Following on from my previous post, in which I detailed some of the books that I have read so far in 2020, I finally sat down to look through everything else that I’ve read. I really did enjoy a lot of the books I was assigned to read in the first half of this year, but I must admit that it feels so refreshing to have the ability to pick up whatever I want now. I’m hoping that the next time I decide to write a wrap up, it will be full of the books that I’ve picked up for myself and really enjoyed!
#7: The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (1974) – 4/5 stars (Re-read)
I loved this series when I was younger – when I look back to the origins of the interest in witches that I have had for as long as I can remember, I can’t think of anything that came before The Worst Witch. Reading this so much later, and as a text to study, I was so pleasantly surprised to see that it held up really well for my enjoyment. The illustrations, I think, are just as important to the whole experience of reading this book as the words themselves, and all in all both made for an enjoyable read.
#8: The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (1953) – 4/5 stars
After reading The Magician’s Nephew and being pretty underwhelmed by it last year, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy The Silver Chair half as much as I did. Working well as a standalone story on its own with its own self-contained quest or within the larger perspective of the Narnia series, there was so much action and so many incredible descriptions in here that completely blew away the perspective I had after reading the first book. I only had to read this book for my course, although my high expectations had me attempting to read the whole series and only reading the first. After my faith was restored with The Silver Chair, I might read the rest at some point, but I still do think it will always be the films that hold a special place in my heart.
#9: Chocky by John Wyndham (1968) – 3.5/5 stars
I was immediately intrigued by this book when I read the premise, as it follows a young boy who has an imaginary friend that asks questions and makes observations beyond anything that the boy could conjure up himself at his age. Wyndham explores a lot of science-fiction themes, including previously unknown contact with extra-terrestrial forces, in a humble 153 pages and while I really enjoyed this, my main complaint was simply that I felt we could have been given more. With such an interesting and complicated concept, it seemed as though there was a lot that was left unexplored.
#10: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (2014) – 4.5/5 stars
One of my closest friends lent this to me, insisting that I would love it as much as she did, and she wasn’t wrong. I don’t typically reach for graphic novels but this one definitely made me reassess whether I’m missing out. The story follows a chef named Katie who is desperate to open her own restaurant, but that is only the start of what spirals into a wild ride involving mushrooms that when eaten let you change your actions in the past to create a new future, and a spirit that inhabits the top of Katie’s wardrobe. The illustrations were brilliant, and Katie was a hilariously chaotic protagonist who had me turning the pages at a rapid rate.
#13: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987) – 3.5/5 stars
The first fiction novel of the year that I read entirely for myself! Hurrah! I was entranced by Murakami’s vivid writing style when I read Dance, Dance, Dance last year, and I don’t even know how many times I walked past Norwegian Wood in Waterstones and thought, next time… The writing style and atmosphere in the novel were exactly what I was looking for and expecting, with a well-worked and seamless blend of urban and rural environments. The tone, however, was wildly different to my other experience of Murakami. Where Dance, Dance, Dance was chaotic and energetic, Norwegian Wood was slow and just so, so melancholic. There wasn’t anything wrong with this, it just wasn’t what I thought I’d set myself up for and it made for a read that wasn’t particularly fun, but one that was powerful.
#14: The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1590 and 1596) – 4.5/5 stars
I read this across several months, because The Faerie Queene weighs in at 1248 pages of verse in sixteenth-century English. This was my choice, as I decided to write my dissertation on this tome, but the reading experience was worth almost all of the time that I invested in it. The Faerie Queene follows a number of quest narratives, with a cast of characters borrowed from the medieval period, including chivalrous knights, beautiful damsels, and evil sorceresses trying to bring everyone down. I relished all of the classical mythology references and the references to Arthurian legend (of which there were a lot!) in these tales, and if you sit back and listen to the audiobook while you follow along the whole experience feels a lot more like you’re being told a tale by a bard in a tavern than analysing language for your dissertation.
Aaaand that’s everything that I’ve read so far this year! I am currently trying to pull myself out of arguably the biggest reading slump that I’ve ever been in, despite finally being able to read whatever I want, but I’m hoping that I will come out the other side of it raring to get into all of the books that await me on my shelves. If not, there’s always the Reading Rush on the rapidly approaching horizon! More on my plans for that to come soon…
Have you read any Murakami? I’d love to know which of his books to go for next!