Of the fourteen books that I’ve read so far this year, only three of those have been books that I chose for myself outside of final year reading lists. My literature module for Spring Term was on British Science-Fiction and Fantasy, featuring children’s literature as well as heavier texts from the canon, which made a refreshing change to what I’ve often studied. We talked a lot about the development of the two genres into what we see today, and the tropes that have emerged which we associate with them – pretty much the perfect module for me to wrap up the literature side of my degree with!
Outside of these books, I never found that I got much time at all in the last six months to read for myself. I plan on reading much more in the coming months to catch up on all of the books that I’ve neglected due to uni, but I wanted to make sure I kept a record of what I have read this year, and so here is part one!
#1: The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit (1906) – 4/5 stars (Uni)
I never read these stories when I was younger, but I was pleased when I found this one to still be enjoyable as an adult. There was a heavy emphasis on history and archaeology in here which really helped to hold my interest, and the blending of science-fiction principles of time travel with the more fantastical elements of magic worked really well to carry those themes across.
#2: Good Mornings: Morning Rituals for Wellness, Peace and Purpose by Linnea Dunne (2019) – 3.5/5 stars
While I didn’t find anything in this book that I found to be overly different to other books I’ve read in this area, I particularly enjoyed the format. For a few weeks, I was able to get myself into a really beneficial routine of reading a few pages of this in the morning while I ate breakfast, and that process, with a calming book, set me off on a good start to the day. A few months on and I can’t pinpoint anything specific that I took from this, but it really does help to get you into a calm mindset, and so I would turn to it again.
#3: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells (1896) – 3.5/5 stars (Uni)
We had to read three H. G. Wells novels for my fantasy/sci-fi module, and this was by far my favourite. I trawled through The Time Machine and never finished The War of the Worlds, but I found this one much more compelling. I felt as though we got far more depth in these characters than in the other two novels, and to me, the text felt almost dystopian as much as it did science-fiction, which I usually prefer. Wells imagines an island inhabited by an exiled scientist and the experiments he carries out, raising many ethical questions on the way.
#4 and #11: The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (1967) – 4.5/5 stars (Uni)
I read The Magic Toyshop and Peter Pan twice within a very short period as I chose to write my final essay on the two of them. The Magic Toyshop was one of the best books I read in my degree (more to come on that soon!) Carter is incredible at building atmosphere and utilising her settings as characters in and of themselves. Her writing is visceral and uncomfortable but it leaves a lasting impression and I still keep finding myself thinking about this novel. I am definitely hoping to pick up more Carter soon.
#5 and #12: Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (1911) – 3/5 stars (Uni)
This is one of those stories I wanted to get to at some point in my life, but honestly, I was underwhelmed. While great for literary analysis, I just couldn’t get along with Peter Pan. I think the story suffered from the problem I often find with adventure stories – the action just didn’t hold my attention. I was really hoping for a magical atmosphere, but it just fell a little flat for me.
#6: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) – 3.5/5 stars (Uni)
I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one so much! As always, I was drawn in by lengthy descriptions of the natural world, and Grahame does a great job of capturing a quintessentially English countryside. Reading them and the descriptions of houses like Badger’s really felt like a precursor to descriptions of The Shire and this instantly had me feeling at home. If not for Toad’s attitude and antics, I’d have rated this one higher.
Even though I didn’t enjoy some of these books as much as others on this list, I’m glad to have now read some of the children’s classics that I never got around to reading when I was younger, and to have discovered almost a new favourite of adult fiction in The Magic Toyshop. If you’re an Angela Carter fan, let me know – which of her works should I pick up next?