If there’s one teensy, tiny silver lining to the big, black cloud that is delayed trains, it’s more reading time. I’ve read some truly cracking books over the past three months, and inevitably not all of them could be included in this post. As such, honourable mentions go to: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (an immensely enjoyable read and a worthy winner of the Pulitzer), Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (the definition of a literary masterpiece) and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (a truly heart-warming and hilarious page-turner).
Once a fortnight, or thereabouts, I head over to my local library, re-usable bag in hand, to stock up with a fresh pile of books for my commute. (When you devour two or three books a week, it’s hard, if not impossible, to justify paying £7.99 for a book that you’ll finish in a couple of train journeys.) True to form, I’ve read a lot of crime fiction over the past few months – but I’ve also squeezed in a (token) classic (which reminded me why I usually avoid them, sorry F. Scott Fitzgerald), crossed a few books off my lengthy TBR list and finally got round to reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Since starting this series, I’ve endeavoured to read more widely, to hop out of my crime fiction comfort zone and dip my toes into short stories, memoirs and other unfamiliar genres. I’m willing to give almost any book a punt, but if there are typos, shallow characters or plots that make watching paint dry seem like a more promising proposition, I’m very rarely prepared to give that author a second chance. (I gave one to Jo Nesbo, in the hopes that Blood on Snow was a blip, but sadly Midnight Sun was no better.) I’ve been ever so tempted to abandon a couple of books partway through, but there’s always a niggling voice in the back of my head telling me to just plough on and see if it improves: in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes – or in for a page, in for the whole printed work, as the case may be.
Commuting can be tedious, but it can also be an opportunity to indulge in your hobbies – and for me, that means ploughing through as many books as I can whilst shuttling between Cambridge and London King’s Cross. I’ve been trying to read a wider variety of books this year – my usual thrillers and crime fiction, alongside biographies, chick lit, historical fiction, short stories, fantasy, classics and romance novels. I set out with the aim of reading fifty-odd books; I’ve read almost double that. (It’s a good job Cambridge Central Library is so well stocked.) If, like yours truly, you’re a huge fan of The Apprentice and are already mourning the end of another series, I urge you to grab a copy of Unscripted and a cuppa, ready to relive a decade’s worth of cock-ups, gaffes and blunders. Here are my top picks from this quarter, in no particular order . . .
Since the last instalment in this series, I’ve lapsed a little on the reading front as life inevitably got in the way. I moved back to Chester, then down to London and finally up to Cambridge, all within the space of a couple of months. It was beginning to feel a little like a live version of Location, Location, Location, to tell you the truth – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve landed a job I enjoy, where I’m paid to do one of the things I love most: surround myself with books. Over the past few months, I’ve read books for all sorts of reasons: some simply because they were sat on the bookshelf; others because I really wanted to see what all the hype was about. Some I really loved; others fell flat. I’m sorry to say it, but The Girl on the Train just didn’t do it for me. (Maybe the film is better. Any opinions?) A Nurse in Time had potential, but fell short of the mark. Fortunately, after a few duds (the biggest by far being The Lie), things picked up and I read book after book that I absolutely loved.
With classes done and dusted for the year, I’ve been eagerly devouring a multitude of fictional worlds in glorious library-stamped paperback over the past three months. (Lots of bookworms seem to go gaga for hardback, but I much prefer paperback.) Having skipped out on New Year’s Resolutions, I set myself a handful of more manageable goals instead: losing the viennoiserie-related weight (check); awakening my dormant inner bookworm and reading a wider range of books (check); and finding a new job (in progress). I’ve been loosely following one of POPSUGAR’s Reading Challenges and have found myself reading all sorts of books I – in all probability – wouldn’t otherwise have read. I almost went doolally with the number of typos in Jules Wake’s Escape to the Riviera, and Neil Cross’ Captured is, in my opinion, better suited to the small screen, but on the whole these tomes have gone down a treat.
When I was younger, I would spend hours absorbed in a good (or, occasionally, bad) book. For as many summers as I can remember, I would plough through books at a rate of knots to complete the local library’s Summer Reading Challenge; I still remember the elated feeling when I finished first one summer. And then, somewhere between Holes and Lord of the Flies, books became a means to an end: passing exams. Along came university, with its mile-long bibliographies and modules with a mélange of interesting and not-so-interesting set texts. (Sorry Boris Vian.) In the holidays, I dipped in and out of my well-thumbed paperbacks; a welcome respite from inventing dozens of meanings for a sentence that, in all probability, only held one for the author. I spent much of last term trying to find my feet and make friends (little headway made on the latter); this term, when I’m not dashing across campus from one class to another, I’m usually scouring the library shelves for another promising read (or reading said promising read in the staffroom). As such, I’ve decided to start a quarterly feature celebrating my favourite reads.