2014 In Books

In the first part of my 2014 in review series which may or may not continue after this post, I’m going to briefly analyse the books I’ve read this year.  Unfortunately I only managed to read 31 books, down from 41 in 2013 and failing to reach my target of 43 by quite a wide margin.  My main reason for this is that I more or less stopped reading outside of my university courses between January and May due to coursework and life related things going on, so hopefully this downward movement is only a blip!  Anyhow, here’s the list:

  1. The Book Thief (2005) – Markus Zusak
  2. Britain and Ireland: From Home Rule to Independence (1999) – Jeremy Smith
  3. Utopia (1516) – Thomas More
  4. Doctor Faustus (1604) – Christopher Marlowe
  5. Oroonoko (1688) – Aphra Behn
  6. Scotland’s Future (2013) – The Scottish Government
  7. Blair Unbound (2007) – Anthony Seldon
  8. The Fault in our Stars (2012) – John Green
  9. Long Walk to Freedom (1995) – Nelson Mandela
  10. The Trowie Mound Murders (2014) – Marsali Taylor
  11. Of Mice and Men (1937) – John Steinbeck
  12. Rachel in Love (1987) – Pat Murphy
  13. Ulysses (1922) – James Joyce
  14. Europe: In or Out? (2014) – David Charter
  15. The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) – J.K. Rowling
  16. Nausea (1938) – Jean-Paul Sartre
  17. The Silkworm (2014) – J.K. Rowling
  18. The Great Gatsby [re-read] (1922)– F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. A Game of Thrones (1996) – George R.R. Martin
  20. A Clash of Kings (1998) – George R. R. Martin
  21. A Storm of Swords (2000) – George R. R. Martin
  22. A Sentimental Journey (1768) – Laurence Sterne
  23. Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Jonathan Swift
  24. Common Sense (1776) – Thomas Paine
  25. Salmond: Against the Odds (2010) – David Torrance
  26. The Constitution of the United States of America (1787) – James Madison
  27. Frankenstein [re-read] (1818) – Mary Shelley
  28. Northanger Abbey (1817) – Jane Austen
  29. Rip Van Winkle / The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820) – Washington Irving
  30. Hard Times (1854) – Charles Dickens
  31. A Feast for Crows (2005) – George R. R. Martin

And to put them in order of preference:

  1. A Storm of Swords (2000) – George R. R. Martin
  2. A Game of Thrones (1996) – George R.R. Martin
  3. A Clash of Kings (1998) – George R. R. Martin
  4. Long Walk to Freedom (1995) – Nelson Mandela
  5. The Silkworm (2014) – J.K. Rowling
  6. Frankenstein [re-read] (1818) – Mary Shelley
  7. Common Sense (1776) – Thomas Paine
  8. Doctor Faustus (1604) – Christopher Marlowe
  9. The Great Gatsby [re-read] (1922) – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. The Fault in our Stars (2012) – John Green
  11. The Book Thief (2005) – Markus Zusak
  12. A Feast for Crows (2005) – George R. R. Martin
  13. The Trowie Mound Murders (2014) – Marsali Taylor
  14. Northanger Abbey (1817) – Jane Austen
  15. Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Jonathan Swift
  16. Of Mice and Men (1937) – John Steinbeck
  17. Rachel in Love (1987) – Pat Murphy
  18. Hard Times (1854) – Charles Dickens
  19. Rip Van Winkle / The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820) – Washington Irving
  20. Europe: In or Out? (2014) – David Charter
  21. Utopia (1516) – Thomas More
  22. Salmond: Against the Odds (2010) – David Torrance
  23. Nausea (1938) – Jean-Paul Sartre
  24. Britain and Ireland: From Home Rule to Independence (1999) – Jeremy Smith
  25. The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) – J.K. Rowling
  26. Blair Unbound (2007) – Anthony Seldon
  27. Oroonoko (1688) – Aphra Behn
  28. A Sentimental Journey (1768) – Laurence Sterne
  29. Ulysses (1922) – James Joyce

Unrated:
Scotland’s Future (2013) – The Scottish Government
The Constitution of the United States of America (1787) – James Madison

—–

And here I’ve [broadly] charted on a map where each book is set or about.  Obviously fictions which aren’t set in our world, like A Song of Ice and Fire, aren’t included, and for non-fiction books I’ve had to take some liberties:

