How I read 54 books last year and what they were
In January 2014 I took up the challenge to read 52 books in the year. I really wasn’t sure I’d manage to do it but I’ve always been a book worm and I missed reading, I was also sick and fed up of evenings spent scrolling through social media whilst half watching the TV.
It was hard but by 31st December I’d read 54 books! (I only shared the 52 from the challenge in last year’s blog post) I decided not to repeat the challenge in 2015 as I’d found it put quite a lot of pressure on me, however I did want to carry on with my new reading habits. So I decided to read whatever I fancied reading, when I fancied it.
Having got out of the habit of watching TV every evening and spending every waking hour on Facebook and Twitter I found the time to read, despite not doing the challenge.
So it surprised me to a certain extent that in 2015 I had, again, read 54 books!
Now you are probably wondering how on earth a mum of two, especially with the busy year I had last year with moving from London to Mauritius, can find time to read.
It really isn’t rocket science, here is the HOW:
- I absolutely LOVE reading, for me it is a treat, a delight and has always been my guilty pleasure. I can lose myself in a book and have missed bus stops and going on stage in a school play over the years through getting caught up in a good read. It is not torture or a punishment for me to read which is a big help.
- I rarely have time to read during the day, so my reading time comes once the kids are in bed. From around 8/8.30pm my time is my own and that’s when I’ll curl up on the sofa with my Kindle and tune in to my latest book. I’d say that a good 3 evenings a week are spent like that. Around 10pm I’ll head up to bed and I’ll carry on reading there usually for another half an hour, at which time my eyelids will be closing and I’ll be done for the day.
- Once a week Hubs and I take a “me day” and totally switch off from chores, responsibilities and kids while the other one takes over. (The aim is once a week but sometimes it’s less frequent.) On those days I often take myself off somewhere to read and have been known to get through a book in the day.
- Whenever I’m on holiday it signals a time to switch off and read. The arrival of e-books has saved my weight limit on holiday flights no end as I generally read a book a day when I’m on holiday. I’m very lucky in that Hubs is very hands-on when we’re on holiday and that L is also a huge book worm so will lose herself in a book like me. (Hubs is also very understanding of my addiction because he’s an avid reader too.)
This year we spent about 4 months living with my parents, so I watched very little TV then and when we moved to Mauritius we didn’t really have a suitable TV for the first 2 months we were here. All of this helped me read so much this year too 😉
One thing I will say about all this reading is that I feel far less stressed and more rested. Evenings spent reading wind you down far more – in general, unless the book is a super suspense/thriller – than those spent watching TV or scrolling aimlessly through Facebook or Twitter feeds. So I highly recommend it for getting a good night’s sleep and being generally more chilled.
Now onto the 54 books I read in 2015. I won’t give a full review of them just a sentence or two as otherwise this will turn into the longest blog post ever! (Warning: it still is a massively long blog post) There is the biggest mix here of autobiographies, business books, self-help books, chick lit, thrillers, murder mysteries, historical fiction and more…
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
A very interesting read on why people say “yes”, good to read for life in general but even better if you’re in business and looking to win people over.
- Steve Jobs: The exclusive biography by Walter Isaacson
Like most people I’ve always been quite interested by the Steve Jobs’ way of doing things so decided to read this one. Interestingly I quite liked him before I read the book, after reading it I thought he was quite brilliant, but also probably quite horrible to be around / work with. Good read though.
- What I know for sure by Oprah Winfrey
A lovely friend of mine, Michelle from The Joy Chaser, gave me this book for my birthday. I wasn’t necessarily an Oprah fan beforehand but it spoke so much sense and gave me so much respect for this incredible lady. I really LOVED this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an uplifting read.
- J.K.Rowling The genius behind Harry Potter by Sean Smith
It was shortly after I brought out my own bilingual children’s book, Elodie and the Pirates / Elodie et les Pirates, and I kept thinking about J.K.Rowling as I’m a big fan of Harry Potter, but I didn’t know her story at all. I struggled to find any books on her life, and this one is far from great, but it was interesting to learn a bit more about her, especially as she, like me, moved abroad and taught English as a foreign language.
- Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
Wow! I hadn’t realised quite what a mess Twitter was in the early days. This makes for very interesting reading, and will make you think twice about going into business with anyone you actually like!
