Reading in 2017

General Overview 2017

I am happy to say that I hit my reading goal of 150 books for 2017! I managed to read 151 books this year, squeaking in just under the buzzer.

Reading Chart 2017


Last year I read 162, so overall I read 11 fewer books this year, which works out to around a book a month less than last year.

2016 vs 2017 Bar Chart

Jan 2017 kicked Jan 2016’s ass, but Dec 2016 kicked Dec 2017’s ass, so if we take those two end months out of the equation and treat them as anomalies, it was in the middle 10 months that I incrementally lost ground, 1 book a month at a time.

I’m still happy – 151 is still about 2-3 books a week, which is really all I aim to maintain. As for why I lost that extra book a month – I’m not sure! I wrote and co-produced a play this year, published two books, fell in love, moved to Kyoto for a few months for a fellowship – all of these things were so so wonderful and they maybe took up a bit more time than expected. In other words, life happened! Given the loveliness of life, it was worth losing 11 books, I think.

But lets look at trends from year to year! I’m so excited to have data on this.

2016 vs 2017 Line Graph

So, what’s cool is that from April onwards, my reading trends from 2016-2017 are almost identical! Look at those blue and yellow lines. They’re basically hugging. They tight.

So the Januaries started out very differently, but things evened out quite amazingly by April. 2018 is going to show whether these data points equal a pattern or whether it’s just a coincidence.

Reading by Gender

This year was no different than 2016 – I continued to be drawn to and read mostly books authored and collected by women.

reading by gender 2017

Proportionally and numerically, I read more books by men (35 to 116 by women) in 2017 (2016 chart below for comparison).

In particular, I remember in October I actually read 3 books in a row by men, broke it up with Fay Weldon’s Worst Fears and then read two more male-authored books.

So in October 50% of my reads were male-authored. I also read only 10 books in October, my third lowest number of the year. COINCIDENCE OR CORRELATION? Haha, who knows. Either way, overwhelmingly I continue to read female-authored books.

Two interesting facts:

  1. Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. felt very male to me
  2. I was surprised to learn that M.R. Carey of The Girl with all the Gifts and this year’s read, The Boy on the Bridge, was male and not female – I had just assumed the latter

These subverted expectations tell me that I do think there is a fundamental stylistic and thematic difference between male and female writing. Again, I think this partially goes back to the awareness the female voice has about the possibility of male violence at any time, which is absent in male writing. Male writing, in some ways, romanticizes romance between men and women in a different way to female writing. It assumes agency and choice for females, idealizes that – which female writing does not, always juggling checks and balances, threats and opportunities.


2016 for comparison

Reading by Genre

Reading by genre 2017

No surprises here – category fiction (romance, thrillers, mysteries) were almost half of my reads in 2017, followed by “literary” fiction, and then non-fiction. I read less YA than I thought – am a little surprised by this.

2017 was inadvertently a year of graphic novels – 7 of them. They were all actually really good – Habibi up there as a disturbing and problematic and powerful piece of work, and I managed to read the seminal Watchmen as well.

Three poetry collections this year – 2 of them Mary Oliver’s (so clever and compassionate and wonderful), and 1 from a Bruneian poet, Fice KB!

Only 1 play, and that was a really old one – Marlowe’s Faustus. But it did open the door to thinking about how “deal with the devil” is such an interesting trope to use to comment on society – and to compare to Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes later in the year – what kind of deals with the devil do women make versus men – is really a question of what men are allowed to want versus what women are allowed to want.

Favourite Reads this year

In no particular order, my top 10 reads this year were

Naomi Alderman The Power An early entry – so early I thought I’d read it last year, and was surprised when going through my notes that it was actually January this year that I’d read it. I’ve written about it already, but this was a book I lent out, and loved talking about, and just generally a powerful, buzzy book that seems in hindsight particularly appropriate for the feminist revolution of 2017.

