Friday, 3 January 2014

On the shelf ... and on the floor

I have a very nice notebook for the purpose of keeping a list of books I’ve read. Unfortunately I hardly ever remember to use it. So one of my New Year resolutions is to keep it in a more handy place and at the end of December to be able to look back over my reading year.

Even without such a record to refer to I know that there is no system to my reading/re-reading. Occasionally I arrange a pile of books beside my bed and vow to read them in the order in which they are stacked. But then, I’ll be scanning a bookshelf and something – new or oft read – catches my eye and that is what I want to read and no other book will do. Or that month’s book group title has to be put to the top of the pile. Or I like a particular book so much all I want to read is something else by the same author. Or I’ve finished a book and don’t want to start a brand new one late at night so reach for an old favourite. So the bedside pile gets scattered and re-formed any old how.

Now there are also e-books … I have a Kindle app on my laptop with, currently, fifty-six titles waiting for my attention. And of course there are all the books I’ve seen reviewed/have been recommended waiting to be bought/downloaded/borrowed from the library.

In a parallel universe I would have a year (or three) off and do nothing but catch up on all of these.

I can’t remember what I’ve read over the whole year but these, not in any order, are some from the last few months, fiction unless otherwise stated:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (a re-read)

The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden (a re-read)

Bella’s Betrothal by Anne Stenhouse (Anne’s second Regency novel following Mariah’s Marriage)

The Complete Book of Aunts by Rupert Christiansen (non-fiction)

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

A Capital Union by Victoria Hendry (for book group)

Austerity Britain 1945-51 by David Kynaston (non-fiction, half finished)

 Penny Plain et al by O. Douglas (an O. Douglas (sister of John Buchan) is what I usually reach for as a late-night comfort blanket; her titles are mostly out-of-print but The Day of Small Things has been reissued by Greyladies Publishing. I know them all almost off by heart.) 

Princess Tina Annual 1969 (new addition to collection of girls’ annuals; approx 380 so far; planning to blog on this subject soon)

The Nightingale Girls / The Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas

The Home Corner / The Dance Settee and other stories by Ruth Thomas

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell (for book group)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (for book group)

I am currently reading: on Kindle app Carnegie’s Call by Michael Malone, in anticipation of hearing Michael’s motivational talk to the Edinburgh Writers’ Club on 6 January; and in paperback Ruth Rendell’s last Inspector Wexford novel The Vault (I tend to go on a crime-reading spree every January); also enjoying a Christmas present, a huge book on quilts from the American Folk Art Museum.

Now I’m off to rearrange that to-be-read pile yet again and to place the Books Read notebook by its side.

Do you have a reading plan? I would love to know what it is (and if you stick to it).


  1. Hi Kate, I'm thrilled to see Bella's Betrothal made it through your selection. Mine is fairly wayward and could not truly be called a reading plan. I do read my book group's books but otherwise I'm a butterfly and have several on the go at once. Some may hang about for years.

  2. Hi Kate, I have no reading plan whatsoever. But I have started donating read books to charity shops or to bring and buy to raise funds for the two writer groups I belong to. I've found clearing away the old allows space for the new. Of course, it helps that I don't reread a book once read... that might be your biggest downfall ;o). Saskia

  3. Anne and Saskia - it would seem that the best laid reading plans if they exist gang aft agley.

  4. Like you, I have a pile of books by my bed which I work my way through. My kindle is usually for downloads of blogging and whiting friend's books which I read in between. Of the books above, are there any you'd particularly recommend?

  5. Wendy – this year I’m determined to keep a list of every book I read. Recommendations: well, unreservedly Bella’s Betrothal, A Capital Union and Face the Wind and Fly (happy to say these are all by Edinburgh-based writing friends!). I’ve never wanted to be a nurse but I love reading about nursing for some reason so zipped through Donna Douglas’ two and must get the third in the series. I liked the Ruth Thomas but preferred her first novel Make do and Mend. I thought The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry very over-rated. Austerity Britain is quite heavy-going, but as I’ve become interested in writing about that period myself it’s good background reading.