The Books That Built the Blogger with Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings!

built-bloggers

This week on The Books That Built the Blogger, I’m delighted to welcome Karen from Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings! Her blog has long been one of my favourites, with a fantastic mix of classics, poetry and works in translation. I was so intrigued to hear about the books that made her the reader, and blogger, she is today!

kbr

If you’ve been reading books as long as I have, and you think of yourself as a voracious reader (I certainly am!) then it can be hard to pick out favourites. However, when Cathy asked me to contribute to her ‘Books That Built the Blogger’ series, I thought I would have a go at pinpointing some books that are particularly significant.

sollew17

As a child I was always reading, more often than not Enid Blytons, or basically anything I could get my hands on. We didn’t have much money for books, so the library was an essential port of call, and in our lovely little local one I came across Dr. Seuss’s I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew. This was completely unlike anything I usually read but I loved its combination of rhyming words and images, and the latter were particularly stunning – colourful and surreal, they took me far away from the dull everyday routine, and when I was grown up and had an income of my own for books, I soon picked up my own copy.

ad947c99d1b928ff33eac1d74ecf14b5

Another series of books featuring strange characters and landscapes came in the form of the Gormenghast books by Melvyn Peake. I was gifted a set of these for Christmas 1978 and spent the whole of the festive period absorbed in their wonderful narrative. I still believe Peake was a genius, with his many talents from painting, book illustration poetry and novels, but his Gormenghast stories were his crowning achievement. Not only did the books affect me emotionally, but they got me involved with the Mervyn Peake Society, and I ended up helping to run this for some time.

e9d3725946115_5602549bbc0b1

In my twenties I began to explore more widely 20th century women’s literature. One highly recommended author was Virginia Woolf, and the local book shop had Mrs. Dalloway, which was therefore the first Woolf I read. I loved it then and I love it still – I’d never come across anyone who played with language like she did and took the reader on such a breathtaking journey. I spent some time after discovering this book in reading all of her novels, essays, letters and diaries… 

if-on-a-winters-night-a-traveller

Another book that holds great emotional significance for me is one that was gifted by OH around the same time, on the recommendation of a friend of his. That book was Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night a Traveller and reading it was revelatory. If I thought Woolf played with language, here was someone who turned it on its head! I was hooked from the very start, when Calvino described the words of the page you were reading as being obscured by the smoke of the train in the story. As with Woolf, I went on to read all of his works, developing a huge obsession with his books, and I still return to them with great joy.

edc05e198c1df709f3b904214fb2c8fa

I realise that all of these books are ones I’ve read quite some time ago, so my final pick is a book I came across more recently which had a huge impact and sent me off on one of my regular bookish obsessions – “Life: A User’s Manual” by Georges Perec. I picked this up on a whim in a charity shop, having a vague memory of reading something interesting about it online, and it was one of those serendipitous finds that any bookaholic will recognise. I discovered that Perec was a part of the OuLiPo group, of which Calvino had also been a member, a group who were dedicated to playing with language. “Life” is a brilliant piece of work: long and complex, full of dazzling stories, even if you don’t get the underlying structure and constraints employed to write it, it’s still a masterpiece and utterly compelling. And needless to say I feel the need to read everything by Perec and have amassed quite a collection of his works…

So those are some of the books that made me the reader and blogger I am. Of course, if you asked me next week I might well come up with other titles – that’s the joy of reading and the joy of all the books in the world. You never know what you’ll stumble across next!

Thanks so much to Karen for taking part – what fantastic choices! I adore Mrs Dalloway, which I only read last year. I know if I had read Woolf earlier in life she would have had a profound effect on my reading. The Calvino is in the 746 so I’m looking forward to that one at some point and the George Perec sounds amazing!

Have any of these books had an influence on your reading? Don’t forget, if you’d like to take part, drop me an email to cmac2708@yahoo.co.uk

A 3rd Birthday and a Giveaway!

Today is my Blogversary!

3-today

Yep, it’s been three long years since I counted up all those books, almost had a heart attack and planned to cut down the TBR.

So, it’s another year done and how far on am I? I’m so close to the 500s I can taste it! Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have reached that milestone. 146 books in 3 years isn’t great, but it’s better than the pre-blog days and if I keep up the momentum, 746 books will be done and dusted by 2028. Go me!

