My reading goals for 2019.

I usually write off my 2018 reading before discussing my goals for 2019; however, I am still working on the blog post and I haven’t had time to take the photos of the books yet so I have decided to write this list first.

I managed to attempt my goals last year and hit some more than others. I did do really well with my ‘to be read’ pile for most of the year. I managed to read three books off my book list so I completed that and I definitely read a lot of American literature because I specialised in American postmodernism. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to read as large of a variety of American literature as I hoped – I read strictly postmodernist texts – but I am happy I expanded my knowledge.

 

Anyway, onto 2019 goals:

1. Read my tbr pile.

Surprise, surprise, this is first on my list. I originally managed to get down to 20 unread books post-MA life which I think is incredible. However, I started working at a bookshop, won a huge book award and received proofs so my tbr went up to 50 unread books (I know, it’s a lot). I feel okay because I know out of all the new books I’ve bought five and the rest have been work related but I need to get to them.

Now that I don’t have a reading list for a course, I can dedicate time to reading my books. So far, I am doing really well and I think this might be the year I finally read all of my books.

2. Restart the Whispered Revolution.

For those of you who don’t know, I run a bad-ass feminist book club with a couple of friends over on goodreads. We were all really busy with our Masters degrees last year so had no time for the book club but we want to try and make it happen this year. Please feel free to join us!

3. Read more books from Independent publishers.

I really want to make an effort to read more books from independent publishers. I follow a lot of indie publishers online and see the amazing work they have been doing and the exposure they deserve. I have a few books from And Other Stories on my radar, as well as Bluemoose books and Dead Ink.

4. Read at least one music related book a month.

I write a lot about music and write academic pieces about pop music so I want to keep up reading books to help me with my research. I was really lucky to receive a lot of music books as a part of an award prize last year so I want to get around to reading them to keep me inspired and to also aid my research.

And that concludes my reading goals for this year! This has been short and sweet but I will be back soon with my favourite books from 2018 because I had an amazing reading year.

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My experience studying an English Literature Masters degree.

After my first seminar as a Masters student I knew I was going to write this blog post. There was no way I could predict how this year would turn out and I am glad I have waited until I finished my degree to write this because a lot has happened. This has been the most academically challenging and soul-destroying year of my life. Would I do a full-time Masters degree again? No. Do I regret postgraduate study? Not at all.

I went straight into my MA after finishing my BA for a few reasons: I want to be an academic and doing a Masters degree is the next step towards that career goal, I didn’t want to give up studying just yet, and I really didn’t want to move back to my hometown. I went to a different university for my MA and also moved city. My old university was amazing and in one of my favourite cities but I wanted to try something new so I moved and the MA course at the second university I have attended perfectly matched my research interests.

Before going to university, I did not know anyone who had studied for a Masters degree. Even when I started my Masters degree in September, everything was new to me because I had no one to ask about their postgraduate experiences. This is why I am writing this in the hope I can help someone who was in my position.

I moved from a fairly small university to a university holding over 27,000 and a much larger city in comparison to the one I had spent the last 3 years of my life. I was aware this would be a massive transition so planned to dedicate time during my intro week to get to know the city and the university. It was a bit of a disaster. I was told the wrong times for the city centre tours so missed those, missed out on postgraduate meet-ups and didn’t receive my student card until the Friday before I started my seminars so had no idea how to navigate the libraries because you needed your student card to access them. Although the first week wasn’t smooth sailing, I made friends with the people I was sharing a flat with and we decided to spend time together and discover the city ourselves. I also joined a couple of societies so I could meet new people and just feel a bit more at home in this new environment.

The week after intro week I started my course. Both of my seminars were scheduled for the same day so the rest of my week was free. I thought that was great because it meant I could plan my entire week around these seminars; however if I was to do this again I would definitely not want my seminars on the same day. At Masters level you do not have lectures so you have 90 minute seminars for each module each week. The seminar discussions were a step up from undergraduate level but not as bad as I thought they would be.