- The Boron letters by Gary Halbert & Bond Halbert
I kept seeing references to The Boron letters in other business books I read so I decided to finally read them. In places they are out of date in this online world, but they still make for a good read for anyone who does copywriting, sales or business.
- The One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
I LOVE JoJo Moyes and massively loved Me before you (total sobfest!) so I tend to read any and everything by her now. This was a nice enough chick lit read, but not something that is a must read or that really stays in your mind once you’re done. Worth a read on the beach though.
- I am pilgrim by Terry Hayes
This is not the type of book I’d normally read – it’s about a secret spy, which to me is all a bit too James Bond for my liking. However so many, very different, people had recommended it to me that I decided to give it a shot. I absolutely loved it! Totally gripping and well-written. Read it, even if like me you’re not into spy books 😉
- The happiness project by Gretchen Rubin
Early on in 2015 I had a bit of a wobble, and was on a bit of a downer. I’m usually a very upbeat happy, optimistic, positive kind of person so it really knocked me for six. So I set about getting myself out of it. Reading this book was one of the various things I did, and it did help. A nice easy read that is uplifting too, another recommendation here.
(I did not have depression or anything bordering on it, reading this book may help if you’re feeling a bit blue, but if you are suffering from anything more than that you should definitely seek professional help.)
- Twelve lessons by Kate Spencer
If you like the idea of manifesting, the universe, affirmations, law of attraction and the such like you’ll probably like this novel around these ideas. If you don’t like the above / don’t believe in it, you should probably steer clear! A nice, light read if you are a believer 🙂
- E-squared by Pam Grout
Another law of attraction book, this time from a totally different angle. This book claims to prove that the law of attraction works, and it gives you exercises to do to show this to you. One for the non-believers if you’re open enough to read it and try it out!
- The last days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin
A neighbour had just finished reading this and lent it to me as she knows I’m a big reader. I read the back and wasn’t sure – it’s about a woman, a mum, who is dying from cancer. I thought it would be hard, heavy, depressing. Whilst it is inevitably sad it is also an eye-opener and has many funny moments. Quite a good one to make you sit back and appreciate what you have in life.
- Elizabeth is missing – Emma Healey
This was our book club read for the month, it wasn’t exactly my type of book. A book about dementia. But it was also a bit of a mystery story, weaving the past and the present and I actually loved it. Highly recommend it.
- Lucky bitch by Denise Duffield-Thomas
This is one of the books I read in a day. I have a bit of a girl crush on Denise Duffield-Thomas and if you are into business, law of attraction, manifesting I highly recommend you check out her website, Lucky Bitch. This first book of hers explains how she has used manifesting in the past to bring about a 6 month all expenses paid world tour. She shares how you can use manifesting in your life (along with solid action) to get what you want. I won’t say more than that but when I was reading it I was living in London and dreaming of Mauritius. Fast-forward 6 months and I moved to Mauritius, so whether you believe in manifesting or not, dreams can and do come true 🙂
- Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About This Magnificent Life) by Kate Gross
This book was an absolute killer. Kate Gross was married with twin boys and she found out she had advanced colon cancer. She wrote this book for her boys and loved ones, but it is such a testament of life for all of us and a wake-up call to enjoy life every day. Read it with tissues to hand.
- Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls
I bought this off the back of Leonie Dawson’s blog post and illustrated notes from seeing Steve Biddulph talk about the book. As a fellow mum to two girls Leonie, like me, is quite scared about the world our girls are growing up in. This book is an absolute must-read for any parent of girls (as is I believe his version for boys). It was an eye-opener about the leap frog that our girls make from being children to being “women” before they are fully ready for it. The book shares the scary news that marketers want to get to our young girls. It scared the crap out of me but also provided me with tools on supporting and helping my girls as they grow up. More blog posts on this subject to come… But for now, just read it!
- Then again maybe I won’t by Judy Blume
I got this book for Christmas when I was 13 and, as a huge Judy Blume fan, I have kept it as we moved from house to house, country to country, the aim being for my kids to read it. However before (then 8 year old) L read it I wanted to give it a quick once over to check it was ok. It has some risqué topics, including wet dreams, but I thought it would either go over her head or she would ask me about them. It was a great one for her to read as it covers a boy who moves home with his family – very timely for us. I love that Judy Blume totally stands the test of time as this was originally published in 1971!
