This Twitter challenge asks you to take your To Be Read pile (in my case, shelf and ebook collection) and read as much of it as possible in October. I started the month with 33 books on my physical To Read shelf, and 4 on my Kindle. (And lots in my to-obtain shelf on Goodreads and my samples folder on the Kindle, but we won’t talk about those.) I read 28 books during the month – all 4 from my Kindle, 22 from my physical to-read shelf, one from the circulating library I belong to, and one which came out during the month. I now have one book on my Kindle (newly bought, the thing I’m now reading there), and 25 books on my physical to-read shelf, because of course I didn’t stop buying books or going to the library or accepting books my wife has read and recommended. 6 of them are books which were there at the beginning of October.
I read 16 fiction books, including 10 graphic novels and manga volumes. I read 11 non-fiction books, including 1 graphic novel. Those covered neuroscience, history, religion, LGBTQ+ topics, poetry, politics, and nature writing. The oldest book was first published in 1911 (although I read a recent reprint), and the newest was published this year.
I also did not finish some books. I had two books about Derrida on my to-read shelf which I had brought home from the office mid-pandemic, but I accepted that I am not actually going to read them at this time and moved them. I started the Journal of Katherine Mansfield, but I found it too bitty to follow without first knowing much more about her, so I stopped.
I can’t pick a favourite, but here are highlights in four categories.
Most fun graphic novel: Ms Marvel Team-Up. Enjoyable superhero stories – I’m not a big fan of Spiderman but he wasn’t too annoying in this story (I see other reviewers on Goodreads called him out of character, and that’s also a plausible reading), and the Captain Marvel team-up was good.
New discovery in a novel: No Surrender. I made this category ‘new discovery’ because I couldn’t pick ‘best’ – I read a bunch of novels across very different genres and Gods Behaving Badly, Jane Unlimited, Sistersong, and Jacob’s Room are all excellent in very different ways. But I hadn’t read a Suffragette novel which was actually written during the campaign before, and it made for a very interesting read.
Best academic book: Kenyan, Christian, Queer. Again, this was a difficult pick, and Empire of Guns is a very close second. Kenyan, Christian, Queer has a lot to offer both in terms of new content and good methodology, though, and I recommend it to anyone interested in LGBTQ+ experience, understanding Kenyan culture, or questions about fieldwork in religious studies.
Best popular nonfiction book: On the Red Hill. I really enjoyed the way that nature writing, historical and cultural exploration, and personal stories came together in this book. It was especially interesting as a follow-up to A Little Gay History of Wales, which I read earlier this year, and Queer As Fact’s episode on Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – all tend to add nuance to the image of cities as accepting and rural life as rejecting LGBTQ+ people.
Overall, I managed to do a lot of reading in October. I read more graphic novels than usual and fewer academic books, partly because I was doing a lot of teaching and partly because my wife reads graphic novels and then lends them to me. I read books from about 12 sources – four different library systems, Amazon, big bookshops, little bookshops, secondhand bookshops, bookstalls at museums. I was well above my personal average (I usually read about 16 books a month). I don’t know whether I’ll keep it up next month, because November is NaNoWriMo – see next post! – but it was a pleasant challenge.