A year of reading randomly

It’s beautifully brrr in Kent at the moment – still freezing at 11am with bright blue skies.

Last night, I went to hear Andy Miller (who is not Andrew Miller) speak at the Reading Series at Kent Uni.  He is the author of The Year of Reading Dangerously which I have yet to read and was a brilliant, engaging, thought-provoking, funny, self-deprecating and enthusiastic speaker. If you get a chance to hear him speak, go. He was wonderful.

I haven’t read his book yet – I bought it last night and it’s sitting here on my desk and my fingers are itching … might just allow myself a peek over lunch but know I’ll be hooked.

There were many things that struck me in his talk – and all of them pertinent to bibliopoetry therapy.  Here are a few random ones:

  1. He called his list of books to read The List of Betterment.
  2. The list included Dan Brown (I was given the Da Vinci Code one Christmas, thought it would go straight to the charity shop but a few hours later I’d read it cover to cover and, um, really enjoyed it).
  3. He rates Middlemarch and found The Master and Margarita difficult.
  4. Lists are really helpful.
  5. Anita Brookner writes genius prose.  As an editor, he could tell early on whether a mss was in the top 8% of those that came across his desk. I’m similarly fascinated by how when tuning into radio drama, I can tell by a few lines of dialogue whether it’s by a great playwright – sentences matter.
  6. He worked as a bookseller and sees the commercial and literary, consumerist and artistic as all part of one whole. So did I. So do I.
  7. Although it took him years to write his book, it’s worth writing about reading.

So here’s my incomplete list of what I read in 2016.  I notice:

It doesn’t include much poetry even though I read many collections last year. I am permanently surrounded by piles of poetry books in different stages of being read. Note to self – organise my poetry reading better and document it better.

And not that many novels. Note to self – go back to the classics.  I knew someone who read Anna Karenina once a year. When I read it, once, several years ago, I lived it to such a degree, I couldn’t do or think about anything else. Hence putting off War and Peace.

The list also reveals my guilty secret – I love self-help books but I haven’t listed those I read on my Kindle. Why’s that?  Because it’s not ‘proper reading’ in some way?  Note to self, find out just what is on my Kindle?

I bundle writing about place and travel writing in with Nature Writing – which is an old-fashioned term, but I like it.

So for what it’s worth, this is my list of reading randomly in 2016:

Reading Diary 2016


Helen Macdonald H is for Hawk              MEMOIR

Sarah Howe Loop of Jade                      POETRY

Brene Brown Rising Strong                    SELF-HELP


Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See     NOVEL

Sara Maitland, Gossip from the forest              NATURE WRITING


Dr Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm The Buddha Pill      PSYCHOLOGY

Rob Cowan Common Ground       NATURE WRITING

Deborah Alma Emergency Poet   POETRY

David Sedaris Naked                   MEMOIR

William Ayot Re-enchanting the forest    NATURE WRITING

Sharon Blackie If Women Rose Rooted  NATURE WRITING


Charlotte Hobson The Vanishing Futurist          NOVEL

Suzanne O’Sullivan It’s All in Your Head           PSYCHOLOGY

Andrew McMillan Physical                                POETRY

Mark Oakley The Collage of God                     SPIRITUAL


Marion Coutts The Iceberg           MEMOIR

Richard Coles From Pop To Pulpit          MEMOIR


Simon Sebag Montefiore One Night in Winter   NOVEL

Alex Preston This Bleeding City    NOVEL

Jose Eduardo Agualusa A General Theory of Oblivion NOVEL IN TRANSLATION


Han Kang The Vegetarian            NOVEL IN TRANSLATION

James Doty Into the Magic Shop  SELF-HELP

Gavin Knight The Swordfish and the Star NATURE WRITING

Richard Rohr Falling Upward SPIRITUAL


Louis de Bernieres Red Dog  NOVEL

Lauren Slater Spasm         MEMOIR

Ethan Watters Crazy Like Us       PSYCHOLOGY


Jeanette Winterson Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal  MEMOIR

Elif Shafak The Architect’s Apprentice  NOVEL


Sebastian Faulk Where my heart used to beat  NOVEL

Kathleen Jamie The Overhaul      POETRY


Hannah Kent Burial Rites   NOVEL

Lionel Shriver The Mandibles  NOVEL

David Grossman Out of Time  GENRE-DEFYING

Elizabeth Speller The Sunlight on the Garden  MEMOIR