The Walrus said

Andrew Morton Books, Lion Yard, Brecon

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things…

But mostly books

We all know how this year has gone — what can I usefully add to what has already been said, and experienced, and suffered by so many? — so let me here consider positive things, like reading and stuff.

I’ve been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge since a couple or so years after I joined the cataloguing site. Each year following 2014 my book consumption has risen, from 26 to 27, 36 to 41, then 56 to 70. This year I managed eighty-four (84) books read and reviewed out of the modest sixty I’d set myself. It’s helped that self-isolating and a few lockdowns have left me increased leisure time to peruse and expound on all these titles in my posts (scheduled to appear at the rate of one every two days) — one small advantage afforded by the pandemic.

Random statistics

I’m still showing timidity in ranging geographically and culturally further afield from my home patch. Out of those 84 titles fifty-five have been from authors native to the UK, thirteen from the US, and three from Ireland. Finland’s tally is also three, with one each from Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Dominica, Iran, Japan, Malaysia and Poland, even though a few of these authors (Atiq Rahimi, Jean Rhys, Kazuo Ishiguro and Zen Cho) subsequently domiciled elsewhere. Note to self: must try harder to be more adventurous.

The male- to female-authored books ratio is again close to parity — 43:41 — which I’m pleased about. Have I noticed any difference in tone moving across the supposed gender divide? Occasionally, I suppose; but as I tend to go for fiction characterised by a particular sensibility it tends not to matter where the author may be located on that spectrum.

Visitors and views up to and including the winter solstice, now over 30,000 views

From the graphs attached to my WordPress stats I see visitors, views and likes have continued to rise since I began the blog in the spring of 2012; that’s no doubt partly due to my increased frequency of posting and not necessarily to the quality of my writing, but I would like to thank everyone who has liked and commented here: even if the majority of my 800+ followers are ‘ghosts’ there is a hard core of regular visitors, many from among the 80+ bloggers I myself follow, and I’m really grateful for the conversations.

Most viewed posts 2020

Among the most viewed posts this year — rarely liked or commented on, however — were pieces on Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Mervyn Peake and John Masefield. A perpetual favourite for browsers was a review I did a few years ago of Lev Grossman’s Fillory fantasy The Magicians — partly boosted I suspect by an adaptation for the small screen — while a post on a painting of the 1903 Delhi durbar suddenly and unexpectedly shot to prominence when it appeared earlier in 2020.

I did a quick survey of what were the most popular posts this year in terms of likes and comments and, as expected, found the results to be a mixed bag. Unsurprisingly, the top two most liked were reposts of old reviews which had originally received only a handful of likes in the days when I had fewer followers than now. My review of Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop received 43 marks of approval in total and the repost of my critique of E Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle garnered 42 — though neither post attracted many more extra comments. Books in the time of coronavirus and Outrage, my rants on the world, politics and everything but which also extolled the consolation of books, got 39 and 36 likes respectively.

The most commented on post, Telltale signs of a booklover, was a discussion of a meme which 38 readers liked, and drew a whopping 76 comments (including my replies of course). A short piece, Broken resolve, about New Year bookish resolutions going awry struck a chord with readers because 69 responses were recorded. This was followed by The Force of Destiny on the function of fate in fantasy (50), a rant on reading as a displacement activity called Errant (49), a review of the classic dystopian novel The Death of Grass (45) and my thoughts on a portrait in Bristol Museum which I titled The mirror not yet crack’d (44). Clearly you all like to add your penn’orths to my opinionated pieces!


Well, I’m afraid I’m all ‘ranted’ out. New Year’s Day will see possibly the biggest self-inflicted disaster to hit the United Kingdom in peacetime, made doubly catastrophic by a totally inadequate, maybe even criminal, response to the global pandemic by the UK government. (I can’t speak for other countries of course.) I therefore think 2021 will see me continuing to read more books, though whether I’ll continue to post at the same feverish pace is unlikely. We’ll see.

All I can fervently hope is that the future will surprise us in a nicer way than expected, and all that now remains for me is to wish you, one and all, a very Happy New Year! We definitely deserve it!

