I had a lot of fun doing the Reading Bingo from Cleopatra Loves Books last year, so I thought I’d give it another try, even though I have read far less than usual in 2016. All images are from Goodreads.
A book with more than 500 pages.
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. I have a half-written review of this that I’m hoping to finish soon, so I won’t talk about it in detail.
A forgotten classic
I absolutely loved The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes, published by Persephone (whose whole thing is publishing forgotten classics, mostly by women). The reason I never reviewed it is that it’s almost impossible to discuss without including spoilers, but I highly recommend it, especially if you love noir or thrillers.
A book that became a movie
The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré was made into a film in 1965. I haven’t seen it, but I can imagine that it would make an excellent film, so I might try to watch it some time next year.
A book published this year
Peggy and Me by Miranda Hart. This lovely memoir, which I listened to as an audiobook, is somewhat about her dog Peggy and somewhat about her recovery from a very bad break-up. It’s completely delightful , though if you don’t enjoy her style of comedy I would advise you to steer clear.
A book with a number in the title
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This acted as a useful reminder that just because a book is a classic doesn’t mean it’s remotely up my street. Sorry—I know this is absolutely dreadful for a book blogger—almost as bad as when I discovered I didn’t like Margaret Atwood—but I really hated this book.
A book written by someone under 30
This is quite a difficult thing to work out. As far as I can tell, I didn’t read any books of this type this past year.
A book with non-human characters
The Hen who Dreamed she Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang. This book is an utterly charming exploration of what constitutes motherhood—I didn’t realise I was enjoying it so much until suddenly I was crying in the queue at HSBC and the customer services man came over to check that I was okay (it is impossible to cry subtly as a ginger. My entire face swells up and goes scarlet the moment I start to well up). So, there’s a recommendation for you.
A funny book
Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse is, as with all Wodehouse novels, the absolute goods when it comes to comic writing.
A book by a female author
Lots of the books I’ve read this year have had female authors—I think I’ll go for Lab Girl, the memoir by prominent botanist Hope Jahren, since I’m always up for having more female scientists to admire. This was a fantastic book, though it took me a while to get into it.
A book with a mystery
I really enjoyed Big Little Lies, the mystery novel by Liane Moriarty that everyone else was talking about two years ago and that I finally picked up this year. The fact that it was as much of a “whydunit” as a “whodunit” appealed to me–even the victim of the crime isn’t completely clear until towards the end of the novel.
A book with a one-word title
Haven’t read any of these this year.
A book of short stories
A Snow Garden by Rachel Joyce. I found this a pretty uneven, but I loved the title story and a couple of the others. It was a nice way to usher in the Christmas season, at any rate.
[Free square] A book about medical history
I love medical history, and this year has been great for learning more about it—mostly through the podcast Sawbones, which I have recommended to people in a borderline obsessive way since I discovered it around May. However, The Ballroom by Anna Hope is a fascinating and chilling look at the way mentally ill (or just socially different) people were treated in the UK up until fairly recently. It’s an incredibly beautiful book, set in an asylum in the Yorkshire moors in 1911.
A book set on a different continent
Very many of the books I read are set in the US, so I decided to exclude it, and then I wasn’t left with that much (assuming fictional continents don’t count). What Alice Forgot, also by Liane Moriarty, is set in Australia. I didn’t like it as much as Big Little Lies but I still enjoyed it.
A book of non-fiction
I am just finishing off The Trains Now Departed: Sixteen Excursions into the Lost Delights of Britain’s Railway, by Michael Williams. This is by far the nerdiest book I’ve ever read (at least, out of those not related to my PhD) and also one of my favourites. Read this book for stories about eccentric train-restorers, kippers on the Tube, and extremely detailed information about Liverpool’s overhead railway.
The first book by a favourite author
This is complicated—one year is not really enough time for an author to become a firm favourite, for me—so I think I will go for Whose Body?, the first in the Lord Peter Wimsey series by DL Sayers, who wrote almost all of my favourite mystery novels.
A book you heard about online
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, which I read about in dozens of reviews towards the end of last year. This was a nice read, although it was not quite fantasy-heavy enough for my personal tastes. Also, how stunning is that cover?
A best-selling book
Me before You by JoJo Moyes. Which, honestly, confirmed to me that the suspicion with which I regard bestsellers might be justified.
A book based on a true story
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart is based—I suspect pretty loosely—on the story of one of the US’ first female sheriffs. This might be my favourite book of the year, though I’m still weighing that. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
A book at the bottom of your TBR pile
I don’t have a physical TBR pile, but I’ve been wanting to read The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis since I was about fifteen, and I finally did it this past year. It more than lived up to my expectations.
A book your friend loves
One of my friends recommended The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande) to me in the following way: “it’s about how wonderful lists are, and why doctors should listen nurses much more than they do, and the importance of pedantry; you’ll love it!” He was 100% right.
A book that scares you
I put a lot of skill and thought into avoiding books that scare me. I hadn’t read And Then There Were None last time I did the reading bingo, though technically I read it on December 30th last year, so including it here might be cheating. I finished it in one sitting, staying up until 3a.m. because I had to know. Then I got out of bed, switched on every light in the flat, and turned on the radio. After that, I was just about able to go to sleep. This is utterly unlike any other Agatha Christie novel I’ve ever read.
A book that is more than ten years old
The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor was published in 1961. It was recommended to me by Goodreads based on my deep and undying love for Gilead, and it is absolutely wonderful. The novel follows an Irish Catholic priest in New York in the 50s. He’s a recovering alcoholic dealing with a very complex and fascinating relationship to a particular family that he grew up alongside. It’s really incredible, and ridiculously difficult to find—I got it as an interlibrary loan, but I am hoping to obtain a copy of my own at some point as I’d really like to reread it. I can’t even find a picture of the edition I read.
The second book in a series
Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun is the second full novel in his Robot series. I wrote about the Robot books here.
A book with a blue cover
For Richer, for Poorer: A love affair with poker by Victoria Coren has a mostly blue cover. At least, according to Goodreads—I read it as a library ebook. I wrote about it here (the book, not the cover).
23/25. That’s not bad at all! It’s an improvement over 2015 (21/25), in fact, despite having read less overall.