Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Girl. This week's theme is New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018!

Looking back at my reading stats from 2018, it wasn't a particularly overwhelming year in terms of star ratings. However, those reads that did manage to make an impression were mostly from authors I was reading for the first time. In no particular order:

1. Helen Fields

I usually find police procedurals a bit boring and samey, but the D.I. Luc Callanach series brought something new and interesting to my crime reading life that took my by surprise and kept me hooked. I really like the detectives and the plots are clever, gruesome, and particularly in the case of Perfect Remains, really creepy (which is a good thing, in this case).

2. Leïla Slimani

Lullaby was a book with all the buzz at the beginning of the year. I knew the first line before I'd even picked it up: 'The baby is dead.' What I was expecting was a fairly standard psychological thriller that worked backwards from the murder to reveal the whodunnit. What I got though, was an intricate analysis of the role of women, class and race within French society, and a fascinating character study. The characters and their situation stuck with me long after I put the book down, and now I'm waiting with bated breath for the rest of Slimani's works to be translated into French.

3. Anaïs Nin

2018 saw the release of the 50 Penguin Modern shorts. I, along with every other book blogger and bookstagrammer, immediately set out to the nearest bookshop to pick up 1 or 2 (or 50). These little books are fantastic for discovering authors, and one that came as a bit of a surprise was Anaïs Nin. It wasn't so much the stories in this collection I enjoyed, but the research into Nin's personality and history I did once I'd read her writing. She sounds a fascinating person, and I look forward to finding out more about her and enjoying more of her writing soon!

4. Italo Calvino

Another Penguin Modern discovery was Italo Calvino. The Distance of the Moon is a set of short stories by the Italian author, though it's only the title story that has really stuck with me. It was beautifully written but I also remember feeling like it was just so bizarre. I've since read the first few pages of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller on the recommendation of a colleague which I really enjoyed, and once I've read a serious chunk of my TBR it will be one of the first books I pick up.

5. Albert Camus

I wrote off Camus as a pretentious philosopher who I'd never be able to keep up with. I bought The Outsider (more commonly translated as The Stranger) after seeing it featured on a list of books to read in your 20s in The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkind. It was such a slim novel I figured I might as well give it a go, and actually I was pleasantly surprised. The ending fell a bit flat for me and left me wanting, but it was a push I needed into uncharted reading territory.

6. Meena Kandasamy

One of the reasons I love the Women's Prize for Fiction is because, every year without fail, I find a new author who I would never have found out about were it not for the longlists and shortlists of the prize. The night the longlist was announced, When I Hit You was on Kindle for 99p, so I downloaded it immediately and started reading it there and then. I couldn't put it down despite it's brutal and raw descriptions. It's a book I backed to win, and though I think Home Fire was a worthy winner, I'm sad When I Hit You has consequently seemed to drop off the radar for many.

7. Roland Barthes

I never thought the things I read for my dissertation would ever be things I'd want to return to after submitting, but Mythologies is one such book. It was the first book my supervisor gave to me, and at the time I thought she had completely misunderstood my dissertation intentions. It turns out, she knew better (who'd have thought?) and when I actually engaged with Barthes' writing, I was surprised. Whilst I don't agree with everything Barthes argues, I like interacting with his essays and thoughts.

8. Madeline Miller

Continuing the theme of things I thought were too pretentious and highbrow for me to ever get my head around: classical civilisation and mythology. I'm as much of a fan as Hercules as the next girl, but the idea of reading epics like The Odyssey and The Iliad never crossed my mind until I read Circe, and then Song of Achilles. Suddenly, this area I had deemed inaccessible became incredibly readable when retold in Miller's fantastic writing and has made me want to pick up other retellings such as Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and The Odyssey by Emily Wilson.

9. Jessie Greengrass

Another Women's Prize discovery! Sight is one of the books on my shelves with the most sticky tabs in it, and looking back at the quotes I've highlighted I can see why. This book weaved the history of medicine with a literary-ness I don't usually enjoy, but I found it rewarding and it stuck with me.

10. Sally Rooney

SALLY ROONEY. Whilst the rest of the list is in no particular order, I've certainly saved the best until last. I have very distinct memories of reading Conversations With Friends in Waterstones TCR Cafe, and chatting to one of the booksellers about how I was finding it. At the time, I said I wasn't sure and was thinking about DNFing, but on the train home I continued reading and by the evening  I had finished it and spent the evening pondering what I had read. Something about Rooney's writing really resonates with me, even though (or perhaps because) her characters are so unlikely at times. I snapped up the proof of Normal People as soon as it came in at work and devoured it accordingly, and knew then that I would buy and read anything Sally Rooney ever writes. Ever. I love her.

So there we have it, 10 new-to-me authors I read in 2018. I'd love to hear which authors you discovered in 2018, and also whether you have any crossover with my list! Comment below with any thoughts, feelings, and responses to the above!

Happy reading,

Monday, 7 January 2019

2019 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I can feel that 2019 is going to be a special year. Mainly because it is my first year not in education since I was 4 years old and it will see my one year anniversary at a job I love. With the anticipation of an excellent year ahead, I've been thinking about reading goals I want to achieve by the time 2020 ticks around. Though my current success rate with resolutions is pretty poor, who's to say 2019 won't be the year that all changes?

