4 Fantasy Books I’d Like to Read

img_20190109_120627It’s been a long time since I read a fantasy book that I really liked. In fact, it’s been a long time since I read a fantasy book altogether (besides the Harry Potter series which I reread every year). However, just before Christmas, I read Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed it so much that it rekindled my love of the fantasy genre. I now find myself wanting all the dragons, all the magic and all the far away kingdoms. Since then I’ve been searching for some fantasy books I’d like to read in the next few years or so.  The following list includes only a tiny portion of the books and series I want to read that fall under the fantasy category. I’ve already started on some of them and reserved a fair few at my local library. If you love fantasy books and have any recommendations or suggestions then please comment with them below so I can add them to my ever growing list!

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

How could I not begin this list with one of the most revered fantasy series of all time? I’ve never thought much of the films in the past but have recently read The Hobbit and loved it. Although I’m a little taken aback by the almost-complete absence of women (seriously, where are they?), it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to read at the moment. Perhaps there’s more women in The Lord of the Rings.

The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

I don’t know much about this book or the Rain Wild Chronicles series other than what I’ve seen online. All I know is that Hobb has written many successful fantasy books, with the most popular being the Farseer trilogy. However, I really wanted to read something with dragons this year so I’m going to start by reading The Dragon Keeper and then see where I go from there. If I don’t like that story, I can always try a different series from her.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett 

My family played a lot of console games while growing up. One of these games was Discworld, which was adapted from Pratchett’s very popular fantasy series of the same name. That game was my first introduction to the series and I’m excited to finally try one of the books. There’s a lot of different ways to get into the series, some people read them chronologically, while others prefer to read them as stand-alones or thematically (which is how I’ve opted to read them). I’m most interested in reading Going Postal, the first book in the Moist Von Lipwig series (33rd book in the Discworld series overall), as well as the Tiffany Aching series.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

I’ve finally decided to try one of Juliet Marillier’s books after listening to Jean Menzies, from Jean’s Bookish Thoughts, wax lyrical about her over the past twelve months. I know almost nothing about Juliet Marillier or her books so I’m going in completely blind with no idea what to expect. It’s supposed to be loosely based on the Children of Lir legend from Irish mythology, which is something I have zero knowledge of but would love to know more about.

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My Favourite Books of 2018

IMG_20190101_132436 (2)Happy new year!  Today I’d like to share with you my favourite reads of twenty-eighteen. Overall, I enjoyed most of the books I read (there were some I really didn’t like but best not to dwell on those). I discovered a few favourite authors that are new to me, I rekindled my love of the fantasy/scifi genre, and I finally read a Dickens novel (three, in fact, one of which makes an appearance on this list). But of all the books I’ve read over the past few months, there are only seven that I loved the most. Either because they were a lot of fun to read, or because they had a profound effect on me. So, in no particular order, here are my favourite books of twenty-eighteen.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This book follows the life of Theo Decker, a young boy living in New York, who survives the terrorist bombing of an art museum that kills his mother. It’s best described as a Bildungsroman, chronicling every detail of Theo’s life (including the unintentional theft of a valuable Fabritius painting). I have fond memories of reading this book on a bench inside the walls of a medieval castle, soon after submitting my undergraduate dissertation (a castle bench is where I spent most of my time reading while at university and I highly recommend finding your nearest castle and doing the same). Donna Tartt is a beautiful beautiful writer and I love how perfectly she describes the minutiae of everyday life. I read her debut novel The Secret History soon after and I loved that one, too.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This novel is a multi-generational saga that begins three hundred years ago in eighteenth century Ghana with two half sisters, Effia and Esi. It tells of the story of the transatlantic slave trade, chronicling each generation’s experience with racism, slavery and colonialism. The moment I finished the book, I was a bit dumbfounded at the sheer brilliance of what I’d just read. All I could think was that I loved it, and that I wish it had been longer. I watched several interviews with Yaa Gyasi afterwards to know as much as I could about the background of the book. One of my favourite quotes is  ‘we believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture‘. In school, I was often lectured on the history of British colonialism, as well as our involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. It was a very abbreviated history, with a lot left unsaid, but Homegoing helped to fill some of those gaps for me.

Stoner by John Williams

Stoner is often described as a ‘quietly profound’ novel and I happen to agree. Tom Hanks, one of my favourite actors, recommended this book in interview with TIME, which is why I read it. It’s about a young man, William Stoner, who leaves behind a humble farm life to attend the University of Missouri. He falls in love with English Literature and eventually goes on to become a professor in the subject. However, after a series of personal and professional disappointments, Stoner is forced to assess the meaning of life and his place within it. I found it to be a very relatable book, and while it is sad at times, the residual message is one of hope. I then went on to read Butchers Crossing by the same author and enjoyed that, too, albeit not as much.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

As I’ve mentioned previously, this neo-slave narrative was the Feminist Orchestra Bookclub choice for November and December. It follows a modern day black woman who is transported through time and space, from her Californian home to a plantation in pre-Civil War Maryland. Butler herself categorises Kindred as a ‘kind of grim fantasy‘ which relies on certain elements of the science fiction genre to expose and explore the cruel treatment of slaves and black people as a whole. It was an incredible read and Dana quickly became one of my favourite characters in literature. I can easily see it adapted into a TV series by Netflix or HBO at some point in the near future.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman 

I came to this book having loved the film when I was younger (I still do). The story begins in Wall, a small village that falls on the border between the ‘normal’ world and the land of Faerie. Tristran Thorn, a young and naive resident of Wall, ventures into the magical realm, full of wicked royals and evil witches, to retrieve a fallen star and win the heart of his beloved. Gaiman’s Stardust has rekindled my love for the fantasy genre and I’m so excited to read all the fantasy  books I’ve been missing out on. Sometimes a story doesn’t need a lot of character development for it to be of good, so long as it’s written well and I enjoy it. Of which it is, and I do. 

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

One of my aims for 2018 was to read some Dickens novels and so far I have read Hard Times, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. While I’ve really enjoyed them all so far, Oliver Twist has been my favourite. It tells the story of a young orphan, Oliver Twist, who grows up in a Victorian workhouse before being sold into employment and later falling into the hands of two London criminals, Fagin and Sikes. The novel has a lot more depth in comparison to the musical adaptation and I loved the complexity of both the narrative and characters, especially Nancy. The only downside to the novel was Dickens’ portrayal of Fagin, which felt slightly anti-Semitic.

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson

This summer I was gifted a book voucher from one of my friends as a well done for graduating university. I finally used to purchase my own copy of The Moomins and the Great Flood, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson. The Moomins was one of my favourite TV programs growing up and I remember reading a few of the books, too. This little book was so charming and brought back so many happy memories from my childhood. And the cover and illustrations are beautiful, too.

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Reading Aspirations for 2019

ffffTwenty-eighteen is finally coming to an end, which means its time to think about all the reading-related things I’d like to accomplish in the new year. I’ve also added some of my resolutions that aren’t directly related to reading towards the end.

Read at least 20 books

This year I took part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. My target was to read at least 20 books in twelve months. Although I managed to read just over 50 books, I’d still like to keep my target of 20 books for the new year. I find that I enjoy reading so much more when I’m focusing on the quality of what I read rather than on the quantity. And I’m more inclined to pick up those longer books on my shelf when I’m not in competition with myself or others.

Keep a physical list of all the books I read 

The basic idea is that I will write down the title and author of each book, as well as the dates, times and locations I started and completed them. And I know it may seem like a pretty arbitrary thing to do, especially when I have my own Goodreads account, but there’s just something nice about keeping it all written down in a notebook. I like the thought of looking back through the list in a decades time and remembering the small details of a pleasant day I spent reading a book.

Read more diversely and across more genres

I want to try experimenting with genres I normally avoid or have yet to try because I feel I’m missing out on so many good books. There are some that I’d like to read (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) and some books I’ve always been too scared to try (Lord of the Rings) because science fiction and high fantasy are genres that I tend to neglect the most. Not only that, but I also want to read more from a more diverse range of perspectives and voices, rather than sticking to a predominately white-male canon of literature.

Read before I go to sleep every night 

I remember when I was younger, I used to fall asleep reading a book every single night, without fail. I had a double bed and one side would be filled with about twenty books under my duvet, as well as some more on the floor. As time went on, bedtime reading was replaced with bedtime browsing on my phone, which is neither productive or good for my health. I’ve recently started reading every night in bed and it’s already made such a big difference to my sleeping pattern and is so much more interesting and enjoyable than just scrolling through Twitter.

