Reading woe.

It’ll be no news to anyone here that I’m a big reader. Books and stories in all their written forms make me so happy. There are times though when reading starts to escape me, and no matter what I do there’s just an absence of interest in reading books at all.

I’ve been in one of these reading slumps for the last few weeks, pretty much since I left London. I thought to start with it was simply my change of routine – I’m not commuting now so I don’t have that allocated time where I read books. It can’t be that, or just that, though. If it was I’d find other times in my day in between the things I’m doing and settle down with a book, and yet I’m not. 

I am still reading. I’ve been catching up with some of the articles I’ve saved in my Pocket / Reading List, I’ve been flicking through magazines. I’m still reading fanfiction (one of these days I’m going to seriously investigate what it is that’s different between reading books and reading fanfiction because there is definitely something different, I’ve spoken to too many people who find exactly the same for there not to be something behind it). Books, not so much, despite the incredible pile I’ve got filled with books I’m excited about.

Today though, I started reading a book. It’s an advance copy of a book that I got through NetGalley, I downloaded it onto my tablet and can when I checked that the download had worked found myself reading the first page. And then the next, and the next, until I realised I was 100 pages in.

I’m not sure what changed. I worry that if I think too hard about it this little flurry of book reading might be scared away again. Instead I’m going to just keep on, and hope that one book leads to the next and the next and this reading slump will become a distant memory.


Getting back to facts

A contestant on a quiz show I was watching earlier talked about being a voracious reader (she read anything from 1 to 10 books a week) and how her favourite books to read were autobiographies because she liked to know about people’s lives. This made me think, particularly as I’d spent the afternoon as the cinema watching the excellent Hidden Figures.

I read a lot by most people’s standards. I don’t read a whole lot of nonfiction though. Most years I read in excess of 100 books and less than 10 will have been nonfiction. There’s no good reason for this though, I love a good autobiography (like the woman on the quiz I love finding out about other people’s lives) and am slowly getting to grips with essay collections.

I’m currently reading an essay collection by Alana Massey (very slowly, since stopping my daily commute I’ve seen a significant drop off in reading) and am putting the Hidden Figures book on my must read soon list. I’m going to try for the rest of the year to make sure that the proportion of nonfiction ends up significant more than normal. I want to make sure it’s a good mixture of nonfiction too – it’d be easy to just catch up on some of the autobiographies I’ve been meaning to read for the last few years but instead I’ll try to make my nonfiction reading more rounded in the same was as I do with my fiction reading. It feels increasingly important that facts and truths and knowledge are at the centre of everything so I’m ready to get reading and learning. 

Personal · Reading

My 2014 in books – the halfway point.

I love reading and I love statistics so I always love posts about reading stats, whether my own or others’. The last time I talked properly about the stats behind my reading was at the end of 2012 (you can see that post here) – I wasn’t so good about keeping detailed stats in 2013 unfortunately.

I didn’t set any specific reading goals at the beginning of 2014, I simply decided I wanted to be more mindful about what I was reading. I wanted to continue to extend the range of books I was reading, and I wanted to make sure there was greater diversity in my reading both when it came to the characters in the books and the people who were writing them. With that in mind I drew up a spreadsheet so that I could track all sorts of data about what I was reading and have been filling it in ever since.

I wasn’t going to write a halfway post which is why now I’ve decided to do it it’s coming towards the end of July rather than the beginning (I am still only counting the books read between 1st January and 30th June). Part of this was because I didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped in the first half of the year. I think though that it’s still worth looking at how my reading in the first six months of the year breaks down – I have a feeling the picture in the second half of the year may be a little different. No graphs in this post I’m afraid, you’ll have to come back at the end of December for that fun!

The Basics.
So far in 2014 I’ve read 32 books. Of these the target age breakdown is as follows:

Children’s (8 and under) – 2
Middle Grade (8 – 12) – 10
Young Adult – 15
Adult – 5

I’m a little surprised by this, whilst I knew the Children’s figure would be low I definitely didn’t expect the Middle Grade figure to be as high as it is. I love middle grade fiction but hadn’t realised I’d read quite so much already this year.

Only one of the books was non-fiction, of the 31 fiction books I read 1 was a novella, 2 were picture books and the rest were novels. I haven’t read any short stories or graphic novels yet this year.

The Authors.
So far this year I’ve looked at a couple of traits for the authors who’ve written the books I’ve been reading. In terms of nationality they breakdown:

Australian – 1
French – 1
Irish – 2
American – 9
British – 19

I really wish there was a bit more of a range here. I’m really pleased to see that I’m reading lots of books by British authors, but I’m going to try harder to read more broadly for the rest of the year.

The gender breakdown is also something I’ve been interested in. So far I’ve read 19 books written by a female author, 12 books written by a male author and one book co-written by a male and female pairing.

8 of the 32 books are début novels, 7 of the these are by female authors. The début novelists come from 4 of the 5 nationalities I’ve read (Australia, France, USA (2) and UK (3) ).

The Books.
I’m not going to drill too deeply into the data I’ve been collecting on the books in this post. I’m going to pick out three of the things I’m really interested in but save the rest for my big round up at the end of the year – I think there will definitely be a couple of posts in it.

One thing I have been curious about is whether I naturally lean more towards standalone books or those which make up series. So far I’ve read 18 standalone books, 8 series openers, 3 books that are second in a series, 1 that’s third in the series, 1 from a series of companion novels and 1 prequel (the novella). This is pretty much as I expected, I sometimes find series harder to keep track of so have a bit of a habit of reading the first book in a series and then waiting until I can read all of the subsequent books in a row.

