What I Read in February 2016

I loved writing my first What I Read column last month, so I’m excited to be back here doing it again. Since I started writing it I’ve been reading more, purely because I want to have more books to list in my monthly roundup — I hurriedly finished up three books towards the end of February — so that’s nice.

Also, I’m glad I decided to include my list of ‘currently reading’ books in my previous post, too, because it made me want to finish all the books I’d included. (I didn’t quite manage, but now I definitely want to finish the two that rolled over.)

I’m not so sure I’m glad I included my ‘books bought’ list, though, because, Jesus Christ, I buy too many books. Okay, on with this month’s reads!

What I Read in February

Attack on Titan 16Attack on Titan, Vol. 16-17, by Hajime Isayama (graphic novel)
Finished on: 1-3 February — Kindle (iPad) — 4.5/5

I started reading this manga series at the start of January after devouring the anime series on Netflix. Now I am totally fangirling on it. I LOVE IT. I don’t read many comics, but the ones I do read are super fucking badass. You know — dystopian societies, creepy monsters, battles for humanity, characters you can fall in love with. That kind of thing. I didn’t manage to get through all 17 volumes in January, so at the start of February I slammed down the final two. AND NOW I HAVE TO WAIT AT LEAST ANOTHER MONTH FOR THE NEXT VOLUME, WAH WAH WAH.

LeviAttack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1-2, by Hajime Isayama and Gun Snark (graphic novel)
Finished on: 7-8 February — Kindle (iPad) — 4.5/5

SPEAKING OF CHARACTERS YOU CAN FALL IN LOVE WITH! Oh, Captain Levi, who somehow manages to be sexy despite being a weirdly small person (I learned from reading the comics that he is 5 foot 2). I think it helps that he is ‘the strongest man alive’, although this does make his smallness even weirder. No Regrets is a prequel to the main Attack on Titan series, telling the backstory of Levi, who is undoubtedly the most badass character in the series. Needless to say, I loved it. It’s always fun to learn more about your favourite characters, eh? I’m seriously considering reading some of the other spin-off Attack on Titan series now, because I need my fix.

Ooh DarcyPride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Finished on: 8 February — Audiobook — 4.5/5

Since I started listening to audiobooks last year, I’ve discovered that classics are just THE BEST on audio. Because classics are often dense, I tend to put off reading them, but with audio you’re just whisked through them. Hearing the characters come to life, each with their own distinct voice, makes the whole experience a delight. The only downside is you never know how to spell anyone’s bloody name. I listened to the version read by Rosamund Pike, and it was charming. Also, Elizabeth Bennet is awesome. Not as awesome as Jane Eyre, but still.

Still WritingStill Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, by Dani Shapiro
Finished on: 9 February — Paperback — 4.5/5

Here’s an embarrassing confession: I haven’t read many books about writing. I read a few grammar books when I was younger (a good sign you’re meant to be a writer is that you think reading grammar books is awesome, and not something a total loser would do). But no, I haven’t read all that many books about the craft of writing, so I’m trying to rectify that this year. Dani Shapiro is a completely different kind of writer/person to me, so I found it interesting to learn about writing from her perspective. I ended up writing a blog post about my favourite lessons from the book (AND DANI RETWEETED IT OMG).

Examined LifeThe Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, by Stephen Grosz
Finished on: 14 February — Audiobook — 4/5

I chose to listen to this on a whim. I’d just finished Pride and Prejudice, which is obviously an in-depth, fairly long read, so I wanted something quick, different and easy to absorb. I already had this in my Audible collection, which made the decision pretty easy. Oh my lordy, the narrator’s voice was so soothing. Listening to this made me realise how lucky I am to be such an emotionally well-balanced person. Damn, people got issues. Fascinating to get an insight into fucked-up human psychology based on a psychoanalyst’s client experiences.

Girl GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey
Finished on: 20 February — Paperback & Kindle — 4.5/5

I’m making an effort to read more fiction (of the non-comic variety). I realised that, since my problem with getting into new novels is that I always try to start them before going to sleep, which means nothing ever sticks, I should devote a couple of hours to starting a new one before going to bed. That way I can get my bearings and figure out what the hell is going on while I’m still awake and alert, which makes it so much easier to continue reading them when I’m in bed. Anyway, about the book: brilliant. I love me a zombie apocalypse, and this was a unique, well-written take on them. I didn’t think I liked this as much as I did until I realised I was pining for it a week after finishing it.