Despite having made it through another year without buying myself a book, I have acquired books through other means. My use of Net Galley has risen and I did receive quite a few books from publishers this year. I have tried to stick to my (very loose) rules and only read new books by Irish writers, but this little habit has definitely slowed my progress in my challenge. I may have read 71 books this year, according to Good Reads, but I only reduced the 746 by 47.

Reading aside, I’ve had another great year on the blog. According to my friends at WordPress, I’ve had over 23,000 views and 11,500 visitors. I was also delighted this year to pass my 1,000 follower mark, so thanks to you all for continuing to read.

Highlights this year have been the second annual Reading Ireland Month back in March which generated over 100 posts.

ireland-month-17

Plans are already afoot for 2017, which I will again be co-hosting with my pal Niall of Raging Fluff fame, so if you have any books by Irish authors lurking in your TBR why not save them until March and join in the craic. This year I’ll be focusing entirely on Irish women writers, but there will be lots of other fun posts and giveaways.

20 Books of Summer also went down a treat this year, with over 120 fantastic bloggers participating and as a bonus, I actually managed to read all 20 of my books! This feature will certainly be back in 2017 as it gives my reading a real kick up the butt mid-year!

Once again I was delighted to make the finals of the Irish Blog Awards for the best Books and Literature blog – getting that far never ceases to amaze me! Plus I clearly take every opportunity throughout the year to show off about it….

finalist

On a personal level, 2016 has been both a difficult and an amazing year. Since this time last year I had the real pleasure of interviewing Nuala O’Connor and Dame Fiona Kidman for the Belfast Book Festival and of course, I started a new and wonderful job at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy. Leaving the job I had done for 17 years was frightening and daunting, but I have to say that I have never been happier. I adore my new job, surrounded by books, poetry and writers all day; it feels like it was made for me!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The intensity of my new position and some health issues this year meant that I haven’t blogged as much as usual. I am trying to rectify that and make some time for this lovely little corner of the blogosphere I call home and I just hope I can continue with the same enthusiasm next year.

I’ve never really been one for a year round up, but this year I am picking my five best reads of 2016. Of course, these haven’t been published in 2016 but you all know what I mean!

  1. The Republic of Love – Carol Shields

For sheer enjoyment, Carol Shields wonderful, heartwarming, sprawling tale of love in all its forms tops my list of the year. I didn’t read another book that made me as happy as this one.

  1. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

I didn’t get to join in with Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong as much as I would have liked, but I am so delighted that it nudged me to read this luminous, wonderful book, that was everything I hoped and more

  1. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle makes it into my Books of the Year list for the second time. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was nothing like I imagined. It was simply magnificent.

  1. The Rose Garden – Maeve Brennan

Maeve Brennan was my author of the year, with both this collection of spiky short stories and her wonderful novella The Visitor. She’s undergoing a bit of resurgence here in Ireland and next year I plan to read her biography by Angela Bourke and her collected works from the New Yorker, which have just been published by Stinging Fly

  1. Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

Can Kate Atkinson do no wrong? Ruby Lennox stayed with me long after I closed this book which is wonderfully plotted and beautifully uplifting.

I’m looking forward to a positive 2017. With Reading Ireland Month and 20 Books of Summer planned, I also hope to start a feature called ‘The Books that Built the Blogger’ where my favourite bloggers chat about the books that made them into the readers and bloggers they are today.

built-bloggers

Each month I plan to chat about a book which has formed and influenced my reading life as well. If you’d be interested in taking part, drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you.

Finally, as it’s a birthday and a birthday needs presents, I’m hosting a little giveaway today. Up for grabs is a paperback copy of Mike McCormack’s critically acclaimed one sentence novel ‘Solar Bones’

solar-bones

Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards this year, Solar Bones has been called ‘an extraordinary hymn to small town Ireland’ by The Guardian. To win a copy, just comment below. I’ll draw a winner on Monday 12 December and will post world-wide.

Good luck and thanks, as always, for reading

x

Christmas Gifts for Book Lovers

So, as I am still sick in bed, I’ve had a bit of time to do some online Christmas shopping and have come across some lovely bookish gifts perfect for the book lovers in my life and, well, for myself! I’d be delighted to see any of these items in my Christmas stocking.

