Books, charts, blah

Because Christmas is the season to be selfish (that’s right isn’t it?) I continue my annual self indulgence in December of blogging some personal reviews of the year. First up the third of my books review with pointless charts.

It’s been a really good year for my own reading with 51 books (I expect I’ll fit one more in before year end to make it one a week), so in this top ten I’ve excluded classic books I read or re-read this year, but that doesn’t mean these are all new releases this year.

It wasn’t intentional, but looking at that list it is heavily influenced by the social and political context of 2017. Three of the books are concerned with the Nazis, their rise to power and the consequences of normalising bigotry. It is also impossible to read these accounts without making parallels to the current situation, both here in the UK and particularly in the US. Reni Eddo-Lodge and Colson Whitehead both provided blistering attacks on structural racism in different forms and similarly Cordelia Fine and Naomi Alderman tackle sexism from non-fiction and fictional perspectives (they’re also wildly entertaining writers).

On to the first chart, breakdown by genre. As usual, contemporary literature was the largest category, but a lot more non-fiction this year (and I’ve randomly selected out music/film as a separate category). Because of my new found love of audiobooks (see the format chart below), I also read or reread a lot of classics.

Which brings me on to format. I signed up for Audible at the start of the year, and I am mildly addicted to audiobooks now. I ran three marathons this year, and doing a long, slow run on a Sunday morning listening to a good reading of Dickens or Zadie Smith is a marvellous way to pass a couple of hours. I also drive to Milton Keynes regularly, and suddenly being stuck on the M4 doesn’t seem as painful when you’re listening to Stephen Fry read the Complete Sherlock Holmes. I also started buying physical books more this year, and kindle saw a decline from previous years. It is a year I got back into vinyl coincidentally. Maybe there’s something about the precariousness of the times we live in that makes you crave comfort in physical objects, as if I can build my nuclear shelter from Sarah Waters novels and Echo and the Bunnymen albums.

Lastly, breakdown by author gender. Almost an even split, with 26 men to 25 women. I actively try to maintain an even balance, and sometimes a particular route means you have read more than one, for instance I read a few film industry books at the start of the year, which ended up being a very male area. However, in terms of impact, my top ten is largely dominated by women writers (and unlike the book editor of the NYT I managed to find great women writers all on my own, by you know, reading them).

Here’s the full list if you’re interested:

1. Wishful Drinking _ Carrie Fisher
2. Postcards from the Edge – Carrie Fisher
3. Ways of Seeing – John Berger
4. Agatha Christie on the Screen – Mark Aldridge
5. Cant Stop Wont Stop – Jeff Chang
6. Pietr the Latvian – Georges Simenon
7. Hip Hop Generation – Bakari Kitwana
8. Jaws – Peter Benchley
9. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls – Peter Biskind
10. You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again – Julia Phillips
11. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
12. Homo Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari
13. On Beauty – Zadie Smith
14. Bowie – Paul Morley
15. Complete Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
16. Playing to the Gallery – Grayson Perry
17. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien – Georges Simenon
18. Set the Boy Free – Johnny Marr
19. Swing Time – Zadie Smith
20. The Old Ways – Robert Macfarlane
21. The Death of Expertise – Tom Nichols
22. The Fish Ladder – Katharine Norbury
23. White teeth – Zadie Smith
24. Secret Life of bees – Sue Monk Kidd
25. At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails – Sarah Bakewell
26. Istanbul – Bettany Hughes
27. The Siege – Helen Dunmore
28. Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy
29. Fugitive pieces – Anne Michaels
30. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
31. Good Behaviour – Molly Keane
32. The Holocaust – Laurence Rees
33. SPQR – Mary Beard
34. Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada
35. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
36. Birdcage walk – Helen Dunmore
37. Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maude Montgomery
38. The Dogs Last Walk – Howard Jacobson
39. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
40. Night Watch – Sarah Waters
41. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
42. Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan
43. Testosterone Rex – Cordelia Fine
44. The Power – Naomi Alderman
45. The Man Who Knew Too Much – G K Chesterton
46. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
47. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
48. Napoleon the Great – Andrew Roberts
49. Autumn – Ali Smith
50. Period Piece – Gwen Raverat
51. Silas Marner – George Eliot

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