What I’m Reading in 2015

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that 2015 is probably the first year ever that I haven’t had to read any books. Certainly within the last decade, every year of my life has involved some sort of reading list.

Now I’m not really complaining about this because I’ve been “forced” to read some books that I actually loved, and even those that I didn’t probably improved me as a person in some way or another. But it is nice to be able to read literally whatever I want, whenever I want.

My commute to work isn’t really long enough to get much reading done, but I’ve been trying to make time on the weekends and evenings and I’ve read some good stuff. I’m pretty sure I’ve read more than 3 books so far this year, but the ones that stand out to me are:

Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham

I picked this up for half price on New Years Eve (it’s the kind of book you have to own in real life, not on a Kindle) and kicked off 2015 by promptly devouring it. Lena Dunham is my very favourite 21st century icon and her book only made me like her more. She is just a wonderful genius and this compilation of essays/memories/thoughts etc made me want to be her very best friend.

American Dream Machine, Matthew Specktor

I’ll read anything that’s about disillusioned young men in gritty LA, especially if the book cover has a quote from Bret Easton Ellis on it, so this was an easy purchase. It follows the sons of some of LA’s biggest talent agents, tracking both the three boys’ lives and delving into the histories of their fathers, and is surprisingly actually very easy to follow. This book did exactly what I wanted it to and I’d recommend it to any fellow Easton Ellis / LA fans!

Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead

Again, I’ll also read anything about rich families in the Cape Cod area so this was also right up my street. It’s about the Van Meter family descending on their summer island home for the eldest daughter’s wedding, and told largely from the POV of the father, Winn. I won’t lie, it was fairly predictable, but the characters were well drawn out and I found myself picking up my kindle to get through this whenever I could, which is always a good sign, and I was disappointed when it ended (not because the ending was disappointing, though!). In the back was a satisfyingly long excerpt from Shipstead’s next novel, Astonish Me, and now I definitely want to read that too!

Currently, I’m reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (on the kindle), and also The Deaths by Mark Lawson, which I picked up in my local Oxfam book shop for a cool £2.50.

I’ve been wanting to read Freedom for ages but I’m not really loving it as much as I thought. In fact, I’m completely sure that I have already started it before because the first section was extremely familiar to me, but I have absolutely no memory of where or when and that is unusual for a girl who remembers basically every book I’ve ever read. I’ll get through it but I’m not completely convinced – it’s just a bit angsty and I can’t warm to the protagonist, Patty, at all. Which I guess is the point. I’ll probably finish it but I don’t think it’ll become a favourite!

The Deaths, however, I am already enjoying much more. I’m only a couple of chapters in but it perfectly encapsulates so much of middle class 21st century life and I’m loving the acerbic, slightly tongue in cheek social commentary aspect as much as the mystery. It’s very now – in a way that means it’ll probably be dated in about 2 years – but I can’t wait to find out what happens. I won’t give too much away (in fact I can’t because I’m only on chapter 4) but basically it’s about a mysterious murder case amongst a group of upper/middle class British families – but in the kind of light hearted, darkly funny way that keeps it away from a traditional thriller.

I’m determined to keep up my reading this year so maybe I’ll do regular updates…for now, it’s back to The Deaths for me!


The Reading List: SUMMER

Maybe it’s cause the rest of me was so relaxed that my brain started working at top speed, but I managed to read an absurd amount of books during the second half of my holiday and I loved almost all of them. Rather than review each of them individually, I’ve done a mass round-up of what I thought… (and sorry, there’s no pictures! I just moved to London and everything is everywhere! Normal service will resume shortly!)

We Were Liars, Emily Lockhart

This is one that I’ve heard the name of a lot and not really read what it’s about. The Amazon description mentioned Massachusetts and private islands, which is what I’m all about, and even though this wasn’t quite what I was expecting I really loved it. It basically follows Cady as she returns to her family’s private island for the summer after a serious accident a couple of summers ago, of which she remembers nothing. The book basically follows her as she deals with the mental issues she has experienced since, and figures out exactly what happened two summers before. I found the style a bit grating at first: it’s simple to the point of sounding harsh, which was a huge contrast to the style of Stiltsville which I finished right before it. But as soon as I got used to it it was absolutely fine and suited the main character/narrator, Cady, down to the ground, and I particularly loved the character of Mirren, Cady’s cousin. I didn’t guess what was going to happen at all either and I’d definitely recommend this!

Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel

Stiltsville was an emergency buy in City airport when my Kindle died five minutes before I got on the plane, but it ended up being probably my favourite book from the whole week. It’s a slow mover, covering protagonist Frances’ life from about 20 (I think) to late middle age as she meets, marries and builds a life with her husband Dennis and their daughter, who was maybe my favourite character of all. It’s definitely more character driven than plot, which meant I fell in love with all the main characters. It was the kind of book I would happily have read forever and ever – and it made me want to go back to Miami!

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

I’ve had this one on my Kindle for ages and to be honest I kind of forced myself to start it because I’d just bought The Lemon Grove and was dying to read that – but I’m so glad I did! I have a habit of automatically dismissing books that get really super popular (it’s the snobby English student in me) but this really lived up to the hype and I ended up staying up till almost 1AM because I honestly could not go to bed before I finished it! It kept me guessing all the way through and I will definitely be catching the movie!

Buying In, Laura Hempthill

This is kind of chicklit with a twist – it’s about a 22 year old, Sophie, and her first job in an investment bank in NYC, 2007-ish. I really liked it, actually, and I definitely related a LOT to Sophie even though there is no way I will be following her career path (and would be even less inclined to do so after reading!). Turns out Laura Hempthill worked in investment banks for 7 years before writing the novel so I guess it’s all fairly authentic – definitely an interesting, light read!

