January resolutions

It is coming to that time of year when the earnest declarations of New Year resolutions start to fade.  For most people it is the intention to eat and drink less and exercise more that hits the buffers but for the bookish it may be the desire to read more and spend less time looking at screens. So how?

The addicted smartphone user needs to switch off those news and facebook alerts and the box set  bingers to disengage from Netflix.  But there is still the question of what to read:

  1. Don’t read the back of the book – it will both give the plot away and tell you that some reviewer thought it was the best book ever
  2. Use reviewers like friends – only take advice from the most discerning who share your taste and be wary of hyperbole.
  3. Ask your local bookshop for advice (obviously)
  4. Stop reading a book you are not enjoying and start one you will – you wouldn’t carry on watching a dull TV programme would you?

There are some really good books just out in paperback – here are two contrasting ones: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave is based on the authors grandparents’ experience in World War II, one a teacher in London during the Blitz the other a soldier fighting overseas.  It is a powerful read with humour and a lightness of touch  you would expect from the author of The Other Hand.

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford has just won the Best First Novel Costa prize although he is an an established non-fiction writer.  Mr. Smith arrives on Manhattan Island in 1746 with a money order for £1000.  Is he who he says he is or is he a crook – and what does he intend to do with the money anyway?  Part historical novel, part literary thriller, he gives us a great sense of place and time and a really satisfying read.


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