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02.   Book List 2022

03.   Favourite books

04.   Favourite authors

05.   Tour of the United States

06.   Classic fiction:  Dickens, Zola

07.   Fiction: O'Brian, Sansom, Leon, Simenon

08.   Some stats

09.   To read: big books, books acquired this year

10.   Spare

11.   Spare

12.   Spare

13.   Spare

14.   2021 review, 2022 preview

15.   Accolades 2021

16.  Welcome!

Edited by willoyd

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Book list 2022



01.  American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld GU ****

02.  I Belong Here by Anita Sethi **

03.  Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe G ***




*  Positively disliked this (probably a lot), likely to be unfinished

**  Not really for me; didn't really engage with or like this, may be unfinished or skim read

***  OK: a decent enough read, but not unputdownable

****  Good: into the realms of not wanting to put it down

*****   Excellent: outstanding, if not quite making it as a favourite

******   A favourite; something makes this special, even if only personal to me


A = audiobook; G = book group choice; R = reread, U = Tour of the United States book, X = unfinished


Edited by willoyd

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Favourite Books
A record of the 130 books and series to which I've given my top rating.  These aren't necessarily the best literature I've read, but the books that are personal favourites, that, for whatever reason, struck a special chord in my reading. Individual books within a series are likely to have scored less, but the rating is for the series as a whole. The lists are divided into

  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Joint fiction/non-fiction
  • Children's fiction


Fiction (78)
Ackroyd, Peter: Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem
Ackroyd, Peter: Hawksmoor

Austen, Jane: Sense and Sensibility
Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane: Emma
Buchan, John: John Macnab
Carr JL: A Month in the Country
Carr JL: The Harpole Report
Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
Chevalier, Tracey: Falling Angels
Childers, Erskine: The Riddle of the Sands
Collins, Norman: London Belongs To Me
Cooper, Susan: The Dark is Rising
Cunningham, Michael: The Hours
Davies, Martin: The Conjuror's Bird
Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol
Dickens, Charles: Bleak House
Dickens, Charles: David Copperfield

Dunant, Sarah: In the Company of the Courtesan

Eco, Umberto: The Name of the Rose
Eliot, George: Middlemarch
Elphinstone, Margaret: The Sea Road
Elphinstone, Margaret: Voyageurs

Evaristo, Bernardine: Girl, Woman, Other
Fforde, Jasper: The Eyre Affair
Goscinny, Rene: Asterix in Britain
Greig, Andrew: The Return of John Macnab

Guareschi, Giovanni: The Don Camillo series
Haddon, Mark: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Hardy, Thomas: Far From The Madding Crowd
Herbert, Frank: Dune
Heyer, Georgette: The Grand Sophy

Holtby, Winifred: South Riding

Horwood, William: The Stonor Eagles

Horwood, William: Skallagrig
Hulme, Keri: The Bone People

Ivey, Eowyn: To the Bright Edge of the World
Japrisot, Sebastian: A Very Long Engagement

Le Carre, John: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Lee, Harper: To Kill A Mockingbird

Leon, Donna: The Commissario Brunetti series

Mantel, Hilary: Wolf Hall

McMurtry, Larry: Lonesome Dove
Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
Miller, Andrew: Pure

Miller, Andrew: Now We Shall Be Entirely Free
Mitchell, David: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Monsarrat, Nicholas: The Cruel Sea
Moorcock, Michael: Mother London
O'Brian, Patrick: The Aubrey-Maturin series

O'Farrell, Maggie: Hamnet
Pears, Ian: An Instance of the Fingerpost
Penney, Stef: The Tenderness of Wolves
Perry, Sarah: The Essex Serpent
Proulx, Annie: The Shipping News

Roffey, Monique: The Mermaid of Black Conch
Rushdie, Salman: Midnight's Children
Seth, Vikram: A Suitable Boy
Simenon, Georges: The Inspector Maigret series
Smiley, Jane: A Thousand Acres
Smith, Dodie: I Capture the Castle
Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men
Stephenson, Neal: Cryptonomicon
Stevenson, Robert Louis: Kidnapped
Swift, Graeme: Waterland