1. Read ALL unread books in the flat

My current TBR totals 52 books, which is actually a lot better than I thought it was. Considering I read around 80 books a year, this leaves me with a few spaces to fill with upcoming/new releases, rereads, and library books. To help, I'm getting involved in The Unread Shelf Project 2019 on Instagram, and I'm also going to be extra vigilant when it comes to DNFing. I feel like the ultimate goal of a 0 TBR is within reach, and I look forward to the day I can walk into work and buy a book without feeling the overwhelming guilt about the stack left unread at home.

2. Read 2 Agatha Christies per month

A large chunk of my TBR is the Agatha Christies I have been buying whenever I see them in charity shops. There's no reason to keep letting them build up because they're murder mysteries i.e. gripping reads, and also relatively short. I currently own 14 Christies, meaning I'll be able to pick up a few throughout the year if I spot any good deals but will still be able to keep on top of them.

3. Read more German

This is a goal that I have every year, and every year the improvement is miniscule. Since starting to work though, my German has become in handy several times but I've noticed it is not as easy as it once was. My hope is that by reading more in German, my fluency will gradually build up again.

4. Read bigger books

In an effort to reach my Goodreads goal, I often shun doorstop reads, which means I'm missing out. One big book in particular I want to read this year is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I have heard nothing but good things about.

5. Read more short stories

I've never quite got into short stories, and I think this is because, again, I'm so desperate to finish a book and add it to Goodreads that I try to inhale them all at once rather than taking one at a time and mulling over them before moving onto the next one. I have some fairytale collections on my shelves which make the ideal start to this goal!

6. Be more adventurous

I have a terrible habit of being guided in my reading by what I already know. Basically, I'm a sucker by hype. I pick up things I've seen on Instagram often, or maybe I keep seeing a publicist tweet about a particular release. Rarely do I ever just pick up a book because I like it's title, or I'm intrigued by the cover - I always know something about it first. I would like this to change so that I might find those hidden gems more often, and also be able to bring something new to the table in terms of recommendations at work!

Do you have any 2019 resolutions, reading-centred or otherwise? It would be great to hear them, so let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Return of Readabilitea

So it turns out that juggling a full-time job, an MA dissertation, and fun things like reading and blogging is pretty hard. Who knew?

But I'm back from the unplanned 3 month hiatus and I'm pumped. Firstly, it's winter which means colder weather, bigger jumpers, and Christmas. Secondly, I have time. Such a novelty! I can read what I like when I like and I'm able to jump right back into all that fun stuff I missed out on.

Whilst I'm not starting afresh as such, I have removed a lot of my posts from the past two years. This is because in the last year, they've been a bit half-arsed and also some of the older ones aren't posts I'd post now or they're in dire need of updating. I've kept some of the most popular ones, such as my bookish guide to York, as well as the Publishing MA series, but other than that it's time for brand new content.

To bring you up to speed with my reading life in the last 3 months, here are the books I have read (left) and the books I have bought (right).

Dissertation certainly slowed down my reading dramatically, but that didn't mean I wasn't able to squeeze in some absolute gems into my free time. Sally Rooney knocked it out the park with Normal People, a book which, ever since putting down I've wanted to pick up again. Circe has actually managed what I thought was impossible and has gotten me interested in classical civilisation and made me want to read texts like The Odyssey and The Iliad. Finally, Diary of a Bookseller is a fantastic book about the realities of the post-Amazon bookselling world. It's hilarious and heartwarming and reminded me of the exact reasons I went into bookselling in the first place.

Whilst my reading pace slowed down, my book buying didn't. I do have the excuse that it was my birthday and I went to Bath specifically to visit bookshops. It also doesn't help being surrounded by amazing books all day, making staff discounts all too appealing. High up on the priority list is Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, Crudo by Olivia Laing, and Outline by Rachel Cusk. 

If I have any chance of reducing my TBR drastically before Christmas, I need to check myself. I've been doing quite well at reading books bought this year, but there are many books on my TBR from years ago which are just sat, festering. Over the next month, I'm going to try and make them more of a priority/have a long, hard look at my books and try to be honest with myself re: what I actually want to read.

In short, I am back. Expect reviews, photos that try to defy basement flat lighting, and general bookish ramblings to ensue.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Publishing Masters: Semester 2 Reflection

And just like that, my Masters is over (aside from my dissertation which I’m deliberately not mentioning). Can you believe that? Can you believe that I now have to be a fully-functioning adult? Help!

Friday, 26 January 2018

A Beginner's Guide to Agatha Christie

If you’ve been kicking around Readabilitea for long enough, you’ll know that one of my favourite authors is Agatha Christie a.k.a. The Queen of Crime. A lot of people often ask me where to start with Agatha Christie and I can see why; she’s the author of 66 detective novels and numerable short stories about murder and the supernatural, so it can be difficult knowing the best place to begin. This is where I come in!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Publishing Masters: Semester 1 Reflection

Semester 1 is over and with Semester 2 just around the corner, I feel suitably distanced from it to write about how it was without rolling myself into a ball and rocking softly.

Friday, 8 December 2017

What Do You Do On A Publishing Masters?

I’ve told you about why I chose to do a Master’s in Publishing, but what does it actually entail? Although I can only speak for my course at Oxford Brookes, there are similarities across the courses available in the UK.

I’m doing my Master’s full-time, which means it’s going to take 1 year. This year is split into 3 semesters: semester 1 runs until Christmas, semester 2 runs until May with a break for Easter, and semester 3 runs until the last day of September of 2018 a.k.a. the due date of my dissertation.