Settings 2014

Almost every book here written before 1900 is due to my English Literature course, hence why they’re so clustered together.  It’s a good mix, I think, although as the map shows there is a very strong northern European, British-American bias in the books I’ve read.  Every author, with the exception of Nelson Mandela, is either European or American – I’ll definitely try to widen the writers I read next year.  I think I’ve managed a healthy balance between fiction and non-fiction; I’ve neither lived wholly in bleak reality nor untempered fantasy.  In terms of preference, I’m not surprised to see George R. R. Martin consistently quite high given I tend to rate quality of storytelling in fiction above quality of prose (I imagine I’ll have a lot to say about that in a future post!).  Otherwise there’s no clear pattern.  I need to make a caveat for Ulysses however; while it was the most excruciatingly painful novel I’ve forced myself to read, while I considered the whole thing a project to ridicule critics, upon finishing I just couldn’t get it out of my head and having looked back at it I do find a lot of worth in there.  So this does betray one potential problem with my ratings, in that I rate purely in enjoyment while reading rather than any other means, which brings me back to the discussion of value best saved for another day.

Looking forward to the great reads 2015 brings!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the books’ gender ratio.  Only 23% of the books I read were written by women, which is pretty shocking to consider.  Some of this might be down to the amount of ‘classics’ I’ve read this year, although considering these gave me Aphra Benn, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen, who I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise, it’s possibly this actually buffed the number up.  Unless I’ve subconsciously given greater preference to male authors (could be similar to this phenomenon) it’s clear women still face a harder task getting represented in the most high-profile and bestselling books.

2013: My Books

Unless I do some pretty quick reading over the next two days, I think I’m able to compile a complete list of the books I’ve read over the last year!  I’ve managed to extend my record of 38 books last year to 41!  I’ve also increasingly branched into reading non-fiction, largely around historical or political topics though also some science as well, but I’m making sure to keep up the fiction as well.  Like last year, I’ve compiled the books into two lists: in order by date read and my enjoyment of them.  I’m beginning to wonder whether it might be better to have two separate lists for the fiction and non-fiction, as it’s so difficult to compare the two forms.  I’ll bear that in mind for 2014.  For now, here they are:

Order Read

  1. Twilight (2005) – Stephenie Meyer
  2. New Moon (2006) – Stephenie Meyer
  3. Eclipse (2007) – Stephenie Meyer
  4. The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era (2012) – Liu Noueihed and Alex Warren
  5. Breaking Dawn (2008) – Stephenie Meyer
  6. American Gods (2001) – Neil Gaiman
  7. Brave New World [re-read] (1932) – Aldous Huxley
  8. Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (2011) – Owen Jones
  9. Cloud Atlas (2004) – David Mitchell
  10. The Bridge (1986) – Iain Banks
  11. Teach Yourself Islam (2003) – Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
  12. Heart of Darkness (1902) – Joseph Conrad
  13. Death on a Longship – Marsali Taylor (2012)
  14. The Great Powers 1814 – 1914 (1992) – Eric Wilmot
  15. Romeo and Juliet (1597) – William Shakespeare
  16. Doctor Who: The Witch Hunters (1998) – Steve Lyons
  17. The Thief of Time (2000) – John Boyne
  18. Gaia: A New Look At Life on Earth (1979) – James Lovelock
  19. Fight Club (1996) – Chuck Palahniuk
  20. Battle Royale (2000-2005) – Koushun Takami
  21. Hamlet (1603) – William Shakespeare
  22. Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) – George Orwell
  23. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) – Mark Haddon
  24. Consider Phlebas (1987) – Iain Banks
  25. Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky (2009) – Bertrand M. Patenaude
  26. Paradise Lost (1667) – John Milton
  27. The Great Gatsby (1925) – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  28. The Turn of the Screw (1898) – Henry James
  29. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) – Muriel Spark
  30. Oliver Cromwell (1991) – Barry Coward
  31. The Decline of the English Murder and other Essays (1965) – George Orwell
  32. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) – James Hogg
  33. Waiting For Godot (1953) – Samuel Beckett
  34. Cloud 9 (1979) – Caryl Churchill
  35. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) – Oscar Wilde
  36. Richard III (1592) – William Shakespeare
  37. Ishi’s Brain: In Search of the Last “Wild” Indian (2004) – Orin Starn
  38. Pride and Prejudice (1813) – Jane Austen
  39. The Wasp Factory (1984) – Iain Banks
  40. The Casual Vacancy (2012) [re-read] – J. K. Rowling
  41. Road to Referendum (2013) – Iain Macwhirter