Take a peek:

  1. We Have Always Lived at the Castle tee

I adore everything on the Out of Print website. I’m the proud owner of a Wuthering Heights tee, a Light in August tee and a To the Lighthouse sweatshirt, but they have outdone themselves with this gorgeous specimen, celebrating Shirley Jackson’s classic tale.

l-1171-we-have-always-lived-in-the-castle-womens-book-t-shirt_01_2048x2048

2. ‘Paperback’ perfume from The Library of Fragrance

I have no clue what this smells like, I’m not even sure it would be nice, but come on….something that makes you smell of paperback books? What’s not to love?!

paperback-30_grande3. Ulysses Tote Bag

I have completely fallen for this gorgeous tote bag featuring Leopold Bloom’s musing on the circular nature of life – ‘longest way round is the shortest way home’. There is a great range of totes at the Literary Gift Company website, but this is the one for me.

ulysses_publikum_tote_bag_grande

4. Lady Macbeth Guest Soap

I know I’ve featured it on 746 Books before, but if you have to buy me soap at Christmas, then buy me this soap. Hilarious.

lady_macbeth_soap_1024x10245. Watership Down Mug

Or the Watership Downer mug as it’s known, featuring a rabbit reading Richard Adams classic tale. Poor bunny….

watership_downer_mug_0_1024x10246. Wuthering Heights Scarf

I love these scarves by storiarts.com and the Wuthering Heights one is particularly lovely. Other featured scarves include The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables and Hamlet.

wh_scarf_01_580x2x

7. Macbeth Flats

Cute flats? With a Shakespearian theme? I’m in! I just love these cute flats by LeadFootLucy on Etsy. In fact, I’d happily take her whole collection…

il_570xn-1035659390_l6fs

8. George Orwell Phone Cover

I don’t know quite what George Orwell would have made of the ubiquity of mobile phones in the present day, but I do know I want this phone cover from Ebay!

s-l1600

9. Literature Ladies Enamel Pin

What better way to celebrate these fantastic women writers (other than reading them, obviously) than by wearing this fantastically cute pin?

normal_literature-ladies-enamel-pin10. Hot Book Girl Sweatshirt

Hey, I may not be hot and I may not be a girl anymore, but I still love this sweatshirt from notonthehighstreet.com

Can someone buy it, wear it and I will appreciate it vicariously? Thank you.

original_hot-book-girl-book-lover-s-sweatshirt

And finally, once I’ve decided what I’m going to buy, there’s always the wrapping to think of. Wrapping paper and Virgina Woolf tape are from the Literary Gift Company!

So, is there anything there you fancy adding to your Christmas list?

 

November in Review

Yet again I am playing catch up with myself! It’s the same old story – reading? Good. Reviewing? Bad. I feel like one of my old school teachers, ‘Cathy could do so much better if she would just apply herself more…’

In my defence, November has been a rather rubbish month. The obvious political situation was a downer to say the least and I have been incredibly busy in work again. I’ve also been ill and am writing this from my sick bed under the influence of strong painkillers, so if I veer off topic, or my writing appears more confused than ever, then that’s my excuse.

Despite being busy in work, I did have a really lovely month. I had the pleasure of meeting Alan Hollinghurst, who came to talk about life in Oxford studying under Seamus Heaney and I also met one of my all-time favourite poets, Bernard O’Donoghue. I don’t think poor Bernard knew what to do with me as I made him pose for photographs, sign all my copies of his collections and listen to me be a real fan-girl, but I don’t care! If you’ve never read any of O’ Donoghue’s poetry, please do. The Definition of Love is one of the most beautiful poems I know.

me-and-b

With the wonderful Bernard O’Donoghue


I also had the pleasure of hosting a panel event for The Glass Shore, a new book of short stories by Northern Ireland Women Writers, edited by the indomitable and inspiring Sinéad Gleeson. Spanning the last hundred years and featuring a range of writers including Lucy Caldwell, Rosa Mulholland, Polly Devlin and Bernie McGill, this is a wonderful and necessary collection and I hope to review it on 746 Books next week.

glass-shore

With The Glass Shore contibuters Bernie McGill & Rosemary Jenkinson and editor Sinead Gleeson.

In terms of getting the 746 into the 500’s before the end of the year, I think I’m still on track. I’ve read three more books since my last round up. Please do forgive these VERY mini-reviews, my critical faculties are not firing on all cylinders at the moment and I have a feeling I would end up making even less sense than usual if I tried to review them properly!

