This year I have been enjoying the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast as well as Happier in Hollywood. Gretchen and Liz (her TV writer sister) are creating 18 for 2018 lists and since I have been missing my birthday lists, I thought I’d jump on board. I have made most of them finite things I can do throughout the year with just a few that are year-long goals.
It has been such a long time since I have written book reviews for the books I am reading – I used to review every single book. I stopped because (amongst other things) I didn’t really enjoy writing about a book straight after reading it. Either the books I read were powerful, in which case I needed time to digest, or they were not interesting to me once they were finished so I didn’t feel like writing then either.
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) – a re-read so I can read Go Set a Watchtower with TKAM fresh in my mind.
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Levithan) – because I love John Green and after reading Every Day, also David Levithan.
- Allegiant (Veronica Roth) – a kid at school gave away a huge spoiler so I put off reading it but with the film coming out this year, I want to read it first.
- Someday, Someday, Maybe (Lauren Graham) – I have discovered the joy of listening to audio books in the car or at bedtime when I’m struggling to sleep.
One of my teaching colleagues recommended this book to me and I read it one weekend – I couldn’t put it down. It is a story of a privileged, rich family and the teenage cousins who summer together every year.
The protagonist, Cadence, has suffered some kind of brain injury which means she doesn’t remember what happened to her on the island two years ago. She returns to the island aged seventeen and tries to piece together the events that have had such a huge impact on her and her family.
It is emotional and brilliantly told. The characters felt so real and I loved them all. It is poetic and yet realistic and it took my breath away with its ending.
Favourite quotation: ‘Be a little kinder than you have to’
During our wonderful trip to the States last year, we were able to visit the town of Concord. Not only is this town important because it is where the first shots of the American Revolutionary War were fired, it also boast a great deal of literary heritage with Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson all having lived in the town. It is also where my Auntie and Uncle live so we were able to spend a whole day exploring Old North Bridge and the Minute Man National Historic Park as well as taking a tour of Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott. I love the Little Women series so was intrigued and impressed by the writer. I was deficiently inspired to read more of her work so I chose Moods first.
Moods is about first love and duty and I was utterly captivated by it. Beautifully written, understandably moralistic (although not in the least preachy), we are taken through the female protagonist Sylvia’s maturing from a tom boy, spoilt child to a sensitive and good-hearted young woman. She falls in love but the course of her love does not run smooth. I found it quite moving. Alcott has such a lovely way with words that makes her writing seem both antiquated and fresh at the same time. It is basically really lovely chick lit. Here is an example of her description when Sylvia is appreciating the man with whom she will fall in love:
She found [his face] full of a noble gravity and kindliness; candour and courage spoke in the lines of the mouth, benevolence and intellect in the broad arch of the forehead, ardour and energy in the fire of the eye, and on every lineament the stamp of that genuine manhood, which no art can counterfeit.
I will look forward to reading more Alcott; I have Hospital Sketches on my iPad which is the collection of letters Alcott wrote while volunteering during the Civil War and I would love to revisit the Little Women series.
These books weren’t actually released in 2013 but these are five books I loved last year:
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I am sure given enough time and enough years teaching this, I will grow weary of it but right now, I am as in love with this sad story as I was the first time I read it years ago. The friendship is touching. The times were unforgiving. The bad guy is really bad. The woman is nameless and pivotal. Every time a Year 10 student calls it boring, I die a tiny bit inside.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
I wanted to read this for a while although I did worry I might hit some kind of dystopian lit wall. Instead I discovered a book filled with emotion, humour, tension and originality. I can’t wait to hit that wall again when I dig into the second book of the Chaos Walking trilogy. The Ask and the Answer is waiting on my bedside bookshelf.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This book had a lot of hype, thanks partly to the upcoming film adaptation, and for me, it delivered. I haven’t read a thriller for a while and it was refreshing to have such a narrator who was both unlikeable and understandable. The most unreliable narrator I have come across in a while and an ending that made me go oomph but not for the reason I expected.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Another dystopian teen lit done well, Divergent had me racing through to get to the end and also made me hungry for the sequels (Insurgent is also waiting for me on my bedside bookshelf). Tris is strong with flaws. Her world is messed up but still human. I can see this being a really great film (the adaptation is released sometime this year).
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
For some reason although I was a casual fan of the Vlogbrothers and I frequent Tumblr more than I would like to admit, I still never actually realised for ages that book I kept seeing on the aforementioned social media microblogging site was written by the same John Green as one half of the Vlogbrothers. I can’t even remember now if I read the book knowing and therefore cannot be sure if that knowing he wrote it presupposed that I would love it but regardless, I did love it. I also didn’t realise that it was considered teen fiction although it was about two teens (with cancer – there were tears). It read like a book about people rather than just teens and it moved me so much that I must read it again but almost dare not in case the spell has been broken. I have read a couple of other Green books since (Looking for Alaska – loved this too, The Abundance of Katherines – liked a lot) but neither got me like this one did. (Okay. Okay.)
As I start to think about what my resolutions for 2014 will be, I realised I needed to start by checking how I managed my resolutions for 2013. These are the resolutions:
- lose at least a stone in weight
- complete all assignments at least two days before deadline
- read at least 50 books
- be tough
- keep it simple
Numbers 1 to 3 are easy to measure and therefore I know for a fact that I didn’t manage any of them. Regarding my weight, I went in the wrong direction. This is as assumption because I am not remotely ready to step on scales.
Number 2 was not technically achieved but I am actually fine with that because even my main Masters assignment was handed in 24 hours before deadline which is pretty amazing given how I usually work.
With my reading challenge, I came close. With only a few days to go, I thought I had 9 books to read to make it only to realise after powering (and enjoying, by the way) two more books, I had actually miscalculated. In the end, I managed a respectable 41 books in 12 months – my best count since I started keeping track in 2007.
Now for the last two. I think it is fair to say that I managed both for some of the time but there have certainly been times when I felt anything but tough and I kept it anything but simple. It’s a work in progress. And I am making progress (although that word makes me shudder now that I am a teacher and I have to prove progress is being made AT ALL TIMES WITH NO EXCEPTIONS!).
I think for 2014 I will give myself a bit of a break. Instead of resolutions, I will have intentions. To resolve is so concrete. And it feels so much worse when you fail. To intend shows the right attitude without the self-applied pressure.