After the success of my first resolution, things started to go downhill. For my second resolution, I aimed to listen to 12 audiobooks in the year. I got to 10, which isn’t bad but not quite there!
The 10 I managed to listen to were a bit of an eclectic mix, to say the least. I hadn’t really realised until I wrote them down just how random the collection was! In rough order of listening:
Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart
Auto-biography/life manual of Miranda Hart, the comedian. She reminds me so much of my friend Hazel, which makes me love her even more. She’s just daft as a brush, and her biography is weird, to say the least. Her advice, based on her own life, is given to her teenage self, who stubbornly refuses to believe that she will turn into this older, totally uncool version. It genuinely funny in parts, and also moving. 7/10.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (radio play version)
I had this on my Audible for about 2 years before I listened to it. I downloaded it after reading The Graveyard Book by the same author and deciding I was going on a Neil Gaiman binge. I didn’t, obviously. This is the play version of the TV series of the same name. Set in London Below, a fantasy world that exists in parallel to the London we know. The main character ends up Below after helping a young girl escape the assassins who have just murdered her whole family. Adventures ensue. It’s extremely good. 9/10.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gilbraith (we all know it’s you, J.K Rowling)
I started watching the TV series a couple of years ago, then never watched the final episode so I didn’t actually know who the murderer was (although I had my suspicions, which were proved correct). I am not normally a huge fan of detective murder mysteries, but this one works (as you would expect). The characters are well-drawn, and the growing bond between Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott is nicely done (although minor complaint, she’s a girl, that should be Robyn with a y… come on J.K, don’t make me have to give you writing listens (JOKE)). The other three books in the series are in the wishlist already. 8/10.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
This is a tough one. I really wanted to like it. I saw the trailer for the TV series and decided to add it to the reading list. I did enjoy the setting; I didn’t know anything about Dutch history, so the descriptions of life in 1680s Amsterdam were interesting and I believe well-researched. But the whole book suffered from an injection of modern views into a non-modern world, and a terrible slowness in building up to anything much happening, before a completely rushed finish. 5/10.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Another one that I really wanted to enjoy but couldn’t. Neil Gaiman narrated, and he was excellent, and the stories themselves were well rendered for a modern audience. But I just didn’t like the tales themselves; some were silly, some over-wrought, some horrible. I suspect that you aren’t really supposed to like folklore; they weren’t written to entertain but to educate and pass on origin myths in a time before the written word was widely used. 6/10.
Dynasty by Tom Holland
What the actual fuck was wrong with the Romans? Honest to God, it all starts off nice and reasonably normal; the Rebuplic collapses, everything is vile and everyone is quite happy when a tyrant (Augustus) seizes control and things settled back down. And then… I’m going to assume it was the lead poisoning in the plates and pipes because everyone goes batshit crazy. There is so much torture, murder, not-entirely-unprompted-suicide, sexual perversions and all-round nuttiness that it is hard to keep track. I bloody loved it. 10/10.
The Nocturnal Brain by Dr Guy Leschziner
I downloaded this as all my life I have suffered from some form of parasomnia. Whilst they have quietened down now, in periods of stress or anxiety, I will still occasionally ‘awake’ to see dark creatures in my room, or feel something touching my legs or holding me down. This book delved into all types of weird sleep issues and explained that is known of the underlying causes (spoiler: not much, sleep is surprisingly hard to study). The structure, which used the doctor’s own experience with patients to provide the ‘stories’ behind the conditions helped to bring the impact of the conditions to life. If you have any interest in sleep or popular medicine books would completely recommend. 8/10.
12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson
Anyone who’s anyone on the old Twitters has had some say about Jordan Peterson, and about this book. Without prejudice, I decided to give it a go, to see what all the fuss was about. I have never listened or read to any self-help book, which is what this is. It follows a fairly conservative train of thought (look after yourself and your family, live a good life with morals, manners and truth etc.). He goes a bit off the deep end into religion at points, but this I likely to be more a matter of his previous work than anything especially controversial – if you spend half your life mapping the means of various religions and beliefs, I can imagine you’d want to slip it into what you know will be an incredibly popular book. 7/10.
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I bloody love Call the Midwife the TV series, especially the first couple which are far more closely based on Jennifer Worth’s book. Some people would dismiss it as ‘poverty-porn’, but she really does do a good job of capturing the life of the time. It blows my mind to think that my Dad was born at the setting of the book, and how much has changed since then. The book is only short, but it is beautifully done, and I listened to the whole thing in two sittings. 9/10.
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Man, I struggled with this one. The story is set in the siege of Sarajevo and largely does not actually involve a cellist. Instead, it follows three characters – a female sniper on the Bosnian forces inside the city, a father trying to get water for his family, and an older man trying to get to the bakery for work. Terrible things have happened, and continue to happen, to them, and the tale marks their changing views. The cellist himself is playing each day in a crater pit outside his flat, created when a mortar hit and killed scores of people. The three characters engage with this act and are affected by it, differently. Of everything I listened to this year, this was probably the most intelligently written book and has stayed with me. But like the Norse Myths, I wouldn’t have described it as enjoyable. Unsurprisingly the tale of a siege that killed 13,000 people has more than it’s share of horrors. 8/10.