Review of the Year #1 – A Year of Reading and Blogging

I’m saving my books of the year for the 31st, but today I plan to share some other blogging highlights, discovered authors and the few disappointments of my reading year. Let’s go through the year first…

JANUARY – was the beginning of The Japanese Literature Challenge 13 which carried on until March. I read The Cake Tree in the Ruins by Akiyuki Nosaka in Jan (and later on in March Spark by Naoki Matayoshi).

FEBRUARY – I hosted Paul Auster reading week. He is my favourite author, and I enjoyed sharing the love more widely, reviewing four of his books during the week. This was followed by Fitzcarraldo Fortnight for which I reviewed the superb It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track by Ian Penman.

MARCH – Book Spine poetry started doing the rounds again, and I did two – a Paul Auster one in March and another Lockdown one a couple of weeks later. March also saw two reading months – for Wales and Ireland, for which I read The Dig by Cynan Jones and the first Frankie Sheehan crime novel Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan. It was time for the Dylan Thomas Prize longlist tour for which I read Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy.

APRIL – As the official prize was on hiatus, Rebecca hosted the NOT the Wellcome Book Prize for which I took part in the panel again, and initially reviewed The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa.

However, April also marked the low point of my blogging year, when I accidentally deleted the joint labour of love that is Shiny New Books – it’s a long story which I wrote about here. With 1800 potential posts to restore, it’s taken all year to rebuild, but I’d like to thank all of our wonderful contributors who have been very understanding again. A little of the content for which we didn’t have back-ups was lost forever, but thankfully it was a small amount.

MAY – was quieter, and being on furlough I was kept busy rebuilding Shiny! It was time for the shortlist for the NOT the Wellcome Book Prize and I reviewed two more from it hereWar Doctor by David Nott and Constellations by Sinead Gleeson.

JUNE – Is time for Cathy’s 20 Books of summer challenge to begin – I blogged about my (cheating) plans for it here at the end of May.

JULY – Back off furlough at the end of term, so I could do cover over the summer at school. I started reading the Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn.

AUGUST – is Women in Translation month for which I reviewed The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada. I also read the other two Patrick Melrose novels, buddy reading the fourth with Rebecca. I managed 17/20 of my 20 Books of Summer.

SEPTEMBER – The 8th was my 12th blog-birthday!

OCTOBER – I celebrated the spooky time of year with a ranking of all the vampire novels I’ve read. It was also the 1956 Club, for which I read The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon and short story Minority Report by Philip K Dick.

NOVEMBER – Two major reading themes – Non-Fiction November and Novellas in November – these made a large part of my reading this month, and luckily overlapped sometimes. It was also time for the Sunday Times Young Writer Award shortlist.

DECEMBER – The Shiny New Books rebuild will be finished by the end of the year – just doing the final few posts now. Planning all my year-end posts like this one. I also carried on reading novellas to make sure I achieved my Goodreads target of 125 books.

Which authors were my favourite new discoveries of the year?

The five Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn are an absolute stand out. I’d been thinking about reading them for ages, and was so glad they didn’t disappoint.

It was also a huge relief to discover that Richard Osman could write, and his first novel The Thursday Murder Club was absolutely fabulous. Also I was glad to discover late in the year, the French noir of Jean-Patrick Manchette.

And the disappointments?

Apart from the Shiny debacle, disappointments were few and far between. It was such a shame that Muriel Barbery’s companion novel to The Life of Elves, A Strange Country was so nebulous and … strange that I DNF’d it. I also DNF’d the cult dystopian stream of consciousness novel Ice by Anna Kavan – but that’s one I’ll give a go again. A few novels were a little underwhelming, but I’m not going to single them out here.

Next, my reading stats of the year!

23 thoughts on “Review of the Year #1 – A Year of Reading and Blogging

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Though I dip in to Shiny New only occasionally I’m glad to hear you’re nearing the end of your restoration project—it must have been so frustrating and disappointing way back when, but satisfying now that most of the damage has been made good. Looking forward now to Part 2 of your end-of-year retrospective!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Furlough was designed for the majority of the Shiny rebuild – silver linings and all that! And each review and article is now a ‘post’ – when we started we did ‘pages’ which was much more difficult to deal with.

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    Thanks for hosting the Paul Auster week (he’s my #2 most read author this year) and joining in with the Not the Wellcome Prize blog tour and judging. I find the just 2 DNFs SO impressive!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I still hope for the best from books. Actually there were 3 DNFs, a real skimmer was a prestigious blog tour book, so I’ve sort of left it out 😉 Re Auster, I loved being able to read/re-read more of my favourite author – thank you for joining in so wonderfully. I might do a Banks or Ballard reading week this year – haven’t thought that through yet though. As you may guess, I’m basically up for the Wellcome again too.

        • AnnaBookBel says:

          That decides me – a ‘Banksread’, but when? I’m thinking Easter hols rather than half term this year as I have so much pencilled in for the first couple of months.

  3. Bellezza says:

    I loved the Patrick Melrose novel, too! Although parts were so upsetting that I still remember them vividly. I’m so glad you joined us for the Japanese Literature Challenge 13, and do hope you’ll find time to participate again this January. Hopefully 2021 will have no more restoring of lost posts for you!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      The Melrose books were upsetting, but so hilarious too – very unusual but beautifully written. For the Jap Lit challenge in 2021 I have a new Chandleresque Japanese mystery, The Wrong Goodbye by Toshihiko Yahagi, in my New Year pile, so definitely!

  4. Liz Dexter says:

    Looking forward to your best of – mine comes out on 1 Jan in case I’m finishing something amazing just before midnight (but we get an acquisitions post on the 31st….).

  5. Gilion Dumas says:

    Good luck finishing up your rebuilding of SNB. What a year you’ve had! I also read the Patrick Melrose novels this year and they were a reading highlight.

    Thanks for signing up for the European reading Challenge in 2021. Even if you only read one book, I hop you enjoy your journey!

  6. thecontentreader says:

    Quite a busy and fulfilling year of books. I will try out your recommendation of the St Aubyn books. I have never heard of them, but might be something i like. French noir is always interesting as well.
    I am not so familiar with Shiny New books, but it must be tough work to re-establish the books. Hopefully, you have now reach the end.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thank you. Just be aware, the St Aubyn books may be scabrously hilarious, but they also cover many difficult issues – abuse and addiction etc. Just superb writing though.

  7. BookerTalk says:

    I really like the idea of this way of doing a recap of the year Annabel. So often I get to the end of the year and struggle to remember what I was doing at the beginning.

    I’ve never been any good at keeping a journal. I go weeks without writing anything! But doing it month by month gives it a good focus and I could see how it’s possible to even write it a month at a time.

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