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?