Taylor, Elizabeth: A View of the Harbour
Thomas, Dylan: Under Milk Wood
Thompson, Harry: This Thing of Darkness
Tolkien JRR: The Lord of the Rings
Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace

Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited
Willis, Connie: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Woolf, Virginia: Mrs Dalloway
Woolf, Virginia: The Years
Woolf, Virginia: To The Lighthouse
Woolf, Virginia: Between the Acts
Woolfenden, Ben: The Ruins of Time
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz: The Shadow of the Wind

Non-fiction (43)
Blanning, Tim: The Pursuit of Glory
Brown, Hamish: Hamish's Mountain Walk
Clayton, Tim: Waterloo
Cocker, Mark: Crow Country
Fadiman, Anne: Ex Libris
Frater, Alexander: Chasing the Monsoon

Gogarty, Paul: The Water Road
Hanff, Helen: 84 Charing Cross Road
Harding, Thomas: The House By The Lake

Harrison, Melissa: The Stubborn Light of Things
Hastings, Max: All Hell Let Loose
Holland, James: Dam Busters
Hoskins, WG: The Making of the English Landscape

Howell, Georgina: Daughter of the Desert
Huntford, Roland: Shackleton
Jamie, Kathleen: Findings
Junger, Sebastian: The Perfect Storm
Lee, Hermione: Virginia Woolf

Lewis-Stempel, John: The Running Hare
Liptrot, Amy: The Outrun
Longford, Elizabeth: Wellington, The Years of the Sword

Macdonald, Benedict & Nicholas Gates: Orchard

MacDonald, Helen: Vesper Flights

MacGregor, Neil: Germany, Memories of a Nation
Moore, Richard: In Search of Robert Millar
Nichols, Peter: A Voyage for Madmen

Nicolson, Adam: The Seabird's Cry
Pennac, Daniel: The Rights of the Reader
Pinker, Stephen: The Language Instinct
Rackham, Oliver: The History of the Countryside
de Saint-Exupery, Antoine: Wind, Sand and Stars
Salisbury, Laney and Gay: The Cruellest Miles

Sands, Philippe: East-West Street

Schumacher, EF: Small is Beautiful
Simpson, Joe: Touching the Void
Taylor, Stephen: Storm and Conquest
Tomalin, Claire: Pepys, The Unequalled Self

Tree, Isabella: Wilding
Uglow, Jenny: The Pinecone
Unsworth, Walt: Everest
Weldon, Fay: Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen
Wheeler, Sara: Terra Incognita

Young, Gavin: Slow Boats to China


Joint fiction/non-fiction (1)

Klinkenborg, Verlyn: Timothy's Book with Townsend-Warner, Sylvia: Portrait of a Tortoise

Children's Fiction (8)
Berna, Paul: Flood Warning

Bond, Michael: The Paddington Bear series
Kipling, Rudyard: Puck of Pook's Hill/Rewards and Fairies
Milne, AA: Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner
Pullman, Philip: Northern Lights
Ransome, Arthur: The Swallows and Amazons series
Sutcliff, Rosemary: The Eagle of the Ninth
White, TH: Mistress Masham's Repose

Edited by willoyd

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Favourite authors
To qualify for this list, I have to have read at least three books by that author (amazing how many where I've just read two, especially non-fiction!), so no one-book wonders (it's the book then, not the author!). None of the books themselves need to have reached a six star rating, but they do need to have been rated consistently highly.  I've only included authors of adult books - for favourite children's authors, see favourite book list, as the two lists are pretty much the same.

Jane Austen
JL Carr

Willa Cather

Charles Dickens
Sarah Dunant
Margaret Elphinstone

Thomas Hardy
Donna Leon
Patrick O'Brian
Georges Simenon

Virginia Woolf


Tim Clayton
Lisa Jardine
Jan Morris
Simon Schama
Claire Tomalin
Jenny Uglow



Melissa Harrison

Edited by willoyd

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A Tour of the States
My experience of American literature being much narrower than I would like, I decided to take a tour of the states in a similar way to our own English Counties challenge: 51 books, one set in each of the American states (including Washington DC).  In fact, the English Counties was modelled on an American States challenge here, but in the spirit of broadening that experience, I have amended it using these rules: a. it must be fiction; b. an author can only appear once; c. published after 1900 (what I've read has been predominantly 19th century); d. adult books; e. no rereads. Inevitably some great books and authors will have been left off, but the process itself has already helped identify those holes, and I aim to fill them in as additional reading!  Blue means read, a red cross at the end of the entry means read this year.