Fantasy architectural design with a view of gardens, by Giambattista Piranesi

56 thoughts on “The Walrus said

    1. JJ Lothin

      I agree! I haven’t actually made it to Australia yet but there’s some wonderful literature – ‘Wake in fright’ (Kenneth Cook) in particular is a corker! And then there’s my all-time favourite in children’s literature, the incomparable ‘Magic pudding’!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And books are perfect for visiting other countries vicariously and at leisure, aren’t they. So many authors to explore though I’ve only read Alison Croggan, Trudi Canavan, Kathy Hoopman, Garth Nix and Tim Winton in recent years, most of them being writers of fantasy.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I don’t have anything to add aside from the fact that I like reading on blog stats. Helps to put things into perspective, so thanks for taking the time to write this post.

    Well done, both on reading & traffic! Here’s to many more next year!


    1. Thanks, Bart, and best wishes to you too! As for listing stats, for me they’re a personal indulgence but as with you seeing those of other bloggers does give perspective, and I’m always buoyed up to know that the habit of reading books is not on the wane!


  2. Thank you, Chris. You have entertained, distracted, comforted and educated me over this last year. The book blogging bunch and the Twitter book lovers have been a kind corner in a strange world. Happy new year to you too.


    1. Ainsi soit-il, as the French say, and thank heavens for the haven of books this past year! Oh, and Einen guten Rutsch, Ulrike: though the UK government has foolishly said goodbye to Europe, remember that there remain many of us who regret our enforced departure from the EU, hoping that there will be a return to the fold in happier times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Believe me, I hope so, too. I‘m just about as devastated over Brexit as a non-Brit can possibly be — have been since the vote and it never got any better since.

        I hope you had „einen guten Rutsch“ as well … and will be having a great start into 2021 overall!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, the best thing to happen so far is that the antibiotics I’ve been taking for an unbearably panful dental abscess finally kicked in yesterday evening! That’s a plus, and I hope things can only get better…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ouch. 😦 Sounds like things really *can* only go uphill from here! I hope you‘ll be able to get rid of that thing really soon. (I confess to having toyed with “kicking it in the teeth“, but decided the year is too young and unspoiled for bad puns …)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Hah! All puns accepted here, my family have been the unwilling recipients of them from me for many years now…

              By the way, I’m glad I check in my spam folder now and again: despite this ongoing conversation I found this last comment by you tucked away amongst all the illiterate emails saturated with links to porn sites and the like—not very nice company.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. piotrek

    Your blog is one of my favourite places, Chris, thank you for a steady supply of food for my thoughts! And the stats show I’m far from the only one 🙂 Congratulations on your reading and blogging achievements, may 2021 be even bettter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Piotrek, glad you find me thought-provoking, or at least snackworthy! I see you and Ola have put up your joint annual review so I’ll go and have a look at that presently. The end of of 2020 has thrown a curved ball at me in terms of a painful dental abscess, but luckily I managed to see our dentist on the only day she was open this week and am now drugged up to my eyeballs for the New Year! Hope yours is better… 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Best wishes, Chris. Let’s hope things improve – or at least turn out better than we expect. It’s been books that got me through this year. Thank you for keeping your blog. I’m mostly one of the lurkers but I do appreciate reading your thoughts and opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Harriet, especially for lurking! I thought I’d followed you (being an ex-folkie how could I resist?!) but hadn’t, so have now remedied that, though I too may lurk as I can barely keep up with with all the blogs I’m currently following! All the best to you too, or least better than this here dire year.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think each of us, whatever the country we are from, has the perception that much more could have been done to takle this pandemic, Chris. There is no lighthouse in the entire world. Congratulations for your blogging achievements. You absolutely deserve them. Happy (if possible) New Year. Tink. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think New Zealand has been among the brighter lights this dreadful year, but I see that a plea has gone out that Kiwi staycationers stop despoiling their own beauty spots, so they’ve not escaped censure. At least they’re not like new global Brexit Britain busily exporting a new Covid variant with a fine abandon — I know some EU countries have been gifted already, perhaps Italia is one of them?

      But, on a positive note, thanks for continuing to visit Calmgrove, Stefy, and though you yourself post less frequently these days (and I can totally understand why) I do try and make some response whenever I can. Felice Anno Nuovo, and I really do mean that!