I knew the reading load was going to be a huge step up from undergraduate but nothing could prepare me for the amount of reading I had to do each week. Across my two modules, I was easily reading over 1000 pages a week – and that is with me not completing all of the reading provided for us. As an undergraduate, I read every single book I was assigned. At MA level, I had to pick and choose what I had time to read and prioritise my reading. A notable example was the week we read House of Leaves. It was the week of my birthday, I had an assignment due, plus other reading for uni so I did not read this book; however, I watched as many reviews of the book as I could and analysed the secondary reading thoroughly so I could still contribute to the seminar. At first I really beat myself up for not completing the reading but over time I realised my writing was more important and if I can provide relevant theory in a seminar on a book I haven’t read, that is more important than stress reading a book and not understanding it.

I will admit, I cried after I left my postmodernism seminar in semester one. I entered my Masters (and also exited it with) a massive case of impostor’s syndrome. People were using words I didn’t understand, theories I was not familiar with and talking about books I had not read. I transitioned from English literature to American literature during my MA and did not take into account how little I actually know about American history, politics and popular culture. I wished I had done more background research and I convinced myself the university accepted my application by mistake. Thankfully I entered my seminar the next week feeling a lot more confident and my confidence grew as the semester continued.

As there are few contact hours during an English Literature MA, I did not know my classmates and it made me feel uncomfortable not knowing people’s names and instantly I assumed they all thought I was stupid. By the second or third week, I talked to people outside of my seminar and was open about how difficult I was finding this module – and everyone I talked to said the same thing! It turned out all of us were suffering in silence worrying what everyone else thought of us and found the module difficult. We all created a group chat so we could socialise and also talk through our MA worries. I cannot stress the importance of talking to your coursemates because they made my Masters experience so amazing. A lot of people I met in semester one were in my classes in semester two and knowing we all found this experience difficult and we were all here to support each other made the whole experience less isolating.

Although I found semester one challenging, each week became easier as I figured out how to manage reading, researching and writing for my assignments. I found semester two a much more enjoyable experience because I felt more comfortable in my new teaching environment and I could manage the work load as long as I didn’t pressure myself to be perfect. During semester two I took a work placement module and my placement was external. This meant I had less reading each week and I could have a breather from the university environment. Personally I would recommend doing a work placement – especially if it is outside of the university – as it helped me build more connections in the city I live in. Overall, after surviving semester one I felt like I could manage my time better and felt more confident entering semester two.

Although I did find second semester easier to manage, it wasn’t that simple for me. I suffered from stress-induced insomnia during my assignment period and it continued throughout the semester. By Easter break, I was lucky if I was sleeping 2-3 hours a night and I could not function. The final straw was when I almost fainted at my work placement and my work day was cut short. I was humiliated but it was a sign I needed to look after my health before my deadline period. I went to my GP and the university’s wellbeing team and my health declined as the weeks progressed. Before long I was worried about my writing ability and being able to meet my deadlines. The perfectionist in me felt like a failure for getting this ill and I questioned if I was strong enough to complete this degree. I was granted an extension, and then another extension because I couldn’t meet the first one, to complete my assignments. I felt undeserving but the English department were so understanding and supportive. In hindsight, I definitely needed those extensions but at the time I felt like I didn’t deserve them. It was difficult as my insomnia was still alive and well but these extensions granted me sick days so I could recover from burning out.

Receiving my marks for semester two was terrifying because I was so ill but I managed to perform really well which was a huge relief. It was the first time I proved to myself I can still achieve while being ill. During that period I also presented my first conference paper at my university’s postgraduate colloquium. It was a massive achievement but I was terrified because it was more work to add onto my already humongous deadline. I wrote a 4000 word paper in two days less than a week before I presented my paper and felt like a fraud because I knew everyone around me had worked on their papers for much longer than I had. Now, I am super proud of myself for managing to pull off that paper considering the stress I was under and how physically weak I was at that point.

