Midway point

We’re almost halfway through the twenty-first year of the 21st century, a good point I think to take stock of my reading. Goodreads tells me I’ve read forty books of my modest goal of sixty-six titles this year, and I’ve reviewed them all here as well as on Goodreads.

Regular visitors here will know that I have broad tastes, though that doesn’t mean I don’t have favourite genres. To help me occasionally burst out of my comfort bubble I take on reading prompts as various as specific countries or more generally European countries, also non-fiction and crime fiction, graphic novels and science fiction.

While many of the titles read overlap a couple or so categories, there will be categories that I could, maybe should, visit more. I wonder what they may be?

Let me start with a crude division between female and male writers. I hesitate to make distinctions of gender and orientation so will keep things simple: eighteen titles are by women, 21 by men, and one has a mixture. Do you think it should matter to the general reader how authors identify themselves?

What about countries other than Britain and North America, where the English language dominates? Represented here so far are Italy, Belgium, Galicia in Spain, France, and even Wales with a non-fiction novel originally in Welsh. That doesn’t mean that other countries don’t provide settings: here are India, Austria, Germany, the fictional Orsinia and several fantastical lands such as Narnia and Neverland.

Fantasy as usual tends to dominate, with a dozen titles at least in that genre; fantasy features in many of the children’s books read this year (I estimate fourteen in toto) plus a couple of books in the teen or YA category. But there are also three crime fiction novels, three supernaturally-tinged volumes, a couple that could be classed as alternative history, two SF novels, and one each in the classes graphic novel, drama, picture book, literary criticism and poetry.

Four could be categorised as serious literature — whatever ‘serious’ is — with one example each of history and essays. And I’ve included in what I’ve chosen to designate as The Library of Brief Narratives collections of Breton lais, Italian short stories, Nesbit’s ghost and supernatural tales, Wyndham’s whimsical fantasies, Rushdie’s pieces set in both the east and the west, plus Le Guin’s Orsinia-set tales.

I note a general absence of classics, works by people of colour, and contemporary fiction, for example. To address these absences I have Eliot’s Middlemarch waiting, Octavia Butler’s Kindred which I’m currently reading, and Naomi Isiguro’s Escape Routes which has got as far as the pile on the bedside table. But I have no doubt there be the usual frequent diversions along the way.

But enough about me. Do you have a stocktake halfway through the year as well? If so, how are you doing? Are you on the way to achieving the goals you’d set yourself? Are you pleased with what you’ve read this year, despite what else has been going on, or not going on?

40 thoughts on “Midway point

  1. I’ve read 22 book so far, and my goal was even more modest, 30 books, the pandemic has freed up so much time.
    I don’t look at stats of representation (gender, race, …) anymore, I just pick what feels right, and as I read older stuff too, white males are way overrepresented. Reading is a personal hobby for me, not a public political act (even though blogging about it could be considered political and public).

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    1. You’re right, Bart — these days, especially with social media, personal acts can and do take on a political significance, and even reading itself functions as a red rag to a deeply anti-intellectual section of society, making a political issue out of it.

      I make note of those stats you mention not for virtue-signalling reasons but because I want to be self-critical about my actual engagement with a wider range of viewpoints. That said, I do want to enjoy what I read, not just to be informed, and polemical fiction for me fails if it has no literary merit.

      I’m retired, with no work commitments and therefore leisure to read, so I think your total of 22 books so far is very admirable, especially as a fair few are intellectually demanding non-fiction tomes. I’ve included graphic novels and children’s picture books in my forty which somewhat lessens any pretensions I might have! (Not that I regard these as less worthy of merit than other works…)

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      1. One of mine was a DNF, and an art book with hardly any text, so we’re in the same boat there.

        As for different pov: I try to read lots of non-fiction and newspapers and stuff, so my fiction doesn’t really serve that need. I do keep to read different periods, which also helps in that respect…

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  2. A lovely set of books so far; from the ones on your list, I really need to pick up more LeGuin, I have only read one of hers so far, The Left Hand of Darkness; Green Knowe is one I’ve been meaning to get to for ages as well; and the Eva Ibbotson too.