Annie Dillard The Writing Life Beautiful unflinching memoir about what it is to write – its meaninglessness except to oneself, how it is everything and nothing all at once, and nevertheless, how if one chooses to write, one must hold oneself to the highest, hardest of standards – because nobody else will.

Katherine Arden The Bear and the Nightingale AND The Girl in the Tower A bit of a cheat here naming two books as one, but I loved this (series that I didn’t realise was going to be a series) that is set in medieval Russia, draws on Russian folktales, has a daring and reckless heroine, and perfectly captures the arbitrary, fickle cruelty of the best fairytales. I’ll put up a post about this at some point because some of the lines are just lovely.

Neil Gaiman The View from the Cheap Seats A collection of non-fiction essays from Gaiman, on art, writing, life – compassionate and generous and wide.

Naomi Novik Uprooted High fantasy, a girl who reluctantly goes to work for a dragon and who even more reluctantly comes into her own as a witch. I read a lot of fantasy novels this year about girls/women who are forced into their destinies, who are just trying to survive because – Maslow’s hierarchy. These stories haven’t generally ended with self-actualisation, but they have ended with the heroines realising that self-actualisation is a thing, and it is a thing that they can claim and seek. I’ve loved that and been saddened by it, because I have always believed that the world is as big as your dreams – the bigger you dream, the bigger your world is. When you’re in survival mode, your dreams are necessarily truncated, limited.

E.M Delafield Diary of a Provincial Lady 1930s Britain, a hilarious, sparky, country wife who worries about hats and her children and her absent but loving husband. Just a book that I will go back to again to re-read because it’s light-hearted and good-hearted and fun.

Susan Carland Fighting Hislam Based off a PhD thesis, this book had the best articulation of feminism with faith that I’ve read so far – clear, accessible, and so relatable to me.

Robin McKinley Deerskin Painful retelling of a Charles Perrault fairytale, in which a king-father falls in love with his princess-daughter, and rapes her. The ending is redemptive, mostly, but it’s a hard journey.

Robin Sloane Mr.Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore This reminded me a little bit of Dave Eggers’ The Circle – but it was just a very very skillfully crafted story about bookstores and technology, with a very likeable protagonist and cast of characters. So readable, so satisfying. Sometimes all you want is a good dependable story with no pacing issues- and they’re actually really hard to come by!

Cherise Wolas The Resurrection of Joan Ashby A very late entry to the top ten! This was my second or third last book of the year, a 500 page behemoth rivalling last year’s A Little Life. This would be an excellent book club read I think – a genius writer who reluctantly embraces motherhood when she falls accidentally pregnant, despite her husband promising her they would never have kids because of her writing – how she struggled to find balance between work and life, how she kept her writing life secret and sacred, how understanding is not the same as love.

One of the great things about this book was that it gently evoked how much writers predict and construct reality in the world around them. Ashby could see the future because life has a narrated quality about it.

There was a bit of a cheesy turn when one character goes to India to seek spiritual truth, but overall it didn’t kill the book. So yes! I would recommend. Readable and kind and expansive.

Reading Goals for 2018

Looking back at my goals for 2017, I mostly hit them, except I’m starting to think I’m never going to get around to finishing those classics I mentioned at the end of 2016. But I know that books come to you at exactly the right time, so there may come a time in 2018 that something about The Brothers Karamazov will be how God wants to speak to me, so I haven’t given up hope on finishing that or the others yet.

Goals for 2018! I want to keep reading 2-3 books a week, so 150 will be my goal again. I also am planning to track my book expenditure this year! I want to know exactly how much money I give to Amazon and to overseas bookstores and to Best Eastern and generally how. much. I. spend. on. books. It’s definitely not an expense I begrudge, but I also don’t want it to be a careless, thoughtless expenditure, so tracking this will be a good first step I think.

I would like Feminist Book Club to keep going, definitely. It has been a joy and a privilege to discuss books with these women.

I would also like to get better at taking pictures of my reads! I love those artfully set-up and photographed book accounts on IG, especially @cosyreads – so pretty! It’s going to be my goal to do one of those a month? Is that realistic, given my limited designing and photographing skillz? We shall see!


That’s pretty much it, reading-wise. Here’s to a wonderful wonderful 2018.

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December mid-month round-up and Kinokuniya Bangkok book haul

Midway through December and I am four books from hitting my 2017 goal!

So far this month I’ve read 7 books, all pretty good but none really standout except for Frances Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadowsan AU fantasy about England in ye olden times, with a heroine who houses a bear inside her skin. I’ve noticed a trend in books I’ve read this year around heroines who are so busy trying to survive that they literally cannot think beyond the horizon of survival – there are no dreams, no wide open vistas for these heroines, only gritted-teeth getting through the day, past this cruelty and then the next. Which makes them strong and present, and utterly sad. (I loved Hardinge’s The Lie Tree about a Victorian female archaeologist last year, and I’m so happy to find out she has a few other books in her backlog that I can check out!)

Some of the other novels this month:

Adelle Waldman The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (Male author in relationships with women who are too good for him, his frustration with his own inability to commit etc etc. This was sad and toxic and very male and my friend F was right – it made me feel sad about relationships in general. So it was good, but not uplifting or redemptive at all, just very pessimistic about life and about that one guy you know who is nice but also an ass.)

Laurie Geldman Class Mom (American mothers, their involvement in their kids lives, lightly humorous, a quick read, but nothing very substantial.)

Imran Hashim Annabelle Thong (A Singaporean novel about a Chinese Catholic girl doing her Masters in Paris at the Sorbonne, looking for love and purpose. Entertaining, gave me an insight into some Singaporean quirks, but pacing was off, especially towards the end, the central love story felt just about believable but not much more than that, and I didn’t buy that Annabelle herself was a particularly likeable heroine.)

M.R Carey The Boy on the Bridge (companion of sorts to the zombie novel The Girl with all the Gifts, it was a little bit long and draggy in parts, but otherwise a page-turner. Too many people in the ensemble cast – if I hadn’t read this fairly quickly I’d have had trouble keeping track)

Angela Y. Davis Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movemen(A collection of essays and interviews by and with renowned activist Angela Y. Davis, this was primarily very interesting to me because the whole abolition of prison-institutions is a new argument to me, although apparently I’m very very late to this party. Reminded me how important it is to stay engaged with your community, to work towards making it a better one for everybody.)

I was in Bangkok over the weekend for a conference, and dropped in at the Kinokuniya in Siam Paragon. Due to having blistered feet (didn’t want to add too much more weight to the laptop load I was carrying), and being cognizant that in March I’ll have to ship all my books back home, I picked up just three books:

Photo 12-18-17, 9 09 13 PM

  • An Agatha Christie spoof,
  • a tome on what it means to be a female artist (it sounded like Joan Ashby is a female counterpart to all those novels about male writers and their long-suffering wives a la this year’s movie Mother, and a little bit Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, so I’m looking forward to this one) and
  • what seems to be one of these stories about a protracted, intermingling-lives, almost-but-not-quite romance. Sort of Sweet Valley Saga-ish without the reincarnation.

Four books left to the 150 goal, and just under two weeks to go to 2018! If I get stuck I might refer over to Ask a Manager’s book recommendation round-up for the year. Her recommendations are always quality.


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Feminist Book Club: a year of feminist reading

I’ve kind of fallen behind on recording the Feminist Book Club meets, but before I fall even further behind, I just want to note down here the books we read this year, along with who picked them, if anyone is interested!

