I don’t tend to do much “normal” blogging on this site because I figure it’s easier to just keep it to reviews but also because, if I’m being honest, I’m not convinced anyone’s really interested in reading my blathering on. However, I’ve seen a number of book reviewers whose blogs I follow do a 2017 round up and thought it might be interesting to do the same.
I had set myself a target of reading 150 books in 2017 and actually managed 152 – the most I’ve ever read in a single year. The full list is here if anyone’s interested in checking it out. The vast majority of books have been thrillers (58 of my reviews in total) – mainly because one of my “things” (I don’t do resolutions) for 2018 is to try and write a thriller of my own. I wanted to read more non-fiction in 2017 and I succeeded in that (24 books read – so almost 16%) and I have found that very beneficial – exposing me to new ideas, theories and bits of information that I’d never normally have been drawn to and, at times discovering that sometimes the truth is indeed more fascinating and stranger than fiction. Of the books I read, 76 were by female writers (so 50%) and 16 by writers of colour (so about 10.5%) – those aren’t bad statistics, but I’m aware that I can improve on that – particularly for writers of colour as I really need to read more diversely.
I’ve been very fortunate to benefit from being a member of the Amazon Vine Programme (119 of the books I read came courtesy of that) but I’ve also benefited from the kind folk at Faber & Faber, Scholastic, Shrine Bell, Simon & Schuster and Walker Books. Many thanks to the PR and marketing people at all of them for thinking of me.
There’s a lot of on-line rumour about what Amazon is going to do with the UK Vine programme going forward (indeed 2017 was dogged by rumours that it was about to end at any moment). I can’t complain if it does – I have had a very good run there and am grateful for the opportunities it’s given me – plus, it may well be better for me if it does finish because I have a massive To Read Pile for 2018 that I really need to make some inroads on (I’m not even joking about that – I’ve hidden the list behind a jump cut because it’s at the point where I’m quite ashamed about how out of control it is).
I moved my blog to WordPress from Livejournal at the end of 2017 (with a complete back up of my posts sitting on my Dreamwidth account) and didn’t really expect to get much in the way of traction. This has always been a personal review blog that reflects whatever I want to read at a particular time so it’s a bit of a pot pourri of genres and markets when the trend in book blogging seems to be to focus on one or two particular genres. Plus I don’t do scheduled review posts – fitting them in during my spare time so there may be a week between some posts and sometimes there’ll be several posts on the same day. Anyway, I’ve been surprised and very pleased to see that a number of people have got enough of an interest in it to follow so hello and thank you to all 29 of you who have subscribed and another hello and thank you to the 1,664 visitors who have checked out the site at some point during 2017. Many thanks as well to those who have taken the time to comment.
In terms of my favourite books of 2017, I’ve set out the ones I rated the most highly below:
- The Unwomanly Face Of War by Svetlana Alexievich – incredibly moving, this book gives you a completely different take on what it means to go to war while covering a criminally under-acknowledged fact of World War II.
- Will Robots Take Your Job? by Nigel M. de S. Cameron – a smart essay on the rise of the robots and why it’s important for society to start thinking about the possible impact of the same for labour markets.
- They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story Of Black Lives Matter by Wesley Lowery – a searing and sadly still necessary account of the Black Lives Matter movement and why it’s so important.
- The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan – this was a new-to-me author and crime series and I was completely enchanted both by the Indian setting, the neatly drawn characters, the dark underbelly and – most of all – an adorably little elephant. I’m now in the process of getting the previous books in this series as Khan has become one of my go-to authors.
- Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr – this is the most recent in the BERNIE GUNTHER series and, having discovered the books in 2016, I’m currently working through the back catalogue but if you’re into historical thrillers, Kerr’s books are a must.
- Police At The Station And They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty – I’ve been a fan of the SEAN DUFFY SERIES for a while and thoroughly enjoy the smart writing and the way McKinty uses 80s Northern Ireland as a backdrop to his twisting plots.
CHILDREN’S AND YA (FICTION AND NON FICTION)
- There May Be A Castle by Piers Torday – this was a moving book that’s ultimately about death and letting go but is coupled with some funny dialogue and characters you genuinely care about. It well deserved the plaudits it received.
- Symphony For The City Of The Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson – that rare beast – a non-fiction YA read – I thought this was a compelling account of Shostakovich’s life and how he created this symphony and how it came to be disseminated – told me a lot about the siege of Leningrad and life in Stalin’s Russia and it’s a real shame it doesn’t seem to have got the attention it deserved.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – I know I’m on a very large bandwagon with this recommendation but for once it’s a YA novel where the hype is fully deserved. Given where US society in particular is at this moment in time, I think this book is going to stand out for years to come as a classic and more than that – an important book that all readers (not just teenagers) should read in order to understand what is happening.
So where to for 2018? Well, the books I’ve already got marked on my To Buy List are ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas and WHITE RABBIT, RED WOLF by Tom Pollock. New-to-me authors from 2017 who I intend to keep following are Mick Herron (whose SLOUGH HOUSE SERIES I picked up following recommendations on Twitter) and Vaseem Khan and I’m looking forward to the next book in the ALEX VERUS SERIES from Benedict Jacka and the PETER GRANT SERIES by Ben Aaronovitch.
My current To Read Pile for 2018 stands at a whopping 416 (full list behind the cut). If there’s anything on there you think I should definitely be checking out early then please feel free to hit me up with a recommendation in the comments as I’d love to hear from you. I use my list to keep track of when I acquired particular books, which gives you some idea of just how horrific my book acquisition problem is and how neglected some of my books are.
I’ve set myself a reading target of 125 books this year, in part because I found that my 150 target for 2017 meant that I was consciously avoiding longer books in case reading them prevented me from hitting my target plus I found that I got anxious about keeping count of the books and getting through them quickly, which sometimes affected my enjoyment. I want to increase the proportion of books by writers of colour to 20% of the overall total and I want to keep to a 50/50 gender split. I’d like to try and make sure that 20% of the list is non-fiction as well because I’ve found that I really benefit and enjoy reading it.
Anyway I think that’s about enough from me other than to say best wishes to all for 2018 and I’m hoping it will hold more great books to review and talk about.