This week I found myself thinking about a blog post of mine from October last year, in which I wrote about how I felt I was reaching a point of fatigue with my reading, how I wanted to put more effort into finding books that were right for me, how I also wanted to make time for many things other than reading. We're now three months into 2015: have I achieved any of this? I'm as surprised as anyone else that the answer is definitely yes.
I have to qualify that, though: I haven't succeeded quite so well at the first part. My reading choices in 2015 so far have been a result of the same scattergun approach I was trying to leave behind, and perhaps one consequence of that is the fact that I haven't yet come across anything I've absolutely loved: no five-star or 10/10 books yet. (Compare that with 2014: by this point in the year, according to my ever-helpful Goodreads stats, I'd rated a whole five books with five stars.)
But all of this musing led to me writing a miscellaneous list of things I've read in 2015 and things I haven't (yet) and other stuff I've been doing and enjoying and some things I haven't got around to mentioning yet. Here it is.
1. For the past three months I've been doing an Oxford University online course in literary theory: Friday was the official last day. If anyone is thinking of doing one of these courses: they are totally worth it, and you will learn a lot, but it will be HARD fitting all the reading, forum contributions and coursework around your life if you have a full-time job. I've still got a hell of a lot of learning to do before I'm any kind of authority on literary theory, but the good thing is I now have a head start.
2. I've read 10 books published in 2015. Of those, seven were review copies. The two that stand out as the best so far: A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell, in which three middle-aged sisters agree to commit suicide after writing their ancestors' history, and The Curator by Jacques Strauss, about the many sins of two generations of a South African family.
3. Probably the two most disappointing new books I've read this year - Rebecca Scherm's Unbecoming and Lili Anolik's Dark Rooms - had protagonists in their late teens named Grace. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
4. I've tried to read, and given up on, about six books published in 2015. Some of these were surprises: The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland, whose work I've always enjoyed, and Weathering by Lucy Wood, which I'd been looking forward to for a long time after being impressed by her short story collection Diving Belles. I've been trying to keep track of 'books I didn't finish' here, although they don't always make it to the point of being worth talking about.
5. I have a handful of new or forthcoming books I need to read in the near future. Jill Alexander Essbaum's Hausfrau is among them: I wasn't interested in this when I first heard about it, supposing it would be another attempt at emulating Gone Girl, but the more great reviews I read, the more excited I am about it. Also in my review copy pile is Tasha Kavanagh's Things We Have in Common, which despite a number of recent disappointments I still have high hopes for, and Benjamin Percy's The Dead Lands, which probably won't be a dystopia to rival Station Eleven, but I can hope.
6. I discovered Lindsay Hunter through her fantastic short story collections, Daddy's (2010) and Don't Kiss Me (2013). She's one of those short story writers who makes it look easy, and her work is so inspiring: quickfire, breathless, and simultaneously repulsive and beautiful. One of the best stories from Don't Kiss Me, 'Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula', can be read online here, and there are more linked from her Tumblr.
7. I'm reading the whole of the Penguin Random House Spring 2015 Debut Fiction Sampler. I didn't mean to, but now it's become a mini-project/blog-post-in-progress. Through doing so, I read the first however-many-pages of Catie Disabato's The Ghost Network, and they were properly AMAZING. I have a really good feeling about this book; I think it's going to be the (my) next Night Film.
8. Chappie came out (that sounds weird as a sentence but 'Chappie was released' sounds even worse) and I saw it and it was way better than even I, the Neill Blomkamp fangirl, expected. I wrote an entire page of notes when I got home and have subsequently completely failed at actually writing any sort of review. I also found out that there are 'the art of the film' books for all of Blomkamp's movies. I bought the Elysium one straight away and have been lusting after the others ever since, although the District 9 one appears to be some sort of collector's item that you can't get for less than £25.
9. I've watched 42 films this year so far. I can't say this has led to the discovery of that many great films. The highlights, though: Nightcrawler, Big Eyes, White Bird in a Blizzard, Birdman, and the absolutely brilliant Young Adult. I have also found that I often really like films other people hate (Elysium, The Paperboy, the remake of Oldboy) and don't see the appeal of films everyone loves (Interstellar, Inherent Vice (ugh), Foxcatcher). The last two I saw were Fifty Shades of Grey and Cinderella and I think that's put me off watching films for a while.
10. I watched all of American Horror Story. Yes, ALL of it. Preferred seasons 1 and 3 (although I think 2 probably had the best story and certainly the best ending), which gives me hope that the forthcoming fifth season will also be good. Favourite things: QUEEN LANA WINTERS, Fiona Goode's intro scene, Fiona and the Axeman's relationship, Joseph Fiennes in a priest outfit, the ridiculousness of Dandy, Denis O'Hare as anyone, Misty Day :( (#justice4mistyday)
11. I started watching Better Call Saul despite - and I know this is weird - never having previously seen any of Breaking Bad. It's amazing how quickly it's come to feel like 'my show'. Full disclosure, I might be in love with Jimmy McGill. It's the VOICE. And the psuedonyms, ahh. Gotta love a man with several identities. Anyway, then I started watching Breaking Bad by skipping through it and watching only the scenes with Saul, which I think you'll agree is a pretty unique project. It doesn't make ANY SENSE but I'm enjoying it.
12. I seem to discover music mainly through TV shows and films now. Is that terrible? Mash up this playlist of songs from Better Call Saul and this one of the White Bird in a Blizzard soundtrack and you have what I've been listening to for the past month... glossing over the songs I found via The Only Way is Essex.
13. I did the Netflix month-long free trial. The trial ended halfway through American Horror Story season 2. A few days later, I reluctantly bought a Netflix membership. Now Better Call Saul has happened and it looks like Netflix and I are becoming a long-term thing.
14. I've started trying to cook more often. I made some 'black bean tortas with coconut chipotle mayo', which were delicious. I made my own granola, twice, and struggled not to eat all of it in one serving. It hasn't all been good: mango curry is... strange... and I just think nothing is ever going to make me really love cauliflower.
15. I haven't written anything. Except all the stuff on this blog, of course.
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