I used to be a very avid reader, devouring books upon books (fiction and non fiction). Reading transports me somewhere else for a little while and it is a pleasant feeling. I have always had a big imagination so it is not hard for me to visualise the places, characters, scenes, especially when a book is so well written that the descriptions help it even more.
But over the last few years, I noticed a big decline into my reading habits. I blame social media, smartphones and mostly me for not being able to switch off once in a while. So, instead of grabbing a book before bed, I would be scrolling through the different apps on my phone to see what was going on with the world, read blog posts here and there and check out many images to collect for my boards on Pinterest. And yes, let's just say I never had the best of sleep afterwards.
It's only November but how has this been going you may wonder? Pretty well actually since I am currently reading my 33rd book this year!
I have been keeping track of my progress on Goodreads and gave myself a challenge of 30 books at the start of the year.
This bedtime routine has been really helpful and I have to admit I have been sleeping more peacefully for the last few months. And even after late dinner or a night out with friends or family, a long day visiting places on holidays or an event that means we only come home exhausted and wanting to go straight to bed, I always manage to fit in a chapter or a few pages of what I am currently reading.
I also found myself reading much more than usual during day time when on lunch break, in transports or on a quiet weekend afternoon.
I started the year with printed books and I am now mostly reading on the Kindle my other half gifted me on our second anniversary. I am not going to give you my entire list of books I read this year but here are a few that I particularly enjoyed in no particular order.
- My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. This is the first book of a trilogy and after having read this one, I really look forward to the rest of the story. I got its French translation version when I was in France last Christmas (I always stock up on books when I go there since it is good to read novels in my native language once in a while). This is the story of best friends Elena and Lila growing up in the tough streets of a poor neighbourhood in Naples, Italy. It starts in the early 1950's and the story is told through the eyes of Elena. Having studied Italian in college and learned a lot about the history of Italy (old and modern), what I read sounded very accurate with stories our teachers had taught us (sometimes from their own experience). The end left me wanting more so the second volume is definitely on my list for 2017.
- Up in the Air, The Real Story of Life Aboard the World's Most Glamorous Airline by Betty Riegel. This is probably the most cheerful autobiography I read lately. This is the story of a young woman from Essex, England, who became a stewardess for Pan Am in the early 1960's. From a thorough training in New York, serving champagne and 5-course French cuisine up in the air and dating a Japanese rock star, the stories and anecdotes keep on going and are very enjoyable. Imagine having to break, prepare and scramble 320 eggs at 37,000 feet for the breakfast of 160 passengers! It is obviously a far cry from some of the airline companies these days (I was flying with a famous low cost company on my way back from London to Dublin when reading this book, I could not avoid sighing at the huge differences between then and now, even though i am well aware you get what you pay for). I have recommended this to quite a few people so far.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove is a cranky and bitter old man. Ove does not like many things about his neighbourhood. When a friendly family moves in next door to him, a lot of things start happening and it unveils the story of Ove's life. I laughed and I cried. This is a lovely book and it would make you think twice when meeting a grumpy old person, who knows what is the reason for this, there may be a story behind! I passed on the book to a few people and wouldn't hesitate recommending it too.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. This is number one in a series of seven tomes of Maya Angelou's autobiography. This incredible woman does not need much introduction at this stage but if you have not heard of her, do read about who she was. This first long chapter of her life starts with her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas. This is an autobiography so I am not going to reveal much, she says it all! I have recently finished the third book and I look forward to reading the rest of her autobiography.
- The Book of Fate by Parinoush Saniee. This is the last book I read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it hard to put it down every night as I was really keen to know the full story. It tells the story of Massoumeh, a young girl growing up to be a woman in Tehran, Iran. The description you will probably read everywhere is that the story starts with an innocent flirtation with the pharmacist's assistant but when her family finds out, especially her brothers, all hell breaks loose and she needs to be married off to a more suitable suitor as she dishonoured her family. The story pans over five decades and does not delve too deep into the politics of Iran but rather tells the story of a family. The book was banned but its recent translation in English made it hugely popular. It is very well written and the translation does it justice. I read in some places it is fictional and in other ones that this is autobiographical, to this day I still don't know. But all I know is the story is fascinating and also really moving. If you read it and want to know more about life and politics in Iran, the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a good reference for more recent history there.
What have you been reading lately? If you have good suggestions/recommendations, do leave it in a comment below.
I am starting to put a list together for what I want to read next year. For now, my biggest book challenge of all is trying to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and finish it by the end of the year. It promises to be quite epic but the cold Winter nights should help fitting in more reading time.