Reading & Writing in 2016: a recap of the year

So 2016… happened. I anticipate future grandchildren interviewing me about what on earth went down this year.

Once we’ve got past the interesting politics, lengthy obituaries and philosophical discussions about what was motivating everyone, maybe there will be time for me to tell them about some of the words I read, re-encountered or wrote that contributed some meaning to the year for me. (Gran, you mean to say you used to have Actual Books back in 2016? With pages you could turn?)

And these are some of the things I’ll want to remember:

  1. Getting round to some classics: in October, I finally read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. As someone who lived in the south of England for 9 years before moving to the north recently, it felt appropriate. And I loved it. I also read The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After in beautiful old editions and a couple more of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels.
  2. Trying something new. I read Ishiguru’s The Buried Giant, a rule-breaking novel that constantly does the opposite of what you expect from the book and conjures a deeply unsettling feeling in the reader. I found it a profoundly interesting book, but perhaps not a light enjoyable read for a summer’s afternoon.
  3. Re-reading old favourites: back in January, I started re-reading the entire Harry Potter series. Once I finished that, I moved on to Lord of the Rings. These are firm favourites from my teenage years, and utterly enjoyable to revisit those worlds.
  4. Learning something new: I offered to proofread some dissertations for friends. Before you are blinded by the halo of my altruism, I should explain that I’m the kind of person who really enjoys going through pages with a red pen and spotting split infinitives or passive voice. But in the process, I learned a lot about education systems around the world (that was the topic of the masters they were taking) and how schools in China differ from those in the UK.
  5. Not spending a fortune on books: from the second hand book shops of Hay on Wye, to a colleague’s house clear out, and even a small £1 book section in my local wool shop, I found lots of low-cost ways to fill the bookshelves this year.
  6. Taking the plunge with my own writing: 2016 was the year I signed a contract with Lion Hudson to publish my first novel. It comes out just 50 days from today. I’ve learned so much about publishing and editing this year; it has been a valuable and exciting experience.
  7. Retracing another’s footsteps. Earlier this year, I accidentally found myself at Anne Bronte’s grave. I was in Scarborough (doing some research for my next book) when I spotted a signpost and followed it to an unobtrusive churchyard where someone had placed a small posy of flowers in front of her headstone. This led to me reading up on the Bronte sister about whom I knew the least, and now I’ve bought a copy of Agnes Grey to read in 2017
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Anne Bronte’s grave in Scarborough

Those are a few of the book-related memories I’ll take from the year. Here’s to lots more beautiful words and inspiring stories in 2017.

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