Level UpLevel Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story, by Steve Kamb
Finished on: 26 February — Kindle — 4/5

I love Nerd Fitness (a fitness site run by the author). However, I was a little disappointed with this book. I think the concept is brilliant — gamifying your life and ‘levelling up’ in all areas that matter to you — but the book fell short for me. This is largely due to the standard of writing, which I don’t think is good enough for a book. I was honestly surprised to get to the acknowledgements section and see Steve thanking his editor. I didn’t think he even had one. There was lots of wobbly grammar, quite a few missing words, and the whole thing was way too wordy. It could have been so much better. I’m still giving it 4 stars though because, as I said, the concept is ace.

ShepherdThe Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, by James Rebanks
Finished on: 29 February — Audiobook — 4.5/5

I first learned about this thanks to my mum, who directed me to the author’s Twitter account so I could see photos of his collie pups. (I grew up with border collies and they are the best!) James Rebanks is a Cumbrian farmer and a proud shepherd. This was a gentle (though passionate) amble through life on a farm. James is witty and made me laugh out loud in places. He also made me cry; hearing about foot and mouth disease from the farmer’s perspective is devastating and heartbreaking. James was brutally honest and frank in his opinions, which I enjoyed (of course), though I’m sure some people would find him a conceited prick.

PhenomenalPhenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World, by Leigh Ann Henion
Finished on: 29 February — Hardback — 4/5

I was disappointed with this. Not because it was bad, but because I was expecting it to be BRILLIANT. A woman’s memoir about travel and nature? That’s like, my all-time favourite combination for a book. There were definitely some bits in here that made me long to visit the places she was describing (bioluminescent waters! insane, never-ending thunderstorms! the Serengeti!) but a lot of it felt flat to me. There was far too much navel-gazing for my liking, and the author had a tendency to be overly descriptive, which made it harder for me to visualise things. I’m a fan of simple, clear writing, which this mostly was not.

My Book Statistics

Books read in February: 11

My goal is to read 75 books this year. This is more than I’ve ever read before (last year I managed 52). I’ve bumped the number higher than usual because I knew I’d be reading a lot of graphic novels, which only take an hour or so to read. Yay comics!

Total books read: 31/75

Progress towards goal: 41.3%

Average books needed per week to reach goal: 1

Books bought in February: 23

  • Attack on Titan, Vol. 16-17 — Hajime Isayama
  • Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1-2 — Hajime Isayama & Gun Snark
  • Autobiography of a Face — Lucy Grealy
  • Burmese Days — George Orwell
  • Chocky — John Wyndham
  • David Copperfield — Charles Dickens
  • Death of a Salesman — Arthur Miller
  • Educating Rita — Peter Chepstow
  • Finding Ultra — Rich Roll
  • On The Move — Oliver Sacks
  • On Writing Well — William Zinsser
  • Rejection Proof — Jia Jiang
  • Steal Like an Artist — Austin Kleon
  • The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes — Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Heart Goes Last — Margaret Atwood
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat — Oliver Sacks
  • Tiny Beautiful Things — Cheryl Strayed
  • Under the Tuscan Sun — Frances Mayes
  • Wildflower — Drew Barrymore
  • Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past — William Zinsser

(I think I have a problem.)

Currently reading: 5

  • Make Your Mark — Jocelyn K. Glei *
  • The Art of Asking — Amanda Palmer
  • The Bees — Laline Paull
  • The Best American Essays 2013 — Robert Atwan & Cheryl Strayed (editor) *
  • The Zombie Survival Guide — Max Brooks

* indicates books that have rolled over from the previous month(s).

Win a Book of Your Choice from My February Reads!

Last month I ran a giveaway using some fancy software. This month I’ve decided to run another one, this time the old-fashioned way (turns out the fancy software is very expensive after your trial has expired).

So, this time: to win a book of your choice from my February reads, just leave a comment on this post telling me which book you would like! If you don’t use a legit email address, you will be disqualified, as I will have no way of contacting you if you win.

I’ll choose the winner at random once the contest is over. If you win, I’ll send you the book of your choice, no matter where you are in the world. All you have to do is respond to my email asking for your postal address.

The giveaway ends at 9pm GMT on Friday 11 March.

This giveaway is now closed!

Congrats to Mel Green, who won a copy of Attack on Titan!

Leave a comment below telling me which one of the following books you want if you win! (Not required, but please free free to share why you want it. Ooh, and also what good books you’ve read this month!)

  • Attack on Titan, Vol. 16
  • Attack on Titan, Vol. 17
  • Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1
  • Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 2
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Still Writing
  • The Examined Life
  • The Girl with All the Gifts
  • Level Up Your Life
  • The Shepherd’s Life
  • Phenomenal
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    1. *Entering the book giveaway* **again!** If I won the book giveaway, I’d like Pride and Prejudice on audiobook, for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve never listened to an audiobook and Pride and Prejudice seems like a good one to start with. Also, it really does sound delightful to be able to hear the characters come to life with their own distinct voices!