As I had a two week extension, I had no time to have a break before starting my dissertation so had to dive straight into it. I was very fortunate that my idea did not change too much since I first submitted my proposal in February. I was still burnt out and attending wellbeing sessions. I was also lucky enough to present a paper at another conference and conduct an interview. My paper for this conference was part of a draft for my dissertation so it made my life a little bit easier because all of my research was linked. Whilst writing my dissertation I had to also find a job and a house which was incredibly stressful. At first it was okay to juggle but then I got a job. Working full-time (sometimes 45+ hour weeks), doing a full-time degree and trying to find a place to live was horrendous. I had no time to socialise or basically do anything except go to work or write my dissertation so it was incredibly difficult and draining. Again, my mental and physical health suffered massively. I stopped my wellbeing sessions and went to see my GP who was an incredible help. I was honest with my dissertation supervisor and emailed my department and they were all incredible understanding. I received an extension on my dissertation because there was no way I could submit my thesis whilst working and sorting out life admin. I cannot thank my university enough for being so understanding and helpful. I had a week off work the week my dissertation was due so I did not sleep and spent every conscious moment writing and packed up my belongings to move house when I should’ve been sleeping. I handed my dissertation in two weeks ago. I still haven’t recovered because I’ve had loads of massive tasks to deal with but it’s done. I am proud of what I have created but I am disappointed it isn’t as polished as I would like it to be. I am trying to not be too hard on myself because this degree has taking everything out of me and it is amazing I managed to write a 15,000 word piece whilst going through hell.

So that was my Masters experience in a nutshell. I have suffered with mental health problems since I was in college but my health really did suffer during this degree. However, I want to emphasise I made it and I have finished it and I am incredibly proud of myself. I want to stress if you feel like your health is suffering let your university know. I was convinced I wouldn’t be taken seriously but my department were prepared to move mountains for me to make sure I could complete my work and receive the grades I deserved.

Although it was an incredibly challenging experience, it was also a really rewarding one. I have made new friends and I have joined a great network of academics. Attending conferences and using twitter has allowed me to meet academics and feel less like a student and more like a contributor to the world of academia.

I was convinced my writing had somehow gotten worse since undergraduate but that is a lie. I don’t know my dissertation mark (wish me luck, everybody) but my grades have improved so obviously that means my writing has improved and so have my ideas. I have developed more original ideas and I have also grown in confidence in my ability to form academic arguments. I wrote an essay on postmodern cowboys because I like Westworld. I submitted an essay on walking in the city because I read one book on walking and thought it was cool. I wrote a dissertation on music memoirs because I love Patti Smith. During my undergraduate degree, I would not have had the confidence to say these ideas to academics. Some of my ideas are pretty niche (I’m looking at you cowboy essay and my dissertation) but I had to learn to trust myself and that has been rewarding. I entered my degree feeling like I meant nothing to the wider academic community outside of my university but now I feel like I can take the academic world by storm. I still suffer with impostor syndrome and I am still convinced my writing is terrible but I know my ideas are worth listening to.

My pieces of advice for anyone starting a Masters degree: talk to your coursemates and make a group chat so you can support each other, ask questions no matter how silly you feel because I bet you other people are thinking the exact same thing, make an academic twitter account, share ideas, and let your university know how you are feeling and don’t be afraid to say you need support.

Although I spoke at two conferences during my MA, do not pressure yourself to do extra-curricular stuff. Getting through your degree is a massive achievement so do not force yourself to do anything more because you need to dedicate a lot of time and do a lot of work to finish your Masters degree. Put yourself and your health first because your degree can wait.

I hope my experience does not put anyone off studying a Masters. Although it was difficult, I am still so happy I did it and I do not regret doing my MA at all. However, I do not want to sugar-coat the experience. It is so important to remember you are apart of a community and you are not in this alone.

I want to end this post with this piece of knowledge I gained during my studies. Your coursemates are from different universities, had different life experiences and have different interests. People are experts in different things. Just because you are not an expert in the same thing as your coursemates doesn’t make you less valid as an academic. Once I realised all of us are experts in different things, I felt less intimidated and more inspired when attending seminars. If you wrote your undergraduate dissertation on Allen Ginsberg, of course you are going to be an expert but don’t expect your colleagues to be. However if someone is an expert in Marxism it doesn’t mean you are a failure for not knowing much about Marxist theory. Realising the individualism in academia and you are not in competition with the people around you makes studying a much more positive experience.

I am uploading this unedited because I have spent the last year of my life editing and I deserve a break. If you are going into postgraduate study or hoping to in the future, I wish you the best of luck. You will learn a lot about yourself and you are the future of academia.

 

5 mini book reviews.

