It’s been a while since I blogged about the books I’ve been reading. This is largely because I’ve been a bit more open than usual to trying out different books, new writers, and genres that aren’t usually my thing.
I’ve read mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, poetry, children’s stories, books written centuries ago and brand new publications.
The result of that has been mixed in terms of my enjoyment of what I’ve read. That’s the risk you take when you try something different. I understand why a lot of readers stick to a familiar genre or even just a few authors they know they like, to avoid that issue.
Actually, it’s only a problem if you think of time spent reading books you don’t enjoy as time wasted. I’ve fallen into this way of thinking before, but I can see how everything I’ve read this year has helped me as a writer. If I didn’t like a book, then why? What was it about the author’s style that grated? Why was that ending so unsatisfying? Everything is research!
Best of all, there have been some real gems. I’d like to share my three absolute faves so far this year.
The Herring Seller’s Apprentice by L C Tyler
A disillusioned writer by the enigmatic name of Ethelred Tressider finds himself thrown into one of his own murder mystery plots when his wife vanishes suddenly. A blend of detective story and literary allusion, this book makes the most of unreliable narrators and never takes itself too seriously. It quotes Winnie the Pooh and keeps you guessing as to the answer to the mystery. I’d never heard of this series before my mum recommended it, but I’m already looking forward to reading the next one.
Out of the Silent Planet by C S Lewis
I’m a big fan of C S Lewis, but had never read his lesser known Cosmic Trilogy. The story goes that Lewis and the rest of the Inklings were challenged to write their own myth, and only Lewis completed the task. The result is an adventure on a strange planet (fully aware of all it owes to H G Wells) that raises some interesting questions about how we treat other civilisations. I can’t remember the last time I read a sci fi novel, but as a linguist, I loved the attention to detail in the protagonist studying the languages of alien races, and I can’t help but wonder if Tolkien also remarked on this in his conversations with his friend Lewis.
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
You may remember that last summer I stumbled across Anne Bronte’s grave in Scarborough and became interested in the youngest Bronte sister whose work is less celebrated than Charlotte or Emily’s. Agnes Grey was a lovely read: light, with a social critique that reminded me at times more of Austen than the Brontes. I assume that she draws on her own experiences when she showcases ‘wrong ways’ to bring up children and the difficulties faced by governesses caught in dysfunctional family situations.