Bookish Resolutions for 2019

I procrastinated writing this blog post for literal months – because unlike last year where I had a plethora of reading resolutions, this year I pretty much only have one (which I have already kind of failed, more on that later) and I am a bit apprehensive about sharing it with the world. These last few years I always picked a genre to read more of during a year but I think now I read widely enough to just stick with what I like.

But, first things first, here are some of my standard reading resolutions before we come to the big one:

Read 100 books.

This number is the amount of books I have aimed for the last few years and it is a number that works for me. I do read pretty consistently two books a week and it feels like a goal I can reach no problem without shying away from longer books.

Keep writing reviews.

I have recently fallen off the waggon a bit but I wrote reviews for most of the books I have read last year and I want to keep doing this. I also want to be more ok with just writing super short reviews for the books I don’t have all that much to say about – and I hope allowing myself that will help me with this goal.

Post around two to three times a week.

For a short period this last year I managed to post every other way – I had posts scheduled and everything. But to be completely honest, this is not quite feasible for me. For one thing, life gets in the way and sometimes I cannot schedule in advance, and sometimes I don’t finish enough books to keep posting at a rate this high. But I do want to post reasonably often and I think I can do two to three times a week, with some weeks being busier and other weeks not so much.

Read by whim. (AKA request fewer ARCs)

I cannot for the life of me stick to a TBR and trying to do so just sucks the joy out of reading for me. And I don’t want that. So, for next year I want to just read what I like and for that reason I will try to request fewer ARCs as to not become overwhelmed.

And now that those rather easy resolutions are out of the way, here comes my big reading challenge for the upcoming year:

Only read books by women and non-binary authors

I read more books by women to begin with and these books are more likely to be my favourites. As such, my resolution is really not that much of a stretch. But still, this year I want to challenge myself to not read any books written by men. Mostly it’s a fun way for me to change up my reading and be more thoughtful about the books I approach, partly it has something to do with those articles that crop up every now and then where famous men admit to only ever reading books written by men. Only really partly though. Today I rearranged my physical TBR shelves and freeing up that room (by shoving the books I own that were written by men to one end) felt oddly cathartic. My reading is really only for me and the fun I have with it, which is the angle I am approaching this particular resolution from. Which is the reason why I am not too stressed about the fact that I did not manage to finish reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf before the year ended – which means I have basically already failed this test of mine.

What are your reading resolutions, if you have any that is?

 

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Final Update: How did I do with my Bookish Resolutions?

I set myself 10 reading resolutions this year; something I did absolutely enjoy but which did not always work as well as I thought it would. As the year is rapidly drawing to a close, I think it is time to give a final update on my progress.

Read 100 books.

As of writing this post I have read 108 books – so I absolutely achieved that goal. I did read a lot of short books and a ridiculous amount of UF (a genre that I read particularly fast) but with an average of 308 pages per book I don’t think that number is too shabby at all.

Read at least one author’s complete work.

Well… I did not do this in the slightest. I am so bad at this resolution! Hopefully, next year will be the year when I finally tackle the unread books on my shelves by authors whose work I have adored.

Keep writing reviews for every book you read.

I fell of the waggon a bit during the second half of the year. Part of this has to do with the speed with which I raced through some of the series I read, never pausing in between the installments, part of it has to do with the ridiculous amount of stuff going on in my life. I did write reviews of the majority of books I have read though and still have not lost hope that I might go back and write the 10 or so reviews that are still pending.

Read more women; especially WOC.

I did not do much better at this than I did last year (when I read around 60% women): 68% of the books I read were written by women. But to be fair, only 19% were written by men. Around a third of the books I read were written by authors of colour – a percentage I absolutely want to improve on next year.

Read some of the books that have been on the TBR forever.

I did not do that. Only four of the books I read had been on my shelves for more than a year. I am really not great at prioritizing books that I bought ages ago.

Only request books if a) you really really really want them and have been looking forward to them or b) you have reviewed all other ARCs you had.

