I’ve had a bit of an all or nothing relationship with books for much of my life. As a child I didn’t ever read. My parents aren’t book people and nor is my big brother, and so it was only when we had a supply teacher who asked us what we were reading that I thought there was anything wrong with not reading. When I answered with the GCSE English text she rolled her eyes at me, and said “ I mean, what are you reading outside of school”. When I said “nothing” she looked dismayed and I felt ashamed. I vowed that when I went to university I would do a degree that would educate me through books. Slightly problematic when my English teacher told me I would never get anything higher than a C. Yes – I went to a truly inspiring school.
Studying for my Philosophy and literature degree required me to read 3 books a week. And they weren’t small books either; tomes and treatise like Homer and Dickens. Reading was a full time job in those days, and I wasn’t used to it. When I graduated I decided that I needed payback for those 3 years and so didn’t pick up anything more than a glossy magazine in the years that followed.
Fast forward to my discovery of self help and I hoovered up one book after another as I went on the search for what was wrong with me. Suffice to say, I don’t quite feel the need to read those books anymore. 2020 became the year that I needed to find a hobby, company, entertainment, holidays, book marketing strategies and everything else in books. The result being that I read 60 of them!
This year my aim is to read 60 again. I will pick the highlights each month and at the end of the year I will pick my favourites by category (yet to be decided).
How I rate books
5 stars I loved it and would recommend it to everyone without hesitation
4 stars I would recommend it depending on what the person was looking for
3 stars It was OK
2 stars It wasn’t to my taste at all and didn’t enjoy it
1 star It was terrible – you will never get this time back, so don’t waste it!
I rarely rate anything really low as I tend to do my due diligence before I buy. Sometimes, though, I am influenced by others’ recommendations and then really regret the hours I spent on it! I generally finish all books that I start…eventually. Unless they are 1 star…
I have read 15 books this month – yep books are still how I spend most of my time, especially given that I have been confined to the sofa with coronavirus for half of it.
I have read some truly great books, and choosing one is like picking which child you like the best!
The one I am telling everyone to read
5 stars Educated by Tara Westover
There was stiff competition for this category from The Push – a story about a mother who has a strong gut instinct about her child and constantly doubts it. The marriage that existed before she had children is like a romantic cord that she is hanging onto for dear life. This is an unfolding of feelings, relationships, sadness, shock. I love the order in which the story is told and it is extremely gripping. I did audio on this one – would HIGHLY recommend.
Tara Westover’s family story, and her beautiful writing won me over, though. I was constantly in awe, tense with fear of what I expected to happen, which didn’t often, and just mesmerised by her brilliance. I can’t say more or I will spoil it, suffice to say – you MUST read this book. I defy anyone not to give it at least 4 stars!
The one that is nothing like I have ever read
4 stars Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
We are reading this for my February book club and so far everyone has given it 5 stars. It’s not often you read a book that is original, unpredictable and entertaining. I listened to the audio book read by Chiwetel Ejiofor who I could listen to all day. It is a story about perspective and how reality is based on what you know, and the impact of that being questioned and changed. Again, I can’t say more without spoiling it for you. It is a short audio book, and I might just have to read the text now – it is not often I want to do that, not since Untamed. I would recommend you have a look if you are open-minded. It starts slowly in my opinion, but is worth sticking with. I can’t guarantee you’ll love it!
The one that I will make life changes with
5 stars Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas
Whilst I loved Akash Vaghela’s systems and brutal honesty in terms of what it takes to change one’s body, quite honestly, I don’t have the level of commitment he seeks. I can, however, make micro changes (the type I like) from Denise Duffield Thomas’ book. So this one gets my vote, although they are both 5 star books I would say. DDT’s book is aimed at entrepreneurs looking to simplify the way they do business. I think you could pick it up at the beginning of your entrepreneur journey and use it as a template of how to do things. Or you could pick it up mid-way through and get refocused. For me, I am a way down the path and there are still things of value that I can change and revisit. This is an easy, entertaining, and incredibly useful book for people running their own business, particularly those doing it alone.
The one I just couldn’t bring myself to finish
1 star The Vegetarian by Han Kang
This was recommended to me and so I wanted to give it a go. The opening was strong if a little warped in viewpoint (which I initially found funny), but it quickly descended into a bizarre storyline. It lacked substance and just seemed to be a cultural exposé. I disliked the narrator so much that I couldn’t bare to ingest his voice any longer! Life is too short to read things that make you feel this way. There are very mixed reviews of this on Amazon and it is a short novel, technically a novella. This might make you want to pick it up!
I hope not to include this category every month!
The one that’s on your bookshelf but you haven’t picked up yet, but should
5 stars Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
It was given to me by my ex parents in law 17 years ago. When I got it, I was thinking it looked like a chore to read. Then I saw the early film and wasn’t blown away. Then Alan Titchmarsh and everyone else writing ‘50 books to read before you die’ lists said I should read it. Then I watched the latest film which was pretty average too. And then we chose it for book club this month! What the hell did I wait for?! The book is FAR superior to the films. As a mindset coach and a generally inquisitive person when it comes to people’s thoughts, I loved the inner soundtrack of the new bride who could never live up to the first one, or so she thinks. This is a brilliant book. An obvious classic….now that I have finally read it. I listened to a bit of the audio book too. My advice – sit with it and read it in lockdown and transport yourself to Manderley!
Remaining books – for my ratings, you can check on Goodreads here.
The other books were OK, but not amazing, with the exception of Wonder, which I absolutely love, and would recommend if you have kids over the age of 7. The film is just as satisfying though – I didn’t get anything additional from the book other than the list of precepts at the back, which were heart-warming.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo didn’t live up to the hype for me. I felt it was a bit too simplistic and didn’t enrich my life. At least with The House By The Sea and The Temptation of Gracie I was transported. I felt the language was too functional and didn’t conjure up any desirable imagery. The afterword makes it clear that this was probably because it was a mishmash of people’s stories from a real life refugee camp. Just not my cup of tea and didn’t see why it was so popular.
If you would like to engage in discussion with me about books, which not join my book club – we meet on average every 4 weeks and we are currently picking 2 books a month – partly because half the people will already have read 1 that we pick, and partly because we are making such good choices and people have the time to read right now. Join us!
If you would like to see what I read in February, make sure you are “following” me on socials to get the updates, or you can join my community here with a chapter from my own book as a gift: www.susieramroop.com/chapter.
Until next month!