Snail’s creep

book collection

We’re nearly halfway through November, and the end of the year is within touching distance. It’s nearly time to start taking stock of how my 2016 goals are progressing (as I’ve already done, back in July). Taking my author alphabet challenge I find I’m just five short of completion, with O, Q, U, X and Y yet to come. The good news is that I’ve lined up some books to cover three of these — Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition and some short stories edited by Jessica Yates — though I’ve yet to decide on who to choose for U or Q.

Authors read in 2016 (L: library copy and indicates recycled)

A Joan Aiken The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea, Night Birds on Nantucket [Wolves Chronicles/reread/Reading New England Challenge], Mortimer’s Tie ;
Katherine Addison The Goblin Emperor [fantasy]

B Charlotte Brontë The Professor [classic] ;
Ray Bradbury Something Wicked This Way Comes [horror]

C Susanna Clarke Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell [fantasy], The Ladies of Grace Adieu [fantasy] L;
Mark Cocker Crow Country [natural history/non-fiction] ;
Robert Carse The Castaways [non-fiction]

D Roald Dahl Boy: Tales of Childhood [non-fiction/autobiography] ;
Peter Dickinson The Ropemaker [epic fantasy] ;
Sophie Divry The Library of Unrequited Love [literary]

E E R Eddison The Worm Ouroboros [high fantasy] L

F Sebastian Faulks Pistache [humour] L;
Mark Forsyth The Unknown Unknown [non-fiction]

G Neil Gaiman American Gods [fantasy]

H Rachel Hartman Seraphina [fantasy] ;
Patricia Highsmith The Two Faces of January [crime fiction] L;
Penelope Hughes-Hallett ‘My Dear Cassandra’: Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen [correspondence];
Sarah Hendrickx Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder [non-fiction]

I Eva Ibbotson The Morning Gift [historical fiction]

J Diana Wynne Jones The Merlin Conspiracy [fantasy/reread]

K John Keay The Great Arc [non-fiction]

L David Lodge The Art of Fiction [non-fiction];
Charlie Lovett First Impressions [cozy mystery] ;
Doris Lessing The Fifth Child [literary]

M China Miéville Railsea [fantasy]

N A D Nuttall Shakespeare: The Winter’s Tale [literary criticism]


P Terry Pratchett Equal Rites [fantasy] ;
Alan Powers Living with Books [non-fiction]


R Kathryn L Ramage ‘The Abrupt Disappearance of Cousin Wilfrid’ [cozy] ;
Julia Rochester The House at the Edge of the World [fiction] ;
Phyllis Edgerly Ring The Munich Girl [historical fiction/romance/Reading New England Challenge]

S Anne Spillard The Cartomancer [fiction/reread] ;
Robert Silverberg Sorcerers of Majipoor [fantasy/reread]

T J.R.R. Tolkien The Story of Kullervo [fantasy/non-fiction] L;
JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings [photonovel/graphic novel]


V Jules Verne From the Earth to the Moon [science fiction] L

W Jo Walton Among Others [fantasy];
John Wyndham Plan for Chaos [science fiction] L



Z Gabrielle Zevin The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry [fiction/Reading New England Challenge] L

Some statistics, then. Forty-three books read and reviewed so far, of which 23 have been recycled () to charity shops, family or friends, and 8 have been borrowed from the library. This rate may seem like snail’s creep to some, but I like to savour and enjoy my reads, and of course reviewing takes up time — fun but tempus fugit and all that.

I’ve only managed eighteen female authors as opposed to twenty-one male — I may be able to even up the ratio before the end of December. About ten can be classed as non-fiction; fiction in various genres covers the rest, including graphic novels, fantasy, historical fiction, SF, cozy mysteries and thrillers, humour, classics, horror and alternate history as well as contemporary.

I also took on a Reading New England Challenge as organised by Lory Hess of the Emerald City Book Review. I’ve only managed a handful of books with New England connections: Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is based on Massachusetts: Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s The Munich Girl is partly set in New Hampshire; and Joan Aiken’s Night Birds on Nantucket fills the YA and Children’s genre category. Hmm, I might manage an H P Lovecraft story or two — many of his creepy tales are set in or around Rhode Island, where he grew up.

And you? Did you set yourself challenges or goals to achieve (or at least dent) by the end of 2016? Or do you take your reading as and when the mood takes you?

23 thoughts on “Snail’s creep

    1. Your way is certainly the way I’d tended to go, Sue, especially as I know what I like! My fear though is that I’d only like what I know, and that I’d personally have therefore a very resistricted reading range. (I’m basically very lazy … 🙂 )

      So I try to impose a structure — my own or an external challenge — to get me reading outside the box, as it were; this way I’ve found more to enjoy than I would have imagined. But it doesn’t suit everyone, I know, and I don’t mean that in a judgemental way. Anyway, my insistence on reviewing pretty much everything I read is enough of an imperative to get on with it — or I’d have precious little to blog about!

