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What I read in January

Last year I only read twelve books, and only two of those were fiction. On entering the new year I decided to change that. Like many, I want to read more. It's one place of pure escapism, no distractions, just tunnel vision with the words on the page and the worlds they create. I love it, and it's silly that my reading habits have slipped.

So I created a reading list from everyone's recommendations, tackling the problem I have of feeling so overwhelmed on choosing what to read next. From that plan, I've found some brilliant books. Feeling so unwell recently, these stories have sustained me. I haven't been to the theatre once this year, but I have read eight books. They've distracted me and at times they've dazzled me.

I've decided to start doing a monthly round-up post to share what I've read. So, here's the first - what I read in January:

Hotel World - Ali Smith 
Ali Smith is my favourite author, and on reading the first chapter of this it was like coming up for air. Her writing is playful, and this first chapter - ironically from the perspective of a girl recently deceased - felt so alive, I wanted to read it aloud, it felt like something to be performed. And then, I enjoyed reading it but I wasn't gripped - and I felt myself wanting the book to end, which took me by surprise. It dragged a little. But still a fun read!

Grief is the Thing with Feathers - Max Porter ★★
This was a really quick, but really powerful read. A mum has died and a house is left changed, with a grieving dad and his two sons. Each chapter (and they're short) is from the perspective of the dad, the boys, or - the crow, who has joined them to aid their grieving process (go with it). The writing is both poetic and everyday, and I quickly found myself on the brink of tears at how honest this felt. To read at the end that this is Max Porter's first novel felt ridiculous. A stunning piece of work.

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★★
Americanah tells a story of a young woman living in, leaving and returning to Nigeria - and also living in and leaving America. It explores race, identity, relationships and so much more. It's an easy read that I couldn't put down, with some really beautiful language.

Knots - R.D Laing 
For a short book (90 pages), this felt like a long read. On seeing that this book read like poetry and a play, with a focus on psychology, I thought this would be right up my street. It wasn't. It was repetitive to the point of feeling dull and hard to read without zoning out. I know repetitive is the point, the behaviours we repeat, the commonality of relationships and situations that feel unique but aren't, but it didn't feel revelatory or meaningful, just a struggle that didn't quite feel worth it.

The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson 
This was a lot of fun. Jon's writing is really relatable, you feel in safe hands with him - he's funny and curious, and it's so easy to get swept along with his excitement. In this case, it's his interest in madness - specifically, psychopaths. He looks at how we spot madness, but also why we seek it out - with some particularly interesting observations on the media.

The World According to Garp - John Irving 
This is my Dad's favourite book and now one of mine too. It's an incredible read that I absolutely loved - the best thing I've read in a long time. Following the life of writer Garp, this covers so much that I'm stumped as to how to sum it up, and so I won't try - I'll just say: read this book.

One Million Lovely Letters - Jodi Ann Bickley 
This really is such a lovely book. Jodi's true story is inspiring, uplifting, and written with such genuine warmth that gives a rare kind of reading experience - you feel comforted, and you want to comfort her too. In the midst of her struggles Jodi finds strength through kindness towards others, sending letters to people around the world with words of hope. What really made this book resonate with me was being able to relate to Jodi's situation with my own experience of long term illness. If you're in a similar boat then definitely check this out.

Find Me - Laura Van Den Berg 
I was intrigued by the concept of this. Though a familiar idea, the set-up of an illness pandemic held potential, with the protagonist being a young woman who is immune, with an interesting back story. Unfortunately while the concept was strong the execution wasn't, and the book seemed to meander and lose its way. There's some striking prose and interesting moments but overall this felt unsatisfying.

Find me on Good Reads, and let me know any recommendations you have here or on Twitter.

And finally, two reading related shout outs: