Monday, September 19

Reading Challenge - Almost Halfway!

Do you remember all the way back in January when I joined Goodreads, and began my reading challenge? For those who don't, you can read about it here. Now, nine months later, I'm almost halfway. That might not seem that great, and honestly it's not compared to the rate I normally read at, but after spending 3 years at university and mostly only reading the set texts (The Cultural Industries, Events Management and The Event Safety Guide, mainly, for enquiring minds), I'm quite proud of myself for actually getting back into the routine. 

Anyway I thought I'd give you a little summary of the books I've read so far.
In chronological order (starting bottom row, right to left):

1. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey - If you haven't already read this, you've probably heard of it. When first released it made it's way onto Oprah's popular book club list, it then became even more notorious when it was discovered some of the stories in the book were false. The book is an account of Frey's time at a drug and alcohol rehab facility. My copy contained the publisher's note. 
It may have been the first, but this book has become the bane of my reading challenge; I began reading it in fits and spurts - a combination of it being a bit of slow starter and me being a bit squeamish. Perhaps, I've lived far too sheltered a life/or am a little naive but the accounts of Frey's time as a an addict turned my stomach a little, and at times I couldn't muster any sympathy for him. I found the book and Frey himself a little melodramatic, and at times arrogant. I did enjoy hearing about his acquaintances in rehab as they all seemed a lot more realistic, but the idea that anyone could believe some of the stories (which he later admitted were untrue) was beyond me, perhaps that's the benefit of hindsight.

2. The Accidental by Ali Smith - The Accidental follows the Smart family whilst spending their summer holiday in Norfolk, when a stranger in the form of Amber, appears on their doorstep. 
How do I hate this book, let me count the ways. Okay, so perhaps not that bad, but not so great either. Each chapter is told in the voice of each member of the Smart family - 12 year old Astrid, 17 year old Magnus, author Eve and university professor Mike - and Amber. In my opinion this contributed to the book as a whole to be a bit disjointed (not to say that all books written this way are the same). When each character had (if I remember right) two chapters, of a few pages, for their story it became a little difficult to 'keep up' and I sometimes felt that certain things weren't explained at all, particularly the appearance of Amber.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Surely I don't need to explain Pride and Prejudice to you, do I?
 I'll be honest here, other than what we read at school I've not really read much of the Classics (I've read Jane Eyre and a couple of Dostoevsky's, and of course one of my favourite books is Vanity Fair) and I was put off reading Austen after reading Emma, so I was a little hesitant reading Pride and Prejudice, despite (and I suppose as a result of) its reputation. Thankfully, it lived up to its reputation, because I absolutely loved it. Admittedly, I didn't warm to the characters as I did in Joe Wright's adaptation (understandable when you cast the likes Donald Sutherland, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan et al), but I love the depth of story that reading the book, obviously, gave.

(more if you click through)
4. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin - The story of the ambitious Lacey Yeager, a young woman working in the competitive New York art world.
This book caught my eye for two reasons; Firstly, I read Steve Martin's book, Shopgirl, a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Secondly, as I've mentioned I'm interested in working at art galleries and exhibitions, so I was quite intrigued. On the whole I enjoyed the book, it's an interesting look into a world that I hope to work in and there are a lot of art based facts (about paintings, galleries and collectors), although this at times worked to the detriment of the book, as it became a little bogged down with facts and the plot seemed less explored.

5. Playing with the Grown-Ups by Sophie Dahl - The adventures of Kitty and her mother Marina, a free-spirited artist who finds herself caught up and beguiled by cult leader Guru Swaami-Ji, and takes Kitty and her siblings along for the ride.
I neither loved nor disliked Playing with the Grown-Ups, it's an easy read, a bit 'fluffy', funny and relatable (the mother/daughter relationship in particular) - nevertheless it was enjoyable. I don't find Sophie Dahl's work, outside of modelling, incredibly ground-breaking (the less said about her tv show, the better), but I find her quite endearing and I think that definitely comes through in the book.

6. One Day by David Nicholls - Are you sick of hearing about this book yet? For those who haven't heard of this book, see here. For everybody else, I quite liked it too and yes, I cried.

7. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley - A collection of essays based on the life of New York based writer Sloane Crosley. 
Another easy read. I Was Told There'd Be Cake is a collection of funny stories and anecdotes during Crosley's life time including her time volunteering at the Museum of Natural History (and a story about moths, which hit a little too close to home), a call out the blue to be an old friend's bridesmaid and an interesting neighbour. Like I said, an easy read, partly because it's quite short, partly because it's really quite funny and partly because it's really quite relatable, at least for me - each awkward and cringeworthy moment had me thinking "Me Too!".

8. The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan - A novel about the ups-and-downs of a relationship in  the form of a dictionary.
Not at all what I expected, it's not really a novel in the typical sense - there's not really much of a plot or characters, it's just the story of two people in love, told sort-of in prose with each letter in the alphabet. And yet, it's enjoyable and again, it's relatable.

9. The Pleasure of My Company by Steve MartinDaniel Pecan Cambridge cannot cross the street except at driveways symmetrically opposed to each. He is also in love with his therapist, the local real estate agent (whom he has never met) and his pharmacist.
Steve Martin's books, or at least the one's that I have read all seem very character focused, rather than having one specific plot line with the typical 'beginning, middle and end', there's never really much of a story, just stuff happening  to the characters, a bit like a Sofia Coppola film. Not necessarily a bad thing. I didn't enjoy this as much as the other two, not for the previous reason, but mostly because I didn't particularly warm to any of the characters. It's an enjoyable book, just not my favourite of Martin's.

10. It's Not Me It's You by Jon Richardson - Comedian Jon Richardson (single for seven years and counting) is a control freak, on a search for 'the one'. 
I was on the waiting list at the library for 3 months waiting for this book, was it worth it? In my opinion, yes, but I already knew that. Last year my mum sent me an article from the Guardian written by John along the same theme; A Control Freak Looks or Love, which led to Jon writing It's Not Me, It's You. Some would, understandably, make the assumption that Jon being a comedian, he would write a comedic book , but that's not really what it's about. Granted it's a funny book, but it's also incredibly honest and at times, quite sad. Which is what ultimately endears you to Jon - his admittance that he is a perfectionist and he's flawed, but all he really wants is someone to make him a cup of tea in the morning.

11.  This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (not pictured) -  Judd Foxman returns home early to find his wife and boss in bed together. Now not only is he getting a divorce, Judd is also unemployed and his father has just died, with his dying wish being that his family carry out the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva. 
The Gleek that I am,  I heard about this book through Dianna Agron (Quinn Fabray) on her twitter/tumblr. She said it was funny, so I hunted it down and she was right. When I described the plot to friends they were a little surprised that I found it so funny, but if you come from a large family you'll understand - imagine being cramped in your childhood home, with your entire family, for a week. Add a barely functioning house, a neighbourhood filled with bizarre characters and a lot of memories, and you get a pretty funny book.

Have you read any of these books, what did you think? 
Have you read any good books recently? 
Perhaps you could recommend a few to help me complete my challenge, and feel free to add me on Goodreads!



  1. I just found out last week that Sophie Dahl is married to Jamie Cullum and that she towers over him.

  2. Hah, yeah, I think they had a baby recently too. He looks a little bit like a Hobbit next to her.

  3. I've read 'It's Not Me It's You' by Jon Richardson, which I really enjoyed too.
    I think he's ultimately a very troubled soul, and probably suffers from depression (like many comedians), and you can't help but feel like you know him really well through reading this book. I'm glad he was so honest.


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