The Saturday Saunter is being ditched this Saturday for a very special post about the books I’ve read this year. Normal service will be resumed next Saturday.
I made a list the other week of some of the books I’ve read this year. They broadly fall into four categories:
- Gender identity
- Crime novels
Having said that, the book I currently have on the go as I start this a couple of weeks ago is the autobiography of racing driver Jason Plato so not quite in any of those brackets.
Undoubtedly the best book I read this year is Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, a book I tried desperately not to rush as to take in every possible morsel of Kathleen Jamie goodness. This one covered a whole host of topics from climate change to archaeology, Tibet and indigenous cultures in northern Canada. I also heard her speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which was thoroughly, thoroughly braw. I’ve also heard Robert Macfarlane talk at Edinburgh before and his book, Underland, also came out this year and was another one to savour. It was a harder slog than some of his other books but worth it, going into caves, tunnels and all sorts of unlikely places to understand what goes on under the surface.
Another particular favourite this year was Constitution Street by Jemma Neville, a book about many things, including community spirit in Leith, political discourse and how people generally are in this society. I read it on a bus to Fife one day and it was superb. Its publishers, the mighty 404 Ink, put the eBook out for free on Election Day for the benefit of public debate and forethought on that particular day.
Football has been a major part of my reading as ever and I have read a right few memoirs, including those of Mark Walters, Peter Crouch, some dude who used to edit Match of the Day, and Tony Fitzpatrick, the chief executive of St. Mirren. Of these, Mark Walters and Tony Fitzpatrick particularly stick in mind, Mark Walters for his accounts of horrific racism while playing in Scotland and Tony Fitzpatrick for his poignant account of losing a child. The Match of the Day person, Paul Armstrong, did write about the Hibs going up to lift the Scottish Cup in 2016 which made his book more interesting to someone who couldn’t care less about English football. I also read the memoir of rugby player Gareth Thomas, who wrote movingly about being gay.
I have read quite a few books about LGBTQIA+ issues this year as part of a wider effort to educate myself about the world we live in. These have included quite a few books by gender non-conforming or non-binary people like Sissy by Jacob Tobia and Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness. Unusually two of the best books have both been graphic books, the memoir-folk history Sensible Footwear by Kate Charlesworth and the graphic novel Heartstopper by Alice Oseman featuring two teenage boys who fall in love.
Crime novels have featured fairly prominently in my fiction reading this year including the DCI Daley series by Denzil Meyrick, Death on a longship by Marsali Taylor and the latest by Stuart MacBride, Quintin Jardine and Ann Cleeves. Of these, my highlight was probably the last of the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I still haven’t seen Shetland on the telly so my perceptions of Jimmy Perez, Willow, Sandy and company are entirely from the books.
The rest of my list seem to be miscellaneous, the best kind of reading, with a zine about Tove Jansson (Love Tove and I have since bought a compilation of Tove Jansson’s letters) as well as the book by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, which I liked. On a completely different topic I read a history of grime music earlier in the year, Inner city pressure: the story of grime by Dan Hancox, which was interesting in a lot of ways, serving as quite a valuable social history of these times.
My reading this year has worked around studying though I have really rediscovered my love of reading, reading more at home as well as heading to and from the football. A lot of what I have read has been in print, a very decent percentage from the library, naturally enough since that’s what I do for a living. I have read less on a screen though that might partly be explained by the fact I have bought more physical books this year and a lot of my studying requires a screen of some kind.
At time of writing, my to-read pile is fairly considerable with a mixture of library books, books I’ve bought, print and digital. Plus there are a couple at work which I’ll need to bring home. Over the Christmas holidays, I will hopefully get the pile down and even more hopefully not get any books as gifts from anyone. I’ve come to realise that I don’t particularly like people giving me books since my tastes are quite particular and having more added to my pile is more of an overload and hassle. Recommendations are fine, actual books naw.
I don’t really know where my reading will take me in 2020. I get the feeling, though, that some of my to-read pile will be going with me into the new decade. I never read as much as I would like to. But what I have read this year has generally been pretty decent.