This was a year that saw me complete (and pass) my MA and find lots of time for reading. This year the grand total was 223 books finished between 1st January and 31st December. There are quite a few I've started and wandered away from, none of them bad enough to give up totally on - just ones that failed to engage me at the time. With so many read I haven't broken them down (yet) into fiction/non fiction or male/female etc.
In mid December I was asked to write for the work blog and list my top reads of the year there, that list can be read here along with the choices of my colleagues. After some more reading and reflecting many of my overall choices remain the same but I have made some last minute additions and alterations - books I remembered how much I'd loved them as I added the books from my journal to my spreadsheet.
My overall top fiction book of the year does go to my friend James' The Apprentice Witch. It was such a happy read and one that I want to share with so many people that how can it not be my top book? Before reading it I knew nothing about the book apart from the author but I know that as a child I'd have read and reread this one loads - it ticks all of my boxes, and while it is the first of a series it is also a complete story which is wonderful.
In non fiction my top book is actually one I read last year but due to restrictions that came with it I couldn't talk about it then. Philippe Sands East West Street went on to gain lots of praise (and prizes). It isn't an easy read but by heck has it stayed with me. I'm really sad that we were away when Sands came to Norwich as I'd like to have told him in person just what a brilliant book I found this one.
The rest of my lists have been really hard to compile - it seems that I have had a really good reading year after all!
Am I Normal Yet? - Holly Bourne. This was a World Book Night title and I read it down in one sitting. The sequels are good but didn't stay with me in quite the same way.
Chasing The Stars - Malorie Blackman. In the year of Shakespeare this retelling of Othello isn't just for a young audience. Shakespeare in space worked really well.
The One Memory of Flora Banks - Emily Barr. This was one of the last books I read this year, and as it was a Netgalley book it isn't officially published until next week but it was still gripping enough that I stayed up far too late to finish it! If pushed to describe it I'd say Before I Go To Sleep for a slightly younger readership, with added snow.
Nina Is Not OK - Shappi Khorsandi. Another 'issue' book but again one that had me reading from cover to cover avidly. Coming from a comedienne it has a nice vein of humour running throughout but this never detracts from the serious point.
Top Fiction Reads
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old - Hendrik Groen. Reviewed here.
The Infinite Air - Fiona Kidman. A wonderful tale of the first women fliers chasing records in the air.
Cartes Postales - Victoria Hislop. Reviewed here, and Father Christmas did take a hint and there was a copy of this under the tree for me!
Shtum - Jem Lester. I read this early in the year and had almost forgotten it until I read through my journal, on seeing the title it all came flooding back - a deeply moving story about a mad dealing with a disabled child and a dying father. Put like that it sounds terrible but the writing was beautiful.
Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain- Barney Norris. This made many of the 2016 'best of lists' and it is again a clever novel weaving 5 stories together.
The Summer Before the War - Helen Simonson. I can't praise this one highly enough, it really did make the summer before WW1 come to life for me and show what a shock the brutalilty of the war was for many.
Mrs Tim of the Regiment - D E Stevenson. This was my discovery of the year, all about the life of the wife of a regiment's CO in the 1920s. Reminiscent of Diary of a Provincial Lady, I'm now on the hunt for more books featuring the delightful Mrs Tim.
Top Non Fiction Reads (incl. graphic novels and poetry)
The Old King in His Castle - Arno Geiger, tr. Stefan Tobler. I can't really explain this book, on the surface it is Geiger recounting his father's life and battle with Alzheimer's but it is so much more than this.
Eighty Days - Matthew Goodman. Two New York women set out to see if you really can go around the world in 80 days - one goes east, one goes west.
The House by the Lake - Thomas Harding. The history of Germany since 1900 told via just one house on a lake just outside Berlin. Since reading this I've read a couple of other books that reference this village which has been a bit weird but added a lot to those books!
A World Gone Mad - Astrid Lindgren tr. Sarah Death. Better known as the author of the Pippi Longstocking books this was a fascinating insight into life in neutral Sweden during WW2, their ideas of shortages will make you laugh but it is a fascinating take on the war.
Frontier Grit - Marianne Monson. The West of America is, rightly or wrongly, associated with cowboys, gold rushes and men so this book addresses this by telling the story of some of the women who opened up the West. Fascinating reading but I'm glad I can visit in the 21st century!
Food Fights and Culture Wars - Tom Nealon. A history of the world told via food stuffs as varied as carp and Bovril. Quirky and full of beautiful eillustrations from the British Library collection.
Marzi - Marzana Sowa tr. Sylvain Savoia. A graphic novel about growing up in Poland in the 1980s, before the fall of communism.
Jerusalem - Guy Delisle. I reviewed his books in general here but it is Jerusalem that has stayed with me as Delisle echoed so many of my thoughts about this troubled city.
Sentenced to Life - Clive James. This is the second year running that James has made my best of lists, and this time - to my surprise - it is his poetry book that I loved. It is again a sad/morbid book but there is so much beauty and hope in these poems. As ever I didn't like them all but the volume as a whole was a delight.
The Print Museum - Heidi Williamson. In 2016 I got to be a shadow judge on the East Anglian Book Awards and this took me way out of my comfort zone with the reading I undertook but again, to my surprise, it was the poetry book The Print Museum that stayed with me - and I'm pleased to say the main judging panel as it won the poetry section of the prize!
Here's hoping that 2017 will be an equally good year book wise!