No 604: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

brain-on-fire

In 2009 Susannah Cahalan was a thriving 24 year old, with a new boyfriend and her dream job as a journalist for the New York Post, yet the unthinkable and unimaginable happened when she, for all intents and purposes, lost her mind. After a period of mood swings, hallucinations and extreme paranoia; all of which was put down to too much alcohol consumption by one doctor, Cahalan suffered violent seizures and psychosis, which caused her to be hospitalised for a month before being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease where her body was essentially attacking her brain.

Cahalan remembers nothing of this month in hospital and using her journalistic skills, she pieces together what happened from medical records and interviews with her immediate family. This a clear-eyed and sobering memoir, however Cahalan has that reporter’s objectivity which means that the personal side of the story is harder to access. The book is both an investigation into a patient’s illness and a personal account of being that patient, but ultimately the personal side of the story is less effective. Despite this, Cahalan is unflinching in exploring what happened to her and the strain it put on her loved ones and what comes from the book most clearly is her sense of good luck – luck in having a supportive family, luck in having parents who could afford her necessary treatment and luck in finding the right doctors at the right time. As she herself notes, others have not been so lucky.

Read On: Book

Number Read: 143

Number Remaining: 603

No 603: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

under-the-skin

Michel Faber is another author I have had the pleasure to meet in the course of my new job. Despite having three of his books in the 746, I had never got round to reading his work, but decided to rectify this.

I have seen the weirdly wonderful movie adaptation of Under The Skin, and would advise that if you have neither read the book nor seen the movie, then read the book first. Knowing the premise of Under The Skin before you read it definitely takes away from this oddly intriguing and otherworldly book. It is hard to review Under the Skin without giving key things away.

The book follows Isserley, a strange otherworldly woman who drives around northern Scotland picking up hitchhikers. As each new passenger enters her car, we learn a little more about this odd creature and her search for the perfect specimen of man – bulky, filled out, with as few family ties as possible. Faber drip feeds the reader information on Isserley’s plans for these men, to the point that when we realise what is happening, our concern is less for them and more for Isserley and her own victimisation. Written in beautifully restrained prose, Faber has created a chilling, metaphysical tale that takes its time bringing the reader where he wants you to go.

Read on: iBook

Number Read: 144

Number Remaining: 602

No 602: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

woolf

One of my aims this year was to take part in Heaven Ai’s Woolfalong – a wonderful celebration of the work of Virginia Woolf. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to take part as much as I would like, but thanks to Ali, I finally got round to reading Mrs Dalloway, which I adored and now A Room of One’s Own.

Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for 200 years merely, but from the beginning of time

Virginia Woolf’s classic study of what a woman needs to write on the same basis as a man, still holds a great influence today. It was interesting to read this whilst also reading The Glass Shore, and hearing how contemporary women writers still feel they need to create their own space, whether in a house, on pages or in the virtual world, to be granted the same consideration as their male counterparts.

Based on two lectures given in 1928, A Room of One’s Own is both a beautiful and invigorating read, which mixes solid down-to-earth advise to female writers (health, money and space matter) alongside a soaring polemic for the female writer to ‘be truthful…and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting.’ Her exploration of what would have happened to a female Shakespeare is at once entertaining and sobering and her call to celebrate the androgynous mind seems as pertinent today as it did almost 100 years ago.

This slim book is a marvel and I just wish I had read it years ago. My thanks go to Ali for giving me the necessary push to pick it up. It may be the first time I’ve read it, but it won’t be the last.

Read on: Book

Number read: 145

Number Remaining: 601

So, there we have it. Two more books and I will be in the 500’s! Given that it’ taken me three years, I really shouldn’t feel so pleased with myself, but it’s time to celebrate the small victories!

Up soon on the blog, will be my third birthday annual round up of my reading year.

How has everyone else’s reading been this year, have you reached your goals? I look forward to seeing everyone’s ‘best of’ lists.

No 630 Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

When I finished Mrs Dalloway, I did something I rarely do. I went right back to the beginning and started reading it all over again. I have a feeling that this is a book I will be returning to regularly.

mrs-dalloway

Virginia Woolf’s classic takes place in London, on a warm day in June 1923. The plot is slight. Clarissa Dalloway is hosting a party that evening and is making the necessary preparations. An old love visits her and comes later to her party, which is a wonderful success and is attended by the Prime Minister. It is a slim premise, but, as with the greatest novels, the simple structure opens out to explore love; death; the nature of time and the heart of humanity.

