• Kit Eyre

Reading Challenge 2021: Let the Jar Speak!

I've decided to take a different approach to my 2021 reading escapades. Yes, I'm still setting outlandish targets (130 books!) and I'm still marking books as complete over on Goodreads. The only difference is that I've put all the titles of novels and non-fiction books into a jar and I'm henceforth not in charge of choosing my own reading material.


It was an idea I came across in one of the groups I'm part of. I've subscribed to A Box of Stories (ABoS) to receive a crime book box every three months, and there's a complementary Facebook group for discussion. Someone there posted a picture of their TBR jar and I was hooked.


Allowing fate to choose which book I read next eliminates the wasted time deciding what I want to read next. The only concession to choice I've made is separating out fiction and non-fiction because I'm usually in the mood for one or the other. So, it's purple for fiction and pink for non-fiction.

One thing I learned during the exercise of writing all the titles from my Kindle TBR on to little scraps of paper is that I've downloaded a heck of a lot of books in the last few years! All of them have merit and I only buy a book after reading the first few pages to check whether I agree with the writing style. That means I've got literally hundreds of titles to read and yet . . . Well, if I see a good book I want to buy, I've still got enough sticky tabs left to add them to the jar.


Favourite Books of 2020


I managed to read 84 books out of the 100 I hoped to read in 2020. It was a tricky year, as we'll all agree, and sometimes reading just didn't come easily to me. Out of the 84 books I read, here are my top five non-fiction and my top five fiction.


Non-Fiction


1. Let's Do It by Jasper Rees - This biography of my idol Victoria Wood was just what 2020 needed to become half-bearable. I learned a lot of things about her life and work I wasn't aware of, and every chapter was a present.

2. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez - Eye-opening analysis of how women fall through the data gap, often with painful and avoidable consequences.

3. Ten Things About Writing by Joanne Harris - Harris is an amazing author (also an amazingly generous one with her Twitter words of wisdom), and these lists are designed to help aspiring writers understand their craft that little bit better.

4. Haven't You Heard? by Marie Le Conte - My fascination with politics didn't abate this year, and this book on political gossip and how it contributes to decision-making is equal parts remarkable and terrible.

5. Sex, Lies and Politics by Philip Cowley - Another political book based on our electoral choices and how they link to our world views. Ignore the pithy title, it's a much better book than that.


Fiction


1. Pas de Deux by MJ Duncan - As the first novel I read in 2020, this book has the distinction of being one that stuck with me throughout the year and I still think of the violinist and ballet star slowly falling in love.

2. The Silent House by Nell Pattison - Deafness comes to the fore in this mystery novel, and I'm looking forward to reading the second in the series now it's been released.

3. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen - It took me a while to brave this book after being a fan of the TV show it was adapted into, but I wasn't disappointed. I love Gerritsen's writing and I'm eager to read more in this series.

4. Spirited by Julie Cohen - You know when a book looks so, so promising and it exceeds everything you hoped for? That's Spirited, the story of a Victorian medium and a photographer with an unusual gift.

5. Stockholm Syndrome by Miranda MacLeod - I laughed so much at this spy caper! It was a nice distraction from the gloom of the summer months, and MacLeod is brilliant at finding the hilarious sweet spots.


It'll be interesting to see what my TBR jar throws at me this year. As Victoria would say, let's do it!

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