Welcome one, welcome all, to my December Wrap Up. After a reasonably slow reading month in November, largely due to concentrating my efforts on NaNoWriMo instead, I was back with a vengeance in December and determined to finish the year on a high. I’ve long since surpassed my Goodreads Reading Challenge of reading 52 books in the year but I still had a fair few prompts from Around the Year in 52 Books to address and, as you might have seen in my December TBR, I became determined not to end the year without having at least tried to catch up at the eleventh hour and finish the challenge. So how did I do? Let’s see that, and which books I read in December…
In December, I read a total of 11 books – 9 fiction and 2 non-fiction – and 2 were re-reads (marked by *). This amounted to 3144 pages in total.
In terms of format: 2 were paperback, 4 were hardback, and 5 were audiobooks.
As for genre, 3 were fantasy, 3 were classics, 2 were non-fiction/memoir, 1 was a contemporary, 1 was YA historical fiction, and 1 was gothic.
Onto the books themselves…
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Read: 28th November – 9th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 32: An alternate history book)
Review: “So many fantasy books, when based in history, choose to be set in either antiquity, a generic “medieval” period, or the Victorian age. It’s so rare to see something that is based outside of this setting, so with its Georgian setting, Temeraire was already well on its way to becoming a favourite even before I’d properly gotten into the story itself.” (Full review here)
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
Genre: non-fiction; memoir
Read: 9th – 11th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 27: A book about surviving a hardship)
Review: Something of a follow-up to his debut non-fiction/memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, Haig’s second non-fiction offering is more fragmented than his previous and purposely so. This book concentrates on how the world we’ve built around us is full of things designed to stress us out and cause anxiety, the cycle of 24-hour news for example is nothing but reactionary and inaccurate and designed to cause anxiety of the “breaking news”. Once again, Matt Haig has a way of succinctly and pretty simply summing up how it feels in my head sometimes, of explaining that feeling of anxiety in a simile that even those who never experience such symptoms can understand. For that, I’ll always be thankful, as Haig often helps me to stop and assess my own behaviours that probably don’t help my mental health.
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
Genre: non-fiction; memoir
Read: 11th – 15th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 5: A book about or inspired by real events)
Review: “[It] sounds incredibly fatalistic and morbid but, somehow, O’Farrell manages to relay several near-death experiences and then convincingly argue for a reaffirmation of presence and of existence in the world – as the title says firmly ‘I am’.” (Full review here)
The Tell Tale Heart and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe (read by Earl Hammond)
Genre: classics; horror; mystery
Read: 15th – 16th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 9: A book with a body part in the title)
Review: This short collection contained “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Black Cat”, three wonderfully creepy stories written by Poe and read expertly and forebodingly by actor Early Hammond. From reading “The Raven” in school, I knew that Poe was creepy but I didn’t realise just how creepy he could be – each of these tales is a look inside the mind and the twisted psychology of individuals who commit murders and then gruesomely cover their tracks. I do so enjoy a bit of creepiness and I’m now decided that an equally expertly read audiobook is definitely the way to experience Poe’s tales of the macabre.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (read by Stephen Fry) *
Genre: children’s; fantasy
Read: 5th – 17th December
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (read by Moira Quirk)
Genre: historical-fiction; young-adult; adventure
Read: 18th – 20th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 28: 4 books linked by the 4 elements: Book #3 Water)
Review: Full review to come
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (read by Anton Lesser) *
Read: 20th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 44: A ghost story)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (read by Jeremy Irons)
Genre: classics; fantasy
Read: 15th – 23rd December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 2: A book from the first 10 books added to your To Be Read list)
Review: Fable-like in its tone, The Alchemist is a book that I would never have finished if it weren’t for the short audiobook format, read expertly by Jeremy Irons, in which I was reading it. On its surface it is simple – it tells the story of a young shepherd from Andalucía who travels to the pyramids in Egypt as he believes he will find treasure there. Unfortunately, this one went completely over my head; even though I could understand the themes of prophecy and destiny and one’s own “Personal Legend” which Coelho was beating me over the head with, I didn’t get why this book in particular was hailed as a masterpiece. Perhaps it was due to the translation (or maybe just my own sense of cynicism), but I didn’t find The Alchemist as particularly profound as I was undoubtedly meant to. (Full review to come)
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Format: paperback (a few chapters on audiobook, would recommend!)
Read: 21st – 27th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 12: A book set in Africa or South America)
Review: The hype is real on this one but, thankfully, the hype is deserved. Adeyemi weaves a complex and compelling fantasy story of outlawed magic and the cultures of people who wield (and don’t wield) it. The characters are individual and unique and completely charming and I’m sure they will only continue to grow even more in the second book. (Full review to come)
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Read: 27th – 30th December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 11: A literary fiction)
Review: Telling the story of the seemingly idyllic Shaker Heights community, Little Fires Everywhere begins with the immediate aftermath of a fire purposely set in the house of one of the community’s wealthy families, and the story then slowly backtracks to explain how such big (and little) fires can begin to spark in the relationships and issues in which the community’s residents are entangled. I didn’t expect this book to diverge into the storylines it did – at first I thought it would be a simple case of “poor rich people problems” (that I actually quite like reading about), but it turned into so much more and I thoroughly enjoyed the complexity of characters with Celeste Ng masterfully depicted. (Full review to come)
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Genre: gothic; literary fiction; historical fiction
Read: 16th – 31st December
Challenge: Around the Year in 52 Books (Week 7: A gothic novel)
Review: Atmospheric in its descriptions of Prague, Perry yet again proves her skill in creating an evocative setting where the uncanny and gothic can lie on the edges of normal society. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the unravelling of this novel’s plot or its characters quite as compelling as her debut novel, The Essex Serpent, but the concept itself of Melmoth the Wanderer lurking just out of the corner of your eye, waiting for you to take her proffered hand and join her on her lonely wandering of the earth is quite the lingering and haunting image indeed. (Full review to come)
If you’ve been paying attention, you can probably tell from this wrap up that I pretty much dedicated December to some much needed catch-up on the Around the Year in 52 Books reading challenge. Despite basically lining up a list of “required reading” for myself I can say I enjoyed pretty much everything I read and I managed to get to a couple of books I’d been meaning to by months at this point. I’m so happy with my December reading and I hope that this positive run of books will continue into January and the 2019 that it ushers in.
How did your December reading go?
What was your favourite book you read this month?
Please do share in the comments below and let’s chat books!