If you took the name of my blog at face value, posts on books should be about a third of my blog…. Obviously that is not the case! Since this blog was born last February until the end of 2014 I only reviewed 5 books – but I have read 46 of them. Not quite one a week so I’ll need to try and up that next year!
46 books – what were they? And who wrote them?
Well a solid 58% were written by women which I’m really pleased with. If I want to criticise the gender imbalance in the literary sector I should put my money where my mouth is and I’m pleased to say I did that this year. Specifically seeking out female writers also led me to discover some wonderful new authors – for example I wanted to read something by a woman who had cycled round the world after reading Mark Beaumont’s account. A bit of googling led me to the wonderful Dervla Murphy and I lost myself in her books for several months. In fact over 10% of all books I read this year were by Dervla Murphy!
I read 10 sports-related books and three history books. I’d like to read more history next year but the books are thick and do take much longer to read than your average novel!
Blog posts on books
On the blog I reviewed the following books:
Chrissie Wellington: A Life without Limits – TL;DR = a fantastic book I couldn’t recommend more for any triathlete. She is an inspiring woman both on the race course and off.
Mark Beaumont: The Man who Cycled Around the World – TL; DR = an incredible feat of endurance. Read this to never complain about saddle sores / inadequate “fueling” again. And the book that led me to Dervla Murphy, whom I now love…
William Fotheringham: Put me back on my bike: the story of Tom Simpson – TL;DR = a really beautiful and sad story of the life of Tom Simpson, delving into the use of drugs and alcohol on the peloton and not shying away from the controversies into Simpson’s death, while maintaing a huge respect for the man and the mountain.
Tim Moore: French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France – TL;DR = an amusing if at times slightly annoying tale of cycling around France
Eshkol Nevo: Homesick – TL;DR = completely different from all the above, a brilliantly written love story of two young people in Israel, mixing together the usual worries and arguments about moving in together with wider themes on what it is like to live in Israel.
#ThisBook – some of my favourite books which have made a difference in my life and why
This was really hard! I’m not the kind of person who just goes to a shop and picks up a book I like the cover of (although I do do that occasionally). I generally have a list on Goodreads that would take me a lifetime to read of books people have recommended, that I’ve read reviews of, that I know a little about. As a result I only tend to read books I really want to read and I do end up enjoying most of them! So narrowing this list down was hard…
Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch – I read this alone in Dublin, curled up on my sofa with a glass of red wine and my slippers on. Despite the size of the book, I finished it in a matter of days, rushing my work in order to get home to read. When it finished I sat still for a few minutes, hardly able to believe that the characters would no longer be in my lives. That’s the sign of a good book – when it has that effect on you.
Shani Boianjiu: The People of Forever are not afraid – this is a novel about three teenage girls and what it means / involves to have to do national service in a war zone – the girls are Israeli. I was sucked in immediately from the first page by the lyrical writing, repeating sentences over and over in my head. It’s funny, surreal and extremely dark – I couldn’t get the writing out of my head long after I’d put the book down.
Dervla Murphy – both A month by the sea: encounters in Gaza and Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a bicycle – I clearly adore Dervla Murphy from the amount of books of hers I read this year. I first came to her via A Month by the Sea in which I loved (1) her no-nonsense attitude towards Gaza and Hamas – criticising both the Israelis and Hamas, supporting Palestinians but expressing clear distaste towards Hamas’ treatment of women in Gaza and (2) the image of an 80 year old Irish woman travelling around Gaza by herself! If I can be half as intrepid at her age I will be happy…. From one extreme to the other – A Month by the Sea is her most recent book and Full Tilt was her first adventure, cycling solo from Ireland to India in the 1960s. I absolutely loved the descriptions of Afghanistan, a country few of us are likely to get to but that sounds incredibly beautiful.
Chrissie Wellington: A life without limits – see above. I found her book really enjoyable to read and very inspiring.
William Darymple: Return of the King – the best history book I read this year, this book kept me completely gripped all the way through. It’s the story of the first UK war in Afghanistan. And I saw “story”, because, whilst meticulously researched using both UK and Afghan sources, Darymple’s skill is in telling the story. He paints horrendous images that sear the brain – of an ambush in a mountain pass when the English were attempting to retreat when almost everyone was killed. It was freezing cold and so the injured ended up just freezing to death – so few people survived that they couldn’t save others. The army came back over the pass many months later to find the bodies of their friends still littering the path, preserved due to the cold. In retaliation for the ambush we then went on a rampage, destroying entire villages, killing all the men, raping and then killing women and children. Imagine the worst, least moral army you can think of, and there you have the actions of the Brits as they tried to reconquer Afghanistan. It’s a wonderful book that made me very angry at the mistakes that have been repeated in the last ten years, several centuries later. Why don’t our leaders study history?!
Overrated books/worst books
I’m afraid the aforementioned French Revolutions comes up on that list, mainly due to my annoyance with its descriptions of Mont Ventoux. The other slight disappointments were all away from the fitness theme:
– Sahar Khalifeh: The Inheritance – despite Khalifeh’s literary pedigree as one of the most prominent Palestinian writers, I just could not gel with this book. I think it was mainly a problem with the translation which meant the writing style was very detached, but I couldn’t get a handle on the main character, couldn’t feel with or for her.
– Jane Shemilt: Daughter – this novel about what happens when a teenage daughter disappears out of the blue started off brilliantly. But I just kept expecting more and found the last 1/4 of the book really disappointing.
Janathon Day 29 – we’re almost over! 12km run and all in the light. A little wander mid-afternoon to pick up a Congratulations card for my supervisor at work who is getting married on Saturday, and a late night at work.