What I Read Over the Last 18 Months

Sophie Playle

I’d planned to publish my reading log for 2017 at the end of last year or beginning of this year … You know, when it actually made sense to do so. But time got away from me, so I’m taking this mid-year(ish) opportunity to tell you about all the books I read between January 2017 and the end of June 2018.

An eighteen-month reading log! Are you excited? I know I am.

Oh, but before we dive in, let me explain my rating system. Some might consider my star ratings a bit harsh. My ratings are based on a blend of my assessment of the writing and how much I personally enjoyed the book.

Terrible, did not enjoy at all.
✭✭ Not very good, not my cup of tea.
✭✭✭ Good, worth reading.
✭✭✭✭ Really good, loved it.
✭✭✭✭✭ One of the best things I’ve ever read.

In this log, I gave only two books five-star reviews. I don’t tend to end up reading books I think are only one star. (Except when I read this.)

Right, onto the books.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, audiobook)

This is where the Harry Potter books start bloating up, but other than some really long the-baddie-explains-everything-at-the-end shenanigans, I really enjoyed this one.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling ✭✭✭ (fiction, audiobook)

When the Harry Potter books first came out, this was the book that made me stop reading. I remember being so bored with all the government stuff as a teenager. Surprisingly, I think this one was one of the best movies, though!

From Coping to Thriving, Hannah Braime ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

Filled with lots of good advice, but it asked far too much of me as a reader! This probably would have made a great companion to a long course of therapy; I just didn’t want to put in the time to do all the exercises.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

This was super interesting in places and really got me thinking about some of the perils of the online world – as well as how amazing it is. It just didn’t grip me all the way through.

Under the Empyrean Sky, Chuck Wendig ✭✭✭ (fiction, kindle)

Cornpunk! Who knew that was a thing? The world created in this novel was gritty and interesting. Unfortunately, I just felt the structure and pace didn’t hold up – and I didn’t get enough of a sense of completion from this first instalment in the series. Rather than make me want to read the rest of the series, I found myself pretty apathetic.

The Terracotta Bride, Zen Cho ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, kindle)

If you don’t know about all the amazing novellas Tor publishes, you need to get your butt over to Amazon right now. This is a beautifully written ‘tale of first love, bad theology and robot reincarnation in the Chinese afterlife’.

The Hippo Campus, Andrew and Pete ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

A good foundation for understanding how marketing in today’s world works. Useful for business owners like myself. I didn’t learn anything particularly new, though it did give me a jolt of inspiration.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, JK Rowling ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, audiobook)

Voldemort’s backstory … Not knowing who to trust … Dumbledore! Oh, Dumbledore! *sobs* This book gives so much depth to the series.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl ✭✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

One of my best friends kept recommending this book to me, and I eventually got round to reading it after a particularly acute spell of existential crisis. It was harrowing and beautiful and deep, and helped me make more sense of my life.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairy Land in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherine M Valente ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, paperback)

Isn’t this just the best title in the world? This was such an imaginative and quirky book. Though the story feels MG and it has a young protagonist, it’s very sophisticated in substance and style.

Release, Patrick Ness ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, hardback)

I bought this for my friend Karen (same friend mentioned above) and queued for an hour to get it signed for her. I started reading it in the queue so had to finish it before giving it to her! Set over the course of a single day (inspired by Mrs Dalloway), this is part coming-out story, part ghost story.

The Curiosities, Christopher Reid ✭✭✭✭ (poetry, paperback)

I had to remind myself to read more poetry. Because when I find good poetry, I love it. This was good poetry.

Impossible Memories, Chris Tutton ✭✭✭ (poetry, paperback)

This was pretty good poetry.

The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter and Live Better in a Fast World, Carl Honore ✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

I wish I’d given up on this book. I think I didn’t because I got over halfway through it before it started feeling like a slog. It was interesting in places, but it wasn’t particularly applicable.

Known, Mark W Schaefer ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, paperback)

I read this while staying at Karen’s. (I SWEAR I HAVE OTHER FRIENDS.) It’s all about getting known in your field in order to run a successful business in the digital age. Sound advice, but again, nothing I didn’t already know.

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, hardback)

A collection of feminist essays that shine a light on the issues women face in modern times. It’s pretty upsetting stuff, to be honest, but so important to talk about.

Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

A ‘blend of memoir, science, philosophy and experimentation’ in which the author tackles a different theme every month, trying to increase her happiness levels. Thought-provoking.

Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

This book was everything I hoped it would be. It takes a long, hard look at how we let our egos get in the way of success and happiness. Probably my most-highlighted book of the year.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, audiobook)

I did get a little tired of the lack of direction in much of this story, but I guess it felt more real because of it? Even so, seeing all the threads come together was so satisfying.

The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control – and Live to Tell the Tale, Alice Mathison ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, hardback)

Part memoir, part writing guide. This was a beautiful, inspiring insight into an award-winning author’s creative process. And it inspired this blog post: How to Use Coincidence in Fiction.

Stuff That Sucks: Accepting What You Can’t Change and Committing to What You Can, Ben Sedley ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, paperback)

I picked this up at my local library as it seemed like a quick read. It’s all about accepting emotions and living your values, but I hadn’t realised it was aimed at teenagers! Still, some useful concepts.

Sign My Citalopram, Hannah Chutzpah ✭✭✭ (poetry, paperback)

I bought this after seeing this poet perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I love how relatable Chutzpah’s poetry is. Musings for the anxious millennial.

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, audiobook)

It took me a while to get into this one as I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but this story wrapped itself slowly around me until I could barely breathe with emotion. It inspired this blog post: How to Write a Novel Without a Villain.

