Books I’ve Been Reading Lately – October 17 to January 18

Do you set reading goals in the New Year? I thought about doing it but decided against it. I don’t think finally finishing Sapiens counts. I’m going to continue to make an effort to read consistently and fairly broadly and try not feel guilty about indulging my love of fantasy.

Here’s what I got through over the last few months.

 

All the Harry Potter books by J K Rowling

Encouraged by a couple of friends, I finally read the seven Harry Potter books. I had thought it was pointless as I didn’t get to read them as a child (being too old) and disliked the first film. However, hardly a week goes by without some reference to Harry Potter.  I enjoyed the first few books but got properly hooked about midway through the third. From there on in, they just got better and better as the kids grow up and the plots get darker and more complex.

The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is nothing short of brilliant. If you’re a fan but haven’t checked it out already, J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website is well worth a look. You can get sorted into your Hogwarts House and find out your Patronus. I dearly wanted the Sorting Hat to place me in Ravenclaw with the other dreamers – and it did!

 

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Christmas Past by Jodi Taylor

Another Christmas short story from the St. Mary’s Chronicles. What a treat. I especially enjoyed this one because it continues on from the last book in the series about a lovable bunch of time-travelling historians, rather than being a complete standalone. It amazes me how Jodi Taylor manages to mix humour in with dark themes so effortlessly. This quick read involves a journey back to Dickensian London to brighten the wretched lives of two young chimney sweeps on Christmas Eve.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book has recently been made into a film by Steven Spielberg. It’s set in a dystopian near-future where people spend most of their time plugged into a virtual reality programme called the OASIS. In his Will, its creator states his multi-billion fortune will go to the first person who completes a quest within that virtual universe. He was obsessed with the books, comics, films and most of all, videogames, that he grew up with in the 1980s and the “Easter Egg hunt” is based on knowledge of the pop culture of the time. Therefore if you don’t remember the 80s, the constant references are likely to become tedious. The nostalgia the writer obviously feels for that era is half the pleasure of the book.  Being a child of the 80s myself and a fan of fantasy novels, I loved it.

 

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Well this was a big mistake for the beginning of January. What a wretched tale of the cruel mistreatment of children and the horrors of the workhouse. Thank goodness Dickens brought awareness to this issue in the 19th Century but I did not need to read about it during a depressing start to the year. I picked it because after Ready Player One I wanted to swing back into the past. I have a weird tendency after finishing a book to want to read something that’s the polar opposite. I’d only read A Christmas Carol so wanted to try more Dickens and thought this one would be accessible. It wasn’t a difficult read and there was some justice and salvation, but overall the grimness didn’t make it worth my while.

 

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

I found this via self-improvement writer, Mark Manson’s recommendations of the 5 Best Books for Anxiety and Depression.

For those of us worrying we are not “winning at life”, self-compassion is the answer. You read a lot about self-care but fostering a kind, compassionate attitude to yourself is what really makes the difference. It can interupt the habit of regretting the past, beating yourself up in the present and fearing the future. People tend to pour scorn on self-help books but I have come across a handful that have totally shifted my perspective and changed my life for the better: this is one of them.

 

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Please share what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!

 

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20 Comments

Filed under Book Review

20 responses to “Books I’ve Been Reading Lately – October 17 to January 18

  1. Dear Tara, no resolutions or goals for me, apart from the ones I probably always have 🙂
    Oh, and yes one: to start writing again, comments and posts!
    At least I did a bit of reading. Spurred on by the Series Babylon Berlin, I found the Kutscher crime novels about Gereon Rath in the 30s Berlin, which also fitted nicely into wanting to read a bit in German again. And an old Agatha Christie or two were consumed as well. Now I’m definitely ready for the less light stuff 😉

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    • It’s always lovely to hear from you Asali, no matter when. Wow, I do admire you hugely for being able to read books in other languages.
      I really should try an Agatha Christie one of these days.