Mrs Dalloway opens with Clarissa going to buy the flowers for her party. She is the perfect hostess, known for her parties and her impeccable taste, but as her day unfolds, we discover that below the surface, all is not so perfect. Clarissa is being treated for depression and her past is a troubled one, with her lost love Peter Walsh and a previous lesbian relationship playing on her mind.

Equally troubled is Septimus Warren Smyth, who acts as Clarissa’s double in the novel, a Great War veteran who is suffering from shell shock and is being treated by Clarissa’s own doctor. Unable to cope with reality, Septimus commits suicide by jumping from a window and the story of his death affects Clarissa greatly when she hears of it in passing later at her party.

The story is told in a stream of consciousness, with the perspective shifting from character to character throughout the novel. As we glimpse into the minds of Clarissa, Septimus and the characters around them, Woolf creates a real sense of commonality, of people being concerned with the same issues and there is a striking sense that we are all existing in the same moment, past and present forever linked.

As the characters interact, or simply pass on the street, we are given a sense that they are all, to differing degrees, hiding their true selves from the world, unable to truly express what they feel. Their lives are a surface, but there are darker currents underneath. Clarissa is unhappy with life, but hides behind the veneer of a well-respected society lady, throwing parties to bring people to her even when they don’t satisfy her inner needs.

She sliced a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.

Her husband Richard is overcome by an urge to bring Clarissa a gift in the middle of the day and tell her he loves her, but when he is face to face with her, the words do not come. Septimus is trying to maintain a façade of sanity, but ultimately, for him, this cannot hold and he eventually chooses death over the danger of living even one more day.

Effort ceases. Time flaps on the mast. There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame

As Big Ben tolls out the hours, both Septimus and Clarissa thinks of a line from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun / Nor the furious winter’s rages.” and this line from a funeral song reminds them both that even in the midst of life, death is ever present and that within life, beauty and pain co-exist.

What is this terror? What is this ecstasy?

Clarissa both fears and welcomes death and in Septimus’s suicide, she recognises a legitimate attempt at communication.

A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies, chatter. This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death.

The scene near the end of the novel, when Clarissa retreats to her room to muse on the death of Septimus is very beautifully written and seems to me to be the heart of this novel. In my mind, Septimus is a symbol of what Clarissa could have, or may still become. So too, the old woman living in the house opposite, whom Clarissa watches going about her life, is both an image of independence and privacy as well as symbolising our ultimate isolation from others. While Septimus looks for peace through suicide, Clarissa takes comfort from his act and finds what she needs to go on living. In their depression, Septimus and Clarissa are asking the same question – what is their purpose in life? They both find solace in the beauty of life, but for Septimus this very beauty becomes too much to bear.

virginia_woolf_01

Woolf’s writing about the interior of the mind and of depression is fascinating and complex and her treatment of Septimus, as a character, is sympathetic and probably ahead of its time. He entered the Great War for simple reasons and cannot marry his ideals with what he has experienced.

Septimus was one of the first to volunteer. He went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare’s plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square.

Woolf seems to be asking whether or not the loss of someone like Septimus is a valid price to pay for the living to go on living and explores how the post-war society that Clarissa is in the centre of must recognise his sacrifice in the name of their civilisation.

I had anticipated Mrs Dalloway being a difficult book to read, and while it is necessary to read slowly and with attention, there is a beautiful flow to the prose as the reader passes from one character to another, drifting between thoughts and musings with an ease that highlights human commonality. There is a sense of time passing – not only on this day, as Big Ben strikes each hour from morning to evening, but across lives and across generations. The writing is complex but it is also incredibly beautiful, particularly the descriptions of nature.

Speaking of clouds, Woolf writes;

 Fixed though they seemed at their posts, at rest in perfect unanimity, nothing could be fresher, freer, more sensitive superficially than the snow-white or gold-kindled surface; to change, to go, to dismantle the solemn assemblage was immediately possible; and in spite of the grave fixity, the accumulated robustness and solidity, now they struck light to the earth, now darkness

By suffusing one seemingly ordinary day with such depth, significance and resonance, Woolf has created a novel that transcends its setting and its characters and becomes about what it means to be alive and how we reconcile the beauty and joy of life with the knowledge that death is always close by.

I really wish I had read Virginia Woolf when I was younger and this novel really resonated with me. I feel that this review doesn’t do the book justice at all and I would urge you to read it, particularly if, like me, you have never read Woolf before. It is beautifully written, perfectly formed and lingers in the mind long after the last page has been turned.

I have to thank the wonderful Heaven Ali for her fantastic Woolfalong – without it I may have let this wonderful book languish on the shelves for another few years. I’m looking forward to reading A Room of One’s Own in September and think I will be returning to Mrs Dalloway sooner rather than later.

a-room-of-ones-own

 

Read on: Book

Number Read: 117

Number Remaining: 629

 

2016 Bookish Resolutions!

TTT resolutions

 

I’m not usually one for resolutions and if I do make them, they tend to be small and manageable. However, when I saw that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and The Bookish was my Top Ten bookish resolutions, I thought I would take a look at what I’d like to achieve at 746 Books in 2016.

1. To read at least 60 books this year

3890

Last year I set my Goodreads Challenge at 52 and just managed it, so I’d like to push myself a little further this year and try and read 60 books. It’s not a great difference really, but would bring the 746 down to 586 which would be a nice feeling. I see people who have set goals to read 100, or even 150 books and I am envious of their ambition but there is no point in setting myself a challenge that I have no way of completing and 60 should be manageable for me.

2. To read 20 books by BAME authors

cropped-readdiverse_twitterbanner

When Naomi at The Writes of Women and Dan at Utterbiblio started Diverse December last month, I was shocked to discover how few books by BAME writers I read on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t own a few, I do, I just don’t seem to choose them for my next read. So, during December I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu and loved them both. I’m delighted to see that Diverse December has grown and will now be a year long initiative – #ReadDiverse2016, so I plan to read at least one book a month by a BAME writer. I know that doesn’t seem a lot, but it’s a start.

3. To continue my book buying ban

images

Obviously this had to be in my Top Ten, it’s the whole point of the blog! I’m still on course and still haven’t bought myself a book in the two years I’ve been doing this, although trips to the library have become more frequent as have Net Galley requests! Still, I’ll keep trying to hold my resolve. I’ve already started my birthday book list to present to my husband (Don deLillo’s new novel; Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh and American Housewife by Helen Ellis) but I’m hoping I can stay strong for another year! Andi over at Estella’s Revenge has started a 2016 no book buying challenge called #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, so if you fancy limiting your book buying this year, why not join her?

ReadMyOwnDamnBooksbutton

4. To redesign my blog

cropped-538273_392052997513232_219303267_n.jpg

I’ve been mulling over a redesign for a while now and this may be the year I finally try it out. I’m toying with a new logo and a new site theme, if I can manage to decide what I want. I may have to say goodbye to Lauren at some point, although I have grown quite fond of her at this point!

5. To take part in #Woolfalong

untitled

The lovely Ali over at HeavenAli is hosting a year long celebration of the work of Virginia Woolf during 2016. Shamefully, I have never read any Woolf, but have To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway in the 746 so I’m looking forward to taking part

6. To lose the guilt…

Sometimes I have to remind myself that my blog is my hobby, not my job. I often find myself feeling guilty for not keeping up to date with reading, reviewing or my Twitter feed. There is no point in worrying about something that should be a pleasure when I have enough other things to worry about! So, I will try and keep up with my WordPress Reader and all your lovely blogs, but if I miss a day or two it’s not the end of the world. And ultimately, if none of these resolutions are kept, then that’s not such a big disaster either.

7. To continue to explore Irish Literature and promote Reading Ireland Month

PicMonkey Collage

The main reason I have been visiting the library more and requesting galleys is my renewed interest in Irish literature. It’s been a real revelation to me over the last two years how much I love the work that comes from this little island and how much there still is to read! Along with Niall at Raging Fluff, I’ll be hosting Reading Ireland Month again during March and this year I’m going to focus on Irish women writers. There are some great initiatives out there – #WakingtheFeminists, which came about as a response to the male centric programme of 1916 Centenary events produced by the Abbey Theatre and #WomenAloudNI which will celebrate women writers from Northern Ireland on 8 March. I do hope some of you can set aside a book by an Irish author in March and join in the craic.