In addition to looking at the the gender of the author I’m also looking at the gender of the main characters of the books I’m reading. This one’s a little more tricky to record, there are books where I’m finding myself wondering about the most accurate way to describe it – some are dual narrative (though this is easy, I’m just recording the gender of each narrator), more difficult are the ones where I find myself wondering whether they have a true main character or fall more into the ensemble grouping. As it stands the breakdown is as follows (only includes novels and novellas):

Male Ensemble – 1
Dual Narrative Male and Male – 1
Mixed Ensemble – 3
Dual Narrative Female and Male – 4
Male Main Character – 8
Female Main Character – 13

For the same set of books I’ve also been looking at representation of diversity. I’ve been noting books that feature at least a significant supporting character from one or more minority groups. 5/29 feature at least one LGBT character, 3/29 have at least one character with a disability and 11/29 have one or more characters of colour. I’m being at least a little deliberate in my aims to read books with more diverse characters – if they’re not being read and talked about they’re not going to increase in their numbers. This is an area I really hope to do yet more with over the second half of the year.

The rest of the year.
I’m glad I’ve taken the time to look back at what I’ve been reading so far this year. There are some gaps I want to fix; to read more non-fiction books and some short stories and graphic novels for starters. I also want to try and broaden my reading further, I want to make sure I’ve read books by authors from all of the continents. Finally I want to keep doing what I’m doing, but just do more of it. Reading as many varied books as I can and talking about them.

Personal · Reading

I read because…

This morning I saw this poem shared on an email discussion group I’m part of, and I remembered that I’d seen it before and meant to blog about it and then promptly forgotten all about it. So here it is, author Richard Peck’s poem about reading.

I read because one life isn’t enough,
and in the pages of a book I can be anybody;

I read because the words that build
the story become mine, to build my life;

I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings;
I’m just beginning myself, and I wouldn’t mind a map;

I read because I have friends who don’t,
and young though they are, they’re beginning to run out of material;

I read because every journey begins at the library,
and it’s time for me to start packing;

I read because one of these days I’m going to get out of this town,
and I’m going to go everywhere and meet everyone, and I want to be ready.

I can’t begin to put into words how much this resonates with me. Every single one of these things describes my life at one time or another, that final one feels incredibly relevant to my thinking at the moment.

When I looked for the full wording of the poem for this post I found this lovely post from Notes from the Slushpile about Richard Peck. He sounds absolutely fascinating, I know I’m going to be reading more about him as soon as I can.

Book News · Reading

Why not give a book?

I’ve just been introduced to We Give Books on Twitter by Keris and couldn’t resist writing a quick post about it.

From the site:
We Give Books is a new digital initiative that enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, simply by reading online.

We Give Books combines the joy of reading with the power of helping others, providing a platform for caregivers and educators to inspire children to become lifelong readers and lifelong givers.

We Give Books also helps some of the world’s best, most inspiring, literacy organizations by spreading the word about their great work and by providing books to the young people these organizations support.

It really is that simple. There are currently 150 books to choose from with lots of picture books and some pretty interesting looking non fiction titles too – they’re all pretty quick reads and it’s a great chance to read something a little bit different. So far I’ve enjoyed Why Lion Roars and Many Marvellous Monsters and I think I’ll be taking the opportunity to finally read a couple of classics like Madeline and The Little Engine That Could.

Personal · Reading

Reading Record : December 2010

Time for the final reading round up of 2010, and December turned out to be another decent reading month with 9 books finished. They were:

“Archives: The Very Essence of Our Heritage” by Christopher Kitchen
“Bliss” by Lauren Myracle
“Artistic Licence” by Katie Fforde
“Life Skills” by Katie Fforde
“The British Inheritance: A Treasury of Historic Documents” by Andrew Prescott
“Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter” by A.E. Moorat
“Darkside” by Belinda Bauer
“The Christmas Cookie Club” by Ann Pearlman
“Twelve Days of Christmas” by Trisha Ashley

In total over the course of 2010 I read 105 books. I’m fairly happy with this as a total, particularly when I remember that for the first few months of the year my reading mojo had all but disappeared. Hopefully I’ll keep hold of it for 2011 and be able to beat my total.

Reading · Reading Challenges

2011 Reading Challenges.

I have seen so many interesting reading challenges for 2011 and I couldn’t resist picking a couple to sign up for. I’ve seen that some bloggers are signing up for lots of these but I decided to stick to just two – I’d rather set myself up for success rather than failure. Maybe next year I’ll be a little braver!

The Bookette is hosting a British Books Challenge. I will be doing the Home Grown challenge – the target is to read 12 books by British authors. There is also a Crown on offer for reading 50 books, I have an idea I’ll be pushing to reach this target too. Books that I want to read for this challenge include the new titles by both Keris Stainton and Keren David, and I will be starting it by indulging one of my not-very-guilty pleasures and reading “Jump” by Jilly Cooper.

Book Chick City is hosting the 2011 Stephen King Challenge. I read loads of Stephen King as a teenager, but still have loads of titles I haven’t read. You can choose to read six or twelve books, I am going to be aiming for the twelve book level. I haven’t decided which books I will read yet, but I shall definitely be reading a mixture of both old titles and some of his more recent works. I can’t wait to rediscover his brand of horror writing.