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  2. I envy you a little: I think that the way you did is the right way of reading Harry Potter books. I started reading when there were just 4 of them, and I enjoyed them a lot. But by the time the fifth book came out, it was completely out of my mind, and I couldn’t tune back in. I tried reading the fifth book but couldn’t.
    Not much reading for me lately: because of work, I don’t have enough time to do both – blogs and books, do for now I choose blogs, not as much as reading but rather as communication with other people with similar interests.
    I might try to introduce more reading into my life – just to do something that I used to love. But I’m not sure any more even what kind of books I’d like to read now.

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    • I saw when you commented on Ines’s recent blog post that you used to love reading. Time pressure is a big issue though. I hope you can carve out some time to try and discover what kind of books you’d enjoy now. One of the nice things about owning a Kindle is that you can try free samples and having the app on your phone means you always have a book with you.
      Yes, being able to read all the Harry Potter books in one go was ideal.

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  3. Lady Jane Grey

    Well, I was thinking about a NY resolution of reading less… I should do more and other useful things, more sport, more socializing, etc.
    Anyway, I‘ve never read any of the Parry Potters… I started once, but couldn‘t get in – might give them another go.
    A recent easy read was Sarah Vaughan‘s Anatomy of a Scandal, a good company during my travels for work in January. I always read several books parallely – right now it‘s Mishra Pankaj‘s An End to Suffering : The Buddha in the World, which so far sounds like an autobiography and I enjoy it very much. Then there are the books I picked up when visiting my favorite bookshop, Daunt Books in Marylebon : A Wood of One‘s Own (by Ruth Pavey) – and I had to think of Liz Moores of Papillon… And a funny little paperback A Cat, a Man, and Two Women (by Junichiro Tanizaki), for us cat lovers…

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    • Resolving to read less is too funny LJG as so many of us want to read more. I can see how exercising and seeing friends would be a higher priority if that’s suffering as a result. Having a book with you must make all your travelling considerably easier though. Thanks for mentioning all the books you have on the go. I’m also one for reading a couple at once, though normally they will be a novel and a self-improvement book.

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  4. Woohoo! You read them all! I am so happy for you. Especially because you enjoyed them. 😀
    I’ve re-started the Mortal instruments series after finally watching the movie. I wasn’t hooked when I read the first book (some years ago) but now it’s fine because I don’t have high expectations (nor much concentration). 😉

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    • Ines, I did it and they were fantastic! I can totally see your passion for them and why people re-read them regularly. It’s such a comforting, magical world, even with its dark side. I’m so happy you encouraged me.
      You must let me know how you get on with the Mortal Instruments series. I know a lot of teenage girls love it and I read YA but not sure about it, like you. I’m going to read Six of Crows at some point.

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  5. Bee

    I finished Jon McGregor’s ‘Reservoir 13’ and it was so stunning I immediately wanted to read it again. Simply beautiful, almost hypnotic writing. I have loved all his work since his first book ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things’.

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    • Bee, I looked up Reservoir 13 and it sounds intriguing. It also piques my interest when books have won or been shortlisted for awards, like this one. It’s a rare but wonderful feeling when you finish a book and want to immediately start at the beginning again.

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  6. Tara C

    I am reading Tom Hanks’ book of short stories « Uncommon Type » (every story includes a typewriter somewhere in the tale) in English, and the journal of Sylvain Tesson « Une Légère Oscillation » in French. I mostly read in French, just to keep in practice.

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    • I’m so impressed that you read in French as that can’t be as relaxing but a great way to keep up your language skills.
      I had no idea Tom Hanks had a book out but I really like the concept.

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  7. My reading level got off to a great start in 2018 with 3.5 books under my belt for January already, versus just less than one a month in 2017. I am sure it can’t last. 😉

    Glad you enjoyed Harrods Potter series and the compassion book sounds good. My favourite read recently was Saturday by Ian McEwan, and am currently enjoying Damage Control, a thriller by Denise Hamilton with an enjoyable perfume leitmotif running through it.

