I thought writing about the books I’ve read so far in 2016 would be a good introduction to the types of books I usually read (and my thoughts on them).
Autobiographies / memoirs
I started the year reading Alan Sugar’s autobiography What You See is What You Get. I don’t read a great deal of memoir-style books, however having just finished watching The Apprentice UK, I was intrigued to read more about Sir Alan. I’d previously read his side-kick Karren Brady’s book Strong Woman – both were great books which I rated 4/5. A few months later I ended up reading his book Unscripted – mostly about his time working on the Apprentice which, as a huge fan, I really enjoyed (4/5).
Throughout the first few months of the year I read a few other autobiographies – Sue Perkin’s Spectacles (brilliant book) and Mary Berry’s A Recipe for Life (both 5/5). I also read Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road as part of Emma Watson’s book club, which I also gave full marks. Another great feminist read was Bridget Christie’s A Book for Her – it was a bit of a slow burner for me but it ended up being a fantastically funny read about her journey into the male-dominated world of comedy (another 5/5).
I read a few other non-fiction books. I’ve always been a fan of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks (his autobiography On the Move: A Life is highly recommended). I’d had his book The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat for a long time, and had dipped into it occasionally. A collection of case histories of some of his most intriguing patients, it took some time to work through but it was definitely worth it (4/5). Needless to say I have several of his other books on my shelf waiting to be read.
The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington was a great read. It’s a shame books like this are needed to explain the importance of sleep (and the impact of not getting enough of it) but it was definitely a worthwhile read (4/5). The Unmumsy Mum’s book probably needs no introduction – the successful mummy blogger’s book was a great read, even for someone who doesn’t yet have children. There were some aspects of childbirth and parenting in there that it certainly opened my eyes to (5/5)!
Other non-fiction books I read were The Organised Mind by Daniel J. Levitin (ironically a very disorganised book that could be summarised in a few lines – 2/5); Groundswell by Charlene Li (a marketing-related book – 2/5); Get in the Sea by Andy Dawson (expletive-ridden, angry rants – a fun, and sometimes offensive, read 4/5) and The Establishment by Owen Jones (5/5).
Moving into fiction (my usual territory), the first book I read was Clare McIntosh’s debut novel I Let You Go. Unfortunately, despite having rave reviews, I struggled with the amount of violence, death, domestic abuse etc (it felt like McIntosh was working from a check list) and had to skim the last part of the book. I rated this book 2/5.
Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother (the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin) was a very strange but absorbing read (4/5). I recently picked up her new book The Mandibles. I’m a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern and earlier this year I bought the few books of hers that I haven’t yet read. The Book of Tomorrow (4/5) was a magical, modern fairy tale – I usually struggle with magical and surreal elements in books, but Ahern usually manages to do it so effectively you feel like you’ve been transported into another world.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (3/5), All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (4/5) and The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (4/5) were also great books to start off the year. After a fiction reading spree in January and February, I didn’t start reading fiction again until June (very unlike me).
June was a great month for reading – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte was a delightful read. This book was so ahead of its time, being the first book to document a woman leaving an abusive husband. A strong female protagonist with a gripping storyline, what’s not to love?
I can’t resist a book club and despite not previously been a big reader of Young Adult fiction, I now find myself happily converted. I caved in and quickly bought Zoella’s 8-book collection and quickly made my way through Everything, Everything (5/5), All the Bright Places (5/5) and We Were Liars (3/5). I’m really looking forward to reading the rest.
Finally a couple of chick lit books. Claire Sandy’s What Would Mary Berry Do? was a fun and fluffy read however it did seem to drag a little bit – it took me a few months to read on-and-off. And sadly, JoJo Moyes’ sequel to the Me Before You (which I loved), After You, was a huge disappointment. I found myself struggling to finish the book as none of the storylines or characters gripped me at all. It could have easily been 100 pages shorter which was really frustrating, since I had been looking forward to it so much.
Overall, not a bad first half of 2016. My favourites so far are probably Spectacles, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and All the Bright Places. And I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the Zoella book club and finding more YA to read too!