(November) Roxane Gay Bad Feminist (My thoughts here)

(Feb) Azar Nafisi Reading Lolita in Tehran  (My thoughts here)

(March) Ayisha Malik Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (My thoughts here)

(April) Jami Attenberg All Grown Up  (My thoughts here)

(May) Caitlin Moran How to be a Woman (My thoughts here)

(July) Naomi Alderman The Power (My thoughts here)

(July) Arundhati Roy The Ministry of Utmost Happiness 

(Aug) Balli Kaur Jaswal Erotic Stories for Punjabi Women  (My thoughts here)

(Nov) Anne Helen Petersen Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman  (My thoughts here)

(If I’ve left out any books, I hope someone will correct me!)

Upcoming for 2017 so far, we have

(Jan) Gail Honeyman Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

(Feb) Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale

(May) Julia Alvarez In the time of the Butterflies

(July) ed. Nick Haramis Courage is Contagious: And Other Reasons to be Grateful for Michelle Obama


With other months to be filled in shortly!

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November Round Up – from Kyoto!

December 2017, here we are. I ended up reading 8 books in November, bringing my total count to 139 books for the year. I’m really hoping to still hit my 150 book goal, so 11 books in December it is!

Not really many noteworthy books in November after the mid-month round-up – I read a couple of thrillers, an anthology of ghost stories, but nothing very compelling. I made a move to Kyoto this week, and didn’t bring a lot of books with me – Imran Hashim’s Annabelle Thong, Frances Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadows, Lynn Weingarten’s Bad Girls with Pretty Faces. I’m still Kindle-less since I lost mine a couple of months ago, but I’m trying to get a new one now.

Fun Fact: This will be my third Kindle in maybe 8 years? – I sat on my first and favourite one, cracking the screen and my heart; I think I left my second one on a plane earlier in the year. My eyes can’t take reading off my phone or a laptop for any length of time anymore, so an e-reader is pretty indispensable to me.

Fun Fact #2: I have a TBR folder on my Kindle of about 20 books, and roughly 1000 e-books overall. This is why I need to start tracking my book purchases.

Now that I’m settled in Kyoto, my goal is to get back to a regular reading schedule, not snatching bits and pieces of time here and there. Life was pretty mad in Brunei last month, but it was all good, good things, so no complaints. Nevertheless, my aim is always, as Gustave Flaubert said, to be regular and orderly in my life so that I may be violent and original where it counts. Shout out too to Junot Diaz, who was stern on the duties of writers to reading. We don’t need more writers, he said, firmly – what we need are more readers.

Here we go into the last month of the year – let’s finish strong.

Photo 30-11-2017, 09 55 58


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Happy Birthday to My Book Blog! (and mid-month round-up)

…okay, sort of belated birthday, to be perfectly honest. I had noted down “Wow, one year since my first post” in my trusty black planner for 11 November last week, but I misplaced my planner (nightmare) and was in Singapore, so I missed it!

It has been one year of blogging (slash writing sporadically) about books I’ve read! Recently I also celebrated one year of Feminist Book Club, and one year of Netball Wednesdays – apparently in November 2016 I went on an Achieving Things binge which I’m reaping the rewards of now, a year later. I say it flippantly, but really this month of anniversaries has reminded me that good things take time, effort, investment, patience. Not everything is instant gratification, and it shouldn’t be. There is a sweet kind of joy in patient perseverance.

I started the book blog to share things I’ve read, to keep track of things I’ve read. To track patterns of my own reading behaviour and economics. In the year ahead I’d like to start seriously tracking how much I spend on books on a month to month basis (I know I’ve spent about BND400 this month alone), how much I spend on ebooks versus hard copies. I consider this expense both a personal and professional one, but it is still definitely an Expense.

(Also, despite the blog, I still have trouble remembering what the last title I read was off the top of my head when people ask.)

