I keep a list in the back of my Filofax of all the books I’ve read and films I’ve seen each year.
Not sure why I do this – I guess I must just like lists.
It’s like having a record of your life reflected through the popular culture you consumed. I think that we find ourselves when we look elsewhere, so it’s interesting to note where you’ve been looking.
I recently found my list of books for 2003, and it was a pretty pathetic one.
Six books in the whole year! But then I did also have a baby that year, as the titles of some of the books suggests.
I remember starting The Corrections ( a real doorstep of a book) when my baby was overdue, thinking that the baby would probably show up just as I was getting to a good bit. It didn’t work, he turned up when he was sweet ‘n ready, as babies have a tendency to do.
Ten years on, my reading schedule has improved a lot, and this year I’ve met some cracking reads. So here are 10 books I read this summer. They’re all great and I hope you will enjoy reading some of them yourself:
- Quiet by Susan Cain
I learnt a lot about myself and other people from this book. It’s about what it’s like to be an introvert in a world that prizes extroverts, but maybe should pay attention to the quiet people a bit more.
This is the book for anyone who feels exhausted after spending time in a crowd, who cherishes time alone like a precious jewel and who generally has a lot going on in their noggin.
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
As I was taking my time through Quiet, my daughter was hopping up and down with impatience wanting me to I read her new favourite book, The Fault in Our Stars. All the teens I know seem to be mad about John Green right now.
I read this with a lot of foreboding because the plot centres around young people with cancer. It’s not giving anything away to say that it’s clear from the start that it’s not going to end well for everyone involved. And yet it is still a book full of humour and hope. Read it, you’ll love it, but it will make you cry. And it will give you something to talk about to the next teenager you meet.
- I Laughed, I Cried by Viv Groskop
More tears and laughter, this time in a non-fiction setting. I worked with Viv a few years ago and have followed her career since then. Her debut book is all about the personal challenge she set herself to do 100 stand up gigs in 100 days. All of this was not long after she’d had her third child, so it makes my 6 books of 2003 performance look a bit pathetic.
It’s a tremendously inspiring book, looking at what it’s like to have a go at the thing you always wanted to do, but never did. It’s about squeezing more out of life because the alternative is to live with regrets and really that’s no life at all. The teenager liked it a lot too.
- Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler
This was our summer book group choice, and it’s a good one for book groups because it’s fairly chewy with a lot said and unsaid. It’s about a daughter and her family, and a father searching for his child. London lurks in the background like an extra character.
It wouldn’t have been my choice to read this, as having lost my own father I haven’t got a great yearn to read about other people’s father/daughter relationships. But this is where books can take us to the places of ourselves we’re trying to ignore, and that can be a good thing.
- The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner by Richard Marson
This fascinating, meticulously-researched biography of the well-known Doctor Who producer depicts a decidely grubby era in BBC history which is only now becoming unravelled. It’s quite a sad story in many ways, peppered with interviews with many well-known Doctor Who-related personalities.
I doubt a non-DW fan would be interested, but if anecdotes about 1980s showbiz are your cup of tea then you’ll find an urnful here.
- Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch
This is a true story about a family from Hove travelling round France, and I read it whilst I was in France with my family. But clearly it was very different as we are from Brighton, actually. Very funny, occasionally sad, pleasingly high ratio of cheese mentions.
- Vanished Years by Rupert Everett
This memoir starts off as a bit of a celebrity bitch-fest, but quickly moves into a much darker place. At this point I wondered whether the sad books were out to get me. We all have dark places in our lives, do we also want them in our bedtime reading?
Rupert Everett’s book is engaging and tremendously well-written, even if a lot of people die in its pages. Don’t let this put you off.
- First Church on the Moon by JMR Higgs
Yes! He’s at it again. Latest book from JH is very Douglas Adamsy and involves moon-based hangovers, a character called Clownshoes Fantastic and – quelle surprise – somebody corks it. By this time I could handle a bit of booksad so this was OK.
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
AKA the new JK Rowling book. A superior detective story, I enjoyed it very much. There’s death of course, but otherwise the detective would be bored. Don’t expect any wizards.
- My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall
How can you resist a title like that? Penny Marshall you’ll either know as director of the likes of Big and Awakenings, or as Laverne from Laverne & Shirley. Not an amazing book but blimey, she’s lived a life. File this one under inspiring too. Reader, she lives!
And now, I am reading a book that’s a lot like The Corrections in many ways – AM Homes’ May We Be Forgiven
is another doorstep-sized slice of disfunctional Americal family life. By turns funny and grim, I’m beginning to suspect that that’s just how life is.