Order of Enjoyment

  1. Cloud Atlas (2004) – David Mitchell
  2. Brave New World [re-read] (1932) – Aldous Huxley
  3. The Bridge (1986) – Iain Banks
  4. The Casual Vacancy (2012) [re-read] – J. K. Rowling
  5. Road to Referendum (2013) – Iain Macwhirter
  6. The Great Powers 1814 – 1914 (1992) – Eric Wilmot
  7. The Great Gatsby (1925) – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. Consider Phlebas (1987) – Iain Banks
  9. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) – James Hogg
  10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) – Mark Haddon
  11. Pride and Prejudice (1813) – Jane Austen
  12. Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) – George Orwell
  13. Death on a Longship – Marsali Taylor (2012)
  14. Doctor Who: The Witch Hunters (1998) – Steve Lyons
  15. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) – Muriel Spark
  16. The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era (2012) – Liu Noueihed and Alex Warren
  17. Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (2011) – Owen Jones
  18. Waiting For Godot (1953) – Samuel Beckett
  19. Gaia: A New Look At Life on Earth (1979) – James Lovelock
  20. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) – Oscar Wilde
  21. The Wasp Factory (1984) – Iain Banks
  22. Ishi’s Brain: In Search of the Last “Wild” Indian (2004) – Orin Starn
  23. The Decline of the English Murder and other Essays (1965) – George Orwell
  24. Battle Royale (2000-2005) – Koushun Takami
  25. Cloud 9 (1979) – Caryl Churchill
  26. Oliver Cromwell (1991) – Barry Coward
  27. Hamlet (1603) – William Shakespeare
  28. Richard III (1592) – William Shakespeare
  29. Teach Yourself Islam (2003) – Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
  30. Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky (2009) – Bertrand M. Patenaude
  31. American Gods (2001) – Neil Gaiman
  32. Paradise Lost (1667) – John Milton
  33. Heart of Darkness (1902) – Joseph Conrad
  34. The Turn of the Screw (1898) – Henry James
  35. Romeo and Juliet (1597) – William Shakespeare
  36. Twilight (2005) – Stephenie Meyer
  37. The Thief of Time (2000) – John Boyne
  38. Breaking Dawn (2008) – Stephenie Meyer
  39. New Moon (2006) – Stephenie Meyer
  40. Eclipse (2007) – Stephenie Meyer
  41. Fight Club (1996) – Chuck Palahniuk

Fringe Vlogs

So, I’ve decided to start a vlog!  You can see it at FringeVlogs on Youtube (I only have one video uploaded thus far).

My reason for doing this is that I’m beginning to see how the written format of WordPress isn’t ideally suited to charting interesting things in my life.  It has its place but I think I’ll be more encouraged to observe and be excited by the world around me if I’m carrying a camera around and filming things.

I originally wasn’t planning to start vlogging until I began university (this September – 48 days!) but I thought I’d sneak a bit of home in first.  Please take a look if you have the time.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by… J. K. Rowling?

This story fills me with joy.  J. K. Rowling, known of course for the spectacularly successfully Harry Potter series of novels between 1997 – 2007, and also The Casual Vacancy last year (which I’m in the minority for loving), has released a third book.  Why no hype?  Why did nobody know of this?  It turns out she’s been using a pseudonym.

The Cuckoo’s Calling was quietly published earlier this year in April by an author called ‘Robert Galbraith’.  It’s a crime novel and received wide critical acclaim, with many reviewers expressing surprise that a first-time author could produce a work of such quality.  It has now been revealed that this was, in fact, the work of J. K. Rowling.  Speaking to the Sunday Times, she said:

“Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience.  It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

I find this story incredibly amusing.  It’s boosted my already-high respect for Rowling, disproving any cynical claims that she’s “only in it for the money.”  I can easily understand why she chose to do this; The Casual Vacancy was, wrongly in my opinion, unfairly judged by a comparison to Harry Potter.  Every established artist’s work will be compared to their former work, but this went further.  Despite being a very decent book it received harsh criticism by people who, I suspect, were hoping for another Harry Potter.  How liberating it must have been for Rowling to escape that!  I’m pleased to see The Cuckoo’s Calling getting such positive reviews, which I hope will discredit everyone bent on labeling her a one-hit wonder.   I, for one, look forward to reading it!

2012: My Books

Below are two lists.  One is a list of books I’ve read this year, and the second is the same list but reorganised in my order of enjoyment.  Some people are impressed when I tell them I’ve read over 30 books this year but I don’t really think it’s that much – just 2 and a half books per month, which isn’t really all that much overall reading time.  I’m hoping to achieve more next year!

