The best way to deal with New Year resolutions, I find, is simply not to have any. Instead, this year I am setting myself the pleasurable task of ploughing through my bedside book stack, taking the stories in no particular order but being sure to select them one at a time, instead of doing the random dipping for which I’m better known (Gemini, sorry).
Some of these books date back to my birthday in June, some further still, some were written in the 1980s but are still relevant and catchy today, some are borrowed, and not one of them is on my Kindle, they are all printed paper novels. Not that there’s anything wrong with my Kindle, and I’m sure I’ll load it up once this little lot is done, but it’s good to give the eyes a blue-light break once in a while.
So then, begged, borrowed or bought, here’s what I’m looking at as we kick off the year:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – Day 3 of the new year and I’m 41 pages into one of my Christmas reads, about a Korean family living in Japan. Elegant and evocative, this turn-of-the-century book about how to cope when you live and work in a foreign land is a very current topic. Beautiful so far.
Follow This Thread by Henry Eliot – Gifted to me some months back from the same person who gave me Pachinko (thanks Gareth), I started this one and lost the thread, which is exactly what the book is about, but I’ll pick it up again once I’m out of Japan.
The Tunnel Through Time by Gillian Tindall – When I was growing up in 1970s north London, a popular book on anyone’s shelf was The Fields Beneath by the same author, which told the historical tale of Kentish Town and its surrounds. The Tunnel takes an updated look at the city and its ever-changing shape. It’s another birthday treat from June that keeps getting lifted out, pored over, then put back again, but no: one at a time, that’s the intention.
The Singapore Grip by JG Farrell – As an ex-expat, I am super-fond of saying that I will forever have the best of two worlds. Last June, at the same time as my sister was gifting me the book about London (see above), a good friend visiting from Singapore was presenting me with this hefty tome, about The Red Dot just before the infamous and terrible Japanese invasion. Like all the rest, it’s in the queue and I can’t wait.
Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds – Alright I lied, I have finished this one, but it was a picture book so easy to speed through, and thanks go to my son who took it off my book list for Christmas. This was a great jaunt down the memory lane of all Simmonds’ fantastic picture books (not really picture books but dense and hilarious stories, only quick because they’re brilliant and can’t be put down). Again, if you lived in London through the 70s, 80s, 90s and Noughties (etc) like me, there’ll be people between these pages who you most definitely know, and I love spotting them.
The Tillerman cycle by Cynthia Voight – This is a big long string of books sitting patiently on my shelf all in a row, all by the same author and all on the same theme. They follow the fortunes of Dicey, a teenager struggling to care for her siblings after their mother deserts them in a car park. it was recommended to me as I embarked on a writing course aimed at young adult (YA) fiction, and the stories are relevant because the strong teen themes of Separation, Anxiety, Responsibility and Family are threaded through. Written in the 1980s, the books do have a very retro feel. However, the theme is timeless so the stories have a current aura, and in any case they’re beautifully told. I’ve read the first two (Homecoming and Dicey’s Song) but there’s a whole load still to go: A Solitary Blue, The Runner, Come a Stranger, Sons From Afar, Seventeen Against The Dealer. Yes I know, I might be some time.
Truly, Madly, Guilty by Lianne Moriarty – From the author of Big Little Lies, this is one I picked out for the very reason that I loved Lies. I can’t even look at the blurb yet because there’s so much else to get through in my slightly scary book stack, but I’m guessing I’ll love it. Back to the pile it goes for now.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – The last of the teen fiction reads from my YA course, this was on our recommended ‘plotting and world-building’ list, from what I can recall of the tuition tips. In fact, I have seen it all over the place and I keep putting it to the top of the queue, but I know it has to wait, because there’s all that lot above to come first.
The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders – The author is a close family friend, but I show no bias when I say that all her books are completely magical. I’ve had this one on the shelf for a while and long to tuck into the pages, because I know Kate will weave a brilliant tale full of three-dimensional characters and addictive plots that I just won’t be able to put down. So I won’t pick it up quite yet. (PS I recommend Kate’s Five Children on the Western Front, winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2014. Just saying).
Now all I need is a book club and some time. I’m starting the clock and counting down to next December, by which time these should all be on my ‘finished’ list and my Kindle stocked up again. And of course there’s writing on the agenda too, plenty of that. Just as soon as I’ve finished this page…
What’s on your shelf this year?