The Keepers of the House - Shirley Ann Grau (Alabama) *****
To The Bright Edge of the World - Eowyn Ivey (Alaska) ******
The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver (Arizona) ****
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks - Donald Harington (Arkansas)
East of Eden - John Steinbeck (California)
Plainsong - Kent Haruf (Colorado) ****
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates (Connecticut)
The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez (Delaware)
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurst (Florida)
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers (Georgia)
The Descendants - Kaui Hart Hemmings (Hawaii)
Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson (Idaho) ****
The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow (Illinois)
The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields (Indiana) ***** 
The Bridges of Madison County - Robert Waller (Iowa) ****
Not Without Laughter - Langston Hughes (Kansas)
Nathan Coultar - Wendell Berry (Kentucky) *****
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren (Louisiana)
Empire Falls - Richard Russo (Maine)
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler (Maryland) ***
Ethan Frome- Edith Wharton (Massachusetts) ***

Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison (Michigan) ***** 
Main Street - Sinclair Lewis (Minnesota)
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner (Mississippi)
Mrs Bridge - Evan S. Connell (Missouri) ***** 
A River Runs Through It - Norman Maclean (Montana)
My Antonia - Willa Cather (Nebraska) *****
The Ox-Bow Incident - Walter van Tilburg Clark (Nevada)
Peyton Place - Grace Metallious (New Hampshire)
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford (New Jersey) ****
Cities of the Plain - Cormac McCarthy (New Mexico)
Underworld - Don DeLillo (New York)
Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier (North Carolina) *****
The Plague of Doves - Louise Erdrich (North Dakota) *****

Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson (Ohio) ***
True Grit- Charles Portis (Oklahoma) ****
Trask - Don Berry (Oregon)
The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara (Pennsylvania)
The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike (Rhode Island) ***
The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd (South Carolina) ***
Welcome to Hard Times - EL Doctorow (South Dakota)
Shiloh - Shelby Foote (Tennessee)
Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry (Texas) ******
The Nineteenth Wife - David Ebershoff (Utah)
The Secret History - Donna Tartt (Vermont)
The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron (Virginia)
Snow Falling on Cedars- David Guterson (Washington) ***
Advise and Consent - Allen Drury (Washington DC) *****

Storming Heaven - Denise Giardina (West Virginia)
American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld (Wisconsin) ****  +
The Virginian - Owen Wister (Wyoming) ***** 

Edited by willoyd

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Classics fiction

Two authors whose books I want to focus more on:

          +  Charles Dickens

          +  Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart series


Charles Dickens
01. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837) ****
02. The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1839) *****
03. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839) *****
04. The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) ***

05. Barnaby Rudge (1841)
06. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)
07. Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son (1848)
08. The Personal History of David Copperfield (1850) ******
09. Bleak House (1853) ******
10. Hard Times (1854)
11. Little Dorrit (1857)
12. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) *****
13. Great Expectations (1861) ****

14. Our Mutual Friend (1865)
15. The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)

The Christmas Books
16. A Christmas Carol (1843) ******
17. The Chimes (1844) ***
18. The Cricket on the Hearth (1845) ****
19. The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1846)

Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart Series
01. La Fortune des Rougon ****
02. Son Excellence Eugene Rougon
03. La Curee
04. L'Argent
05. Le Reve
06. La Conquete de Plassans
07. Pot-Bouille
08. Au Bonheur des Dames *****
09. La Faute de L'Abbe Mouret
10. Une Page d'amour
11. Le Ventre de Paris
12. La Joie de vivre
13. L'Assommoir
14. L'Oeuvre
15. La Bete humaine
16. Germinal
17. Nana
18. La Terre
19. La Debacle
20. Le Docteur Pascal

Edited by willoyd

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Fiction focus

  • Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series
  • CJ Sansom's Shardlake series
  • Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series
  • Georges Simenon's Maigret books

Books in standard blue are those read in previous years; 2022 books are marked with a red cross.


Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series
01. Master and Commander
02. Post Captain
03. HMS Surprise
04. The Mauritius Command
05. Desolation Island
06. The Fortune of War
07. The Surgeon's Mate
08. The Ionian Mission

09. Treason's Harbour
10. The Far Side of the World
11. The Reverse of the Medal
12. The Letter of Marque
13. The Thirteen Gun Salute
14. The Nutmeg of Consolation
15. Clarissa Oakes
16. The Wine-Dark Sea
17. The Commodore
18. The Yellow Admiral
19. The Hundred Days
20. Blue at the Mizzen


CJ Sansom's Shardlake series

01. Dissolution (2003) 

02. Dark Fire (2004)

03. Sovereign (2006)

04. Revelation (2008)

05. Heartstone (2010)

06. Lamentation (2014)

07. Tombland (2018)


Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series

01. Death at La Fenice (1992)

02. Death in a Strange Country (1993)

03. The Anonymous Venetian (1994)

04. A Venetian Reckoning (1995)

05. Acqua Alta (1996)

06. The Death of Faith (1997)

07. A Noble Radiance (1997)

08. Fatal Remedies (1999)

09. Friends in High Places (2000)

10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)

11. Wilful Behaviour (2002)

12. Uniform Justice (2003)

13. Doctored Evidence (2004)

14. Blood from a Stone (2005)

15. Through a Glass, Darkly (2006)

16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)

17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)

18. About Face (2009)

19. A Question of Belief (2010)

20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)

21. Beastly Things (2012)

22. The Golden Egg (2013)

23. By Its Cover (2014)

24. Falling in Love (2015)

25. The Waters of Eternal Youth (2016)

26. Earthly Remains (2017)

27. The Temptation of Forgiveness (2018)

28. Unto Us A Son Is Given (2019)

29. Trace Elements (2020)

30. Transient Desires (2021)

31. Give Unto Others (2022)


Georges Simenon's Maigret novels

1-27 read prior to 2021

28. Maigret's Holiday

29. Maigret's Dead Man

30. Maigret's First Case

31. My Friend Maigret

32. Maigret at the Coroner's

33. Maigret and the Old Lady

34. Madame Maigret's Friend

35. Maigret's Memoirs

36. Maigret at Picratt's

37. Maigret Takes a Room

38. Maigret and the Tall Woman

39. Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters

40. Maigret's Revolver

41. Maigret and the Man on the Bench

42. Maigret is Afraid

43. Maigret's Mistake

44. Maigret Goes to School

45. Maigret and the Dead Girl

46. Maigret and the Minister

47. Maigret and the Headless Corpse

48. Maigret Sets a Trap

49. Maigret's Failure

50. Maigret Enjoys Himself

51. Maigret Travels

52. Maigret's Doubts

53. Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses

54. Maigret's Secret

55. Maigret in Court

56. Maigret and the Old People

57. Maigret and the Lazy Burglar

58. Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse

59. Maigret and the Saturday Caller

60. Maigret and the Tramp

61. Maigret's Anger

62. Maigret and the Ghost

63. Maigret Defends Himself

64. Maigret's Patience

65. Maigret and the Nahour Case

66. Maigret's Pickpocket

67. Maigret Hesitates

68. Maigret in Vichy

69. Maigret's Childhood Friend

70. Maigret and the Killer

71. Maigret and the Wine Merchant

72. Maigret's Madwoman

73. Maigret and the Loner

74. Maigret and the Informer

75. Maigret and Monsieur Charles 

Edited by willoyd

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Some Stats


The Last 10 Years (to end 2021)

Books read- 725 (396 in the past 5 years)

Most books in a year - 92 (2021)

Fewest books in a year - 56 (2013)

Most pages in a year - 23626 (2018)

Most books in a month - 17 (Dec 2013)

Highest average month - 13.0 (December)

