers and performers. It was tough to keep my professional poise when I met Bernard MacLaverty, Jennifer Johnston and Adrian Dunbar, but I think I managed!
Even if I didn’t read much this year, I did read some fantastic books. Some of my favourites didn’t get a review, but I was blown away by Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice, My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tennant and Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor.
In terms of my reads of the year from the 746, this seemed to be the year where I tried new women authors and was absolutely blown away by their writing. Four of my top five books of the year are by women writers I had ever tried before.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
I’m not sure how I got this far without reading the wonderful Marilynne Robinson. I adored Housekeeping and once I had finished it, I went straight back to the beginning and read it again. The stunning writing meant there was as much highlighted as not and I am now keen to read more of Robinson’s work.
The Blue Tango by Eoin McNamee
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Eoin McNamee’s style and of fictionalised accounts of true life events. The Blue Tango is a rich and thoughtful telling of the real life murder of Patricia Curran, for which Iain Hay Gordon was falsely convicted. The Blue Tango is the first in a trilogy, so I have the other two lined up for Reading Ireland Month. I also had the pleasure of hearing Eoin talk about his work at the Noireland Crime Fiction Festival and at HomePlace!
Good Behaviour by Molly Keane
If there is one book that I now urge everyone to read it is the wonderful, hilarious and moving Good Behaviour by Molly Keane. The novel is one long cri de coeur of Aroon St Charles, daughter and resident of the ‘big house’ Temple Alice, where she lives with her distant parents, beloved brother and assorted servants and where the only thing frowned upon is not adhering to the rules of good behaviour. This is beautifully written book that perfectly balances moments of bleak shock and sadness with sharp, dark humour and was a brilliant introduction to the work of Molly Keane
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from Olive Kitteridge, I assumed it would be a quiet novel in the vein of Kent Haruf but instead I was awed by an incredibly well-structured, beautifully written, heart-breaking series of 13 interconnected short stories, all centred around the wonderful character of Olive Kitteridge. I don’t think I have read a more fully formed character than Olive in a long time and I look forward to reading more of Elizabeth Strout’s work.
The Sorrows of An American by Siri Hustvedt
Again, this was my first encounter with Hustvedt, but I doubt it will be my last as I was pleasantly surprised by the skill and wit with which she writes, balancing a busy plot with thoughtful characters and universal themes. The Sorrows of An American had languished on my shelf for years and I’m delighted that I finally got round to discovering this fantastic writer.
As always on my blogversary, to thank you all for sticking with me, I’m going to do a little giveaway, because what is a birthday without books?
This year, one lucky winner will receive a copy of I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice. Winner of the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year Award at this year’s Irish Book Award, this is a truly beautiful book. Ruth’s tribe are her lively children and her filmmaker husband, Simon, who has Motor Neurone Disease and can only communicate with his eyes. Ruth’s other ‘tribe’ are the friends who gather at the cove in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and regularly throw themselves into the freezing cold water, just for kicks.
Just comment on or retweet this post to be entered. I will keep the competition open until Tuesday 12 December, choose one winner at random and post worldwide.
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!