What up, peeps?
If you read our resolutions post then you’ll be familiar with the challenge I set myself this year (stolen from the brilliant author, Joe Hill). I aim to complete 52 books this year – this should be manageable if I am diligent and stick to four books per month or a book a week, though with longer books obviously this might be difficult so I would include some shorter books… HEY, I MAKE THE RULES!
So I thought I’d give you a little update on how I’m doing so far…
Book 1: Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
Of course it was going to be a Stephen King – I needed to start the year off right, didn’t I?
Gerald’s Game is a book I’ve had knocking about on my bookshelf for a while and never had much of a desire to pick up, which was part of the reason why I embarked on this challenge – I know a lot of people who seem to collect books and never get round to reading them. What’s the point in having books if you don’t read and enjoy them?!
This is the story of Jessie Burlingame, who is left sprawled and handcuffed to the bed after a game with her husband goes horribly wrong, and she needs to figure out how she’s going to survive all alone in their lakeside cabin with no chance of escape. But she soon finds out she’s not quite alone – traumatised by a childhood event, Jessie has suppressed memories which manifest as voices in her head, which make her situation even more unbearable. When she realises how she can escape, we get into classic King horror territory – it gets reeeeeal graphic, people!
Gerald’s Game combined some of the best elements of King’s style – gore, jumps, supernatural spooks, and blurry lines between dreams and reality.
Book 2: Dolly by Susan Hill
This was a book that we read for our book club and was chosen by one of the members after it was in turn recommended to her. I need to state outright that I did not enjoy this book.
Hill is famous for writing the book ‘The Woman In Black’, the stage adaptation of which has been popular for many years and gained even more popularity with the release of the film last year. Given that the title is ‘Dolly: A Ghost Story’ I was surprised and let down by the fact that there is, in fact, no ghost in this book; instead, just a creepy doll. The story is far too boring to go into in any detail – essentially, two cousins stay with their aunt for a few weeks, realise they are very different, and the way they treat this one little doll has repercussions in both of their lives.
I grew up sharing ghost stories with my cousins, and the ones that we told one another were creepier and better than this one. And you could argue that the atmosphere created by Hill’s descriptive prose is of some importance but even then it left me cold and bored. Oh well, at least it was short.
Book 3: After The First Death by Robert Cormier
Well, I don’t think this is cheating, but this is a book I read when I was 10 years old and couldn’t remember at all. All I could remember was that it involved a teenage driver on a yellow school bus, the strong sense of the bus being really stuffy and hot, and the word ‘DELTA’ which I didn’t understand. After a few Google searches, I found the book and was surprised that it was a Young Adult title. I used to regularly steal books from my school library throughout my whole school career, and so I would just pick up any damn thing and read it.
I can’t quite believe that I read THIS when I was 10. Cormier has always said that he did not write for teenagers but about them, and that shows in this book; he doesn’t hold back, and the events that take place can be stark and brutal at times. ‘After The First Death’ tells the story of three teenagers – Miro, Kate, and Ben – who are connected by a hostage situation. Miro is a young apprentice terrorist who, with his colleagues, takes a bus (driven by Kate) of school children hostage, and it is left to Ben, the son of an army General, to be the go-between to come to an understanding with them. I won’t spoil the book as it is one I would definitely recommend to anyone, young or old, but I would definitely warn you that it’s not uplifting and as I said before, he doesn’t hold back.
Book 4: Quiet by Susan Cain
The fourth and final book of January is also one that we’re doing in the Waterstone’s Croydon Book Club (which I run) and was chosen by one of our lovely regulars – although it has been on my list of books to read since I saw the author’s TED talk online last year, and you eagle-eyed readers might remember me mentioning it in one of my earlier posts. It’s really an exploration into how introverts fit into a society which seems to only really celebrate those with strong social skills and extroverted personalities.
Near the start of the book, Cain asks us to answer a very short questionnaire to determine whether we are more introverted or extroverted. I got 19 out of 20, making me introverted – anyone who knows me would probably not say that, but I totally feel that it’s right. The personality test she also refers to, the Myers-Briggs test, is available to take online on various websites, and I got the same result there, too. It’s an insightful read into how having ‘salesman’ personality is favoured by most prospective employers, and Cain explores the shift from a ‘Culture of Character’ to a ‘Culture of Personality’, with schools rewarding those who participate in group work confidently and singling out those who prefer individual work as if there’s something wrong with them. I know I have always preferred working alone, as I find that often there are people who talk for the sake of talking and consider being in a team as a chance to prove themselves in a competition, so I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with so much of what Cain writes about in this book. I can’t wait to see what my fellow book-club members have to say about it!
So that’s 4 down, 48 to go. I’ll be back to update in February!