8. To try and complete 20 Books of summer – 3 is the magic number!

20 books of summer - master image

2016 will see my third attempt at my 20 Books of Summer challenge. During year one I read 16 and during year 2 I read 18, so I’m hoping that I can reach the magic 20 this summer. I will need to choose my books wisely…

9. To connect more through Instagram

I have become quite fond of Instagram in the last few months and plan to use it more to document my reading life. If you are on Instagram, why not follow me at CATHYB746. Be warned, you will also see dangerously cute photos of the twins and pictures of my dinner, but there is bookish stuff there as well!

10. And finally and most importantly, To have fun!

One thing I’ve learned from blogging is that I have no idea what might happen next. The bottom line is that I love reading, I love books and I love talking about them and you are all a great bunch of people to do that with. I don’t pay too much attention to my stats, I mainly just enjoy the conversations, so I plan to have more of them, have fun and be open to whatever comes my way!

So, there we have it. Ten bookish resolutions that I can look back on in a year and regret not having completed! If that is what happens, I will refer directly to No 6 again!

Do you have any bookish resolutions? Any resolutions at all? I’d love to hear them.

The TBR Book Tag!

I was tagged by Naomi at The Writes of Woman to take part in the TBR meme. Given that my whole blog is my TBR it kind of made sense to take part!

 How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

I don’t. I was so proud of myself for actually counting them all on that fateful day in December 2013, that I have made no other effort to catalogue or track what I’m reading. I have a vague intention of listing the books on my TBR when I get to around the 400 mark, but we’ll have to see about that.

Is your TBR pile mostly print or e-books?

I would say about 60% print and 40% e-books. I was buying A LOT of e-books in the run up to my book-buying ban as it was just so…easy. But I’ve been buying books pretty seriously now for over 20 years so there are a lot of print books that I have yet to get around to reading.

How do you determine which books from your TBR to read next?

I don’t really have a system, I usually go by my mood. Sometimes I turn to you guys for a Reading Roulette pick and other times I like to see if I can join in with a reading challenge that’s going on. I enjoy those because they often nudge me to read books I wouldn’t have thought of picking up. Often I have to look up a book on the internet to remind myself of what it’s about and why I may have bought it, which is a little embarrassing!

lucky-jim

What book has been on your TBR the longest?

I had a discussion on Twitter with Naomi about this and came up with Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, which I bought when I was in second year at University in 1990 (there goes the secret of my age!). However, on reflection, I realised that my Dad bought me a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens when I was 10 and I haven’t read it yet. Yeah, that one is 34 years unread. That’s scary.

un-chant-de-noel-556924

 A book you have recently added to your TBR?

Anyone following the blog will know that I haven’t bought a new book FOR MYSELF for almost two years, although my husband has been very good in buying a few books for me for birthdays and Christmas. The last few books that officially got added to the 746 were The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. That was my last binge before starting the blog and the no-buy challenge.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

I try not to say that I will never read a book, because obviously at the point when I bought every book on my TBR pile I wanted to read it. The one I think might be the last in my challenge is Infinite Jest. I have tried to read it about 10 times. The furthest I’ve ever got is page 100. And if you’ve seen Infinite Jest you’ll know that’s not too far into that big, big book. It would take a lot to make me pick it up and try it again, although if I’m going to finish what I’ve started, then I’ll have to read it at some point!*

*and best not mention Ulysses……

Infinite_jest_cover

An unpublished book on your TBR?

Nope. None. Obviously.

A book that is on your TBR because of the cover

Probably more than I would care to admit to. A few include Swell by Corwin Ericson; St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell and the stunning Building Stories by Chris Ware

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends

The Hound of the Baskervilles. It keeps getting recommended to me and I keep threatening to read it. Someday, I promise.

A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you

I sometimes feel that I am the last person on earth (Ok, the blogosphere) to have read anything by Virginia Woolf. I intend to get around to Mrs Dalloway sometime soon. I also wonder if there is anyone else who has yet to read Stoner?

index

A book on your TBR that you are dying to read

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt but I keep putting it off because I think it’s not going to live up to my expectations.

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart

How many books are on your TBR?

Officially it stands at 654 at the moment, however I’ve read two more books that I haven’t reviewed yet.

So 652.

I’m managing to read about 50 a year, so I guess I’ll be here until about 2028…..

 Tagging:

Niall at The Fluff is Raging

Naomi at Consumed by Ink

Barbara at Book Club Mom

Melanie at Grab the Lapels