A Year of Reading – 2019

With each successive year I seem to be slipping further and further from my goal of reading a book a week. That goal was almost in sight when I read fifty books in 2017 but the following year I dropped back to forty books and this year is even worse with only thirty-seven books read. I managed to review a mere nine books this year compared to nineteen in 2018 and forty-two in 2017. I have my excuses – I have spent the year preparing a novel for publication (but I was also doing that in 2017) and I have read near one hundred academic articles as background to my novel but I think the main problem is that I have chosen far too many books that just didn’t engage me, in a couple of instances even books from favourite authors. There have been too many nights where I have chosen sleep over the next chapter in the book on the bedside table – a sure sign that I am reading from duty rather than for pleasure. This is not to say that these books are not worth reading, more often they were not what I wanted to read at that point.

My absolute favourite books of 2019 are

Fallen Skies by Philippa Gregory
A compelling and gripping novel detailing the marriage of a very young singer to a wealthy lawyer in the aftermath of World War I .

The Almanack by Martine Bailey
An engrossing, captivating mystery set in 1752, the year England lost eleven days.

Five: The Untold Lives of the Woman Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
An extremely readable examination of the lives of the women murdered in Whitechapel in 1888. Excellent social history.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A beautifully written, humane and touching novel following the life of a former aristocrat sentenced to perpetual house arrest in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol following the Russian Revolution.

Tombland by C J Sansom
Historical fiction at its brilliant best, seventh in the Matthew Shardlake series, set against the background of the Kett rebellion in Norfolk in 1549.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
A beautiful, beautiful series of vignettes about a young girl and her grandmother who spend every summer together on an island in the Gulf of Finland. A meditation on life.

Other books read in 2019 in no particular order are
The The Postmistress by Alison Stuart
Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson
God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs
The Daughters of Ironbridge by Mollie Walton
The Sisters of Arden on the Pilgrimage of Grace by Judith Arnopp
The Velvet Turnshoe by Cassandra Clark
The Second Sleep by Robert Harris
Tidelands by Philippa Gregory
A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull
Painting in the shadows by Katherine Kovacic
A Pure Clear Light by Madeleine St John
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
The Innocents by C. A. Asbrey
The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain by Ruth Goodman
How To Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life by Ruth Goodman.
The Heir’s Tale by April Munday
Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
The Corset by Laura Purcell
Holy Spy by Rory Clements
Crimen Exceptum: The English Witch Prosecution in Context by Gregory J Durston
The Confession by Jessie Burton
The Rúin by Dervla McTiernan
Lanny by Max Porter
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
Khaki Town by Judy Nunn
The True Colour of the Sea by Robert Drewe

I am hoping to achieve better results with my reading in 2020. I am hanging out for the release of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (third in the Cormac Reilly series). I have only one book on my bedside table – Hag-Seed by Margaret Attwood (the sole remaining book from the beginning of 2019) but I have a small collection on my tablet – The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair, Marie MacPherson’s John Knox series and The Embroiderer by Kathryn Gauci. Who knows, 2020 might be the year I achieve my goal?

8 thoughts on “A Year of Reading – 2019

  1. Dear Catherine,

    I’m always astonished by the number of books you read in a year, even if you think it’s not “enough”! I’m doing well if I read a book a month – generally for the book club I belong to…

    I see you have a new book almost ready for release! How exciting! And I look forward to reading it, as I loved Forsaking… I’m still battling away with the fourth Meonbridge Chronicle – it’s not coming together easily though I guess I’ll get there eventually…

    Anyway, your list of books read in 2019 made me realise that you’ve not read either of my second or third Meonbridge Chronicles. Would you like to? I can’t remember how it was you that read Fortune’s Wheel… Did I ask you to?? I’d be delighted if you would like to read A Woman’s Lot and/or De Bohun’s Destiny sometime. Do let me know if you’d be interested. Although I do realise that there are lots of great books out there just demanding to be read!

    With very best wishes


    Carolyn Hughes

    Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor Twitter: @writingcalliope Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2hs2rrX Website and blog: http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com I also post a blog occasionally at http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com

    Buy my books at https://amzn.to/2UGOkXm (UK) https://amzn.to/2IqeeZ3 (US)

    Why not join “Team Meonbridge”? http://bit.ly/joinmeonbridge

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Caroline, I started 2019 with the intention of reading one independent author a month but that resolution petered out in February when The Bridled Tongue really started taking over my life. Since then most of my reading has been what has caught my eye at work. I read Fortune’s Wheel after following your blog and have been intending to read A Woman’s Lot for a while. I will definitely look at it this year.
      With every new draft of The Bridled Tongue, I felt it wasn’t quite right and ended up using a structural editor, Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial. She was brilliant. She didn’t tell me what to do but pointed to areas that needed more explanation or scenes that I had avoided writing – things that a reader would want to know. I think the story is so much better for her input.
      Good luck with the fourth volume. I think sometimes they just take longer but when you get there, they are better for the struggle you have had .


  2. I loved Tombland, which I also read last year. I also read a Rory Clements, but didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped to. How did you get on with A Single Thread? I’ve read variable reviews. I’d like to read it because it’s set in places I know and I like embroidery. On the other hand, I didn’t really enjoy the last Tracy Chevalier I read. As I get older, I find I have less patience with books. If I’m not gripped by the first 50 pages I stop, unless I’m reading it as part of a challenge, in which case I grit my teeth and keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tombland was wonderful but I have heard that it will be the last Shardlake novel as CJ Sansom has an incurable form of cancer. So very sad.
      I doubt I will read any more of Rory Clement’s John Shakespeare series. These days I don’t have a lot of patience with stories where characters intricately plot their way in and out of problems. To my mind most things happen by accident and plans fall apart. I will always choose the stuff up over the conspiracy.
      A Single Thread was ok but nowhere near Tracy Chevalier’s best but it was far better than At the Edge of the Orchard. In the end I didn’t particularly care about Violet Speedwell though Chevalier captured the awful family interactions well. I thought the embroidery element was well done. It is an easy read .
      Some years ago I was told of the American librarian Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 which I have been using ever since. If you are under 50 you read 50 pages but if you are over 50 you have so much less time to waste so you subtract your age from 100 and only read the as many pages as the answer. Most of the time I do read 50. These days I find very long books daunting – most often they need a good edit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t know that about CJ Sansom. It is sad. I’d read that he wanted to get Shardlake into Elizabeth’s reign and I was looking forward to seeing how he coped with Mary.

        I might get A Single Thread from the library and give it a go.

        I am very aware of having fewer reading years in me than I had before I reached 60. The last book I applied the 50 page rule to was A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur and I knew quite early on that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, but it’s Mark Twain and I wanted to like it.

        It’s quite funny about long books. Some feel long and some don’t. I think I read Tombland in three or four days and it’s huge, atlhough it would have benefited from a good edit. I’m reading a much shorter book at the moment and every page drags. It’s for a challenge, though, so I will finish it.

        Liked by 1 person

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