What I read in 2018

Generally speaking I am not a fan of setting myself arbitrary goals or using 'habit trackers' - you won't see me starting a bullet journal any time soon - because I find that sort of thing slightly stressful. I have enough of that sort of thing at work; I don't need to be meeting KPIs and reviewing my performance at home too.

But I do make a minor exception for books and reading and set myself a reading challenge every year with Goodreads. You don't have to commit to reading specific books or types of books, just a number. For the first two years I set myself a goal of 52 books, as a book per week seemed achievable for someone who works full time, but I exceeded it in 2015 and 2016 so I upped my target to 60 in 2017 and 2018.

In 2019 I'm aiming for 65, which might be rather ambitious, particularly if my job continues to be as busy as it has been in the latter half of 2018 - I used to read in my lunch hour but I rarely get one these days. But we'll see how I get on. I'll have to make sure I take some long train journeys this year. 

For 2018 I also decided to look back at what I'd read over the year, purely for my own interest, and created a spreadsheet to crunch some numbers. 

I read 64 books in 2018 - almost 21,000 pages in total. They were overwhelmingly written by British authors, which surprised me a bit as if you'd have asked me, I'd have said there would be more American writers in there, but when I looked back only nine were by authors from the US. Two of the authors I read were Canadian, one Irish, one French and one Japanese, and the other 49 were British.

I also read more books by women than men - 40 to 23. That wasn't a conscious decision on my part, and I think last year it was a much more even split, but obviously I'm pleased to have been able to support women writers. 

Genre is a difficult thing to categorise sometimes, and I think a lot of genre labels aren't especially meaningful. Plus a lot of books could easily fit into more than one genre. The last book I read, Kate Atkinson's Transcription, would probably be shelved as 'literary fiction' but could also be categorised as historical fiction or as a spy thriller. Young adult and children's are more age brackets than genres - The Hazel Wood was a young adult novel, but also fantasy. And what about Belinda Bauer's Snap, marketed as crime but longlisted for the Booker Prize? However, I decided to apply what I personally felt was the single most appropriate category for each book, bracketing horror and ghost stories together under 'supernatural' which I consider separate to 'fantasy'. 

By my reckoning, I read a great deal of crime fiction last year - 20 titles in all, a lot more than last year, although I'm including detective fiction, psychological thrillers and spy novels under that umbrella so it's a relatively broad category. Next came what I decided a publisher would market as literary fiction (19 books) and after that, horror and ghost stories (eight). I didn't read as much non-fiction as I'd have liked to; I should really make more of an effort with that this year.

I'm not a big fan of ranking books, but of the 63 books I read, I think the novels I enjoyed the most were:

  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  • London Rules by Mick Herron
  • I'm Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid
  • Snap by Belinda Bauer
  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  • Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
  • Old Baggage by Lissa Evans
  • Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders
  • The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor
  • Middle England by Jonathan Coe
  • Little Deaths by Emma Flint
  • After The Party by Cressida Connolly
  • The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
  • Little Eve by Catriona Ward
  • Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
  • The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz
A special mention too for Howard David Ingham's short story collection, This Is Not A Picture. 

My favourite non-fiction reads were We Don't Go Back, a guide to folk horror also written by Howard David Ingham, and Bookworm by Lucy Mangan.

A small number of the books I read in 2018 were books I first read as a child. Of these, Heartstones by Ruth Rendell is still brilliant.