The Lemon Grove, Helen Walsh

I’d heard such a lot about this, I was expecting great things but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It’s basically about a middle-aged woman (whose name I can’t remember, which says a lot) who starts an illicit affair with her step-daughter’s boyfriend while on holiday. While I liked the stepdaughter Emma’s character, the whole thing all felt a bit melodramatic and I felt like there were a lot of gratuitous sex scenes. I did still enjoy it and it made me wanna swim in the sea so it was a good holiday read, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it way less if I’d read it at home.

The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides

Technically I finished this while still in the UK, but it was on the way to the airport so it still counts in my book! I enjoyed this while reading it and I’d definitely recommend it, but it doesn’t really stand out to me as one of my favourites. That said, I liked the style and especially the character of Lux, and I’m going to try and watch the film at some point cause Kirsten Dunst is a goddess!

Easy, Tammara Webber

I have a feeling this is a self-published kind of deal and it was all very predictable and a bit melodramatic but I found that I couldn’t stop reading it anyway (and I’m not a girl who has qualms about giving up on a book halfway through). It’s set in college and it’s very much your average boy-meets-girl, but it does cover some interesting stuff about rape, victim blaming, and so on, and it involves frat boys and sorority girls (on a low level) which I’m always interested in. Definitely not a heavy read but enjoyable all the same.

Lastly, I’m currently midway through We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler, which was recently been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I wasn’t sure about it at first but now I’m really into it and although I haven’t had much time to read since getting home, I’m eager to finish it!

What’s been your favourite summer read? Have you read any of these or do you want to? Let me know!

Read Me

There are a million things I should be doing today – dissertation, mainly, and also packing – but I saw this on one of the many other millions of blogs I read, and as an English student, felt compelled to do it.
What are you reading right now?
Currently, A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore, but I left it in Exeter over the holidays ’cause I only have the huge hardback version. On the train home I started reading Infinite Jest which I might persevere with on my flight to Florida on Monday.
Do you have any idea what you’ll read after you’ve finished this book?
The pile of books on my bedside table is ridiculous. I brought The Paris Wife home for holiday reading but then I found Silver Linings Playbook on a bookshelf at home so I might read that one first!
Five books you’ve always wanted to read but have never got round to?
I have actually never read Pride & Prejudice – it’s the only Austen I’ve never read! So that’s definitely on the list. The Time Traveler’s WifeWe Need To Talk About KevinCatch-22On The Road. I could go on!
What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?
I don’t really tend to buy magazines ’cause they don’t keep me entertained for long enough but I think there’s a Company in the living room somewhere and there was a Vogue floating around for a while
What’s the worst book you ever read?
Worst? I have read some awful chick-lit in my time. Super cheap books on Kindle are so tempting but they’re so not worth it half the time!
What book is really popular but you really hated?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I didn’t really hate it but I just didn’t love it. It took me a long time to finish it, which is super unusual for me. Also, Of Mice and Men! We had to do it for GCSE so that was probably part of it but I didn’t like it at all.
What’s the one book you recommend to everybody?
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. It’s my ultimate favourite book of all time.
What are your three favourite poems?
Hmm I don’t know – I’ve been forced to read so many poems the last three years that it’s hard to say! I really like The Dug-Out by Siegfried Sassoon. Also, Kid by Simon Armitage. Funnily enough I had to read both of those at school – the Sassoon was for AS-Level and Kid for GCSE!
Where do you usually get your books?
Generally Waterstones or Amazon. My very favourite bookshop in the world is Kramerbooks in DC but it’s kind of a long trip…
Where do you usually read your books?
In/on my bed or while travelling
When you were little, did you have any reading habits?
Oh God, I was always, always reading. Like, always.
What’s the last book you stayed up half the night to read?
I’m not sure – maybe The Art of Fielding?
Have you ever ‘faked’ reading a book?
Oh, many a time for a seminar. Never to impress anyone in conversation though!
Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
Hmm I doubt it. I’m notoriously indecisive and will anguish over what book to buy for, like, hours.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I loved the Famous Five books, and all the Noel Streatfeild novels. I still read White Boots and Tennis Shoes every now and again. Oh, and Malory Towers! I wanted to go to boarding school so badly!
Which book changed your life?
Hmmm I honestly think Birdsong is one of the reasons I wanted to do English at uni and almost definitely the reason I did so well at AS-Level. So I guess that did to a point.
What is your favourite passage from a book?
I don’t know! It would depend completely on what mood I was in.
Who are your top five favourite authors?
I love Sebastian Faulks, if you couldn’t tell, and I really like John Green (so predictable). Also, Sarra Manning – I love her writing and I follow her on twitter and she’s hilarious. I loved Bret Easton Ellis when I was in 6th form but I’ve kind of gone off him a bit – I think I actually prefer James Frey, even if he did lie a little bit about his “autobiography.” We did A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius in one of my modules last year and I fell a bit in love with Dave Eggers.
What is your favourite classic book?
Ooh I don’t know. I really like Emma. 
Five notable mentions?
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe because it was so hilariously similar to life at W&M last year
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald – I prefer it to Gatsby
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld I LOVE IT
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Long long long but so good!
And…the Gossip Girl books. I liked them so much better than the TV series, for ages I just wanted to BE Blair Waldorf (actually I definitely still do…)