Category Archives: a year of reading

How do you beat the January blues? Easy. Forget the weather and escape into a good book…

The night before Christmas. In a few hours, all the decorations will be gone…

Last night was Twelfth night*, officially the end of the Christmas holidays, and traditionally today is the day that the decorations are brought down. It’s always a sad time, and I hate that job more than any other household chore. Christmas is such a happy, joyous occasion in our family that when the decs are finally boxed and returned to the attic, the house always feels bare and lifeless, and the festivities seem like such a long way away. 
As I write this post, yet another storm is about to hammer through London, adding to the gloom of the season. The pretty, wintry, fantastical scenes on the Christmas cards which will no longer deck the halls as of tonight are just that, it seems. Fantasy. 
Is it any wonder, then, that we all seem to fall into a bit of a funk at this time of year? With months to go until the first signs of spring (although I did spot Hot Cross Buns in the supermarket yesterday. Too soon, Sainsbury’s. Too, too soon), the prospect of going back to work after the long break and no sign yet of the days lengthening, there appears to be little to look forward to in January and February. 
But in a way, it is also one of my favourite times of the year. Why? Because I seem to do more reading in January and February than at any other time of year. I hadn’t realised this fact until recently, when I looked back on last year’s reading. I got through more books in the first couple of months of 2013 than I did in any other period, and with the beginning of this year promising plenty of opportunities to read, I’m looking forward to another bumper period of reading. 
And who can blame me, eh? What better way to forget about the absence of festivities, the appalling weather and the January blues than to escape it all within the pages of a good novel? 
It’s a magical thing that happens when you open a book and become consumed in the story and characters within. I love the escapism that it affords you. 
Last year, I got a bumper crop of new books for Christmas, but I began my reading year with a classic that I’d never read before – Oliver Twist.  Despite the fact that the weather and atmosphere in Twist is just as frightful as that outside (if not more so), it was wonderful to share in an adventure taking part in a world far removed from my own. It was thrilling, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to start every year by reading a classic. This year it’s Dickens again – I’m about to get stuck in to Great Expectations. A story I know very well from popular culture (and some excellent film and television adaptations), but remarkably, I’ve never read. It’s a book I know I’m going to love. 

When I’d finished with Oliver, I immediately got stuck into another great book, then another and another. As the bitterly cold weather clung on into March and April, I treasured the opportunities it gave me to do nothing other than check where my bookmark had left me.

A book at bedtime…my winter blues-busters.
Whatever the weather this year, I’ll be doing a lot of travelling over the coming weeks, and instead of fearing those long journeys to and from work, I’m looking forward to the perfect opportunity to enter another world. This may sound odd to many, but I’ve missed my morning and evening commute of late and I’m actually looking forward to getting that reading time back!
Books are an important part of this time of the year for me. By Spring, the opportunities to read will be diminishing. The garden will need tending, the social calendar will get busier, and the better weather always gets us out and about more; walking, cycling and days out all taking up time that in January and February seem to call me to reading. So I’m going to treasure this time, and make the most of it.
So if, this season, you find yourself feeling down and dreary, forlorn now the tinsel and bunting are about to disappear, why not do what I do, and make the most of it? Batten down the hatches, pull up the duvet and get stuck in to a good read…it will make the wait for Spring so much more pleasurable.  
Any excuse, eh?!
(*Or tonight is, depending on which tradition you follow. In my household, Christmas Eve night is every inch the start of Christmas time, so it counts in my book, even if it does mean taking the decorations down a day earlier.)

P.S. I can’t mention the weather in this post in such a light-hearted way without referring to the awful situation the weather is creating on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment. With the bitter cold and snow in the US and Canada, and the severe flooding here in the UK, I know many out there are suffering, or fearing the worst, and if anyone reading this is affected, please know that my thoughts are with you, and I hope that you remain safe, and you’re able to keep warm and dry. 

2013…a reading challenge

My 2013 reads…so far…

I know it’s November, and it’s a funny time of year to be introducing a reading challenge, but this is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now.

Back in January, I set myself a challenge designed to get me to read more. Having become thoroughly fed up with my lack of reading over the previous few years, I decided to do something about it and set myself a challenge – to read 12 new books by the end of the year.

Now, I know a lot of you fellow book lovers will scoff at this measly total. “12 books? I read that in a month!” I hear you cry. For some bloggers I know, that’s pretty much what you get through in a week, let alone a year.

Several aspects have conspired lately to stop me from reading. Firstly, I’ve never been a quick reader. Whereas some can plough through a novel in one sitting, it can take me days to read the same book. I can only read in certain environments, too. While I love to relax on the sofa with the TV off and a good book open, my favourite place to read is on a train. But truth be told, since putting my career on hold to work on the Cypress Branches trilogy, I have found my favourite reading time has vanished. I used to have a fairly decent commute in to work, of between 30 and 60 minutes on the bus or tube, there and back – plenty of time to get stuck in. (I’m a bit odd, in the way that I take pleasure from an announcement of a delay, because it means I don’t have to stop reading yet!)

But working from home for the last two years has meant that precious reading time is no longer available. I have a lot of other interests aside from reading, so without that commute, my reading rate plummeted to the extent that I finished just two books in 2012. An appalling record for a bibliophile, and something had to change.

Without the prospect of a daily commute starting again any time soon, I knew that I would have to make changes in my lifestyle somewhere, so inspired by the many reading challenges I read about in the blogosphere, I decided to set myself a simple, but hopefully achievable challenge.

Over the years, I have amassed a large number of unread books (my ability to buy books at a faster rate than I can read them is a trait I know I share with many others!) so I decided some ground rules had to be laid out:

The Challenge Rules

1. Read 12 novels by the end of December 2013
2. All books must not have been read before
3. All 12 books must be by different authors

I didn’t want to set a theme. I have an eclectic taste in books, and wanted to dip into as many genres and styles of writing as possible. I had no real plan, either, and simply pulled a book off the shelf that took my fancy each time I finished one. I wanted to read classics alongside contemporary, sci-fi and lit-fic, light-hearted and heavy. I only bought two new novels this year, too, which means I read more than I bought for once!

So, with some ground rules in place, and a burgeoning library offering up many wonders, I got stuck in to some brilliant reads, and I’m happy to report that with two months of the year to go, I finished my 12th novel a couple of days ago. It’s amazing how a few little changes to your routine can have a dramatic impact on your reading time. A couple of chapters before bed, an hour or two at the weekend, the odd journey here and there, a lazy, rainy day on holiday, all add up and I was amazed at just how quickly I got through my 12 books (yeah, yeah, I know, not that quickly…)

I was also helped by starting a new job which saw me travelling for nearly two hours to and from work once or twice a week, and with the prospect of a new full time job starting soon, I can look forward to even more reading/travelling time in 2014. I can’t wait!

2013 has introduced me to some brilliant (and not so brilliant) reads. I have rated them all on Goodreads, and may try my hand at writing a review or two. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back into the reading habit and hope to read a few more before the year is out. I’ll probably give the new reads a break for now and re-discover some old favourites. I do love re-reading books occasionally, and there are a few on the shelves I’ve been tempted by, but it was against the rules…

As for next year, I have an idea in mind for a new target. But more of that in January. Right now, I want to get stuck into book number 13…