Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with books, for now

2013 was my most productive reading year to date, with 78 completed book. I thought I’d counted before and read closer to 90, but I don’t know where those other books have gone.

The early year was a bit disappointing, but spending loads of the first three and a bit months in a stupid office really cut down on free time. An improvement followed after I stopped wasting time with that, and another kick later in the year helped numbers. December also seems like a bit of a let down, with another 10 days spent away from books being one explanation.

My intense documentation of reading dates isn’t just me being a bit weird, it’s because my profile on GoodReads lets me keep track of things like that. As well as my out-of-five ratings. Although I haven’t a graph for it, I did notice that a lot of my four-star ratings came later in the year. Maybe if I’d read better books early on I would’ve been encouraged to do that more often.


My switch to an e-reader came in late May/early June, buying a second hand model from Craigslist. For a long time I’d resisted the change, much like I’d been slow to move from CDs to MP3s and the like. My girlfriend had better foresight, buying one from one of my colleagues in Sydney to take with her. On a trip through the Rockies in May, I’d left my book in my bag and had nothing to do on the bus. She, prone to travel sickness if she reads as well as being happy to stare out the window, leant me hers and I got my first experience of reading digitally. It really was as good/easy as people say and my first e-book, the okay The Casual Vacancy, encouraged me to get a machine of my own.

I didn’t realise until after the deal that the seller hadn’t given me a cable to add books to the gizmo, so it’s lucky I was travelling with someone better prepared. From then on, it was much easier not only to have a book on hand to read, but to have titles I actually wanted to read and also to have a much lighter bag.

Some bests/worsts:

Best fictionRoom, Emma Donoghue

Read early in the year, I was initially wary of the way Room was written (from the perspective of a five-year-old) but I soon got into the swing of things and found it to give the story a much bigger punch than if it had been seen through the eyes of the mother. It was one of those books that I felt I had to recommend to people after I’d finished it (something I didn’t really get with my other five-stars) and everyone else I know who read it seemed to get similar enjoyment from it.

Flowers for Algernon and We Need To Talk About Kevin are both highly recommended.

Best non-fictionThe People Smuggler, Robin de Crespigny

Strangely, both my bests were read before I left Sydney. I’d been to a talk with Robin de Crespigny and Al Al Jenabi at Sydney’s Writers’ Festival, been interested by what they’d had to say and then completely forgot about them. My girlfriend then bought the book for her dad’s birthday and it soon came back to us, having already changed the outlook of a rather old-fashioned Aussie miner. If it can pull on his heartstrings, I’m sure it could let other anti-immigrants a different side to things as well. Listening, Tony?

I also liked Tuesdays with Morrie and, if I’d read it slightly later, I’d have put Escape from Camp 14 here instead.

Best seriesTomorrow, When The War Began, John Marsden

I read The Hunger Games in a week halfway through the year and really enjoyed it, but even better was the Aussie teen series by John Marsden. Not only did it add a tally of seven quick reads to my score (because that’s clearly what reading’s all about…) Basically, a group of teenagers going camping for a while and during their time away from civilisation Australia is invaded, meaning they have to live in hiding and turn to guerilla warfare. Every time I go on a cruise or away from the news for a while, I secretly hope that when I come out something major will have happened and I’ll have to save the world. Nothing yet.

Worst books

With eight-one star ratings, it’s hard to pick a very worst book, so I’m splitting the award three ways: The Alchemist (Paolo Coelho) for being bland, basic and completely ridiculous, Less Than Zero (Bret Easton Ellis) for its horrible lead character and its lack of anything, and The Exile of Time (Ray Cummings) a book that my girlfriend picked up from a second hand shop because of its stupid cover, presumably designed to match its stupid contents.

With 2014 looking quite clear on the whole ‘being stuck in an office’ front, I’m hoping to make it the year when I break the 100 barrier. I’m already one down, so making good progress.


Filed under: life,

3 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    I still read almost exclusively in audio, which takes a bit longer but means I can multi-task when doing the bits of work that aren’t the actual writing bit. It also helped when I kicked the habit of listening to basically pointless podcasts and replacing them with an hour of a good book instead.

    I remember reading ‘Room’ on Tioman Island, Malaysia – it was one of the books that cropped up a lot on hostel shelves around the time, along with Stieg Larssons and Lonely Planets with the popular sections ripped out. It was alright. Jeremy Irons’ reading of ‘The Alchemist’ accompanied me from Israel to Egypt on a bumpy bus ride, I liked the fable element at the beginning until it got stale.

    I started making a blog post once trying to catalogue every audiobook/dramatisation I remember listening to throughout my travels, as they’re always associated with memories of places, but it got too long even for me to bother. I also haven’t obsessively catalogued the best things I listened to last year – from memory, The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, a couple of science ones and Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography stand out, I can’t remember what I listened to when wandering around Australia and Cambodia earlier in the year.

    If I switch my semi-retirement from a dull city apartment to a more scenic island hut, I’d be in the mood to read books in hammocks again. E-books count.

  2. Oliver says:

    I’ve never really enjoyed audio books. I’m not very good at multi tasking, so I think I’d find that I missed a few pages of action because I was too busy reading about how to care for elderly relatives at Christmas time. I also found that a lot of the readers are very bad, especially the no-name Americans that try way too hard to be memorable.

    In a way I miss just grabbing random books from hostel shelves, but there’s only so much dismissing of Jodi Picoult, John Grisham and Stephen King one man can do.

  3. Catherine Monroe says:

    Our preschooler loves the Howard B. Wigglebottom books and has learned important listening, and sharing skills from these books. Has memorized them and reads along. She looks for more in the other scholastic fliers and wants to get them all.

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