      Recently, I’ve read Big Magic (thanks Karen!) which I loved. I love Liz Gilbert’s tone as she writes and she always has good stories to tell. It was very inspiring to me since I’ve just started my freelancing career.

      Also, I read The Forgotten Girls by Alexa Steele. It was the first novel of a murder series. I enjoyed it, it was a mostly suspenseful book, which I like. The writing wasn’t perfect or inspiring, but all writing can’t be. The first novel was free on my iPad and I had to pay for the next two novels in the series and didn’t want to….so I guess that’s how I feel about it.

      And thats’ all I’ve finished in the past month ( I know, embarrassing…I’m a slow reader…and been busy with building my new career and all!). Currently reading A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton…

      1. Just to clarify, Sarah – the giveaway is for a PHYSICAL book (not a digital/audio book). I should have specified in the post. Given that, feel free to change your choice if you wish!

        You should be able to get a free audiobook when you sign up for a 30-day Audible trial though, so you can listen to Pride and Prejudice that way. I LOVE AUDIBLE.

        Glad you enjoyed Big Magic :)

        1. Ahhh, sorry guess I didn’t really think about it, makes sense though! Okay, so my new choice then would be “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro because it seems very inspiring and I’m just in that kind of mood lately :)

    2. Hey, Karen! Another epic blog post spreading the bookish love. Keep ’em coming!

      If I won the giveaway I’d definitely go for ‘Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life’, by Dani Shapiro because it sounds absolutely fantastic! Who wouldn’t want it?!

      Currently I’m reading ‘Metro 2033’, by Dmitry Glukhovsky for the second time. I highly recommend it for anyone into dystopian-style fiction or murky thrillers. I’m also reading ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’, by Elizabeth Gilbert thanks to your own recommendation.

      Thanks for the cool giveaway! :)

      1. Woo! Thanks for sharing, Damien :) Glad you enjoyed! I love writing these posts, haha.

    3. Yes! Free books!! My choice would be ‘Still Writing’ by Dani Shapiro. I’m on a bit of a role at the moment with reading about writing and doing what you love, so this will carry on that trend.
      So, my reads over the last month or so are:

      F**k It – Do What You Love by John C. Parkin (great)
      The Art Of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins (greater)
      The Human Freelancer by Chris Kenworthy (greatest)

      Highly recommended and available on Amazon (other bookstores are available)

      1. FREE BOOKS FTW!!!!1

        Writing and doing what you love are two of my favourite topics. I’ll have to check those out – haven’t read any of them! Thanks Graeme!

        1. The Human Freelancer is, actually, bloody amazing. A very helpful (and very funny) book for the newbie freelancer. The ‘F**k It’ book is really a lesson in just saying, well…. “F**k it” to most things and living the life you want to live. I’m reading it right now and it’s a bit of an eye opener.

          I’m also mortified that in my initial post, I wrote ‘role’ instead of ‘roll’. What have I become…..

          1. Ohh, The Human Freelancer does sound good! Sounds a bit like The Wealthy Freelancer, which is an excellent book I read when I was starting out.

            Fuck It totally sounds like my thing. Right now I’m reading The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, haha.

            Totally didn’t even notice your typo. Good job I’m not a proofreader! :D

    4. Okay! I am entering this. If I won the book giveaway, I’d like Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1-2 please. I love me a graphic novel. Recent good reads of graphic novels have included Saga Vols 1 – 5 and Rat Queens Vols 1-2. Would totally recommend those.

      I am currently struggling through The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley because Stephen King liked it and I like Stephen King. It’s a teensy bit slow for my liking and I’m not really enjoying it so maybe Stephen King isn’t my spirit animal as I once thought.

      Fingers crossed!

      1. Yay! Thanks for your entry, Mel.

        Also, Fiona Staples (the artist for Saga) is a good friend of mine. She’s one of my nerdy internet friends from when we were like 15, and we used to stay up all night chatting on MSN and making websites together. TRUE STORY. She is awesome. And so is Saga. You clearly have excellent taste, Green.

        Here is a picture of me and Fiona (and Chad) ‘being snakes’. (There may have been whisky involved.)

        1. What the actual hell?!! My goodness! Pretty fricking jealous right now I’m not gonna lie. Seriously, man, I just…
          Look at you just hanging out with the artist who I believe has made the one of the sexiest female characters ever in a graphic novel series with Alana.
          Jeez. Pretty blown away by this!