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    1. Thanks, Mallika. I do hope you get to those authors soon, though I know you’ve read a few of Ibbotson’s books for younger readers. I think too you’d enjoy Le Guin’s Earthsea books — at least the first one, anyway, as it’s a very immersive world she’s created.

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  3. We seem to be reading as much as ever. I have adhered to my goal of one significant book each month. This month I am about to read James Joyce Ulysses for the first time. Then there are all the sparkly toys that cross my path, like your recently reviewed Maigret.

    I have got hold of three books for the October Club you mentioned earlier, but can’t find the details again.

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    1. You’re referring to The 1976 Club I think, https://wp.me/p2oNj1-5km, which is (checks calendar) just three months away! But I’m glad you’re keeping up with your planned and very worthy reading goals; a fellow student in the 1960s swore by Ulysses but I’d never felt the urge to explore it until recently, when I am starting to believe I’ve gained a bit of experience and maturity to appreciate such things… 😁

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      1. In my preliminary explorations I have discovered a great deal about it that i never knew. Also, as a preparation, I am reading an ancient copy of a child’s version of the Odyssey my father bought me many many years ago (In an effort to wean me off Enid Blyton I suspect.)

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        1. I’m trying to imagine how Enid Blyton might herself have rewritten the Odyssey: Uncle Quentin appeared on the beach in a towering rage. “Whatever are you children doing?” he exploded. “Untie George from that mast!” he said. The children ignored him, because they had cotton wool stuffed in their ears, but Timmy began barking. The boat moved away from the shore. Uncle Quentin’s shouting, more like a foghorn than a siren, faded into the distance…

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            1. I hadn’t read your Famous Five reviews before.You have treated them with respect. They weren’t really my favourites. I preferred The Five Find Outers: Fatty and Pip and Bets and ? Larry and Daisy and a West Highland Terrier. And of course Mr Goon, the policeman they liked to torment. I am a shallow creature; always go for laffs.

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            2. Shallow creatures have a place in the web of life too, Gert, and we all need a good laff during times of Doom and Gloom. As for Famous Five, I managed the first two in the series but gave up on the third, just too repetitive and I’ve better things to do. I hardly dare revisit any of the Secret Seven books which I fancy I preferred to the holiday scrapes of the four children and the mongrel.

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  4. Nothing so ambitious to report. Although I did help ready a house for the market – becoming a pool maintenance maven along the way – and move. This required further culling of the book collection and the sorting of vast amounts of what others might dismissively call clutter. (Many essential treasures rediscovered along the way.)

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    1. I think housemoving is reason enough to have a low book consumption! Though I do commiserate about the book culling, you clearly had some recompense in finding ‘lost’ treasures. Hope you’re settled in now!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. “Quite a few” is a massive understatement for what you get through, Karen, as I’m perpetually reminded of following your posts! And yes, I’ve a few potential titles myself lined up for October and the 1976 Club, so I hope your research comes up with some promising titles.

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  5. Interesting! I do want to read more fantasy this year, but every time I pick up a fantasy book it does not hold my attention. I think I simply need to find the right one! My goodreads says that I read 44 books this year, which sounds right, but I never set myself goals to read a specific number of books because for me it will be like setting myself goals to listen to a specific number of favourite songs on my iPod. A hobby is a hobby and I think I need to read less. I also believe people shouldn’t feel the need to justify their reading choices to others or why they did not read female authors or authors of colour this month, year, etc. Yesterday I found a post in which someone says they feel “guilty” about the fact that are reading and enjoying Dickens. Well…

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    1. I can see where you’re coming from, Diana, in terms of goal-setting—if something like reading is enjoyable why set parameters for it? And yet I know that unless I stretch myself I’ll (a) revert to familiar authors and titles which may turn my brain to mush and (b) never know what I’m missing that I could be delighted with, amazed and informed by, and develop a taste for. The old adage (Kipling’s, I think) of “What do they of England know who only England know?” applies here though with “reading material” substituted.