The Burning World, Isaac Marion ✭✭✭ (fiction, paperback)

I absolutely loved Warm Bodies, which was the first in this series and depicted the first-person account of a zombie slowly regaining his humanity. This instalment was enjoyable, but it didn’t blow me away, which was disappointing. Am I misremembering how great Warm Bodies was, or is this novel just not quite as amazing?

The Shrink and the Sage, Julian Baggini and Antonia Macaro ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, paperback)

A philosopher and a psychologist take it in turns discussing some of life’s biggest topics: the problem with happiness, being true to yourself, self-deception, responsibility … I love this kind of cerebral reflection. Fascinating stuff.

How to Style Your Brand, Fiona Humberstone ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, paperback)

One of my goals this year is to further refine my business branding and redesign my website, so I picked up this book. It’s a beautiful book, and I love this kind of thing so I found it really interesting.

How Not to Travel the World, Lauren Juliff ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

As someone who does a lot of travelling, I really enjoyed reading this personal account of an incredibly accident-prone, anxious traveller who faced her fears and got out into the world. It made me feel better about my own emotions, and by not shying away from the difficulties of travel it helped me figure out what kind of travelling I really want to do.

Freelancing on the Road, Rachel Stuckey ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

When I travel, I take my laptop with me and continue to work. It’s how I’m able to afford to travel so much! This was a quick read that gave me a few more ideas on how to make this arrangement even more manageable, and it was nice to read about a fellow editor living a similar lifestyle.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, Margaret Killjoy ✭✭✭✭✭ (fiction, kindle)

This novella blew me away. It’s dark and rich and delicious. The characters are well-drawn and interesting. I was desperate to find out what was going to happen – I couldn’t put this one down!

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, Anan McGuire ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, kindle)

An imaginative, interesting and engaging story. The narrative felt light-hearted while simultaneously resonant and deeply wise. I loved this.

30 Days in the Word Mines, Chuck Wendig ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

Made up of posts pulled from his hilarious blog, this book gives you a daily kick up the butt to get you to finish the first draft of your novel. I decided to read this when I was trying to rekindle my creative writing habit, but eventually I figured out I was holding onto some defunct ideas about myself. I wrote about this in one of my newsletters, which you can read here: I Finally Figured Something Out … And I’m So Relieved.

The Mistress, Tiffany Reisz ✭✭✭ (fiction, kindle)

This series is my guilty pleasure that I feel no guilt over whatsoever. The fourth instalment in the Original Sinners series continues to blend themes of sadomasochism erotica, religion and romance. This one felt a little bit fragmented, though, with too many viewpoint characters.

Shoot the Damn Dog, Sally Brampton ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

A heartbreaking personal account of living with depression. I learned so much. It also made me feel incredibly grateful that I’ve never experienced major depression, and incredibly sad thinking about those who have. Though there’s lots of great advice in this book about how to deal with depression, I was deeply saddened to learn Sally Brampton eventually died of her illness.

My Shitty Twenties, Emily Morris ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

I read this for two reasons. I wanted to know what it’s really like to have a baby. And I’d also heard this was pretty funny. It’s the account of a university student who becomes pregnant (with the father disappearing and telling her to enjoy her ‘impending shitty, snotty, vomitty twenties’). I enjoyed it.

The Lost District, Joel Lane ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, paperback)

This slim collection of dark speculative short stories has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. I finally picked it up last winter, and it was the perfect book to read during the dark evenings while soaking in the bathtub. Visceral, ethereal and haunting. At times, the obtuseness of the stories was a little frustrating, and the settings and plots became a little repetitious, but in a way this added to the challenge of interpreting these strange tales, and the themes echoed.

The Year of Less, Cait Flanders ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

Cait Flanders’ story of freeing herself of debt and the grip of consumerism is an interesting one. I’d previously listened to a long podcast interview with her, so perhaps this story felt already too familiar for me to enjoy as much as I would have coming to it fresh. This book was also much more autobiographical (with a great deal about overcoming alcoholism) and less universal than I was expecting.

Eat Up!, Ruby Tandoh ✭✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

The most thoughtful, kind, holistic account of our relationship with food I’ve ever read. It revelled in the delight of eating and made me feel less anxious. Highly recommended.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams ✭✭✭✭ (fiction, kindle)

This is such a short book, I really have no excuse for not having read it before! (I think I put it off because I was already so familiar with the story.) It was so enjoyable, but honestly, that wasn’t an ending! Of course I’ll read the rest in the series now.

The Motivation Hacker, Nick Winters ✭✭✭ (non-fiction, kindle)

‘I wrote this book in three months while simultaneously attempting seventeen other missions,’ Nick Winters says. Reading about all his goals makes my blood pressure rise. But this was actually a pretty engaging read that discusses the author’s methods in detail. It gave me some good ideas on how to better motivate myself.


Genre: Fiction (15), non-fiction (21), poetry (3)
Format: Kindle (21), paperback (10), hardback (3), audiobook (5)

Best Fiction: The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, Margaret Killjoy
Best Non-Fiction: Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Whew! There we go. I hope you found it interesting to see the kinds of things I’ve been reading. Perhaps I’ve given you a few titles to add to your to-read list.

As an editor I work with manuscripts all day, so you might think reading is the last thing I’d want to do in my free time. Quite frankly, if I stopped reading, my editorial and analytical skills would suffer.

Besides, I love reading! It’s one of the reasons I became an editor in the first place. Reading for pleasure never feels like a chore.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more: liminalpages.com

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Editorial considerations, creative revelations and the occasional existential lamentation – sharing my experiences and personal recommendations exclusively with you.