Tag Archives: 2016

Reading Roundup


I’ve rather fallen behind in my monthly reading book review posts. So here’s a quick update.

I’m tracking my reading a little closer over on GoodReads. Which is where I have lifted most of the stuff below. For the other month’s you’ll just have to make do with a simple list and a yes/no/maybe answer to the question ‘Would I recommend?’:

November Reading:

  • Mean Free Path by Ben Lerner. Maybe.
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R R Martin. Yes to fans.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir. Yes.
  • The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Maybe but not before his more important works.

December Reading

  • The Hustler by Walter Tevis. Yes but only after seeing the movie.
  • Classics: A Very Short Introduction by Mary Beard and John Henderson. Yes, highly.
  • Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction by Kelly Catriona. No.
  • Marquis de Sade: A Very Short Introduction by John Phillips. Maybe, if you are interested in hearing the rosiest possible case for the Marquis.
  • History: A Very Short Introduction by John H. Arnold. Yes.

January Reading

I got one big classic off my plate by finishing listening to the Big Read audiobook of (1) Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.

I also listened to Jezza Irons reading Eliot (who is the bestest) on the BBC, since he read several complete collections I can count the following books as read via my earholes:
(2) Prufrock and Other Observations
(3) Poems
(4) Four Quartets

For entertainment I read Peter Watts existentially challenging hard sci-fi novel (5) Blindsight which was fun and full of interesting non-fiction ideas, whereas (6) Geography: A Very Short Introduction – which is actual non-fiction – did not.

The only other proper classic I’ve got through this month was the rather uninteresting (7) Theogony/Works and Days by Hesiod, the far less interesting or fun coeval of Homer.

Further Reading

Since 2016 came and went with most of my reading goals incomplete. Other than reading a decent 99 books (well over my goal of 82), and though I would normally aim one higher for the following year I don’t feel that’s realistic.
2016 was an ideal year from a reading standpoint, and this year reading is going to have to take a back seat to writing goals so, although I will nominally be aiming for 100, I’ll be happy if I get 60ish.
I want to make sure I read more non-fiction, especially science. I’ve missed that from my reading over the last year or so. I’ll aim for twelve substantial non-fiction texts and see how many insubstantial ones I can fit in around that.
I’m also going to continue with my overview of the Classics with a focus on the British novel. I still have these books to go from my original list.

I also have a list of  books I started ages ago and never finished. I’d like to cross some of them off as well. They are:

The highest priority list I am working on is research for the novel I am working on. These include books that are stylistically similar to my novel, deal with similar themes, have historical information in them that I need, or which I think will be otherwise helpful to my thinking about the novel I am working on.

I’ve trimmed the list a little from last year, there were a few that just didn’t feel as necessary as they did when I first made this list and as with the other lists have knocked off those I finished in 2016. I’ve also added The Sacred Willow, another Xmas gift:

I also want to read the following Shakespeare works. Although I have seen or listened to performances of these nine plays, I haven’t actually read them. So for completion’s sake, I’m gonna do that this year. Then I have read the lot.



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America! 2016; or the Whales

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The author, with the smell of pulled-pork still on his breath, meets the second most famous pig after the muppet.

I have swanned back to civilisation from a lovely holiday with the in-laws to Orlando’s magic kingdoms: where Mickey Mouse is Führer, the happy blackfish dance, and everyday is Christmas but never winter. Which means the year of writing seriously begins yesterday. So I thought an update for the interested would be in order.

As well as putting about 1300 words to paper, I spent a chunk of yesterday setting up Twitter (@jonpill) and rather threadbare Linked In and Facebook pages because, you know, that’s what professional people do, I guess. It’ll need to do a bit of googling on what people actually use those for in terms of “raising one’s profile”.

More enjoyably I have moved all my ‘read in xyz’ lists, going back to mid-2010 over to my Good Reads profile, where I can now enjoy fiddling with the page count stats and spend hours trying to find the exact out of print penguin edition of Animal Farm that I have on my shelves. All of which feels far more worthwhile than other social media.

In terms of the actual writing I’ve started sketching out the second chapter of the current WIP and spent this morning plotting out the main structure of the novel. Which, inspired somewhat by a picture of J K Rowling’s planning for HP5 that went around the internet a couple of years ago, I have been doing in a spreadsheet.


A leaf from Rowling’s notebook.

My breakdown is in much broader strokes at the moment, and there are sections that require a lot of knitting between the columns.

My approach to planning this WIP is iterative. Gather all those sketched out notes into one spreadsheet and sort them into a semblance of order (easier said than done with something as non-linear as the WIP). Then it’s a matter of teasing out one sentence descriptions of each scene or sequence in each column. Then turning those sentences into short paragraphs. Adding in details that foreshadow the scene to earlier paragraphs and payoffs to later ones. One hopes there will be a critical mass reached at some point where I can start writing from the beginning, but likely the planning will still be ongoing until I write: ‘And they they all died horribly. FIN.’

There is also the business aspect of being freelance: before I start looking for magazines to pitch articles to I have an interview at the Job Centre tomorrow to get my Nation Insurance number which, having lived in Foreign so long, I do not have at the moment. From thence I need to talk to HMRC about sole trader registration and the NHS about not dying of tuberculosis like so many other writers, artists, badgers. I also had a moment of genuine pleasure at filling in the double entries for my purchase of a printer and toner cartridges into my ledger (a gift from the Lady Friend). Those three years of working in the financial sector are not to be wasted.

And until that starts to pay off I’ve been setting up my profile on a tutoring website, if you know anyone who needs help with their GCSE or A-Level Biology or Chemistry . . . you know who to send them to.

Until next time, that’s all folks.


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