At the start of 2014 I set myself a challenge, as I wanted to be reading more and spending less time mindlessly scrolling through social media. I decided to read 52 books by the end of the year. I had seen a challenge going around to read a book a week and I knew I’d never manage that, but I knew that I could definitely get through 52 books a year if I put my mind to it.
What’s the difference you might be asking yourself? Well sometimes if I’m busy it might take me a month to read a book (or if it’s a crap book), then at other times, if I’m on holiday or reading a really good book I can read one in a day.
I knew that evenings spent on social media were not good for my stress levels, and that being on a screen near bedtime wasn’t helping me get a good night’s sleep. I decided that reading more might make me cut back on my social media addiction and make me more rested, through some good nights’ sleep.
That first year was tough. There were times it felt like homework. I didn’t want to read. I wanted to lose myself in the empty brain zone of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But a challenge is a challenge and I hate to be proven wrong.
So I set up a Google doc with the books I’d read so far as I went through the year, and I tried to average it at a book a week, although by the middle of the year I was hopelessly behind. And I was angry with myself for setting myself such a stupid challenge. Which I’d stupidly shared online and with real life friends. And everyone was expecting me to fail miserably, so of course I had to make sure I didn’t!
By our holidays in August I decided to do a complete digital detox for the two week break, knowing this would push me further into the the world of books, and possibly stop my social media addiction.
What I hadn’t realised was just how much it would turn me off from social media and to what extent I would turn into a bookworm again.
For 14 days I read and read and read. Fiction and non-fiction. Serious and light. And I LOVED it.
I remembered this passion for books and reading which I’ve had most of my life and which was slowly being killed by social media.
After the holidays my time online was far less frequent than beforehand and I couldn’t get enough of reading.
So what effect did reading more have on me?
I felt happier, more relaxed, positive and in general just had this warm, fuzzy feeling going on. I spent the colder winter evenings curled up under a blanket on the sofa, lost in somebody else’s world.
I discussed the books I was reading with Ben, with friends and family. I looked at things differently. My writing improved. And my kids saw me lost in a book and reading, rather than scrolling through my phone.
By the end of 2014 I’d actually read 54 books and instead of feeling relieved that the challenge was over I felt forlorn that it was over.
Was I really going to go back to my old ways of evenings spent mindlessly scrolling through negativity on Facebook?
Then I realised it was totally down to me. There was absolutely nothing to stop me from doing this challenge again the next year.
So I did.
And now we’re in 2017 I’m on Year 4 of this challenge.
In 2014 I read 54 books, in 2015 I read 54 books, in 2016 I read 49 books (the only year that we didn’t go away on holiday and I’m sure the lower number of books is linked to this) and so far in this 39th week of 2017 I’m on book 36.
At the end of 2014 I set up a book club in London where I was living at the time, then in 2015 when I arrived in Mauritius I set up another book club here. It is incredible to see friends who say they haven’t read for ages, as they don’t have time, rediscover the joys of reading.
My book club and other reader friends agree with me that the more they read the more upbeat they feel, and the less stressed. Plus discussing a good book with someone else is so much more fun than dissecting the latest cat video doing the rounds online 😉
And I’m convinced that reading has a knock-on effect on your kids too. When she was 9 years old our eldest daughter Léna read the Hunger Games trilogy in 3 days before moving onto the Divergent trilogy and The Maze Runner books. She cannot get enough of reading and her writing reflects this too as she has such a vast vocabulary and knowledge of language, structure and grammar.
As for our youngest, Clémence, she is nearly 5 and isn’t reading yet, but this weekend I was lost in my book and she took herself off to her room, brought out a stack of books and spent well over an hour just going through them on her own.
I call that a win-win 🙂
So if you want to feel more chillaxed, especially around other family members (and they will thank you for it too!) then get your book / library card / Kindle out!
As friends and family know I’m a big reader I get asked for book recommendations all the time, so here is the full list of the books I read in 2016 (yes I know it’s September but it’s been a busy old year!), with links to Amazon and a couple of lines (more or less) on my thoughts on each book.
The 49 books I read in 2016
- The Good Girl – Mary Kubica
A good psychological thriller, that you will no doubt enjoy if you liked Gone Girl. Possibly better than Gone Girl as the characters in Gone Girl were really hard to like.
- Only ever yours – Louise O’Neill
Such a powerful book! It reminded me a bit of The Handmaid’s tale which I read as a teen. In a future world girls go to school to train to be one of three things – a man’s wife / a man’s concubine / a celibate teacher at these schools. The men decide and the girls fight to be the best, the prettiest, the skinniest.
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
A classic book on listening to your heart and following your dreams that I’ve had recommended to me a zillion times and I finally read it. A great book, but it was preaching to the converted here 😉 Maybe a more powerful book for those who need a wake-up call to not sleep walk through life.
- An empty coast – Tony Park
This was a book club read, recommended by a friend who is a big Tony Park fan. The book is set in Namibia and I actually felt like I’d been there by the end of the book, this is a gripping and descriptive read with a kick-ass older woman, which I also loved!
- Daring and Disruptive: Unleashing the entrepreneur – Lisa Messenger
Another book that had been recommended to me many times. I read a lot of non-fiction, especially books by female entrepreneurs as I find them inspirational and motivational in my own work, and this one was no different. Definitely one for the entrepreneurs out there to give you ideas and a boost.
- Look behind you – Sibel Hodge
I’ve been reading quite a few psychological thrillers recently and have got quite hooked on them. This is another thrilling page-turner which won’t disappoint if you like this genre of books.
- Me time – Kate Christie
This book is for busy mums, who are busy juggling many balls and spinning even more plates, Kate Christie promises to free up 30 hours a month for you, and whilst you might already know some of the tactics, this is still a good read to give you a much needed kick up the a**.
- The versions of us – Laura Barnett
This was another book club read but it received a thumbs down from lots of the group. The idea is a great one – a kind of a Sliding Doors, parallel universe story – what would have happened if she’d said “yes” type of thing. But there were 3 stories and as you changed from chapter to chapter it was super hard to figure out that particular story and what had happened previously. Especially when reading on a Kindle. Shame because the idea and the story itself were good ones, but just so hard to follow.
- Think and grow rich – Napoleon Hill
Another classic that I’ve been meaning to read for AGES. Ignore the title as it’s not really about money, but more about self-development and about doing / being what you want to. Hugely motivational. There’s a reason why this is so massively recommended, with so many positive reviews so many years after it was first published. A must-read.
- Wonder – R.J.Palacio
This is the second time I’ve read Wonder (it was our first book club read in London and a book club read here in Mauritius too) and it was one of my absolute favourite books of all time. Every child, teen and adult should read this book. Léna read it too and LOVED it! And there is a film of it coming out soon, so even more reason to read it. Makes you look at yourself in an uncomfortable way and gives you such a feel-good buzz at the end.
- Payback – Kimberley Chambers
I haven’t read any others by Kimberley Chambers and I think this one is part of a series with the same characters. It reminded me a bit of books by Martina Cole – a kind of a Kray brothers East end of London family mafia type of book. Not a bad read if you like that kind of thing.
- The Real Deal: My Story from Brick Lane to Dragons’ Den – James Caan
I love reading how successful entrepreneurs got to where they are now, and this one doesn’t disappoint. One for you if you’re into entrepreneurs’ biographies.
- Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian
I first read this when I was about Léna’s age and when she brought it home from school I knew I had to read it again. I’d forgotten just how good and how sad this book is. If you like any books about what life was like for civilians in World War II Europe then you’ll love this. Such a great book for kids too, to get them understanding what life was like for children in war torn England.
- Defending Jacob – William Landay
This is a real “what would you do?” book – would you / could you defend your child from murder? Good twists and turns and a real sense of “what would I do in that position?”.
- Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden
Another of my childhood books that Léna brought home from school. As good as I remember it, with characters that are life-sized and a world that it’s hard for us to imagine but into which we are plunged. A must read for kids and adults alike.
- Pretending to dance – Diane Chamberlain
I am such a HUGE Diane Chamberlain fan and love her books so much, so I’m possibly a bit biased. But this is a must-read with an interesting twist. I always find her books are unputdownable.
- Our song – Dani Atkins
Such a good book that had me bawling!! What do you do when fate brings you and your husband’s ex into a world where you have to make the toughest decisions of your lives? Such a good read.
- Behind closed doors – B A Paris
This was a “I can’t breathe, what the hell is going to happen next?!?” kinda of book. Just don’t read it with others around you as you’ll start to question their innocent actions as it makes you so suspicious of everyone. Gripping page-turner if there ever was one!
- The rose girls – Victoria Connelly
This was a nice enough read, but maybe a bit too flowery for me. A bit too chick-lit for my liking, but I have friends who loved it. So if you like a book with a bit of romance, bit of family drama then this is for you.
- I let you go – Clare Mackintosh
Another gripping page-turner with a big old twist that I didn’t see coming at all. The book starts with the death of a child which means your emotions are a bit all over the place throughout the book, but such a good story. Definite recommended read.
- The Boleyn inheritance – Philippa Gregory
I’m a big Philippa Gregory fan and go through phases of reading books of hers. This one is all about Jane Boleyn, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard and it’s interesting seeing things from these “minor” character viewpoints.
- The taming of the queen – Philippa Gregory
A bit of a Philippa Gregory wave at this stage of the year! This one is all about Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr and was more enjoyable than the previous one.
- Me before you – Jojo Moyes
This was the second time I read Me before you as it was a book club book so I wanted it to be fresh in my mind. What a book, even second time round. I didn’t cry quite as much as the first time as I knew what to expect this time, but still so good, so emotional. If you’ve not read this one yet, then what are you waiting for?!?
- Nobody wants to read your shit – Steven Pressfield
A must-read for any writers out there. I made copious notes on this one as Steven takes you through a clear strategy on writing. Easy, funny and massively helpful.
- The sleep revolution – Arianna Huffington
This really was a revolution for me and where Arianna’s book, Thrive, got me off of my social media addiction, this latest one got me sleeping properly. A must read – especially for the sleep-deprived!
- The gifts of imperfection – Brené Brown
Another one that had been recommended to me so many times. This is a great book to lift you up – Brené teaches you to feel your own self-worth, to tell yourself that you are enough, no matter what does or doesn’t get done each day, and to be compassionate with yourself. Another must read, especially for mums.
- Dotcom secrets – Russell Brunson
For those into online marketing this is a great book about the importance of funnels, an easy read with great tips and advice.
- The lie – C.L.Taylor
Another psychological thriller – not quite as gripping and scary as the other ones, but still a good read.
- The everything store: Jeff Bezos and the age of Amazon – Brad Stone
All about how Amazon became what it is today. A real eye-opener on something that has totally changed our lives.
- Korek: A Beginners Guide to Mauritian Creole – Paul Choy
I’m trying to learn Mauritian Creole and this is a great book to get you started – I’ve still got a fair way to go, but this book is a great beginner’s guide.
- All the light we cannot see – Anthony Doerr
I had loads of recommendations to read this one, and it was good but maybe not quite as good as I had hoped. Another World War II book but set in France this time.
- After you – Jojo Moyes
I waited a long while before reading the sequel to Me Before You – I mean, what could come close to that fab book?!? I was braced for utter disappointment and it wasn’t actually that bad, I even quite enjoyed it. There were bits that annoyed me but on the whole it was still a good read.