      But feeling guilty about enjoying Dickens, that’s a weird one, unless they’re thinking of the awful way he treated his wife; but then, if we never read books by people who were flawed one way or another we’d never have anything to read, would we? 🙂

      As for fantasy, I don’t know what titles in this genre you’ve tried and been disappointed by, but there will be an author I’m sure who would hold your attention, as the range there is vast.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. After last year and my Covid-inspired slump, I seem to be tearing through the books this year as if I’m making up for lost time. Goodreads tells me I’ve read 62 so far. Doesn’t mean I’ll achieve my yearly targets though – that would be an event of cosmic significance and might destroy the delicate balance of the space/time continuum!

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    1. Please don’t destroy the space/time continuum yet, I’ve a few more books I still want to read! But good for you for turbo-charging your reading this year and getting through what one hopes were enjoyable titles after last year. Books, like walks and being in the countryside, do so increase our happiness hormones, don’t they? 🙂

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  7. That looks like a good variety of books to me, even if you feel there are a few absences! According to Goodreads I have read 51 books out of 100, but my reading seems to have slowed down recently and it won’t bother me if I don’t reach the goal.
    I find that the Six in Six meme hosted by Jo at The Book Jotter is a good way to look back on my first six months of reading every year:
    https://josbookjourney.wordpress.com/2021/06/25/six-in-six-2021-edition/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’ve seen this meme used before (by you? Certainly by more than one blogger) and it’s a great way to examine progress, though I don’t think I’m self-disciplined enough to do it properly! I’m pleased you discern a good variety among my books — I know you’re a fan of historical fiction but that’s a category I visit fairly infrequently, so there’s a gap for me to consider filling in the coming half year.

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  8. I’m always pleased with what I’m reading, maybe because I refuse to plan ahead or examine why I pick up what interests me at a particular moment. This makes me a peculiar book blogger, but very suggestible to what others recommend!

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    1. I too used to read whatever took my fancy, and though I still do that I also try to see what I can tackle to extend or break out of my comfort zone. A peculiar book blogger? I prefer to think of you as someone with discerning tastes!

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  9. It’s at times like this that I wish I used Good Reads properly. Since reading your interesting look back at the year so far I’ve been assessing what I’ve read and it’s dominated by review obligations. Despite that I’ve enjoyed my reading and am struck by the quality of children’s literature this year. I have however made a list of some that you’ve enjoyed that have piqued my interest and will eventually get to read them, I hope. Thank you Chris I enjoyed reading this.

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    1. I’m not sure if there’s a proper’ way to use Goodreads, but the way I use it suits me! I aim to (1) catalogue books I’ve read, (2) post reviews, often but not always simultaneously with ones I post on the blog, (3) see what GR ‘friends’ are reading and reviewing, and maybe interact with them, and (4) set myself a goal of the number of titles I want to read each year (it’s from screenshots of that Reading Challenge that I’ve pictured books read so far this year). But I don’t use it much for conversations, and not at all for group chats.

      From your own reviews I too have been impressed by the quality of the books you’ve highlighted and reviewed. I tend to steer towards the teen end of the range more than titles aimed at very young and middle grade readers, but the couple of books I’ve seen from the Barrington Stoke stable, for instance, have been outstanding. I enjoy your reviews, always good pointers to titles that are worth a second look!

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      1. That is definitely more ‘properly’ than I do! I’m a lapsed GR user but may resurrect it.

        Thank you for your lovely comments about my reviews, that’s so rewarding to hear. Barrington Stoke’s novellas are excellent, I agree. Their editor is held in high regard by authors and one can see why.

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        1. I actually started with LibraryThing, and paid a one-off fee to have more than 200 books catalogued on their ad-free site, but I haven’t updated there for more than two years—seemed rather pointless to duplicate reviews there as well as on the blog and on Goodreads.