I got a lot better at this. Still not perfect but as I am sitting comfortably at around 90% feedback ratio on NetGalley I am fine with the way I am doing this.

Finish at least one unfinished series.

I did not do this in a proper sense. All the series I had unfinished before the year started are still unfinished. Maybe next year.

Read only YA that comes highly recommended.

I did it! I only read three YA books this year and enjoyed them all.

Read more Science Fiction.

I read nine proper sci-fi books and four dystopian novels. I still gravitate towards fantasy a lot more but I did enjoy my foray into the genre. I will keep reading sci-fi from now on out.

Read more novellas.

I tried, I really did. I read a few novellas and even enjoyed some but mostly the length left me unsatisfied. I don’t think I will pursuing this any further from here on out.

How did you do on your reading resolutions?

Most anticipated releases of 2019 (first half)

This year I started paying way more attention to new releases than I have ever done before; bookblogging does that for you. As I have done quite well with actually reading the books I am excited about (you can see my blogpost about that here) I wanted to write about some of the books I am most excited about in 2019.

40121993The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Graywolf Press, February 4th 2019

I have been excited about this memoir for months now. It’s about the author’s struggle with chronic illness and mental health and I need more of these kinds of books in my life.

37534907The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Tor Books, February 12th 2019

I adore adore Charlie Jane Anders – and her first novel is one of my all-time favourite books. “Excited” does not even cover it – I am ecstatic beyond measure to get a new book by her.

40539185Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

Simon & Schuster, February 12th 2019

There are few things I adore more than unconventionally written memoirs by women and this one sounds right up my alley.

 

40123339Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Hamish Hamilton, February 28th 2019

I have been excited about this book for so very long. I thankfully got an ARC for this book and should have read this by the end of the year. This sounds like everything I could ever want – literary fantasy is one of my favourite things.

34763824Long Live The Tribe Of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

Bloomsbury Publishing, March 19th 2019

The title alone would have me hooked – and the following part of the blurb makes it impossible for me to not pick this up: With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.”

37920490Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Saga Press, April 23rd 2019

I seriously adored the first book in the series and it ended in such a way that I am dying to know what happens next.

 

42201997What My Mother And I Don’t About ed. by Michele Filgate

Simon & Schuster, April 30th 2019

This essay collection sounds incredible – it features essay written by Lidia Yuknavitch (my hero), Kiese Laymon, Carmen Mario Machado, and many other incredible writers. I cannot wait to get my hands on this.

38362811The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

Hachette Books, May 7th 2019

I seriously adored Lindy West’s Shrill and might have squealed a little when I realized the had a new book coming out next year. Her voice is something extraordinary.

40653143No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder

Bloomsbury Publishing, May 14th 2019

This books sets out to give a comprehensive overview on domestic violence. While this is a topic I have been interested in for some time, I haven’t read a non-fiction book that grapples with the topic broadly and I think it is much needed.

41118857The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

Harper Voyager, August 6th 2019

The first book the series surprised me in how much I adored it and the ending scares me very much for what is still to come in this duology. Still, I cannot wait to read it.

What are your most anticipated books on the coming year?

Thoughts: The Costa Book Awards reaction 2018

I love book prizes. A lot. And now in the time between the Man Booker and my personal favourite the Women’s Prize for fiction, I thought I might take the time to talk about the Costa Book Awards. While not quite as prestigious as the aforementioned, it is a prize that I personally really enjoy. I enjoy the focus on accessibility and I like the different categories. I also like that it is a UK book prize and only open to authors based in the UK. I just find that this helps to highlight different books.

I am mostly interested in the categories First Novel Award, Novel Award, and the Biography Award. While I am glad the prize has categories for Poetry and Children’s Fiction, those just are genres I don’t read that often. You can find the complete lists, including further information here.

Below are my short, unstructured reactions to the three shortlists.