In the last month, my personal and professional commitments have amped up considerably (piano exam on Friday, out of the country two weekends in a row, last week of PT, EXAM SEASON AT UBD, two weeks from leaving for Kyoto, Miscellanous Other), I’ve struggled to find the time to read lengthily and quietly, but sometimes (most of the time) people are more important than paper so, no regrets. A book I pre-ordered was released today, I have an anthology of ghost stories next to me, and Alfian Sa’at’s Malay Sketches in my bag – and after piano class this evening, I have a free night. Face mask, glasses, bed, book.

Just about time, too – I’m shockingly behind on November goals. I’ve read exactly 3 books – all of which were great, but still. 3 books in 2 weeks? What am I doing with my life. They were:

  • Sylvia Townsend Warner Lolly Willowes (yes witches rural england deal with farmer devil)
  • Tash Aw Strangers on a Pier (looking one way, being looked at another, distorted mirrors and family legacies)
  • Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person (affirmative, confident, what saying yes to life means. this is pure abundance theory.)

Also, I just published a short story with Heartwrite Co. Here’s a picture! The illustrations are gorgeous and worth the price of admission, and the short story can be ordered from them on IG (

Happy birthday katdakoo reads! I can’t wait to do up my end-of-year graphs next month.



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October Round Up and Deals with the Devil

I fell 2 books short of reaching my October goal!

At 9 books, it was a bit of a slow month, reading-wise. More interestingly, it is also the first month this year in which I have read more male than female authored novels (5-4). Perhaps this contributed to the slowness? I found myself thinking while reading Crazy Rich Asians that it was super male – I thought a little bit about the differences between male and female writing last year, and I might almost be ready to refine a little further on those thoughts.

Maybe after I’ve finished the book I’m on now; Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes (as recommended in 11 Books to Hex the Patriarchy hrhr). It’s pretty good so far, sort of a cross between E.M Delafield’s The Provincial Lady, something Evelyn Waugh-y, and if the blurb holds true, FAUSTUS haha. (I read Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus last week, and I’m intrigued to consider the differences between male and female pacts with the devil. Marlowe’s Faustus disappointed me a little – he got buyer’s remorse on the whole soul thing REAL fast, and he didn’t seem to have much imagination vis a vis HAVING A DEMON AND THE POWERS OF HELL AT YOUR DISPOSAL. I mean…there’s an extended scene where he just pranks a farmer by selling him a horse made of hay, and then pretends to lose his leg? What? You have 24 years and Mephistopheles at your command, and that’s what you choose to do?)

Last year I read 7 books in November, so I am DEFINITELY gunning to exceed that this year, jeez louise. I’m currently at 131 books for the year; to meet last year’s number I’d have to read 31 more, which would be about 15-16 books in November and December. I’d actually be happy with 150; with the Singapore Writers Festival and a move abroad coming up, I think that’s probably more feasible as well. Actually, I’ll set myself a goal of getting back to my 3 books a week habit – that would put me at a solid 155 for the year. But one month at a time!

Next week is the one-year anniversary of Feminist Book Club (as well as Bruhaha’s Movember shows and JIS’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Hello November!

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Imagined Brunei: Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians”

It makes sense that Brunei would make an appearance in a Southeast Asian novel – a few days ago it was Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado, today it’s Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians.


Ref 1: pg 122 Key words: Sultan of Brunei, Gurkha soldiers

Ref 2: pg 272 Key words: Sultan of Brunei

Ref 3: pg 277 Key words: privacy, Bruneian princesses, Bruneian royalty, shopping

It makes sense that in a book about the “crazy rich” that the predominant focus on Bruneian-ness be royalty, disposable income, retail.

In other news, a friend commented to me that this book felt like it was written by a female, but I have to disagree. It felt very male to me – whatever that means. Haha, Sunday afternoon thoughts – never reaching a conclusion. What I liked about it was that there was a human story underneath the glitz and glamour – in that way it did feel quite Jackie Collins-esque. And now I’m looking forward to the movie, hope they don’t chintz out on the fabulous setting and detail!

Also, I definitely filed away some thoughts on my own personal home decor while reading this book. Heh.

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