The First Book of the Year

As I mentioned before the festive season hit, I like to wind down at the end of the year and start the year afresh. This normally means finishing off any serious or bigger reads before reading some nice comfort reads over the festive period making sure I have finished whichever book I am reading before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I managed the latter, though Vere Hodgson’s diaries Few Eggs and No Oranges was a close call as its much denser than you think (thoughts to follow soon) and because, rather shockingly, I hardly had any time for reading over the Christmas period making me even more Scrooge like than normal – which I didn’t think was possible. Now 2014 has started but I am yet to start a book, because I always think the first book of the year is an important year.

Part of this is superstition, as I think if you love the book that you start first in a year you are going to have a very good year of reading. Part of this is because it feels like the start of a new phase in reading with a fresh momentum. So I always choose a few options which I hope will reflect my reading mind in the months ahead before I pick a definate…

Possible First Books of 2014

First up a classic, or modern classic, because every year I want to delve into the literary past as well into what is about ‘right now’. One such modern classic that seemed to fit the bill is Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety which I have been meaning to read for a couple of years now and unintentionally haven’t. It is also an American classic which ticks a subliminal box as I read very little of the American classic (be it modern or not) oeuvre, well less than I might intend anyway.

Then there is the modern and the new, well it is a new year after all, and Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake is one I have been looking forward to since I discovered it is set in my home region, the Peak District. I also loved Robinson’s Forgetting Zoe so have been meaning to read more of his books to see if he might become a fav, something I mean to do with many an author. It also starts at this time of year which could be apt.

Ali Smith is an author that I love, and I tend to pass over authors I know I love to read someone new, or newish (as above shows) and Artful ticks an important box as a possibility as it is a book which I think will be very different, and may make me think outside the box of what a book can stereotypically do from all reports, it may also be a little bit difficult which is no bad thing. Give the brain some extra work! Oh and it is my choice for the next episode of Hear… Read This! which we are due to record next week. Hmmmm.

Finally, a book from the previous year which I meant to read and didn’t! A shoulda-woulda-coulda read from 2013 if you will. Rupert Thomson’s Secrecy is a book which went a little under the radar, despite Fiction Uncovered (my favourite bookish endeavour) listing it last year. It sounds deliciously Gothic too, possibly murderous as well, which I love in a book.

Which one will I choose? Here I should say that any thoughts above are NOT reading resolutions, I am going to discuss those (and my blogging resolutions all in one) tomorrow. Back to these books, I aim to have made a decision by bedtime but whichever it is I hope it will be a sign of a brilliant reading year ahead. I might try a bit of each one or just see which my mood leads me to. I will, of course, keep you posted. In the meantime what is your first read of the year? Are you superstitious about it at all? Or am I, as many suspect, a little bit bonkers?

15 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

15 responses to “The First Book of the Year

  1. Gosh that’s all a bit thought out! I mill around the shelves and grab what jumps out at me – not literally of course. First book of the year here is The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society which I’ve not read before but oft thought about. Turns out I’m really enjoying it!

  2. mikewbn1

    I spent my Christmas breaking starting (and then abandoning) several lengthy books that had been hanging around, including The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, which I am supposed to have read by next wednesday’s book group – but after wading through about 20% I decided that life was too short.

    Today I started The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – which I am absolutely loving – so much so that tonight’s train journey (which was two hours rather than one due to signal failure) sped by – can’t wait to read another chunck before bed…

  3. Judy

    I am halfway through Crossing to Safety and am completely in love with it – the writing is sublime – a perfect start to one’s literary year – I cannot recommend it highly enough!

  4. Oh I’ve hit ground running Simon already on my third book after short oulipo book by perec and a Austrian novel I’d go for crossing for safety

  5. Sharkell

    I hope your superstition is not going to hold for me. I picked up A Prayer For Owen Meany as my first read but decided after 130 pages that it wasn’t for me. Of your list above I have read Secrecy which was deliciously different – an enjoyable read. I look forward to your review if you choose that to read.

  6. Crossing to Safety is tremendous!

  7. I just read Crossing to Safety for the first time last month (I know, bad American!) and was head over heels in love with it by the fourth page. It now has a solid place among my favorite novels and I’ve already added more Stegner to my collection.

    My first read of 2014 is Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, which I had been attempting to avoid, but gave in to after so many wonderful reviews. It’s definitely caught my attention so far.

  8. Martina

    Stegner for sure!

  9. I’m starting the year off with A Tale for the Time Being, which I’m really enjoying. Crossing to Safety is also on my must-read list for this year. I have heard unanimously good things about it and now I’m getting excited. I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

  10. Emma

    I am starting off my reading year with The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay, meant to read to over the Christmas period but didn’t get to it! I’m then going to read The Echoing Grove by Rosamond Lehmann which is the first of a reading year from Lutyens and Rubinstein, a lovely Christmas present.

    I loved Secrecy so would say go with that!

  11. Rupert Thompson is great, he gets my vote!

  12. I loved Ray Robinson’s first two novels – challenging in subject matter yet brilliant… Still being on holiday I’m just starting my third book of the year – Edna O’Brien’s memoir which was given to me for Christmas … in 2012!

  13. I usually like to finish a book with the old year but was part way through Thomas Hardy’s “Life’s Little Ironies” and very tired when I dropped to sleep at 11.30 on the 31st! I now like to start the year with a month of re-reading, though, so I am on Jane Smiley’s “Moo” and Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth” and it’s a lovely way to work your way into the new year …

  14. David

    ‘Crossing to Safety’ is a book I plan to get to this month too, Simon (it and Stegner’s ‘Angle of Repose’ have been on my tbr for too long). I read the first few pages of ‘Secrecy’ last year, but put it down again as it featured a historical character I’d just read about in another book (Jonathan Buckley’s ‘Nostalgia’) but I will dig it out again at some point.

    My first read of the year? First novel up is Olivia Manning’s ‘The Battle Lost and Won’ (volume 2 of her Levant Trilogy, or volume 5 of the Fortunes of War sequence) which, like all Manning’s books, is a slow read, but a good one.
    And my first story collection is Abby Geni’s ‘The Last Animal’ which so far I’m very impressed with, particularly her facility with voice – far too often in collections the protagonists can sound alike, but Geni makes each sound completely individual, and despite a tendency towards cliché in some of her descriptive writing, each story is really engaging. Given it is a debut I reckon she’ll be a name to watch.
    January for me is usually a month of discovery and of older books randomly plucked from the shelves and is always enjoyable for that reason – more often than not I’ll come across a new (to me) author who I’ll then go on to read more by throughout the year.

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