I’m back and I have some short book reviews for you! I had a really busy semester so I haven’t had time to update this blog. I have a few posts drafted though so hopefully I will be able to post those soon. In the mean time, I thought I would do some good, old-fashioned book reviews. I’ve read these books in the last couple of months and all of them have been five star reads and I think everyone should read them. If you haven’t picked any of these books up, I highly recommend you do soon!

My reviews are going to be short and pretty informal. I’m in the middle of writing my dissertation so I’m using this blog as a chatty outlet to talk about books I like.

  1. Division Street – Helen Mort.

Division Street by Helen Mort is a debut poetry collection named after a street in Sheffield. Mort’s poems are personal but also tell a cultural story. Sheffield and Grasmere – which sections of the collection are dedicated to – are places I am familiar with and the collection made me feel very at home talking about landscapes and places I have visited. Although I felt connected to a lot of the poems, I could tell Mort was speaking to herself in many pieces.

Mort touches on the Battle of Orgreave in 1984 and the effect it had on South Yorkshire – ‘Scab’ is one of the the most powerful poems in the collection. ‘Scab’ is definitely the standout poem of the collection as Mort merges the personal with the political. This poem has stayed with me the longest, especially as the Battle of Orgreave is very present in not only art but general life in South Yorkshire. Overall, Division Street is brilliant and quite a few of the poems have stayed with me.

2. Elmet by Fiona Mozley.

Fiona Mozley is from York – my university city – and works in one of my favourite bookshops so of course I had to read her book. I adored Elmet. The pacing of the novel was interesting as it is fairly slow but quickly unravels towards the end. I read this towards the end of my deadline period so the slow pace was perfect to digest. Again, like Helen Mort’s piece, Mozley’s Northern landscape is very familiar to me, which made me feel very at home. Everything about the depiction of rural settings is poetic.

The story is about a boy called Daniel and he is looking for someone. We meet him in the present day at the beginning of each part of the novel and then flashback to the events leading up to where we meet him when we first open the book. When Daniel was younger, he lived with his sister Cathy and his father. Sometimes his father would disappear for days and Daniel would be unsure where his father went. The family move around the Northern landscape and one day some local men circle the family and their land. Although the depiction of landscape is what made this novel for me, Mozley’s writing of family life is brilliant and unsettling.

3. Death in Spring by Merce Rodoreda.

I think we all know I love translated fiction. Once I found out Penguin were releasing a European Writers series, I knew I had to get my hands on the books. After reading Death in Spring, I will definitely be picking the others up soon.

Death in Spring is easily one of my favourite books of this year. I love translated European fiction and it was great to return to it after so long. Death in Spring follows a boy in an isolated village in the Catalan mountains and the village holds strange and unnerving customs. The society he lives in is oppressive and the writing style certainly captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of the village. The story is filled with magical realism and, like Mozley, Rodorera writes rich descriptions of nature. As the story progressed, it became more and more creepy with so many twists and turns. Seriously, this is my Madonna in a Fur Coat of 2018.

4. Poetry Conspiracy Radicalism in Sheffield.

I want to thank Dr. Adam James Smith for being kind enough to send me this book. It’s beautiful put together book with amazing patterns and designs. A great introduction to eighteenth century Sheffield poetry.

This book is divided into four sections. First, a selection of poems, then commentaries on those poems, thirdly an essay on the poetry in the volume and finally an appendices. Although you can read this collection in any order, the book recommends reading the sections in order. The poetry selected in this volume is brilliant and all made me think about radicalism during the eighteenth century and reflect on my eighteenth-century module I completed in my second year of university. Reading the volume in order allowed me to build more and more layers of context onto the poems that start the book, which made the whole experience really enriching. This has definitely made me want to look further into poetry based in Sheffield throughout the centuries.

If anyone is interested in eighteenth-century studies, I highly recommend this collection!

5. The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne.

I love Joe Dunthorne’s work; Submarine is one of my favourite books. The Adulterants has the same charm as Submarine and Dunthorne’s humour is brilliant. A lot happens in this short novella yet Dunthorne holds it so well. It is described as a 30-something coming-of-age novel and I completely agree.

