The book blogger versus traditional literary critic debate has been rumbling on for a while now, especially as it is noticeable that endorsements from bloggers are increasingly used alongside reviews by established journalists. However, I was recently surprised to find a quote from my review of Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien inside the UK paperback edition published by Granta. I hadn’t known my review was going to be used for this purpose (but I don’t object to it) and I also didn’t receive a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my comments. Continue reading
I have read some excellent books in 2016 both new and not-quite-so-new. Here is a selection of my favourite reads of 2016:
My reading has been dominated by female authors more than ever this year. This isn’t something I deliberately set out to achieve but it is fantastic to see so many brilliant books written by women getting widespread attention. I highly recommend The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss and The Wonder by Emma Donoghue which could be possible contenders for next year’s Wellcome Book Prize awarded to a fiction or non-fiction book about health or medicine.
I really enjoyed The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry which is one of the most original historical novels I have read in a long time while other recent favourites with a more modern setting include Swing Time by Zadie Smith, the Brexit-themed Autumn by Ali Smith and This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell. Continue reading
1. I read more books than I used to. This must be something that pretty much every book blogger can identify with. Even though blogging itself takes up a lot of time, it’s pretty hard not to start reading more when following other blogs leads to so many new sources of book recommendations. However, I also know my limits and reading during my commute to work and sticking consistently to one or two blog posts a week feels achievable and has helped me avoid both reading and blogging burnout.
2. I read more new books than I used to. This is partly a consequence of receiving review copies from publishers but following other bloggers with similar reading tastes and literary award longlists means I often seek out copies of newly published books from other sources too.
3. My reading tastes have diversified a lot in terms of genre. As well as newer books, I have been reading more non-fiction and translated fiction and I don’t think I would have made so many new discoveries if I didn’t run a blog.
‘Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer’ (also published under the title ‘The World Between Two Covers’ in the United States) is Ann Morgan’s account of how she read a book from every country in the world after realising that her literary diet mostly consisted of British and American authors. Rather than cobbling together Morgan’s reviews of the 197 books she read in 2012 which are already available for free on her excellent blog A Year of Reading the World, her bibliomemoir examines questions such as what makes a good translation, how to define a sovereign nation and what the future holds for world literature and the publishing industry. Continue reading
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite books from those I’ve read in 2015:
Favourite fiction published in 2015
I loved Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith which is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and I was lucky enough to attend a special launch event in October in which my team came first in a live escape game. Winning a signed copy was a particular highlight.
The relaunch of the Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award introduced me to some fantastic new authors including The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota which is my personal favourite from a very strong shortlist.
I really enjoyed seeing Hanya Yanagihara talk about her second novel A Little Life at Foyles last summer. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it’s been one of the most talked-about and controversial books of the year and, in my view, one of the most astonishingly original. Continue reading
I like to think that I am relatively in touch with what’s going on in the book blogging world. However, until very recently, I must confess that I didn’t really know anything at all about BookTube, let alone how big it has become over the past few years. It turns out that there is a whole other world out there of book vloggers known as BookTubers who create video blogs about books on YouTube.
Even though I don’t give ratings in my own blog reviews, I always look at the one-star reviews of books I want to read on Amazon or Goodreads and sometimes wonder what compels people to write them. The number or proportion of these one-star reviews and the amount of venom contained within them – justified or otherwise – can often determine whether or not I am likely to buy the book. As with the purchase of any product, it seems natural to seek out what the worst case scenario might be in order to evaluate the risk of potential disappointment.
I do this survey every year so here it is again….
1. Best book you read in 2014? (You can break it down by genre if you want) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was a great start to the year and The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber was another highlight. For non-fiction, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald really stood out for its original blend of memoir, biography and nature writing.
2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t? As with The Rehearsal, the overly complex structure of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton prevented me from enjoying it as much as I had hoped.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014? It’s a very intense read but The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud was a pleasant surprise as I didn’t really get on with The Last Life at all last year. Continue reading
I review the majority of the books I read. However, mostly due to lack of time, I don’t blog about all of them. Here are my thoughts about nine other books I read in 2014 but didn’t review earlier in the year.