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I saw a comment somewhere on social media from someone whose schooling had been severely disrupted during the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s but who had subsequently moved to the UK, learnt a new language, got a university education and now holds down a responsible job. If only all national governments were sensible in not allowing schools to become Covid super-spreaders then we all might be better able to survive this pandemic. Hope Italy makes the right decision, and not dither as our incompetent government routinely does.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to have followed you back, Karen, for while I may not get round to many of the books you discuss, I do love reading good writing about books, a quality I prize in your posts. All the very best to you for the next twelve months, and beyond! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you’ve shocked me! No, not really… It’s important to indulge yourself as a corrective to the ordure that has hit the fan this year: you clearly needed to. 🙂 Are you thinking of doing, or have you done, a summary of what you’ve learned or observed of the Dame? I’d read that!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have loved reading yer blog this past year. I am not so good at commenting (on yer blog and responding to the ones on me own) as I follow 150 blogs. But I do love to read the comments. I particularly have been loving the posts on specific works of art. I can’t wait to be able to go back into art museums. Happy New Year!
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Captain, I shall endeavour to include some arty posts early next year to fill the gap you’re currently experiencing! I’ve one or two more pieces from Bristol to discuss and then a few from Cardiff in Wales, both visited long before lockdown was even a thing!

      And thank you for reading — never worry about needing to comment, I find it’s always hard keeping up with worthy blogs and giving them the consideration they’re due, and I follow a mere eighty-odd of them! (Not yours, sadly, though I do visit from time to time.)

      Hope 2021 will eventually result in an easing of restrictions in your neck of the woods (or shady palm tree on a treasure island) and give you a chance to view your favourite display of canvases and sculptures! 🙂


  7. Happy New Year Chris! Let’s hope that books can continue to help take our minds off things while we wait for B**xit dust to settle and the vaccines to be administered to enough of us.

    I adore that Piranesi drawing you’ve picked – exactly as I imagine the halls in the book – with a few more statues though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you liked my post ‘The House Beautiful’ in which I included a couple of Piranesi’s carceri designs, one of which at least had some busts of giants or deities on the wall. A bit more oppressive than I’d imagine Clarke’s House though …

      Like you, Paula, I’ll be relying on books to be bulwarks against the inevitable fall-out of the fudged deal and an excuse to stay indoor while the pandemic rages. Welcome the sunlit uplands! Or rather, ‘unlit’. Take care, and stay safe. 😊


    1. High praise indeed, Gert, thank you, and I will endeavour to keep publishing as long as possible, if only to keep that bright spot in your day from going out! Best wishes for 2021 to you both.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy New Year to you, Chris!
    Judging solely by your reading and blogging 2020 seems just wonderful 😀 Congrats on making it all – reading and blogging – work so well!


    1. Cheers, Ola, you’re too kind! I felt I owed it to all as well as myself to keep up the positivity in the face of pestilence, misgovernment and climate problems, and thankfully it seems to in large part work (though I managed to fit in a few rants along the way). So Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku my antipodean friend, all the best to you and your joint project to help re-enchant the world!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Chris! Wishing you a happy and healthy too, and Congrats on another inspiring year of reading and reviewing! Wow. I suppose I’ve also been reading more during this terrible pandemic, but my reading is not balanced, as yours is, by a review that shares the work and opens up a discussion with the larger world. All my best, fellow-blogger! Josna


    1. I’ve been lucky to have either avoided Covid or somehow been asymptomatic, Josna, and along with being retired I’ve had the good fortune and the leisure to indulge in the reading I’ve wanted to do, to which I owe the ‘balanced’ reading that you and others have detected. But part of my intention is to do exactly what you identify, sharing the works and opening up the discussion. But then that’s what you do too with your meditations on your past life and present existence, your epistles on cultural changes, and your observations on defining moments in living memory. It’s been, and I hope will remain, a pleasure to have these conversations with you on all these matters! Happy New Year to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. How wonderful you’ve been able to grow as a reader and blogger alike! Please keep reading, keep sharing, and keep writing with us here! I can only hope that 2021 brings us brighter, better things on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I heartily agree, Jean, and for all of you Stateside I hope that a corner to a brighter future has been turned, though ours is still in shadow. So I shall indeed be keeping on reading and sharing bookish thoughts—imagination and compassion are positive forces in ensuring changes for the better.

      Liked by 1 person

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