The novel is about a guy called Ray. He is in his 30s and his wife is pregnant. He hates his friends, his career is unsuccessful and he is struggling to buy a house for his new family. Ray is incredibly immature and he is a bit like Oliver Tate if Tate was an adult. I really do not want to give too much away. It is just incredibly funny and I still think about this novella even though I read it in February. The plot goes down a path I would have never predicted and this novella further proves Dunthorne’s genius.

 

Let me know if you have read any of these books or which of these books you hope to pick up soon. If anyone has any reading suggestions similar to Death in Spring, please do let me know!

I am currently slowly reading The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari and both and giving me an existential crisis.

Rydal Cave: a poem.

The silence surrounds the hilltops,

Disrupted by trickling water

below.

 

Footsteps sound like a marching army

Trudging through muddy trenches

To War.

The footsteps are mine and mine alone.

 

A drop falls from the mouth

As a tear drops from the eye.

Crafted by man, both flesh and rock

Merge from the same God creating

Sublime Beauty.

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My top books of 2017.

Looking back on 2017, I read a lot of great books. Making the list of my favourite books from last year was incredibly difficult but I present you a collection of books that really left an impression on me in 2017.

Before I start my countdown, I want to list some honourable mentions. Here’s some great books I read this year: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Ten Years in an Open Neck Shirt by John Cooper Clarke, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg, The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud’s Complete Works, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

Anyway, onto the countdown:

6. Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre.

I’ve been meaning to read Sartre’s fiction for years and my friend Rachel loved this book so I decided to pick it up.

Nausea follows a historian called Antoine Roquentin who becomes immersed in existential thought. After completing his paper, he struggles to find meaning in writing anything else and it basically all spirals from there.

This book is essentially an extension of Sartre’s existential philosophy and I have not stopped thinking about it, especially after finishing my undergraduate dissertation.

5. Autumn and Winter – Ali Smith.

Okay, I’m cheating. I’ve paired two books together here. I read both Autumn and Winter by Ali Smith this year – both are part of her seasonal quartet but you do not have to read the books in order as they are only loosely linked.

Autumn centres around Elisabeth Demand and a man called Daniel. Daniel is in a coma and is visited by Elisabeth but after Elisabeth finishes her visits she has to navigate herself around a post-brexit world. The novel is eerie as there are no explicit references to the EU referendum but there are subtle details sprinkled across the book which suggest the divide in the UK post-voting.

In Winter, Smith tackles the idea of Post-Truth. The basic plot holds some very Ali Smith tropes – a family in Cornwell spend Christmas together in a large house and a stranger attends the dinner. I do not want to give too much away about the story but Smith swaps from different character’s perspectives and they all weave together very neatly.

I read Autumn at the beginning of the year and Winter in December of 2017. I think Winter is my favourite because some of the passages were just haunting. Smith’s references to news are more obvious in Winter and I found that very unnerving.

Anyway, read both of these books.

4. Chavs – Owen Jones.

I reviewed this on my blog a few months ago so I won’t go into too much detail. Jones’ book takes a look at the demonization of the working-class in the UK. This book was published in 2011 when the UK claimed to be a “classless” society yet every strives to be middle class. Chavs challenges this idea and argues the class system is more present than ever. Living in the UK in 2017 the class-divide is so obvious no one can really argue against the existence of class anymore. Some of the arguments in the book are products of UK politics in 2011 but some chapters are more relevant than ever.

3. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

If you have not read Crime and Punishment yet, you are in for a treat. Everyone kinda knows the plot of this book whether they have read it or not but I cannot recommend it enough because it is so dramatic. By page 80 something major happens and basically it is just absolutely brilliant and I am obsessed with Raskolnikov. It is a wild ride and that’s all I’ll say.

2. Madonna in a Fur Coat – Sabahattin Ali.

I recommend this book to everyone when I am in a bookshop.

A twentieth-century Turkish novel that has just been translated into English, Madonna in a Fur Coat begins with a man and his co-worker. It is essentially a story within a story as it unfolds Berlin’s 1920s art world. It is about a painting and how art can change you.

This book is only short but the prose is absolutely poetic. The 1920s, art, and Berlin – what’s not to love?

1. High-Rise – J. G. Ballard.

I cannot stop thinking about this book. This book was so unsettling and addictive to read.

