2015 in books

A shifting commute means my reading habits were all over the place in 2015, but there were some periods where I ploughed through some great ones – and others where I plodded through some tougher ones. IĀ got through 22 in total.

I spent four months at the start of the year reading Shantaram – amusing and fascinating, if a rather long read at over 900 pages. Still, there were some really touching scenes and many wonderfully written chapters – I’d recommend it if you don’t mind reading a lot. I then proceeded to finish reading Fleming’s Bond novels – which really tailed off into pulpable cliches. Towards the end of the year, I found We Need To Talk About Kevin to be one of the best pieces of fiction I have read. I also enjoyed The Martian – if you view it as the literary equivalent of a fun action movie – and made a start on Robert Ludlam’s Bourne series – though I won’t be rushing through them.

In non-fiction, I found Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm fascinating and enjoyed Victoria Coren-Mitchell’s autobiography. Simon Singh’s The Code Book, though, has to be my favourite factual book I read in 2015 – striking a great balance of technical detail and historical storytelling.

There were a few books I didn’t enjoy, but I won’t slag them off here – my Goodreads profile has my ratings and reviews if you want to see more. I’ve made a good dent on books in 2016 already, and look forward to a time when there might, finally, be more read than unread books on my shelf.

2015 book covers

A few of the books I read in 2015

2014 in books

Goodreads tells me that I read 35 books in 2014. It was nice, since my studies finished in November 2013, to rediscover reading for pleasure and offer my brain an alternative to podcasts on the daily commute to Swindon.

I ploughed and plodded through all sorts of stories – some better than others. Early in the year I bought a bargain boxset of James Bond books (which were initially quite good, but have descended into the silly extremes of the worst films), and have been interspersing my heavier reads with Fleming’s famous spy. I read the Hunger Games trilogy, made a start on the Dexter series, and enjoyed the first novel by Steven Camden. I also got round to reading Iain Banks, and I’m really glad I did. Some authors have just been on my ‘to-read’ list for too long.

I remain a fan of non-fiction, and love a good autobiography. Interesting people’s stories tend to be great to read, no matter what you think of the person, yet I even surprise myself when I see that my only two five-star books of the year were autobiographical works of Stephen Fry and Jeremy Vine. Still, they were indeed insightful reads, and well worth a look if you like that sort of thing. Elsewhere on the non-fiction shelves, I finally read some Bill Bryson (though the first of his I read, Notes From A Big Country, isn’t up to the standard of others) and was fascinated by the stories of Chris Hadfield in An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth. So much so, in fact, that a friend got him to sign a copy of his follow-up photo book for me. What a birthday present!

At the other end of the scale, I wasn’t really gripped with John Le Carre’s The Constant Gardener, and David Wong’s John Dies At The End was just too surreal and disjointed for my tastes. Still, they were both worth a try. Let nobody say my reading habits are too samey.

I figure at my current rate of reading I’ve got enough unread books on my bookshelf to last me two more years, yet I still like buying them, and there’s nothing like a browse through a charity shop to cheer the soul. So, my ‘to-read’ list grows faster than I can shrink it – but I’ll never be too well stocked to hear your suggestions. Something you liked, something you’d think I like, or just something fascinatingly different. You know what to do!

Cat stories and other books

Spotted in the British Library gift shop. I resisted.