- The Book of Afformations®: Discovering the Missing Piece to Abundant Health, Wealth, Love, and Happiness by Noah St John
Another read about manifesting and the law of attraction, this one was recommended by Denise Duffield-Thomas (see above), and explains how it is better to manifest with afformations (questions) instead of affirmations as your sub-conscious is more likely to believe it is true. Again not for you if you think all of that is a load of crap but I found it really helpful.
- The bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
This book had been on my Kindle for ages, I think I’d got it for free or in a Kindle sale and since then it had just sat on my Kindle, mocking me. I finally sat down and read it, and it was an ok read but it’s no The Kite Runner or A thousand splendid suns, interesting enough if you like to read about Afghanistan, otherwise move on.
- The little book of mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard
This is a good one if you’re working on being mindful as it gives you simple, every day exercises to do to achieve mindfulness.
- Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
Again this is one that had sat on my Kindle for a while after getting it in a sale. It was quite a gripping one, not an un-put-down-able book but one that I would recommend if you like murder mystery, suspense, thriller type books.
- Coming up roses by Rachael Lucas
I loved this blogger turned author’s début novel, Sealed with a kiss, so getting her next novel was a no-brainer. A lovely, escapism, chick lit read that I really enjoyed 🙂
- The Silent Sister – Diane Chamberlain
Diane Chamberlain is one of my all-time favourite authors, her books are written so incredibly well that you feel such sympathy and empathy for the character who would be the villain in anyone else’s book. They are so gripping that I have to set time aside when I’m reading one as I struggle to put them down. If you haven’t read any of hers yet, do it now!
- The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
In 2010 I read the first book in the Cousins War series, The White Queen (which many of you may have also seen on TV) and I was hooked. I love history but knew nothing about this period of history before (my favourite periods are Tudor, Elizabethan then 19th and 20th century British social and European history). I was totally drawn in and I have now read quite a few in these series by Philippa Gregory. I know a lot of people who think they are too fictionalised but I loved reading them and then doing my own research about what actually happened (or rather what we KNOW happened as so much is unknown). I totally recommend them but suggest you read them in order.
- Unseen by Karin Slaughter
Another favourite author of mine, I read her first book in 2004 and have read all of hers since. I love her style of writing murder mysteries. Another writer who manages to draw me in and whose books require a clearing of the calendar so I can read undisturbed 🙂 I recommend all of hers but start at the beginning or you’ll be lost.
- The ship of brides by Jojo Moyes
(See number 7 about Jojo Moyes). This is a slightly older book from one of my favourite authors and I was a bit disappointed, maybe it took her a while to find her stride. Ship of brides was a nice enough chick lit type of book, but no more no less.
- The lies we told by Diane Chamberlain
See number 23 🙂
- The king’s curse by Philippa Gregory
See number 24 🙂
- The year I met you by Cecelia Ahern
I absolutely love Cecelian Ahern, I love that she writes chick lit but with a bit of magic / suspend your disbelief thrown in too. This isn’t one of her best books but is still definitely worth a read.
- Get rich, lucky bitch by Denise Duffield-Thomas
See number 14. This is the sequel to “Lucky bitch” and delves deeper into money manifesting. Read it with a notebook in hand and implement the exercises, it’s well worth it, believe me!!
- The woman who stole my life by Marian Keyes
I am a huge Marian Keyes fan, ever since I read Watermelon in 1997. I have read every single book of hers and when I moved over to e-books and got rid of my library of paper books the only ones I kept was my collection of her novels. HOWEVER I have been disappointed by her later books, I devoured her earlier ones and read them time and time again. The later ones I have found to be a bit “bof” as the French say, nothing special. Maybe it’s because I’m older now so my tastes have changed. I will still read everything she brings out but I won’t rush so much now to get it as soon as it’s released.
- The constant princess by Philippa Gregory
See number 24 (again!) I read a lot of Philippa Gregory books when we were at my mum and dad’s as their local library stocked any I asked for 🙂
- The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick
I happened to see this at my parents’ local library (I spent a lot of time there!) and picked it up on a whim, it’s actually a very useful book for anyone needing to learn more about social media for business or blogging. There was a lot I already knew in there, but there was equally a lot I didn’t know. Another one to read with a notebook in hand.