Lowest average month - 3.8 (January)

% Fiction / Non-Fiction  - 63.4 / 36.6

% Male / Female author - 59.0 / 41.0


Star ratings (second % excluding rereads)

1 - 28 (3.8%, 4.2%)         0 rereads

2 - 59 (8.0%, 8.9%)         0 rereads

3 - 189 (25.7%, 26.6%)  13 rereads

4 - 239 (32.6%, 34.5%)  10 rereads

5 - 151 (20.6%, 20.2%)  17 rereads

6 - 68 (9.3%, 5.6%)       31 rereads


2021 figures

Books read - 92 (2020 - 84)

Most books in a month - 11 (December)

Fewest books in a month - 6 (May-Jun, Aug-Oct)

Pages in the year - 22623  (2020 - 22192)

Average pages per book - 248 (2020 - 262)

Most pages - 521 (Unsheltered - Barbara Kingsolver)

Fewest pages - 63 (The Portrait of a Tortoise by Sylvia Townsend-Warner)

% Fiction / Non-Fiction  - 50 / 50 (the first year NF has matched F!)

% Male / Female author - 57 / 43  (2020 - 63/37)

% Paper / Electronic - 90 / 10  (2020 - 81/18)  

% Owned / Borrowed (inc Library) - 77 / 23  (2020 - 81/19)


Star ratings

1 - 2 (2.2%, 0 reread)

2 - 7 (7.6%, 0 reread)

3 - 19 (20.7%, 1 reread)

4 - 36 (39.1%, 0 reread)

5 - 21 (22.8%, 2 reread)

6 - 7 (7.6%, 1 reread)


TBR list

End of...

2017 - 1472

2018 - 1378

2019 - 1331

2020 - 1351

2021 - 1357

Edited by willoyd

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To Read

Two lists here: one of 'big reads', and one of books acquired for reading this year, both reminders of key parts of my reading shelves that need addressing!


Big Reads

I've got a long list of books I want to read, many of them pretty chunky, but there are a few which are particularly big, humungous even, usually multi-volumed and thus tend to get put off and put off; generally, they will be at least 700 pages long. So a list to keep prodding me.  I singularly failed to read any in 2021, so will any, even single volumes, get read this year??!


Ackroyd, Peter: Dickens and London The Biography

Barker, Juliet: The Brontes

Barzun, Jacques: From Dawn to Decadence

Braudel, Fernand: The Identify of France (2v) and The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World (3v)

Cervantes, Miguel de: Don Quixote

Evans. Richard: The Third Reich trilogy

Fisher, HAL: A History of Europe (3v)

Foote, Shelby: The American Civil War (3v)

Foreman, Amanda: A World On Fire

Gibbon, Edward: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6v)

Grossman, Vassily: Stalingrad and Life and Fate

Herodotus: The Histories

Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables

Inwood, Stephen: A History of London

Kershaw, Ian Hitler

Lawrence, TE: The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Leuchtenberg, William: The American President

Macauley, Thomas Babington: The History of England (5v)

MacCulloch, Diarmid: A History of Christianity

Mantel, Hilary: Thomas Cromwell trilogy 

Mikaberidze, Alexander: The Napoleonic Wars, A Global History

Morris, Jan: Pax Britannica trilogy

Muir, Rory: Wellington (2v)

Osterhammel, Jurgen: The Transformation of the World

Parker, Geoffrey: Global Crisis

Pepys, Samuel: The Diaries (9v)

Powell, Anthony: A Dance to the Music of Time (12 books in 4v)

Richie, Alexandra: Faust's Metropolis

Roberts, Andrew: Salisbury, Napoleon the Great and Churchill

Roberts, JM: The History of the World and Twentieth Century

Sassoon, Donald: The Culture of the Europeans

Sugden, John: Nelson (2v)

Sumption, Jonathan:The Hundred Years' War (4v)

Todman, Daniel: Britain's War (2v)

Watson, Peter: Ideas A History and A Terrible Beauty

Woolf, Virginia: The Essays, The Letters and The Diaries (6v each)


This Year's Books

A reminder list so that books bought specifically for reading don't then just get shelved and lost in amongst my library!  The (forlorn?!) aim is to make sure they all get read in good time, ideally before the end of the year.  Books are listed in chronological order of acquisition - those in blue have actually been read!


Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham

Restoring the Wild by Roy Dennis

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell

What Is History Now? by Suzannah Lipscomb and Helen Carr

The Devil's Cathedral by David Fairer

The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home

Mistletoe Winter by Roy Dennis

J.B. Priestley by Vincent Brome

The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe


Edited by willoyd

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Review of 2021, Preview of 2022

Reading through last year's review and comparing what my preview to what exactly happened, it struck me how much of it could simply be cut and pasted here!  Last year the one numerical goal  I set myself was to average at least 300 pages per book and hit 24000 pages, ie more bigger books.  Whoops!  In fact, whilst I read more books than ever before in a calendar year, 92, and even hit 100+ books in a rolling year, ending in April, my average plummeted to the lowest since I started recording that figure, a relatively measly 248, lower even than the 260 in 2020!  The reason remained pretty much the same that had led me to focus on shorter books in 2020: the dreaded Covid.  Ever since the first lockdown came into being, I seem to have lost an ability or willingness to read longer books - just don't seem to be able to settle to them. I'm not quite sure why, but reading around, it appears I'm not alone.  I'm certainly reading plenty - the 22600+ pages this year is my second highest total ever even if shy of my goal - but in smaller chunks, getting through books almos feverishly on occasions.  It's only in the past couple of months that I've started to get a bit restless at that.  Maybe, I'm now ready to move on?  I think so, but will have to see in the New Year.


So, I missed my numerical reading targets, what about the 'qualitative' ones?  Well, I said I wanted to read more natural history, and I certainly did that. Some crackers there were too, with two of my top 3 books of the year from that genre, and a fistful of other 5 star books in the same bracket.  In fact, I read some 19 n-f books that could count in that genre, with quite a few others containing strong elements; 9 of those were graded at 5* or 6*.  That's a trend that I hope to continue in 2022.  In fact, non-fiction overall continued to take up a greater and greater proportion of my reading, and for the first time ever the number of books actually matched the fiction total, 46 of each.  On the fiction front, I wanted to make significant inroads into my Tour of the USA.  Well, I made inroads, but not huge, finishing just 4 more books.  But, as I said last year, half the point of this challenge was to broaden my horizons and discover new writers, well at least new to me.  That was certainly achieved: all of the 4 books achieved 5*, and all the authors now feature on my 'must read more' list - and yes, I know I should have read some like Toni Morrison long before this!  As those scores show, I'm really enjoying this challenge, but would like to pick it up a bit more in 2022, as am still yet to reach half-way (24 of 51).  The other challenges were barely touched: one each from most lists, and none from my Dickens list other than one of his short Christmas stories - back to that short book focus again! Given that I said I wanted to finish the Dickens challenge off, that's almost funny!


In terms of sources for reading, the vast bulk of it comes from my own library, which, given that my To Read list is still over 1300 probably isn't surprising, but library books nudged back up to 25% this year after a small  dip in 2021.  That could do with being higher, although that would mean that I'd not be making much progress on that TBR pile!  Only 10% of my reading this year was e-books, the lowest since I bought a Kindle.  I do actually use the Kindle more than this suggests, but it's far more things like reading German (I have a number of short story books on there to practise) and referencing guide books etc. There's a pretty substantial library of reading books on it, and I regularly succumb to 99p sales etc, but not much is actually getting read. That, I suspect, is because I'm simply not travelling much nowadays, which is when I used the Kindle mostly in the past - especially on cycle tours!  Maybe that'll pick up sometime when I get back into that


So, all in all, a pretty decent year, - not everything achieved that I wanted, but enough to make it reasonably satisfying.  I am getting itchy though!  So, that takes me to next year.  At the risk of being repetitive, I think I'm going to reiterate most of what I said last year, even if phrased slightly differently - it really is as if we've just missed a year out (again!). That means:


+  More of the chunky books.  To that end, I set a target of 300 pages per book average last year - this year instead?  How about at least 4 of the Big Reads list?