The high rise is a dystopian world where the higher up the high rise you live, the more privileged you are. A class-war erupts as the people at the bottom of the high rise demand the same treatment as those at the top. The result is absolute chaos.

I really enjoyed analysing this because there’s so many layers that can be applied to Ballard’s work. Of course there’s Marxist theory, but there’s also Freudian readings of the book and theory of space and architecture.

Honestly, I think High-Rise has to be my book of the year – it’s brilliant.

So overall I had a good reading year! I’m excited to see what my reading year looks like in 2018. I’m currently reading Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me In The Bathroom and it’s already a five star read which is a good sign.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

A year in review: bookish reflections and 2018 reading goals.

As we sit in limbo between Christmas and New Year, I have decided to use this time to reflect on my year in books. According to goodreads, I have read 93 books and over 27000 pages. I feel like that is quite a lot considering I have had a very busy year.

At the beginning of this year I made some bookish goals I wanted to complete; now that the year draws to a close, I thought it is now time to see if I completed them.

My first goal was to read three Shakespeare plays. I am just putting it out there I didn’t even try to attempt this goal. One day I will return to Shakey’s words but it is not going to be any time in the near future.

My second goal was to read five new plays and I actually completed this goal! I read: Waiting for Godot, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and The Three Theban Plays. I completed this goal quite early on in the year and then didn’t read any plays after March which was quite bad. Hopefully I will get into the habit of reading plays more regularly.  Reading more plays also completed my goal of reading more ancient classics. Although I would’ve liked to have read more ancient literature, I still read more than what I had in 2016.

In my blog post I also said I would read a Dickens novel and read Les Miserables in 2017. When typing the post I knew I would not complete these goals and I was correct – I did not complete these goals. I am one step closer to reading these books though. I downloaded Oliver Twist on ebook and I found a copy of Les Mis in the charity shop so now I am more likely to read them. However, I can confirm 2018 will not be the year of Dickens and Hugo.

Probably the most important goal on my blog post was the ‘read 2/3 of the books I own but have not read’ task. I organised my goodreads and made a folder for all the books I own and have not read yet, I cleared my bookshelves and put my unread ones on one shelf, and I change the orders of my books on my shelves so they are always fresh and new. I have done both very well and quite badly with this task. I have read a lot of my owned books; however, I have managed to buy quite a few books in 2017. I have managed to read 95% of my new books (MA life means my new books pile is a bit larger than usual because I have not had time to read the books I got for my birthday but at least I don’t buy as many books now because I have no time to read for pleasure) and I have managed to tackle quite a lot of books that have been sat gathering dust on my shelf for the last couple of years. I want to continue this goal into the new year because I think I can accomplish it.

Upon reflection, I managed to meet a couple of my goals I made at the beginning of the year. I managed to achieve a lot of things such as reading lots of poetry and reading more non-fiction. I used my university library more for pleasure reads and I will continue to use libraries more in 2018.

Now that I have signed off the goals for 2017, it is time to look forward to 2018. Here are my reading resolutions:

1. Read my ‘tbr’ shelf.

I am carrying this goal into the new year. I really want to have a 0 ‘to be read’ shelf either in the year 2018 or 2019. Thankfully my unread books do fit on one shelf on my bookcase which makes the task less intimidating but I would really like to read everything on my bookcase.

2. Read some genre fiction.

I read a lot of classics and literary fiction. Until this year I thought I would not be a big fan of genre fiction but hearing some of my friends talk about sci-fi (*cough* Jess *cough*) and fantasy has made me want to explore the genres. I would really like to read one sci-fi novel, one fantasy, and one horror novel this year.

3. Tick off two books from my reading list in my journal.

Every year I like to write down a list of books I would like to read in the upcoming year. Last year I did not do this because I had a lot of reading goals and I really wanted to focus on reducing my to be read shelf. However, I have decided 2018 is the year I will tick off some books I have wanted to read for years.

Here’s the list of books I would like to get to this year:

  • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  • 2666 – Roberto Bolano
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
  • Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Complete Cosmicomics – Italo Calvino
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  • The Book of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa

These books have managed to stay on my wishlist through all of my reading phases so 2018 is the year to start reading them.