  1. I’m simply happy to see my name on anyone’s reading list in the company of some of those others. 🙂

    My latest period mystery, “Who Killed Toby Glovins”, came out about a week ago. My editor is sending you a copy, so keep an eye out for it if you haven’t received it already.

    As for my own reading, I tend to go over what I have on my shelves and end up with whatever takes my interest at that moment.

    1. I did enjoy your mystery, Kathryn, and it definitely deserved its place here! Looking forward now to reading about the unfortunate Toby Glovins … but Sonnedragon beckons first, I think!

      I”m trying to be less prescriptive in 2017 and following your lead may end up with whatever takes my interest at any given moment. 🙂

  2. Btw, the picture made me think this post was about you reading GO annuals, or GO boarding school books 😀 Have you read any? I belong to a community of GO readers, and a couple of other off-shoots from it. We began as an email list about 20 years ago but it’s all on Facebook now.

    1. Those vintage Girls Only annuals were sitting incongruously on shelves next to more learned tomes in Cardiff Castle, Daphne, and they caught my eye! I’ve not read any boarding school books but I have my other eye on a Brent-Dyer hardback (A Thrilling Term at Janeways!) that my wife has on her shelves, earmarked as a read for 2017. 🙂 I’ve never had a yearning to read about boarding schools, but post Harry Potter anything’s possible!

  3. Those stats are very impressive! You’re better than I am – I’m sure I’d be a better writer if I could read outside my preferred genres, but I just can’t make myself. I know I SHOULD read Hemmingway and all but … I just don’t want to :). I’m presently luxuriating in Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell after the nonsense of Labyrinth. What’s the plan for 2017, Chris? No plan?

    1. Thanks, Lynn! In a way the stats analysis (such as it is) is more interesting to me that making out plans because my imagination outruns the practicalities of implementing the planned reading! I suppose if I didn’t make some resolutions I too might fall back on my preferred genres, particularly fantasy, and even that might/would pale after a while …

      As for 2017 my plan is to have as loose a plan as possible! More female authors, more authors from outside the Western hemisphere, more catching up on books sent for review. And the freedom to join in whatever challenges take my fancy!

      1. I’m terrible at keeping reading stats, though if I did it might motivate me to read quicker – I’m quite a slow coach 🙂
        Sounds like next year will be very interesting as you broaden your horizons even further 🙂

        1. My stats are very basic, Lynn, I just list what I read and draw some vague conclusions from them, nothing more complicated than tying my shoelaces!

          1. I never know how many books I read in a year, though I’m guessing it’s fewer than I think! Maybe I should next year … But make them all skinny ones so I’ll feel better about myself :). Definitely no George RR Martin!

            1. I would have thought he’d appeal to you – no? I’m not sure I can commit to the books – they would take over my life! 🙂

  4. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures with Janeways. I’m not a fan of EBD. In my opinion, the best boarding school books are by Antonia Forest. She wrote a series about a family called Marlow. Twelve books: four set at boarding school; six during school holidays; and two about an Elizabethan ancestor of theirs who is an actor with The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

    1. Quelch is very Dickensian or maybe someone in Peake’s Gormenghast Castle! I might have gone for Updike if Emily hadn’t disencumbered herself of all his books two years ago … but thanks for the suggestions!

  5. Christine

    Congratulations on your being almost done! (at least where the alphabet challenge is concerned) I took on your 2015 challenge this year, and although I have just finished my 50th book, I seem to have strayed from the list… rather badly. 12 books behind. I blame Margery Allingham. It’s interesting that you keep stats on what happens to your books after you’ve read them, is that because of a lack of storage space? And is it too soon to ask what you’re considering for next year’s challenge, if anything?

    I’m a little behind on your posts, but have you picked anything for “Q” yet? If not, might I recommend “Zazie in the Metro” by Raymond Queneau? I can’t speak to the English translation, but I remember it being interesting when I read it as a child (although it’s likely most of it went over my head).

    1. Oh thanks for the heads up on the Queneau, the title of which sounds familiar. I’ve actually got a Q now, an Arthur Quiller-Couch (his pseudonym was actually Q!) which, half completed at his death, was finally finished by Daphne du Maurier.

      Thanks for you appreciations, and well done you for completing your challenge. I’ve always seen these as a guide rather than prescriptive, so don’t worry about straying!

      The stats? Partly it’s to convince myself I’m making progress with decluttering my bookshelves — partly to make space for some more, I suppose.

      Next year I’m trying to be even less prescriptive — more women authors, more classics, and more books authored by non-Western authors. That should cover it! And you?

      1. Christine

        Oh, well, next year’s challenge consists of only reading books I already own, although that probably means reading longer books and not giving in to the siren call of the Kindle store. Reading more female and/or non-western authors is difficult sometimes, it’s a struggle between what one wants to read and what one thinks one should try instead — not that the two are always mutually exclusive.

        1. That struggle is one I absolutely understand, Christine, and though I try to alternate between want-to-read and ought-to-read I’m not always successful!

          Luckily that struggle results in me finding new favourite authors, leading to a win-win outcome. 🙂

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