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  10. I’m afraid to even look at what my reading plans were for the year, because I’m pretty sure I’m doing dismally at them. Life is a little overwhelming right now and I can’t put any more pressure on myself. So I just wander along through the bookshelves, real and virtual, at whim. I’m going to pencil in Orsinian Tales for the 1976 club, though. I really do want to read that one, but I hope my mood coincides with the week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair I too often just wander at whim along my real and virtual boolshelves, just occasionally stirring myself to plug a gap that I feel needs plugging. I do hope you get to Orsinian Tales—even three reads hasn’t dampened my admiration for them—though one or two of them might not improve your mood if you’re still feeling overwhelmed in October. I do hope things improve for you soon.

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  11. “Do you think it should matter to the general reader how authors identify themselves?”

    Generally I’m not worried how author’s identify themselves. The only time it matters to me is if an author is writing about a person or people belonging to a particular subgroup, be it a social, gender, religious, or cultural group. Then I think the writing is often better if they have some experience.

    “Do you have a stocktake halfway through the year as well?”

    LOL – no not really! I tend to gambol about reading whatever I fancy, like a rabbit in a vegetable patch, eating a bit of this and a bit of that!

    Joining the Goodreads website has made it easier to find books I’d like to read – so much so that I have two TBRs! One is the “To Read” shelf built into the website. In here I put books I want to read as well as those I’m still thinking about reading. Then I have a user created shelf called TBR which are books I’ve already bought or borrowed (or have on order).

    I’m amazed that you’re planning to read 66 books this year! That’s more than one a week! I don’t think I could ever do that.

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    1. For some readers just sixty-six titles means I’m a slouch! I’ve seen Reading Challenges composed of 150 books, and I have no idea how the readers concerned get through so many books without skimreading many of them! But I think you said before how you’re a slow reader, though I think ‘steady’ is a better adjective, so I think it’s what each of us personally gets out of a book that matters more than quantity. Actually you’re very organised with your TBR/To Read shelves on Goodreads: most of the books I currently have stored would have to go in those categories, and that would take weeks of stead cataloguing! And I’m a rabbit in a veg patch too—as a glance at the teetering pile on my bedside table will tell you, many pages bristling with bookmarks showing where I’d got to in some distant past…

      What you say about self-identification probably aligns my own feelings. I like that many authors use initials rather than their first names, so that one doesn’t leap to assumptions before giving the work a chance to, metaphorically stand on its own two feet.

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  12. Well I think more than a book a week, read properly and thought about is a LOT.

    I just had a count and I read 6 proper books since the beginning of May, but this is the most I’ve ever read and I can only do that because I’m not working at the moment. I also read a lot of graphic novels which pushes my count up, but these need to be counted seperately I think since some of them only take an hour.

    “as a glance at the teetering pile on my bedside table will tell you, many pages bristling with bookmarks showing where I’d got to in some distant past…”

    LOL – I had to move my pile. My carer said it wasn’t very safe! (To be fair to her it did fall over quite a lot especially with a boisterous 2 year old cat around!) Now I’ve dedicated the top of an entire chest of drawers to house the TBR. It’s great because I can see them more easily and books don’t get lost on the bottom of the pile for eons!

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    1. I count anything with a cover as a book read, whether kids picture book, graphic novel or long academic study, so I think your May performance rate is absolutely valid!

      As for my bedside pile, I leave most of them there to guilt-trip myself, and only rarely does one title slip off onto the floor… But here is not the place to discuss my computer desk top, now that is an absolute disgrace! I pretend they’re all part of work in progress, for research you understand. 😊

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  13. Do I pay any attention to author’s gender? No, never have done and don’t see myself changing that any time soon. If that’s how other readers like to select what to read next, that’s their choice but I don’t want my reading to become some kind of quota achieving programme.

    I’m more interested in monitoring the author’s country of origin since that encourages me to go beyond the mainstream USA and UK stuff and discover cultural perspectives from around the world.

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    1. I take your point, Karen. Personally I realised a few years ago how few female authors I tended to read (apart from a trio of Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Edith Nesbit) so I’ve been trying to even the score more in recent years. Why? Because I have learned to value the often different viewpoints and insights available from a more diverse pool of authors.

      As I seem to have been achieving something more like parity here I am now starting to try an approach similar to yours and look further afield away from the Anglophone North Atlantic region. It’s a slow but, I hope, steady progress!

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