Continue being a member of The Feminist Orchestra Book Club

I joined The Feminist Orchestra Book Club two months ago and have so far read the November/December choice of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. It was the first time I’ve ever been part of a book club and I’m really loving it so far. It’s nice to feel like a part of something positive and read books that I wouldn’t normally come across by myself. I may not contribute a lot to the discussion because I’m a shy person, but I like to see what everyone else has to say.

Non-reading aspirations

  1. Apply for a postgraduate degree in Librarianship
  2. Teach myself French
  3. Volunteer in a book/information related environment
  4. Knit a scarf

 

November Book Haul

DSCN0138 (4)I accumulated a lot of books in November and October, which wasn’t very sensible of me as I ran out of space a long time ago (my little room doesn’t accommodate readers). If it’s any consolation, all books were bought second-hand from charity shops, except for three that I got for free while visiting a friend in Lincoln and then another in our local telephone box with free books in it (although some would say buying secondhand books at all is bad practice).

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

According to the British Library, Hardy’s final novel criticises ‘the hypocrisy and double-standards inherent in late-Victorian attitudes towards class, education, the role of women and marriage’ as the working-class protagonist Jude Fawley works ‘tirelessly’ to realise his dreams of becoming a scholar. If Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowed are anything to go by, I’m expecting a story that is both tragic and bleak.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s science fiction satire on the arms race and mankind, among other things. I haven’t read anything by Vonnegut before and have always wanted to, so then I’ll finally understand what Bridget Jones means by ‘it’s positively Vonnegut-esque’.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

This neo-slave narrative was the Feminist Orchestra Bookclub choice for November and December. It follows a modern day black woman as she’s transported from her Californian home to a plantation in pre-Civil War Maryland. Butler herself categorises Kindred as a ‘kind of grim fantasy‘ which relies on certain elements of the science fiction genre to expose and explore the cruel treatment of slaves and black people as a whole. I read it at the beginning of November and thought it was brilliant.

 The Iliad by Homer

On a recent visit to Lincoln, I found myself in a cafe with free books for people to take away or swap with. One of the shelves held a copy of The Iliad waiting for me to take home and finally read. It’s an ancient Greek epic poem on the final year of the Trojan War.

Judaism by Norman Solomon & Islam by Malise Ruthven

Along with The IliadI also picked up two books from Oxford’s ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series. I thought they’d be convenient to keep in my backpack for journeys since they’re so short and light.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman 

A young man falls in love with his parent’s summer guest on the Italian Riviera (and apparently something sexual happens with a peach). It receives a fair amount of criticism on Goodreads for high levels of introspection but I happen to like a lot of introspection, so we shall see. I’m saving it for the summer.

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

This is the slave narrative memoir of Solomon Northup, a black man born free in New York, who was then kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. I watched the Oscar-winning adaptation of Northup’s memoir a little while ago and have been meaning to read it ever since. I plan to pick it up early in the new year.

David Copperfield, Bleak House & Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Back in September I challenged myself to read six Dickens novels in the winter months and so far I’ve read Hard Timeand Oliver Twist. I loved them both but enjoyed Oliver Twist a lot more. Both David Copperfield and Bleak House are next on my agenda but I don’t think I can succinctly describe the plots until I’ve read them, so I won’t make a fool of myself trying!

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

It’s been many years since I read my first Steinbeck novel, Of Mice and Men. I remember feeling pretty indifferent towards it. Perhaps I was too young to realise the true genius of Steinbeck. It’s worth a reread to see how my feelings have changed. Until then, I have Grapes of Wrath to keep me company. It follows the life of one poor farming family, the Joads, as the great economic depression and a series of droughts leaves them no choice but to abandon their homestead in Oklahoma and travel west to California.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

In an abandoned Italian villa, four damaged people are brought together during the North African and Italian campaigns of World War II. I’ve heard this is one of those controversial Man Booker Prize winners that people either love or hate.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Often described as a retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, Shamsie’s seventh novel explores issues of national identity and what it really means to be a Muslim living in contemporary Britain. It was first nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2017 and then went on to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. I remember sampling the first chapter as soon as the Women’s Prize long list was released and wanting to read more, so I’m glad I finally got round to buying a copy.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Under the alias of ‘Helen Graham’, a young woman arrives at Wildfell Hall to begin a new life with her son, Arthur, and escape a mysterious past. I read half of this during my second year of university as a break from my assigned reading but had to put it down to write an essay. I was actually really enjoying it and would like to finish it.