  1. Shooting an Elephant and other Essays (1950) – George Orwell
  2. Animal Farm (1945) – George Orwell
  3. Homage to Catalonia (1938) – George Orwell
  4. Macbeth (1606) – William Shakespeare
  5. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – George Orwell
  6. Lord of the Flies (1954) – William Golding
  7. Foundation (1951) – Isaac Asimov
  8. Foundation and Empire (1952) – Isaac Asimov
  9. Second Foundation (1953) – Isaac Asimov
  10. A Study in Scarlet (1887) – Arthur Conan Doyle
  11. The Sign of the Four (1890) – Arthur Conan Doyle
  12. Brave New World (1932) – Aldous Huxley
  13. We (1924) – Yevgeny Zamyatin
  14. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) – JD Salinger
  15. The Hunger Games (2008) – Suzanne Collins
  16. Catching Fire (2009) – Suzanne Collins
  17. Mockingjay (2010) – Suzanne Collins
  18. Frankenstein (1818) – Mary Shelley
  19. The Magician’s Nephew (1955) (re-read) – C.S. Lewis
  20. The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  21. Zamyatin’s We: Essays – Various authors
  22. Huxley’s Brave New World – Various authors
  23. 20th Century Interpretations of Nineteen Eighty Four – Various authors
  24. The War of the Worlds (1898) – H. G. Wells
  25. Life on the Refrigerator Door (2007) – Alice Kuipers
  26. On Nineteen Eighty-Four: Orwell and our Future – Various authors
  27. God’s Own Country (2009) – Ross Raisin
  28. Foreign Parts (1995) – Janice Galloway
  29. Street Duty: Case One, Knock Down (2012) – Chris Ould
  30. The Road (2006) – Cormac McCarthy
  31. The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989) – Janice Galloway
  32. Antony and Cleopatra (1623) – William Shakespeare
  33. Othello (1603) – William Shakespeare
  34. The Northern Lights (1995) (re-read) – Philip Pullman
  35. The Subtle Knife (1997) (re-read) – Philip Pullman
  36. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) – Oscar Wilde
  37. The Amber Spyglass (2000) (re-read) – Philip Pullman
  38. The Casual Vacancy (2012) – J. K. Rowling

  1. The Amber Spyglass (2000) (re-read) – Philip Pullman
  2. Mockingjay (2010) – Suzanne Collins
  3. The Hunger Games (2008) – Suzanne Collins
  4. Animal Farm (1945) – George Orwell
  5. The Casual Vacancy (2012) – J. K. Rowling
  6. Catching Fire (2009) – Suzanne Collins
  7. Foundation and Empire (1952) – Isaac Asimov
  8. A Study in Scarlet (1987) – Arthur Conan Doyle
  9. Foundation (1951) – Isaac Asimov
  10. Lord of the Flies (1954) – William Golding
  11. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) – Oscar Wilde
  12. The Subtle Knife (1997) (re-read) – Philip Pullman
  13. Shooting an Elephant and other Essays (1950) – George Orwell
  14. Homage to Catalonia (1938) – George Orwell
  15. Brave New World (1932) – Aldous Huxley
  16. Antony and Cleopatra (1623) – William Shakespeare
  17. The Northern Lights (1995) (re-read) – Philip Pullman
  18. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – George Orwell
  19. God’s Own Country (2009) – Ross Raisin
  20. The Road (2006) – Cormac McCarthy
  21. Othello (1603) – William Shakespeare
  22. The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  23. Frankenstein (1818) – Mary Shelley
  24. Macbeth (1606) – William Shakespeare
  25. Life on the Refrigerator Door (2007) – Alice Kuipers
  26. Second Foundation (1953) – Isaac Asimov
  27. Street Duty: Case One, Knock Down (2012) – Chris Ould
  28. The War of the Worlds (1898) – H. G. Wells
  29. We (1924) – Yevgeny Zamyatin
  30. The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989) – Janice Galloway
  31. The Magician’s Nephew (1955) (re-read) – C.S. Lewis
  32. The Sign of the Four (1890) – Arthur Conan Doyle
  33. Zamyatin’s We: Essays – Various authors
  34. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) – JD Salinger
  35. Foreign Parts (1995) – Janice Galloway
  36. On Nineteen Eighty-Four: Orwell and our Future – Various authors
  37. 20th Century Interpretations of Nineteen Eighty Four – Various authors
  38. Huxley’s Brave New World – Various authors