For the last few years I have set a goal to read/listen to two new books each week (104 per year). I love Audible and since discovering this service I have been able to enjoy many more books that I thought possible. My eyesight is ok, but I have a lot of floaters in my vision, and trying to focus on a page for extended periods of time can trigger headaches. However, I also love the act of reading a physical book. It’s not just about the text you are reading, but the feel of the book in your hands and the spell of the paper itself.
Last year I didn’t quite hit my target of finishing 104 new books. I made it to 83, which I think is still a respectable number. So far in 2021 I am up to 27 books. Here is the list of what I have completed so far.
- Leap of Destiny: Not Alone Series – Book 5 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
- Revelations: Not Alone Series – Book 6 by Craig Falconer (audible).*****
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama (audible).*****
- Elephants on Acid by Alex Boese (audible).**
- Electrified Sheep by Alex Boese (audible).**
- Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse (audible).**
- The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek (audible).***
- The Remaining: Book 1 of The Remaining Series by DJ Molles (audible).*
- The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I. Sutton (audible).***
- The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman (audible).***
- My Sh*t Therapist by Michelle Thomas (audible).*****
- The List by Siobhan Vivian (audible).*
- Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu (audible).*****
- The Supernova Era by Cixin Liu (audible).***
- The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (audible).****
- A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger (audible).***
- Paranormality by Richard Wiseman (audible).****
- The Lying Room by Nicci French (book).****
- The Pig That Wants to be Eaten by Julian Baggini (audible).***
- Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman (audible).***
- What If? by Randall Munroe (book).*****
- Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov (audible).**
- The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney (book).**
- Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris (audible).***
- The Awakening: Not Alone Series – Book 7 by Craig Falconer (audible).****
- Weaponised Lies by Daniel Leviton (book).****
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (book).*****
Now, it is time for some graphs and charts, because… well… why not?
The highlights for 2021 so far have included, My Sh*t Therapist and the Not Alone series. The real low points have been The Remaining and The List. The star of the year so far though, is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, someone who I’ve become a fan of in recent years. Matt comes from Sheffield, which automatically gives him an advantage over other authors, but what I love about his work is his unflinching, honest and refreshing take on mental health. Matt is a vocal advocate of mental health awareness, being someone who has struggled with severe depression and anxiety. As someone who has also struggled with his mental health, it’s easy for me to spot those authors who write about it from their own experiences when compared to those who have researched it from an outside perspective. I look forward to Matt Haig’s next book.
My Sh*t Therapist was also great, again because I identified with so much of it. The treatment of mental health is a sore subject for many people, and I’ve written before about how ineffectual I have found talking therapies. The most effective help I’ve had has been from reading, not just self-help books but also fiction. I think it reflects on the year that I’ve had that the two best books of the year have been heavily influenced by the discussion around mental health. In The Midnight Library we follow a young woman who has attempted suicide, only to find herself living countless variations of her life. The ideas of parallel universes and repeating one’s life are fascinating. In some ways, it is reminiscent of Replay by Ken Grimwood which also deals with repeating one’s life over and over.
For all the excellent books I’ve read this year, there have been some real disasters as well. The Remaining was so bad that within minutes of finishing the audio book, I could not remember the characters or the plot. It was a waste of time and that’s perhaps the most damning criticism I can give. Normally, even the most badly written books can provide at least one positive, but not this book. It was unoriginal and dull.
Another book I gave one star to was The List. This is partly my fault as I only skimmed the blurb but I was expecting some kind of psychological exploration into high school life. Instead, it was just another by-the-numbers, cliche high school drama. I was bored throughout and none of the characters were interesting enough to be memorable. It was a real effort to push through and finish the book and several times I nearly gave up.
At the moment I am enjoying two books; The Chain by Adrian McKinty and the next book in the Not Alone series on Audible. The former has an interesting and disturbing premise in which the protagonist’s child is abducted and will only be released if she abducts another child. The person who has abducted her child has likewise had their own child abducted and they will only be released once our main character abducts another. Hence, the chain. I’m about a third of the way through it and, whilst I find the writing a little strange at times with unusual turns of phrase standing out against the rest of the prose, the premise is strong enough to keep me engaged.
The Not Alone series is just insane but I’m enjoying it because it’s comfortable. Listening to it is like being reunited with old friends. It’s a nice contrast to some of the more serious books I’ve been reading. For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows a young man called Dan McCarthy who stumbles across proof that the US government is hiding contact with an alien civilization. The series has a sprawling ensemble of characters and the narrator gives a unique voice to each of them. Although the series starts in the US, it ventures across the whole planet and provides a global perspective rather than being Amerocentric.