- When Hitler stole pink rabbit by Judith Kerr
Judith Kerr is well-known in the UK for her children’s illustrated books, The Tiger who Came to Tea and the Mog cat books, however what is less well-known is that she was a German refugee whose family fled Nazi Germany, first to Switzerland, then Paris and finally the UK. Such an interesting and important read in this day and age as history repeats itself with refugees desperately fleeing their war-torn homes…
- It’s not me, it’s you by Mhairi McFarlane
An amusing, light chick-lit read, great book for a beach holiday. Read it, switch off, forget about it afterwards.
- The girl who saved the king of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
Written by the author of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared which I read and loved the previous year, this is another great book, although not quite as good as his début novel. Still worth a read though 🙂
- Bombs on Aunt Dainty by Judith Kerr
The sequel to number 34, I found this one to be a more depressing read, but still so very valid.
- Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
This is also a film with Reese Witherspoon which I’m now desperate to watch as the book was so good. I cannot imagine what she has gone through and then what she puts herself through. Incredible. Just an incredible story.
- Sing you home by Jodi Picoult
Lots of people have compared Jodi Picoult to Diane Chamberlain, and I can see the similarity but I still prefer the latter. However this was a great book that I would highly recommend, for so many angles – infertility, music, same sex relationships and more.
- The other Boleyn girl by Philippa Gregory
See number 24 (again!)
- French Parents Don’t Give In: 100 parenting tips from Paris by Pamela Druckerman
I read Pamela Druckerman’s French children don’t throw food in 2012 and it really riled me, enough to write a lengthy blog post about it, which is still one of my most read blog posts! I vowed I wouldn’t read any more of her books but then this one caught my eye (again at my parents’ local library!) and I thought, what the hell, and sat down to read it. This one, however, really impressed me. It is less “the French do this which is perfect, whilst the Americans and Brits do the other which is terrible” and is more tips on parenting a more French way, which sits well with this Franglaise Family 🙂 Definitely worth a read, even if you don’t agree with all the tips.
(Watch this space for some tips on Parenting the Franglaise way…)
- The Wrong Knickers – A Decade of Chaos by Bryony Gordon
Bryony Gordon shares the highs and lows of her life as a single girl in London in her twenties. I think I would have loved reading this when I was in my twenties, but reading it when on the brink of 40 it just made me cringe a bit. So it could be for you….if you’re in your 20s 😉
- Girl, missing by Sophie McKenzie
I’d heard lots about this book over the years but had never got round to reading it, so when I saw it – you guessed it, in my parents’ local library – I decided to give it a try. It was a hard book to read as a parent as I could see both sides of the story. Quite heart-breaking in parts too but definitely worth reading!
- Tideline by Penny Hancock
Picture the scene – I had gone into Poundland/Poundworld/another of these types of shops to stock up on my Toblerone supply (do you know you can get £1 full size Toblerones in most pound shops?!? Heaven….), anyway then I saw this book on the shelf. I quickly read the back cover, checked the reviews online and got myself a copy. I didn’t know what to expect, having picked it up for a song, but it was actually very good. Very strange to read a murder mystery/kidnap where the kidnapper is a middle-aged mum. A very good read at £1, not sure I’d pay the full £5.99 for it on Kindle though.
- Bridget Jones: Mad about the boy by Helen Fielding
I felt the same way about this as I did about the Marian Keyes I read. They are books/authors I read when in my 20s and I loved and devoured the books, re-reading them again and again. But this sequel to the previous Bridget Jones books just felt wrong, clunky, awkward. I almost wish I hadn’t read it now as I would rather have left Bridget where she left off in her 30s.
- A God in ruins by Kate Atkinson
One of the last books I read in 2014 was Life after Life, which had been massively recommended to me. I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not, I liked the idea and at times I really got into it, but at others I found it too repetitive. A God in ruins is not really a sequel but it follows the story of Ursula Todd’s younger brother, Teddy, so you will nod along in parts if you’ve read Life after Life. At times downright depressing, this book has characters in it that are really unlikeable, but on the whole it is a good read, though not quite as earth-shattering as Life after Life.
- Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts (The Factory Girls) by Mary Gibson
Set shortly before and during the First World War this novel shows us how far we have come as far as life and quality of life is concerned, in a fairly short space of time. It makes you realise just how easy, physically and financially, life is for so many of us now. A lovely, historical read with some great characters.