2018 Costa First Novel Award

  • Natalie Hart – Pieces of Me
  • Elisa Lodato – An Unremarkable Body
  • Stuart Turton – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
  • Anne Youngson – Meet Me at the Museum

I have only read the Stuart Turton (and enjoyed it immensely but it is not without its flaws) and the only one of the other three that I have heard of is the Elisa Lodato – which has a brilliant cover but sounds too depressing for my current mood. Anne Youngson is a Birmingham alumni like me which makes me irrationally happy. I obviously like that there are three women on the list.

2018 Costa Novel Award

  • Pat Barker – The Silence of the Girls
  • Tom Rachman – The Italian Teacher
  • Sally Rooney – Normal People
  • Donal Ryan – From a Low and Quiet Sea

Again, I have only read one of these books, Donal Ryan’s beautiful From a Low and Quiet Sea, but at least this time around I have heard of all the books. I really need to get to the Rooney, the reviews are super positive and she seems to be THE writer to watch.

2018 Biography Award

  • Viv Albertine – To Throw Away Unopened
  • Bart van Es – The Cut Out Girl
  • Raynor Winn – The Salt Path
  • Benjamin Zephaniah – The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: The Autobiography

Shockingly I have heard of none of those. But I am super intrigued by the Raynor Winn (memoirs about loss are something I appreciate a lot and then coupled with hiking? Count me in) and the Benjamin Zephaniah (also from Birmingham!).

Every time bookish shortlists are announced I realize that I do not know as much about the books coming out as I would like to think. But I do love the process of discouvering new books this way. Have you read or you plan on reading any of these books?

Recommendations: Adult Fantasy

I have seen a discussion floating around Twitter about that period between being a teenager and being an adult and the difficulty some people face in finding books that speak to them. I have talked about memoirs in this context before as I find that they are a brilliant way of finding books that talk about exactly these experiences. Rachel has also written a brilliant post recommending adult books for young adults, which you should absolutely check out. But today I want to recommend some Adult Fantasy – because there are so many great books in that section that people maybe ignore. I personally have been struggling with YA fantasy because the focus on love stories is just not something I am super interested in, and have been mostly reading adult fantasy.

I also have thoughts about whose books get classified as YA. Hint: Not those written by men. Coming-of-age stories are a staple in adult fantasy, be it Lord of the Rings or The Name of the Wind. But nobody calls these books YA. But when a young woman writes fantasy suddenly people insist on calling it YA. Case in point: R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, which is decidedly NOT YA and super gruesome in parts. The author received some weird backlash when she insisted that her book really, really, really is not YA and should be treated as such. So I would politely ask everybody to think about their assumptions when it comes to placing books in the YA section in their heads.

Urban Fantasy:

The Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

9317452I love this series with all my heart. The main character is in his mid-twenties and working as a police man when he stumbles upon the supernatural underbelly of contemporary London. The books are hilarious and self-aware, the cast of characters is diverse and wonderfully drawn, and reading these books just makes me happy. The seventh book is due to come out this month and I cannot wait to hold it in my hands.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

7940930I went through a ridiculous binge of these books earlier this year and only have the last book in the series left to read. Kate is a wonderful protagonist who I am always rooting for. She is in her early twenties when the series begins and working as a private investigator, trying to just live her life and not get emotionally involved with anybody. I have rarely been as invested in a relationship as I am in hers and Curran (even if he is a bit of an ass sometimes) and love the strong emphasis on friendship these books have at their core. I have also recently read another series by Ilona Andrews which I also whole-heartedly recommend.

High Fantasy:

The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

19161852I adore this. I don’t even have all that many words to describe how utterly perfect I think this series is. N. K. Jemisin might be my all-time favourite author and I am dragging my feet to read the last of her series that I haven’t read yet because then I would have to wait for new books to appear. The first book is told from three perspectives following three women of different ages and their struggles. It grapples with growing up and family and racism and the end of the world. The themes of family at the core of this series really broke my heart.