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    • You got off to a great start, V. I’d be very happy to reach 40 books this year but that’s being ambitious. It’s all too easy to get into a reading slump.
      Unfortunately I’ll never forgive Ian McEwan for the ending of Atonement. A thriller with a perfume leitmotif sounds perfect for you!
      I still smile at Harrods Potter 🙂

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  8. crikey

    I really enjoyed Ready Player One, for the same reasons as you. But I’m not a Harry Potter fan–though that’s probably shaped by reading them as a grumpy adult. If I’m in a very bad mood I describe them as “Mallory Towers with magic” but that’s because I’m mean and judgemental. And I feel bad about being so mean about things that are so widely loved.

    I do, however, love Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci novels. And a bunch of her others, particularly Howl’s Moving Castle and Year of the Griffin. Do you know them? And I’m a fan of great deal of other young adult fiction. I think it’s where some of the best storytelling is happening.

    I’m just finishing Robert Macfarlane’s “Landmarks”, which is a rather extraordinary book about the relationship between language and place. (Have you seen Lost Words? the gorgeously illustrated children’s book he collaborated on?)

    Before that, Peter Korn’s “Why We Make Things and Why it Matters: The Education of a Craftsman” was an interesting read–part memoir, part musing on the changing role of craft, and part general philosophy about learning. Good, but a little unsatisfying. And Lizzie Ostrom’s Century of Scents, which was a delight. Oh, and Sally Mann’s memoir, “Hold Still”. Which was far more engaging than I expected–though I am not sure why my expectations were so low, given how much I love her photography.

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    • crikey, you’ve read the Harry Potter books so you’re entitled to your opinion! I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with them as an adult. I don’t think anything can compare to reading them as a child.
      I really enjoyed catching up on what you’ve been reading. All sound interesting books. I haven’t read the Chrestomanci series but I looked them up and think I might get them for my niece when she’s turns 10.

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  9. Helen

    I never finished the Harry Potter books. I enjoyed reading the first ones to my younger son but as the books got fatter they lost me. The last one I read had silly plotting where a supposedly public event – plus audience -was invisible to the audience. My son says they improved after this but the illusion of reality was shattered… I too love Dianne Wynne Jones and heartily second the Chrestomanci and Howl recommendation.
    One great feature of her work is the way she introduces characters that are initially opaque, where a readers perceptions of them change and evolve. The plots don’t feel boxed up and prejudged in advance (like the way Draco Malfoy is introduced in Harry Potter). I also love and re-read DWJ’s adult/young adult fiction like ‘The Dark lord of Derkholm,’ (and its sequel, ‘The year of the Griffin’), Deep Secret, The Merlin Conspiracy, Hexwood etc. These are brilliant fantasy novels that anyone can enjoy.
    As to reading in general, I commented on Vanessa’s blog that I think one reason my reading patterns have changed is because there is so much information online.It is now easy to follow interests like history, science, archaeology in a way that was impossible before, to read near contemporaneous blogs and articles written by archaeologists or palaeontologists, to get an insight into work in the field instead of waiting years to see published work.
    I really enjoyed this post, all the best, Helen

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    • Many thanks for your comment, Helen.
      It’s a shame you didn’t get on with the Harry Potter books. Maybe you’ll give them another try one day. I know the Muggles couldn’t see the Quidditch World Cup – if that’s what you’re referring to – but the audience certainly could!
      It has been interesting to read up on Dianne Wynn Jones, because I’d only been aware of the name before. I appreciate the further recommendations.
      You’re absolutely right that our reading habits have changed since the advent of the internet. I’m sure that’s true for 99.9% of people. For the better overall, I think.

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  10. Hi Tara, ah books and perfume too many and not enough time! i like getting recommendations saves time! lately I have read a YA novel Untidy Towns, The little Paris Bookshop, Sherlock Holmes short stories, The subtle art of not giving a F##k, and catching up on Netflix series ie: bingeing.

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    • Hi Anna Maria,
      I love that you’ve read Mark’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F##k. He’s been such a great help to me. I need to read the Sherlock Holmes books at some point. Netlix bingeing is the best 🙂 I’m on Riverdale at the moment.

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