Earlier this week, it was announced that ‘Girl Online’ by Zoe Sugg also known as YouTube vlogger Zoella, was the fastest selling debut novel of all time having shifted 78,109 copies in its first week of sales in the UK. However, in an article published in The Telegraph today, Penguin Random House confirmed to The Sunday Times that “to be factually accurate you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own”.
I did this survey last year so here it is again….
1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (You can break it down by genre if you want) This is hard… in terms of fiction, highlights definitely include ‘A Tale for the Time Being‘ by Ruth Ozeki, ‘Life After Life‘ by Kate Atkinson and ‘Red Joan‘ by Jennie Rooney. The best non-fiction book was probably ‘Quiet‘ by Susan Cain. I don’t give books star ratings in my reviews so it is difficult to judge and compare a whole year’s worth of reading.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? I was not so much disappointed but just rather perplexed by ‘The Orphan Master’s Son‘ by Adam Johnson. I was intrigued by the story’s setting in North Korea but it didn’t really grab me as much as I thought it would. Continue reading
When I first started this blog, I reviewed more or less everything I read in the order that I read them. However, I am no longer quite so organised. I still review the majority of the books I read but this year, I read quite a few other books which I didn’t write about on my blog for the following reasons: Continue reading
So apparently it’s possible to be Freshly Pressed twice… Just over a year after my post about eBooks was Freshly Pressed, my post about the forthcoming changes to the Man Booker Prize criteria received the honour yesterday.
I have been neglecting the blog a bit recently because I have been busy finishing my dissertation for my Master’s degree which is due to be handed in next Friday. As usual, I am very behind with writing up book reviews, responding to emails and comments etc but normal service will hopefully be resuming by the end of next week.
I started blogging pretty much on the spur of the moment. At the time, I was a final year undergraduate student and I was reading a lot of books that were not related to my university course and found that I had things to say but nobody to really talk to about them. And so my Little Blog was born on a Monday evening in March 2012 right at the time when I should have been revising for my final exams (fortunately, I did alright in the end but it wasn’t really an ideal time to start it). Continue reading
I don’t want to come over all Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars (never a good idea when sitting in a library as I currently am or in any other circumstances really) but I do want to acknowledge that my blog is officially one year old today. This is a fairly momentous occasion considering I didn’t think I would end up being very committed to it. Like most people, I started my blog on a total whim and never imagined that it would take off in the way that it has. So thanks for visiting, thanks for your comments and hooray for blogging.
BEST IN BOOKS 2012
1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want) Do I have to choose? Well, one of my favourites was Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami which I read not long before I started my blog. I’ve read a lot of good books this year though.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? I was a little bit disappointed by The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I liked it but I didn’t love it.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012? The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. At least, I think it was surprising in a good way… I thought it would be too weird for my taste but I actually quite liked it. Continue reading
My blog web address has changed to alittleblogofbooks.wordpress.com. Any previous links to my blog with the site address cer90cer.wordpress.com will no longer work.
If you have my site on a blogroll or other pages, please could you update the link. My followers should continue to receive new posts as normal.
Thank you very much 🙂
According to Peter Stothard, this year’s chair of the Man Booker Prize judges, book bloggers are harming literature. Well thanks, Peter. Thanks a lot. I’m sure there are many people who have come across my blog who might have been indifferent or in strong disagreement with my reviews but I never expected the whole concept of my blog to be accused of being detrimental to literature. That seems quite extreme to me.
I am not a professional critic. I enjoy reading books and nobody pays me to write reviews. I did not study English Literature at university. I do not work in publishing or journalism. As a blogger, I don’t have an editor to check my posts and I know my writing isn’t perfect. However, I completely reject Stothard’s assertion that blogging is drowning out ‘serious criticism’. He appears to have lumped all bloggers into the category of what he calls ‘unargued opinion’. Sure, there is an awful lot of badly written stuff out there, but it isn’t universal. Continue reading