+ Good progress on my Tour of the USA - I've never managed more than 6 books in a year, so at least that?

+  Come on, I've got to get to grips with the rest of the Dickens list - I love his books, so what's keeping me? - probably not finish, but could I at least halve the outstanding list?

+  Same with Zola: he's brilliant, what's keeping me?  Aim for one a quarter, say?

+  I daren't put a number on the rest, but I could do with focusing on them more often, and making at least some progress on all the lists.


So, on to 2022.  As usual, this post is followed by my book awards for last year.  Most of them are repeats from my post on the BCF Awards thread, although I also include my short lists.  It's actually been quite difficult whittling down this year - and it was good to keep the Duffer of the Year list of candidates so short.






Edited by willoyd

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Accolades for 2021


Book of the Year

1.  The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison

2.  The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

3.  The Great Level by Stella Tillyard


Fiction Book of the Year

Winner: The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

Runner-up: The Great Level by Stella Tillyard  



Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile Zola

Song of Solomon by Toni  Morrison

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields


Non-fiction Book of the Year

Winner: The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison

Runner-up:  Orchard by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates



Bringing Back The Beaver by Derek Gow

Gilbert White by Richard Mabey

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald


Duffer of the Year

Winner:  Body Surfing by Anita Shreve



The Motion Of A Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying  by Marie Kondo


Discovery of the Year

I think it's going to be African literature. Not sure yet, but I certainly want to explore it further in 2022 having dipped my toe in the pond this year.


Most Disappointing of the Year

How To Argue With A Racist by Adam Rutherford


Reread of the Year

Waterland by Graham Swift


Special mention

The duo of Sylvia Townsend-Warner's Portrait of a Tortoise and Verlyn Klinkenborg's Timothy's Notebook proved a superb combination that didn't fit neatly into any of the above categories, being a combination of fiction and non-fiction. 


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Welcome to my reading blog for 2022. This thread is now open!

(2021 Review and 2022 Preview on its way!)

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How incredibly well organised. I take it that you do this every year but this is the first time I've seen it. 

I share some of your interests : Dickens (I haven't read many), Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart Series - not read any of these yet - and aspire to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series and C J Sansom's Shardlake series. 

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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2 hours ago, lunababymoonchild said:

How incredibly well organised. I take it that you do this every year but this is the first time I've seen it. 
I share some of your interests : Dickens (I haven't read many), Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart Series - not read any of these yet - and aspire to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series and C J Sansom's Shardlake series. 


Most of it is copied across from year to year, and then just edited, so it's not half as much work as it might look.  I'm a bit obsessive about organising my books and reading - as my LibraryThing catalogue might show.  almost all my books are catalogued and shelved in categories and then alpha/chronological/Dewey order!  Drives my OH demented, whilst I just regard it as fairly essentil when dealing with a fairly sizeable library!

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9 hours ago, willoyd said:


Most of it is copied across from year to year, and then just edited, so it's not half as much work as it might look.  I'm a bit obsessive about organising my books and reading - as my LibraryThing catalogue might show.  almost all my books are catalogued and shelved in categories and then alpha/chronological/Dewey order!  Drives my OH demented, whilst I just regard it as fairly essentil when dealing with a fairly sizeable library!

I think it's great and it strikes me as essential. My books are not in any order on my shelves but I like it that way because I get pleasure looking through them to find one and there are not too many to do that (yet). That said I do have an app where they are all catalogued so that I can check that I have the book I'm looking for and it does keep statistics. I also keep lists of authors work.


ETA Just had a look at your Librarything. Wow! That is impressive and yes, you'd need some sort of organisation for that.

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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After quite a lot thought, I've decided to go ahead with a new challenge this year, even if I haven't finished (and am really enjoying) my Tour of the United States.  In some ways, they could be regarded as complimentary. So, I've set up a new thread in Reading Challenges, Willoyd's Read Around the World, the aim being to read a book (preferably novel) from every country in the world (plus one or two places that might not be regarded as 'countries' in their own right) - 202 in total.  It's a bit daunting, and indeed it may never be finished, but just as my American tour has hugely helped diversify my reading, so my main aim is for this to do that even more. A couple of book group choices in the past year or two have really made me appreciate how narrow my reading was getting, and how much I have enjoyed the variety and different insights these new authors and books have provided.  I suspect that it won't be long before I add non-fiction books to the challenge, which really would sort out my reading for the next few years!


