Balancing the Books – September 2021

September, that most wonderful time of year for parents (well this parent) for it heralds the return of school for children in England. It means six hours without being repeatedly asked for something to eat. Or when dinner is. Or what’s for tea. No more remote wars because one of them hid one from the others about two years ago and it’s still lost somewhere.

Last month I struggled a bit with reading. I started August having read a cracking book (Piranesi) but then couldn’t finish anything, despite starting two or three books. Then just as the month was winding up the reading mojo seemed to reappear and I managed to see a few books through to the last page.

I decided to challenge myself for September. I wanted to see if I could read a book a day. Nope, I’ve no idea why either. When I mentioned this on Twitter it was met with a mixture of responses from good luck, read short books, to why do I want to race through books, it’s better to savour them. Now, I’m all for not making people feel bad about how many books they get through. Reading isn’t a competative sport. There’s no correct number of how many books someone should or shouldn’t be reading. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Some people have more time to read than others. Some purely read and don’t watch TV. Some find respite and comfort in books from health issues. Some, like me, work full time and have other responsibilities so have limited reading time. Some read fast and some read slow. There will always be people who comment about how many books someone else manages to read. But does it really matter? My thinking is no. Don’t feel bad because you’ve read one chapter. Don’t feel bad because you’ve read 45 books this month. As long as you enjoy what you read that’s really all that matters, be it a book, a page, a newspaper, magazine, comic or even just one of those annoying leaflets that drop through the door.

I digress. So why 30 books in September? To see if I could. I mean, I knew I wouldn’t be able to, but I was interested to see just how many I could read. Would there be a pattern to my reading? Would I be fed up and binge watch The Brokenwood Mysteries and Miss Marple? I wouldn’t know unless I tried. I changed my own made up rules and allowed myself to count any half read books I finished and books of any length. If it had an ISBN or was bound, then it counted.

So here’s what arrived onto the bookshelves this month:

  1. Time: 10 Things You Should Know by Colin Stuart.
  2. Dinosaurs: 10 Things You Should Know by Dr Dean Lomax. Both of these were sent for review by Seven Dials.
  3. Frolic by Matthew Franklin Sias, sent for review by Vulpine.
  4. Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian, sent for review by Harvill Secker.
  5. The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukaka, translated by, sent for review by Picador.
  6. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie, kindly sent to me by
  7. These Names Make Clues by E C R Lorac, sent for review by the British Library.
  8. The Anomaly by Herver le Tellier, sent for review by  Michael Joseph.
  9. Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner, sent for review by Hodder & Stoughton.
  10. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a charity shop find.
  11. Sally on the Rocks by Winifred Boggs.
  12. The Love Child by Edith Oliver, this and the previous book sent for review by the British Library.
  13. A Taste for Poison by Neil Bradbury, sent for review by Harper Collins.
  14. A Three Dog Problem by S J Bennett, sent for review by Zaffre.
  15. The Spirit Engineer by A J West, sent for review by Duckworth Books.
  16. The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield, sent for review by Quercus.
  17. Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass, sent for review by Viper Books.
  18. The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson, sent for review by Simon & Schuster.
  19. Punishment of a Hunter by Yulia Yaklova, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, sent for review by Pushkin Vertigo.

As for what I read

  1. A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin.
  2. Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield.
  3. The Night is Darkening Round Me by Emily Bronte.
  4. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
  5. Deep Waters edited by Martin Edwards.
  6. Crooked House by Agatha Christie.
  7. Time: 10 Things You Should Know by Colin Stuart.
  8. The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.
  9. Dinosaurs: 10 Things You Should Know by Dr Dean Lomax.
  10. Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde.
  11. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie.
  12. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.
  13. These Names Make Clues by E C R Lorac.
  14. Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano.
  15. Lady Susan by Jane Austen.
  16. Settling Scores, edited by Martin Edwards.
  17. A Taste for Poison by Neil Bradbury.
  18. The Harpy by Megan Hunter.
  19. Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan.

It finally happened! A balance between incoming and outgoing. I may need a little lie down. Unchartered territory this. It might call for a book purchase or two in celebration.

So definitely not 30 books read. I never expected I would. But what did I learn? I already knew that I was a mood reader. Going with that mood meant I knew what kind of book I wanted to read next. I spent less time prevaricating, which stopped the reader’s block kicking in and also gave me more reading time. Short stories are my friend. From short books of two of three (see The Silk Stockings or The Yellow Wall-Paper) to collections of golden age crime, I can dip in and out of these whilst reading another book, a chapter or two equating with a story or two. That if I want to binge watch a bit of New Zealand small town crime drama then I will, with pleasure. That giving myself the freedom to choose a mixture of own books and review books is also the key and to not feel guilty for choosing one over the other. The main thing though was I had fun.

I hope you enjoyed whatever you read this month, be it one page or 1,000. If you are reading for pleasure, then it’s the pleasure aspect that’s the key.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Well done, you, Janet! And I’m so glad to hear you had fun.

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  2. Congratulations! I’m seriously impressed you’ve read as many as you received. I’m tempted to read a few short books and try and do the same!

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  3. MarinaSofia says:

    When you first mentioned wanting to read a book a day, I’ll be honest and say that I worried for you. I thought you’d be putting yourself under too much pressure. But I’m glad it worked out well in the end and that you learnt more about your preferences. I too am learning to allow myself to be guided more by mood (especially since I also have to read books professionally, i.e. with a view towards translation potential).

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  4. Congratulations! I’m very keen to read that Sarah Crossan

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  5. BookerTalk says:

    I think I would have greeted your announced plan with some jaw dropping. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in one day let alone a book a day for a whole month….. I’m impressed by what you achieved, but more importantly that you enjoyed the experience.

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  6. Hurrah! Well done – most impressed.And as for September – it’s not so popular for those of us who work in schools….

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  7. heavenali says:

    Well I am very impressed by what you did manage.and for that enviable balance. I think you’re right about enjoyment of reading being the most important thing. There was a time when I read more than I do now. Due to my autoimmune disease, I struggle with fatigue (even when not at work, working makes it worse) so that really can impact my reading. These days I accept, that I just do what I can. September ended up better than expected, October is likely to be more tricky.

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  8. Totally agree Janet – reading should be a joy, whatever and how much you read. So impressed that you balanced the books, that’s amazing! But best of all that you had fun doing it.

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