The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

25452717The protagonists of this series are on the older end – and I absolutely loved this. They still are looking for their place in the world and they try to be good people (and sometimes fail at this).The characters rebel against their families’ expectations in a way that I found highly relatable. Bennett’s language is assured, his characterization on point, and his world-building intricate.

Standalones:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

27313170Sitting just at the edge between fantasy and science fiction, this is basically a coming-of-age story, focussing on the friendship between a witch and a scientist. There are strong themes of family and friendship, on doing the right thing as opposed to the easy thing, and of identity and self. The characters in this book are different and wonderful. Anders’ imagination is dazzling and I cannot wait for her new book coming out in January 2019.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

33571217Milo is an old soul, literally – he has lived 9995 lives so far and has yet to achieve perfection. In fact he isn’t even sure he wants to achieve perfection as he is in love with Death (or rather a Death – Suzie). This has to change when he is informed that every soul has in fact only 10000 lives to get it right or it will be erased. This a book, at its core, about finding your place in the world and about being the best person you can be. And I can think of few things more relevant to me.

What are your favourite adult fantasy novels that might be interesting to people trying to find their way into the genre?

Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Thoughts: Man Booker 2018 Predictions

I have not read the shortlist; I do not plan on reading the shortlist. That does not mean I am not super interested to see who will win later today. And I also have thoughts.

I read only two of the shortlisted books:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

356108231I really enjoyed reading this but the longer I keep thinking about it, the more it falls apart. I found Romy a fascinating protagonist, difficult and flawed but also warm and somewhat easy to root for. I liked getting the glimpses into the other inmates’ stories and thought this added a nice, political layer to this book. But, the male perspectives did only peripherally add anything substantial to the book. I do get some parallels and what that says about misogyny but I would have liked this more without these men. I also think that the book is fairly flawed, as much as I enjoyed it. I do think it has a fair chance at winning and I would not be disappointed if it did, but I would not be overjoyed.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289I loved this; and unlike The Mars Room, it just keeps on growing on me. I love the non-linear timeline and Johnson’s prose and her wonderful way with characterization. I loved the whole reading experience and I am so very glad that the Man Booker gave me the nudge I needed to read this book. Because I am NOT as enamoured with the cover as everybody seems to be. I would be thrilled if this one won, but I am not really seeing it. But I would be so very pleased!

The four others on the shortlist just all do not sound like my cup of tea, for various reasons.

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

35659255This might be brilliant or it might not be, but I am not interested in Post War books (I read way too many in school) and I am also not the biggest fan of poetry (in English – there is something about English poetry that makes me doubt my language proficiency). I do think that this one is least likely to win, for one because the whole “should poetry be part of the Man Booker”-discussion would get blown up even more, and for another, I just don’t think this is anybody’s favourite to win.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

39731474This is so far outside my reading taste, it’s quite impressive actually. I don’t like adventure stories and I also don’t like historical novels. This might be brilliant and it might add something new to the slave narrative and I am sure the writing is lovely, but I don’t see myself reading it. I also don’t think this’ll win the Booker, but I wouldn’t be mad if it did. It does seem to be an accomplished book after all.

 

Milkman by Anna Burns

36047860This sounded right up my alley, until I read parts of it. Stream of consciousness does not always work for me and I am not quite sure my English is good enough for me to appreciate this book (I had similar problems with A Brief History of Seven Killings by the way). It does sound like it might be the best book, from a technical standpoint, on this list and I would be weirdly enough pretty pleased if this won.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

35187203People are really divided on this book and while it sounds fascinating, it is also a ridiculously long book about trees. And I just don’t see myself reading this any time soon (which more often than not means never). I do think that the chances this will win are pretty high, even if the Brits will be aghast if another American man won. I am fairly unbothered either way to be honest.

 

So, to recap, I am pulling for Everything Under but I don’t think it’ll win, I do think The Overstory might win and people will be frothing at their mouths. Or Anna Burns wins this and all will be great.

Which one do you think will win? Which one would you like to win?