On a slightly different tack, I'm going to keep a record here also of books acquired for reading this year.  Just a prompt to me to actually read some of them, rather than let them merge into my overlarge TBR shelves.  To that end, I've acquired the following books since New Year, not all for immediate reading admittedly, as one or two are adding to series or sets of which I'm reading earlier books


Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham

Restoring the Wild by Roy Dennis

Mistletoe Winter by Roy Dennis

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell

What Is History Now? by Suzannah Lipscomb and Helen Carr

The Devil's Cathedral by David Fairer

The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home

J.B. Priestley by Vincent Brome


Edited by willoyd

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American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld ****

My first book of the year, a book group choice, but one that nicely satisfies one of my aims this year, to read some bigger books. At over 600 pages it certainly counts as one of those!  Having said that, it proved a fairly rapid read - more to do with the readability than any physical aspect of the book!

With the main character, Alice, modelled on Laura Bush, the wife of George W Bush, it opens with the couple in bed in the White House, and Alice contemplating her marriage: she's betrayed the President (we don't know how) and is not certain how her marriage is going to progress - we then move into flashback and Alice tells the story of her life and how she got to this point.  Whilst Alice is modelled on Laura Bush, it becomes fairly quickly apparent that Alice is not actually Laura Bush: there are enough differences, not least that the story, until it reaches Washington, is set in Wisconsin rather than Texas - which meant that rather neatly but unexpectedly, I found I could slot it in as my Tour of the USA book for that state!.  However, there are some key aspects where the 2 lives coincide, aspects, or events, which inevitably impact massively on the women's respective lives.  It would be too much of a spoiler to itemise them all, but one which has been well-flagged in reviews, and occurs early on enough not actually spoil, is that it's well documented that Laura Bush, at the age of 19, drove through a stop sign one evening, and collided with a car coming along the other road, killing the driver, a boy who she knew well.  A similar incident occurs to Alice, but the circumstances and the aftermath are pure fiction. 

I initially thought that a lot of this book would be about the rise to the Presidency, but in fact that barely features. Three quarters of the book is about the Alice's life before Charlie (her husband) runs for political status, whilst the last quarter (there are 4 parts) jumps to a couple of years after they reach the White House.  But the parts are all strongly connected.  What the book does focus on is Alice's relationship with Charlie: they love each other, but they are political opposites - Alice is a signed up Democrat.  There social background is also very different (as were the real-life couples').  So, how does Alice work this, how does she compromise her political beliefs and principles to handle that relationship.  Or does she?  I have to admit, I did find the book quite hard going at times, not because of its readability (as we know), but because of of the extent of the navel-gazing, or internal monologue, and, to be honest, some of the repetition.  The challenge and its resolution, the moral hurdles Alice has to negotiate make for fascinating reading, but a good editor would have made this even better (interesting to hear only the other day the presenters of the Book Club Review podcast saying exactly the same about Sittenfeld's latest, 'Rodham', another alternative history biography). I never felt the desire to abandon the book, but I did find myself skimming on occasions.

When we came to the book group discussion, I think I was the most positive about the book.  Most felt it overlong, a good proportion found Alice frustratingly annoying ('Why was she such a doormat?' was one's question that summed this up neatly), but I have to say that I never once thought that: rather the opposite: this was very much a woman trying to balance her obvious love for her partner with the fact that they were such diametric opposites in so many areas - how did she handle this.  It may have been the life of an American First Lady, but so much of it reflected the questions pretty much every couple must face at one time or the other.  In her own way, I found Alice to be a rather strong character.

In summary: a generally engaging read, with a few patches of longeuse that would have benefited from a stronger editor, asking some very human questions. It certainly made for a good book club read.  A promising start to the year, with the added bonus that I've taken my Tour of the USA score up to 25 - one off half way! : 4 stars out of 6.

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