- The art of racing in the rain – Garth Stein
What a book! The narrator is a dog and you ease into the book, telling yourself it’ll just be a funny dog’s view of life, until you start to realise that there are things going on in the dog owners’ lives and you find yourself saying “oh no!” out loud. I am a dog-owner and absolutely loved this book – although it did have me talking to my dogs and saying “can you understand me?”! Also don’t be put off by the bit about motor racing, oh and it’s got a great ending.
- The Courage tree – Diane Chamberlain
A really gripping Diane Chamberlain read. Every second counts when your child has gone missing and she suffers from a rare disease. Your heart will be in your mouth!
- The weekenders – Mary Kay Andrews
This is the type of book you might take on holiday to read by the pool, not too taxing but with enough of a story to keep you interested. Everyone has secrets and who is capable of murder?
- The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole – Sue Townsend
I read this about 30 years ago and didn’t understand lots of it as I was too young. It was hilarious re-reading it and it’s just as readable and good today as it was way back then.
- Hurrah for Gin: a book for perfectly imperfect parents – Katie Kirby
If you’ve not heard of Hurrah for Gin what rock have you been living under? Katie started blogging shortly after I did with my Franglaise Mummy parenting blog and reading her blog posts always gave me such a boost. I remember telling her at Britmums in 2014 that she was destined for far greater things than “just” blogging! And I’m so glad that she’s gone international with her fabulous illustrations and spot-on observations. If you haven’t read this, then get to it now!
- The hustle free business – Amy Birks
Could it be that there is another way to do business than hustling day in day out? Amy says yes, and gives you a master plan to doing it.
- The queen’s fool – Philippa Gregory
This Philippa Gregory is set when the English throne goes from one of Henry VIII’s descendants to another, we are taken from Mary to Elizabeth and back again.
- The Stranger In My Home: I thought she was my daughter. I was wrong. – Adele Parks
A tough one – what do you when you discover that your baby was switched at birth, but that she is now 15 years old? An interesting idea and a well-written book that will get you in the guts.
- Me without you – Kelly Rimmer
I was massively disappointed by this one. The reviews were great but it seemed to be a copy of Me Before You but with things slightly switched around – even the title seems very copycat too.
- The girl you lost – Kathryn Croft
What do you believe when your 6 month old daughter is abducted and then years later a young woman tells you she has information about it? Another page-turner which builds your hopes up…
- Summer’s child – Diane Chamberlain
Yet another Diane Chamberlain – I know, I know! Another good one – a baby is found on the beach and years later will the family who adopted her finally found out who abandoned the baby?
- Is everyone hanging out without me? Mindy Kaling
I didn’t know who Mindy Kaling was before I read this but so many people recommended the book to me that I had to read it! It’s a funny, light read and I did enjoy it despite not knowing anything about the author!
- The big leap – Gay Hendricks
What a book!!! There is too much in this book to know where to start, except to say it’s a must-read no matter what you do in life. An eye-opener on your potential and why you throw blocks at yourself along the path. Just go out and read this!
- How to write great blog posts that engage readers – Steve Scott
Every now and then I’ll read books like this one to see if I’m missing anything / if there are other angles I should be looking at and I got some good tips from this book.
- Rather be the devil – Ian Rankin
This is my first Ian Rankin book, and I wasn’t disappointed. Well-written with a good story and life-like characters. Just a teeny bit frustrating that I didn’t know the characters’ backgrounds having not read previous books.
- Big magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
A truly magical book, whether you are a creative or just want to make your everyday life fizz that little bit more then read this book – a belter of a read!
- Tools of Titans – Timothy Ferriss
I really struggled with Tools of Titans at the start as the first section is all about physical fitness and pushing yourself to the physical limits which is really not my thing at all! But I zapped through those bits and the sections that were for me were like gold. So I do recommend it but don’t hesitate to skip the bits that aren’t your bag.
Over to you now – do you read much? Has this got you more interested in reading? And more importantly, do you have any good book recommendations for me?!?
Photo by Mariana Vusiatytska on Unsplash
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