Why ‘The Reading List’?
When I was an undergrad at university, we were constantly being given reading lists to tackle during our holiday breaks or around our studies. At the time they were the bane of my life (you try reading four hefty Victorian novels a week), but now it feels strangely pointless not to have one – so I made my own to-read list based on what books my dad passed down to me (another literary fan) and what I feel I just ought to have read by now. This blog will document my journey through that list, and hopefully inspire you and some other readers to pick up the same books and give them a try. It seems pretty apt to call it a Reading List, because I feel like I’m constantly carrying one around in my head – and god forbid I don’t get to the end of it.
What’s the picture about?
The header image of the blog is a snapshot of a section of my bookshelf (alphabetised and everything! I have a lot of free time.) My favourite book is probably the big ‘Complete Novels of George Orwell’ you can see there – apart from the fact George Orwell is a literary god, the book itself is really quite sexy-looking and has a nice feel to it. You might also be wondering why on earth I have a book called ‘Tequila Mockingbird’ – it’s actually a book full of cocktails based on great works of literature (each with their own fantastic pun). I’m sure at some point I’ll do a post on my favourite ones.
What kind of books do you write about?
I’m pretty rubbish at reading contemporary fiction – in my head there’s a massive back catalogue of classic and timeless literature that I need to check off my list first. So you can assume that probably the vast majority of these books will be classics or books published at least fifty years ago. However, I do my best to try to read modern fiction as well, and there are some real gems out there, probably sitting in Waterstones right now waiting for me to get stuck into. So I’ll try to shake it up as much as possible. I don’t necessarily look at the same books everyone studied at school, so don’t worry about horrific memories of Wuthering Heights resurfacing when you read this.
Do your posts contain spoilers?
It’s my hope that someone might read one of my posts and think, ‘huh, I might give that book a try,’ so I will try my very hardest not to include any spoilers, particularly when talking about books that are recently published. However, there are some books you just can’t talk about without talking about the ending; it might be integral to how the whole book is structured or how it plays out, so every now and then I may indeed discuss the end. Hopefully it will be with the sort of books that have become so iconic everyone knows the ending, but even so, I will always say that spoilers are included and leave them to the end of the post (with plenty of warning) so people can click away if they don’t want to find out what happens.
What’s a Goodreads rating?
Goodreads is an app where you can log your reading habits – the books you’ve read, the ones you’re reading, and the ones you can’t wait to get your hands on. As you finish a book you can rate it on a star basis, so, as I said in my review for White Teeth, I thought it would be a neat way to tie up all my reviews by saying how many stars each respective book has on my Goodreads account.
Why do you love reading so much?
Because books are awesome. I’ve always enjoyed reading – I remember when I was a kid I used to brush my teeth with a book in my hand because I couldn’t bear to put it down for just two minutes, something my dad loved to tell my schoolteachers about. I didn’t get a chance to read very much once I reached my adolescent years (er, it’s entirely coincidental that this was around the time I discovered alcohol and other adult ventures) but studying English Literature with Creative Writing at uni reignited my love for the book. So now you get to share in that too!
You don’t seem to write a lot about this genre…
I try to read across a wide range of genres, but there are some that just don’t appeal to me. For example, I’m not a big fan of romantic fiction, commonly dubbed ‘chick lit’ – I like thrillers and sci-fi and fantasy and so on, but you won’t catch me leafing through Jackie Collins. Even Jane Austen is a bit much for me (if it’s not blasphemy to say that. But jeez, it wouldn’t kill her to put some sex and death in there, surely). If you can recommend a really good book that you reckon I’m avoiding because of the genre, please do. I am open to finding some cool pieces of fiction out there, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the style.
Do you write about film adaptations as well?
A lot of the books I feature here have great film or TV adaptations, so I’ll aim to watch and include them as part of the reviews, particularly if the adaptation is as famous (or more famous) than the book. It’s always fascinating to see how they tie in to the book and what the author thought. It’s got to be pretty spooky to see characters you spent years crafting turn into living people on screen. I’m generally one of those ‘the book is always better than the film’ type people, but I do think a lot of films complement their respective books nicely and some are even better. So yes, I will look at a film or TV adaptation wherever I can – exceptions made when I can’t get hold of them to watch, or if they’re renowned for being SO BAD that it would just be a physically unbearable experience (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, I’m looking at you).
Are all your posts about books?
Not necessarily. Some might be more general posts about other literary topics, like gift ideas or top-ten style pieces. I love going to literary festivals – Hay is my Glastonbury – so you’ll find some blog posts about those every now and then.