        1. Holy crap balls! That’s awesome! I’ve never won anything (that I can remember) so this will actually forever be a pivotal point in my life. However, I am slightly anxious at the introduction of yet another graphic novel series into my life. You know what, screw you life. I’m a goddamn competition winner!

          Thanks so much Karen!!

    5. Ooh these all look fab – Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book of all time but I own a gazillion copies so… think it will have to be The Girl With All The Gifts. Love me a bit of dystopia, especially with great female narrators – my email address is victoriafinan@gmail.com. Fingers crossed, thanks for doing this! x

    6. ‘Still Writing’ looks good, especially after reading your post on it.

      I’ve been on a bit of a fiction binge recently. I had a day off and was going to be super productive and write on my blog, work on my novel, set in motion my plans for world domination; you know, the usual. Instead I crashed on the sofa and read ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn (author of ‘Gone Girl’) in one sitting.
      Before that, I finished season three of ‘The Beam’ by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant (Techie sci-fi). Both books were excellent and several shades of awesome sauce.

      I’m looking forward to next month’s post, already eyeing up some books from your bought/currently reading list ;)


      1. Ohhh, I’m kind of jealous of you. I’ve sucked at reading fiction lately! Though I did finish Still Alice last night, which was awesome.

        Which books are you eyeing up? Maybe knowing will help spur me on to read them ;)

        1. Well, I’ve heard good things about ‘Steal Like An Artist’ and ‘The Art of Asking.’ I also keep seeing ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat’ in my peripherals, so I think the universe wants me to read it. Plus, I’m totes jell I didn’t think of that title first.

    7. Hey Karen! Again, another “save it or bookmark it” blog post. Really do LOVE your stuff–in fact, I’ve lauded you to my LR Mastermind group.

      Is that enough flattery to win A BOOK? I hope so, because it is all true!!!

      If selected as a winner, I’d love to receive “The Shepherd’s Life.” Although I currently make my living as a writer, I am gently transitioning into a very scorn-heavy profession…..(insert a heavy silence here)

      I’ve just begun to work professionally as an animal communicator. I know, I KNOW that many folks reading this will immediately roll their eyes as they read the words “animal communicator.”

      But you know what? Fuck ’em! I know that animal communication is real because I experience it on a daily basis. And this is why I would LOVE to win “The Shepherd’s Life.”

      People communicate with animals in different ways and anyone who spends a great deal of time with animals, like the sheep farmer in this book, have their own unique and beautiful way of being with them,

      And I’d love to experience that farmer’s reality through the book.

      Merci, Karen–and thanks again for all your great writing and advice!

      1. Aww, thanks for the kind words, Elaine. You’re awesome.

        The Shepherd’s Life is brilliant and I think you would love it. I don’t know what an animal communicator is, but growing up with border collies, I am 100% on board with the fact that you can communicate with animals. THEY KNOW STUFF.

        1. And thank you right back for the kind words.

          Border collies are frankly amazing. Their intelligence is off the charts and so is their ability to manage the world around them, whether that management is through telepathic communication or by nipping at some human heels to get things moving faster. They are immensely intuitive.

          You are completely right…animals really do know STUFF. I’ve always said that those of us who learn from animals learn the greatest lessons because we have the greatest teachers.

          And I bet this sheep farmer has some serious wisdom from his life with them.

    8. Karen, awesome contest! I’d like a copy of Level Up Your Life :-) I love Nerd Fitness as well – didn’t realise he’d published something.

      And I’ll be in Edinburgh next week I think, so I’ll pick it up then haha. Hope I win, woop woop.

      1. Haha, awesome. Unfortunately I will not be in Edinburgh next week! But next time we’re both here, coffee. Totally.

    9. Still Writing for sure! I’ve been reading more books on the craft of writing and love referring to them again and again. Picked up Big Magic because of you!

      1. I am going to assume you mean Still Writing. I hear Still Waiting is a terrible movie though ;)

    10. It’s quite a few considering how quicky time can get away from all of us. I want to start reading two books a week.

      1. Yes! I feel like two books a week is the perfect amount.

        Did you want to enter the giveaway by the way, Lauren? If so, you need to state the book you’d like. Better hurry though, the contest ends in 5 minutes! :)

    11. Entering the book giveaway! Still Writing would be my choice. I just love reading about people who write for many reasons. I never realised how much courage it took until I sat down with all my *brilliant* ideas and actually picked up a pen. Loving the journey and loving those who light the way! Xx

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