Last September, I decided to take myself on a journey; a year-long voyage through different lands, cultures and times. I kept a record of it, writing down the places I had visited, and yet, I didn’t actually travel anywhere (well, other than family vacations to New Jersey and the Isle of Wight; feel free to insert your own witty comments here).
My original intention was to simply see how many books I could read in a year, but what I ended up with was more than just a list of book titles; these books took me to places beyond my own imagination, opened up new experiences and revealed more about me than I had expected.
So, what did I actually read, then? A breakdown of the books I read during the first six months is given below. Bonus points if you figure out the book titles before I tell you (they’re all listed at the end of this article).
I followed a murderer’s delicate sense of smell as he journeyed through 18th century France, killing people and finding different jobs. Then I climbed through a magic portal in Oxford to join an adventure in a parallel universe, spread across a trilogy of books, which explored danger, dust and daemons. Word of the month: adventure.
Total so far: 4
I joined a boy and his father as they poached their way through local woods, to wreak havoc on an aristocratic landowner. The next book I read took me on another journey, also with a boy and his father, across post-apocalyptic America. This was followed by a trip to Africa with a writer during the second world war, and then a journey of survival and Shakespeare through the American Great Lakes after a catastrophic flu epidemic. If those books weren’t cheerful enough, I next read a story about a teenage girl who has to compete in a life-or-death competition, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic North America. Next up was a tale of parish council dramas and class inequalities, then an exciting teenage adventure, about young time travellers trying to protect historical events. My final book of the month told the tale of a young soldier who was shot in France during WWI, for failing to follow orders. Word of the month: doom.
Total so far: 12
This month was no less dramatic, with a transgender teenager’s experience of climate change in Scotland, more post-apocalyptic shenanigans in Panem, and a young boy’s lonely voyage to Australia as an orphan in search of a new family. Word of the month: challenges.
Total so far: 16
I time-travelled to Ireland in 1846, 1919 and 1998 (all in just one book) followed by a trip to a plantation, in Virginia in 1790. Next was a visit to modern day Japan with a father and his son as they explored Japanese culture, and finally, I went to a mysterious Welsh island with a portal to a strange children’s home. Word of the month: time.
Total so far: 20
I delved into the Hollywood memoirs of a space princess, and navigating the muddled memories of an ageing woman, trying to solve the mystery of the whereabouts of her missing sister. Word of the month: memories.
Total so far: 23
I didn’t read anything this month; how did that happen? Well, up until now, I had been commuting to work by train and bus, so I had a leisurely three hours a day to read, but I ditched public transport in favour of my car, which meant a much faster commute, but I lost valuable reading time. Word of the month: failure.
Total so far: stalling at 23
Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, all by Philip Pullman, Danny The Champion of The World by Roald Dahl, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Going Solo by Roald Dahl, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling, Timeriders by Alex Scarrow, Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpuro, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar, Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, The Princess Diarist and Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher, and Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.
What did I learn?
What do these books say about me? Well, I seem to rather enjoy post-apocalyptic dystopian novels; I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about them that I like, maybe I’m searching for a glimpse into the bleak future of the human race? I am interested in reading memoirs, mainly to see how they are written and constructed, to inform and inspire my own writing. I’m not ashamed to admit that I read children’s books for my own pleasure; I have always loved Roald Dahl, and I have now discovered a penchant for Michael Morpurgo’s writing. (I’ll be reading these books again, to my children when they are old enough).
My Year in Books, part two is coming soon. How many books do you think I managed to read in one year? How many do you read?