- My own story by Emmeline Pankhurst
I decided to stay in a similar period of history for this next book, as I read all about the Suffragettes in this first person account by one of the most famous suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst. Whilst the book isn’t the easiest to read in places – she wrote it as a kind of diary whilst demonstrating and fighting for the vote for women – it is a must read. When I see how blasé so many women are about voting it makes me sick. 9 times out of 10 there are no politicians that I want to vote for but I will always vote, when you stop to think what these women suffered, and fought for, time and time again for us to have something so taken for granted these days, it shouldn’t even be a question whether you vote or not.
*gets down from soapbox*
- The Horse Dancer by JoJo Moyes
Yet another JoJo Moyes book and I really enjoyed this one. I’ve never really been into horses but L has recently become obsessed (and has a natural talent it turns out), so I have started spending lots of time at a local horse-riding centre. Then on the back of reading this book I decided to set myself a new challenge to take up horse riding! Not as easy as it looks but a good challenge 🙂
- The throwaway children by Diney Costeloe
Again as a mum this book touched me – set after the Second World War, the two children in this novel who are given up for adoption are shipped from the UK to Australia, like parcels, despite having family in the UK. Based on fact this is a very sad story.
- Veronika decides to die by Paulo Coelho
I have heard of Paulo Coehlho numerous times over the years but never been tempted enough to get any of his books. Then I was offered the chance to read this one so I thought why not? It was an interesting take on how we might live life differently if we knew we only had a short time before we would die. Definitely food for thought here.
- Asking for it by Louise O’Neill
Recommended by a friend this was the first book for our new book club in Mauritius and was not overly liked! The main character is incredibly unlikeable, but the story of modern day teenagers/young adults growing up in the glare of social media likes and selfies was a stark eye-opener. As a mum to a 9 year old daughter it really freaked me out reading this, and made me think very carefully about how I talk to L, and what I can do to stop her falling into the pitfalls covered in the book. Not an easy read but one for all parents I’d say.
- The letter by Kathryn Hughes
Two sad stories interwoven across two different generations and time periods. I won’t say any more than that but that it is well-written and I recommend it. Some people may find the domestic violence scenes hard.
- Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
In 2009 through a business networking group I was part of in Nice I did the Myers-Briggs personality test. I had absolutely no idea what it was beforehand but it has been a massive eye-opener for me as I discovered that things wind me up because of the type of person that I am, that Hubs and I probably get on so well as we have very similar personality types, that certain people drive me crazy because we’re different types. It’s fascinating. Then last year I was reading a magazine that showcased Nurture by Nature and explained that our children have their own personality types from birth. This explains why one child responds so well to last minute pressure whilst another might go into meltdown if not given advance warnings. This book helps you to figure out which personality type your child/children is/are (the younger the child the harder it is to work out), and to act accordingly. Since reading this I have started to tweak my parenting style now that I know why some things just don’t work. If you’re getting nowhere with your kids it may just be the ticket for you!
Wow! That was a long list and it took me far longer to write than I thought it would! Hopefully this blog post will help you to set time aside for the joy that is reading, and maybe has given you some ideas for books to read too 🙂
It may be linked and it may not, but my parents are book worms as are Hubs and me. I grew up in a household where “I’m bored” was always met with “Read a book then!”, where lights had to be switched off to stop us reading all night. Our children now grow up seeing their parents read, whilst we don’t have tons of books anymore (vive e-books!) there are always books for them to read, and they know that reading is a real pleasure for us. L, our now 9 year old, was an early reader and is a book worm now too. For years I haven’t had to worry about entertaining her as long as she had a book.
She recently took some aptitude tests here in Mauritius to see what year she would be best off in and we were blown away by her reading level.
Age 9 years and 1 month she has a reading level of a mature adult, a spelling age of a 12 year old and got 89% on her first ever dictation, a difficult one aimed at 10 year olds, whilst her creative writing is just outstanding.
I don’t say this to brag (although I am very proud of L) but to share what a difference reading can make. Whilst none of this is the be-all and end-all it won’t hurt her academically. Also seeing your child curled up with a good book is such a great feeling 🙂
Over to you now – what books have you read (recently or ever) that you would recommend to me? Have you read any from my list and what are your thoughts on them? But most of all, keep reading and Happy Reading 🙂