One of my goals for 2016 was to join a book club. This decision was driven by two factors:
1. My ongoing desire to read more (also a goal for the year)
2. I read The Happiness Project at the beginning of the year and listed reading as one of my passions, yet aside from when I was travelling, I rarely read
I decided to join the #travelbookclub – a monthly Twitter-based book club run by travel blogger Emily-Ann aka The Grown Up Gap Year. For me, this was the ideal solution: an online, monthly reunion with like-minded souls, that has taken me around the world from the comfort of my home (or public transport when I’m commuting and can’t put the book down!).
WARNING: Joining this book club may cause you to want to travel to places you’ve never considered visiting so that you can recreate the amazing and unique adventures you’ve read about each month, thus simultaneously expanding your bucket list and your bookshelf.
So here is my year in books:
The Happiness Project: An uplifting book, even if you don’t feel particularly down. This book is all about reconnecting with yourself, and your own happiness. As adults, we spend so much time doing things for other people, or what is expected of us, sometimes we lose who we are – The Happiness Project is the perfect remedy to this.
Love With a Chance of Drowning: This isn’t just any love story. This is a love story that overcomes fear, distance, and impossible dreams. A book for the adventurous and romantic at heart. And did I mention, DeRoche is hilarious! I can’t remember the last time a book made me cry tears of laughter.
Late Fragments: This book is not light reading. It’s about a relatively young woman who finds out she has advanced bowel cancer and that she is dying. For some people, it’ll be all too real, but for me, it was an important read, and now sits on my ‘Favourite books’ shelf.
Call the Midwife: You may have heard of the popular tv show? Well, this is where it all began. I did find it a little squeamish at times, but, this book is a great read. It’s so interesting to think how much has changed and it’s great if you go to the London docklands after reading it because you can imagine her cycling along the canal.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul: My first #travelbookclub and what a great read. Set in Afghanistan, based on personal (although modified) experience. I’m not sure whether it’s the same now (or possibly worse), but it highlighted what it’s like to move to a new country during a war, where the culture is totally different, and the kinds of challenges you might face as an expat trying to build a new life.
Half of a Yellow Sun: Another #travelbookclub and again, another great read. This book really educated me on the civil war in Nigeria, which I must admit, I knew very little about. The book is gripping from start to finish and highlights how life changes when your country becomes embroiled in war, what the consequences of this can be, and the permanent scars it can leave behind.
The Examined Life: A therapy book at its best. An interesting read of case studies that explore how we lose ourselves as we get older, and how to reconnect. It’s not quite the same as The Happiness Project because this is therapy based.
The Road Less Travelled: Another therapy book, and a relatively famous one at that. My only slight criticism is that the book came across as outdated in parts, but this, I believe, is largely because it was written in the 1950’s. Nonetheless, it’s an important read if you have an interest in therapy, self help and, to some extent, spiritual growth.
Geisha, A Life: If you like ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, you might be interested to read this book. Apparently ‘Memoirs…’ is based on the Geisha at the centre of this book (Mineko Iwasaki), which highlights a time (and to some extent a culture) gone by and what it was really like to be one of the last, great, Geisha of Japan.
June: The first blip in my ‘Read at least one book a month for a year’ challenge 😒
The Vagrants: One of the most haunting books I read last year, and possibly ever. I remember feeling queasy reading parts of this book on my way to work. At its heart, this book provides an insight into (hopefully) a time gone by in rural China, but ultimately you can’t be too sure. The book cleverly weaves many characters and their lives together, and you never know what’s coming next.
There’s an Octopus in my Ouzo: As earlier stated, the #travelbookclub has a tendency to make me want to pack up and explore somewhere (EVERYWHERE) new. Well, I saw Greece in a whole new light after reading this book, and I desperately wanted to go and explore island life for myself. This is an interesting read about leaving a life behind in order to live a simpler existence. Parts of the back story are omitted so you don’t get the full picture, but the snippets that are in the book lead you to draw your own conclusions as to why she ended up starting again.
Paper Towns: I think there’s a lot to be said for young adult fiction. I really enjoyed ‘The Fault in our Stars’ last year, so I couldn’t wait to read another John Green book and it didn’t disappoint at all. Perhaps a hallmark of Green, the characters were completely gripping, intriguing and interesting. And, actually, this book massively resonated with me regarding the realisation that perhaps part of the joy in leaving is returning? This was the first time in a long time that I stayed up all night reading because I had to know what happened before I fell asleep.
Moods of Future Joys: Possibly one of my favourite #travelbookclub reads and Twitter chats so far. I’m not sure if that’s because of the amazing adventure within the book, or the witty and likeable author, Alistair Humphreys. Either way, it’s a great read. The timing and setting of this book is important, because I suspect the early adventures and beginnings of the book would not be possible today.
Girl on the Train: Everyone was talking about it, so I jumped on the bandwagon and I wasn’t disappointed. I heard mixed reviews from friends, one said it was gripping, enthralling, another said the ending was predictable. Personally, I couldn’t put it down. I’d definitely recommend reading the book – I haven’t seen the film and I’m not sure I ever will.
The Outrun: If there is a category of book that is ‘self-help-mixed-with-adventure-that-leads-to-personal-and-spiritual-growth’ (I’m thinking Wild or Eat Pray Love), this book definitely falls within that category. A great read, with interesting insight into the Isles of Scotland, again, this book made me want to try island life, if only for a while.
Down Under: Travels from a Sunburned Country: My first ever Bill Bryson book and I found it pretty funny! I also learnt a lot about Australia that I just never knew and found fascinating! And I quite liked his style of writing, although at times, I did question why he chose to include some things. A great read for anyone that is planning a trip to Australia, or is looking for more insight generally. The book is also interesting because it isn’t based on one trip, but a series of different trips to Australia.
So this is my 2016 in books. Do you have any book recommendations?
If you’re interested in joining the next #travelbookclub, we’re meeting on Wednesday 5 April, when we’ll be discussing “We’ll always have Paris” by Emma Beddington.