2017 reading list

It’s World Book Day today, and once again I am home, working. While others work at grand events in bookshops around the country, in schools, I’m here, with a deadline of two weeks left and four weeks worth of work to do it in. And still I read.

BUT, waiting for paint to dry it seems the perfect day to begin my ‘Year of Reading’ blogpost. It will grow to be a long one. I used to think I was a slow reader, but I make time for books, for reading, if I can every morning before work and in the evening, book-ending my days, my time. And maybe reading is like anything you do, the more you do it the better you get at it. Certainly stories seem to go deeper into my soul. So, not World Book Day so much as World Book Year.

People ask what are the best ways to get children reading. I say, by reading. If children see you reading they will want to find out what this thing is you give your time to. Read to them, with them, and when they are older they will read to you.

Some of the books I read this year I will review, but not all. I should be painting. All of the books will be good. I’ve learnt not to give my time to something I don’t enjoy. And I don’t do bad reviews as I recognize the effort that goes into each book. Just because a book doesn’t suit me, it doesn’t mean it’s not good.

These are 2 of my many piles of books waiting to be read and over the year more will be added as new books are released and people recommend titles and books make their mysterious way to me:

So, here goes.

I began the year with The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu and throughout the year will dip in and out of the short stories in The Paper Menagerie. There’s more about that on the ‘souls’ blog post.

Then this, from Paul Gallico and Angela Barrett.


Utterly magnificent, The Bear and the Nightingale, set in Russia, smells of the forest.

A wild tale of border country, by William Grill from Flying Eye. Beautiful, sad.

I read The Wilful Princess as a manuscript when working on cover and images inside, so great to read this for pleasure.

The Wandering Falcon, short stories woven together, smells of the desert and coloured like gold. Everything it says on the cover.

Oh, my. This, The King of the Sky from Nicola and Laura, is just gorgeous from cover to cover. A story of migration, borders and the smell of home. Vanilla and cold dust.

Not a book, not a magazine, but something very beautiful and again I will be swimming in and out of this between books. Is it a journal? I don’t know. All I know is Elementum is itself and it is gorgeous.

Took me a while to catch the voice, but each sentence is like poetry. Sublime, fierce, bloody, wild, gorgeous love story set in USA. Again, more migration, from Ireland, across America. Pulls no punches. Breaks your heart.

The Golden Compass, also known in UK as Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. I read it when it first came out. Heard that The Book of Dust is out in October. A new trilogy.I might take a holiday to read it and will have to buy at least two, one for me, one for my daughter. Re-reading is bliss. Like visiting friends not seen for a long time. A rare book.

Next I picked up The Beauty Things by Alan Garner and Mark Edmonds. It has been sitting by my right hand for so long I had forgotten it was there. And now I am lost to Alan Garner’s work. Listen to The Beauty Things and more on these podcasts. They include a reading of The Stone Book. For anyone wishing to write, especially if their subject is folklore, folktales then this is a must. And like stepping stones it led me to take down the next book that also had been too long waiting on my shelves.

If you’ve time, listen also to this, a wonderful podcast about Red Shift.

This book travels through time and space and connects everything. He’s a master craftsman.

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. How I loved this book.

Well, I was reading American Gods by Neil Gaimon. Then this arrived. There’s a blog post about this one, so follow this link to find more. Enough said though, that it elbowed Neil Gaimon out of the way?

And then, something so different. I’d seen a good deal in the press about this book. It’s published by Hamish Hamilton, who I have been working with on The Lost Words, so I asked Hermione from HH if she might send me a copy for review. I don’t do this often, and I never review a book with a bad review, preferring silence. And now and again people will send me books. Anyway, Exit West. Have a look at this, to see what happened next to my review copy. (In brief, I sent it to the PM of the UK, but at the time I was only half way through.

I missed that book so much, but bought another copy and entered back into the world of Saeed and Nadia. It’s a book about love, home, movement, family, living through and dying in troubled times. Elegant, gracious and graceful, poetically beautiful. Enter through the door of this book. I know I will be going back to it. So, sparingly magnetic in its use of language. With this one i think it’s enough to say that when I sent it off to Theresa May it left an ache behind it, and it was with a sigh of relief that I continued reading when I bought another copy.

Did the book make it to its destination. Yes. Will she read it? Probably not. Which is a shame. Reading is such a brilliant way to learn about the lives of others and learning through the reading of fiction is a wonderful way to learn.

As to the thank you letter I received. It did not make for such good reading as the book.

I now own all the books Mohsin Hamid has written. This is the problem with reading. The more you read, the larger the ‘too be read’ pile becomes.

I moved on to Thursbitch by Alan Garner. I’d tried to read it when it was published in 2002. Half way through I gave up. Older now, maybe wiser, I returned to the valley of the daemon. I’d found it terrifying last time. This time I found it utterly beautiful. How time can change us. The same book. The same person. And I cannot understand how I ever found it difficult to read. One day I hope to go to Thursbitch. I know I will enter these pages again. I love the sentient landscape of Garner. Love how he talks about this book. I heard him speak about it at Cheltenham Festival. He’s captivating. I think this is the lecture he delivered.  I love what he says about writing, ” I don’t consciously think of children (when writing)…….I do know that children read me more intelligently than adults do.” Remember how you read as a child? How the world would fall away as you entered a book? That’s the alchemy that keeps me reading.

Not sure who came up with the “explosive global bestseller’ strap line on this but they should have been edited. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a tour de force when it comes to storytelling. Eye opening, stunning, pulls you up by your bootstraps, tackling prejudice from many facets. The film, though different, is as good as the book, maybe. Beautiful, dark, not leaving so much to the imagination. Clever clever clever. I’ve two more of his books and am saving them.

And then I went to Bath, signed books alongside Robin Hobb, collected copies of Assassin’s Fate, and was going to settle to read it but I picked up the first book in this long series and read the first sentence.

If you haven’t read these books I envy you as you get to meet Fitz, the Fool, Nighteyes, Verity, Tintaglia, Malta and more for the first time. I’m still wandering in Jhaampe at the moment. Re-reading for the fourth time, but this is the first time I am reading it for pleasure. Each time it gives so much back. Nearing the end of the beginning, wondering what to read next, but off to Hay Festival tomorrow. Might find a book there.

Later. Ironically I didn’t get much reading done at Hay. Painting, talking, but no reading. Days were too busy. But I did pick up A Story Like the Wind in the bookshop and began to read.

Such a beautiful book, both words and images, from Gill Lewis and Jo Weaver.

This year is turning into an Alan Garner fest. For the third time in my life I have read The Owl Service. Wonderful. Sparked off so many ideas. It’s not a first edition that I have but it is a hardback with the curious endpapers of the plate designs, and when I saw Alan speak at Cheltenham festival, on Thursbitch, I took it with me to get signed.

Then, on to Spain.

Jane Johnson is a wonderful friend of mine. You can read more about her on my blog. I interviewed her a while back. 

I’ve been waiting for Court of Lions, a book that travels back and forth through time and from Pembrokeshire and Cornwall to Spain. Beautifully produced by Head of Zeus, complete with gold ribbon, this book has its own page for review.

Any of the above should be available in your local bookshop or library and if they aren’t they can order them. For me, every day is book day.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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1 Response to 2017 reading list

  1. I need to be retired to a cell in the forest and brought meals. This is a sweet list and I’ll be listening to the podcast as soon as I log out.

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