4. Read more American Literature.

During my MA I have transitioned from reading English Literature to reading American Literature. I feel quite well-read in English Literature and have read a lot of texts spanning the centuries of British culture, thanks to my BA modules, but I feel like I have a gap in my knowledge when it comes to American literature and culture. I know a lot about certain time periods and have read a lot from certain literary groups, but I want to have a broader knowledge of American literature. As I am specialising in twentieth and twenty-first century American literature, I want to read some key texts so I can understand the references the authors I read make. I want to read at least one pre-1900 text, a Toni Morrison novel, and a Steinbeck novel. I need to make a list of work I would like to read. If any one has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Anyway, those are my goals for the new year. I think I can achieve these goals but I do think a couple of them will be carried into 2019.

In January I will post my top books of 2017. I have a list drafted but I am waiting because if I finish the book I am currently reading, it will make the list. I’m not sure if I will finish it before January 1st but fingers crossed!

If you have any reading goals planned for next year, I would love to hear them!

Books I have no time to read.

A little life update: I have moved to a different city, I have moved to a new university, and I am now doing a Masters degree. The only way to describe the step-up to Masters level is by saying it is like getting hit by a bus and then multiple buses and a train drive over you and then a plane lands on you. It’s a massive jump.

I did not bring many pleasure reading books to university with me because I knew I would have no time. A part of me secretly hoped I could slowly read a chapter a night of a book for pleasure and get through my little pile. That is not going to happen.

I brought five books to university with me that I hoped to read at some point. They are staring at me on my shelf and I know I cannot read them but I am excited about these books so I’m going to talk about them here.

 

1. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison.


Probably the book I am most excited for. Invisible Man is an existential novel about an unnamed black man and his battle with being invisible in society due to the colour of his skin.

The story follows the narrator through his life as he enters different movements such as the jazz age and the Black Power movement.

If I had the time, I would pick this up right now. I feel like this book is going to be an instant favourite of mine.

2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak.


I bought this in a bookshop lock-in because these editions are so beautiful. This is the last Russian classic I have unread on my shelf and I really want to get to it soon.

Set alongside the backdrop of the Russian revolution, Yuri Zhivago is a physician and poet and wrestles with the cruel experience of the new world order and the changes it brings to his life.

Doctor Zhivago was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988. From what I have heard it is going to be a complicated read and I will have to dedicate a lot of time to it.

3. The Age of Reason – Jean-Paul Sartre.


I read Nausea at the beginning of this year and it was brilliant. The Age of Reason is an existential novel following a Parisian philosophy teacher through the cafes and bars of Montparnasse over two days in the summer of 1938.

Sartre deals with the concept of freedom as the ultimate aim of human existence in this novel .  I love existential literature and cannot wait to pick up another Sartre book.

4. Compass – Mathias Enard.


Fitzcarraldo Editions is an independent publisher of translated contemporary fiction and essays. I love the simplicity of the covers – blue for fiction and white for nonfiction. Compass was shortlisted for the International Man Booker Prize in 2017.

Compass is about Franz Ritter, who is an insomniac musicologist, and one night he takes to his sickbed and drifts in and out of dreams and memories. He thinks about his fascination with the Middle East and, to quote the plot synopsis, his mind is occupied with “various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers”.

The novel appears to deal with dense and philosophical material and is told in a stream-of-consciousness narrative. I have a feeling it is going to be a difficult read.

5. Go – John Clellon Holmes.


Go is described as the first novel to depict the Beat Generation. I really do not have much to say about this. Think of anything written by the Beat Generation and it is probably the plot of this book.

I read Allen Ginsberg’s lectures earlier this year and he mentioned John Clellon Holmes’ influence on the literary movement so I’ve had to pick it up.

I have not read these books yet so I cannot form an opinion but I cannot wait to read them. All the books I have left on my to-be-read shelf are quite dense reads (well done, Amy) so I understand they are books I cannot just pick up and read passively.

If you have read any of these books, I would love to know your opinions!

This is just a quick book haul post. Hopefully when I am no longer drowning in uni reading and essays I can write more discussion posts. I really enjoyed writing my Westworld blog post and want to continue that series of blog posts. I have a few drafts analysing some of my favourite films I cannot wait to post. Stay tuned.