Sarah to Zero Pt.2

What the fuck is Sarah to Zero? I love books and I buy a lot. Over the years I had accumulated hundreds. This was my overambitious intention to read them all. Every single one.

I started 2020 with the goal of reading 100 owned books. For some reason in about March (actually right before the pandemic became our every day) I did a small culling of my shelf and was left with around 185 books. I decided, fuck it, I’m gonna read them all.

And I did.

I somehow actually did it. I finished last year having read 206 books and with an empty shelf. (Just kidding, I already have 25 books on my shelf. HAHA! I received some lovely books for my birthday and Christmas that I didn’t include in my challenge and will calmly read throughout this year.) I still can’t quite believe that I completed the challenge.

How did I do it? Oh, well I did absolutely nothing else for a year. Simply put.

Here’s some things I learnt from my mad year reading 206 books:

– It’ll take a lot of time.

– I am not a quick reader. But I am a quick listener.

– Audiobooks are life.

– You become more equipped at knowing instantly if you’re going to enjoy a book/gel with the writing.

– Not every book is a winner. And that’s okay. Some are still worth reading.

– If your mouth is not open speaking to someone right that moment, then you should probably have an audiobook on.

– I buy a lot of books I think I should read. (Thanks, English Literature degree, you bastard.)

– I no longer read books I think I should read if I’m not feeling them.

– There is a lot of holes in my reading and my diversity of author, subject matter, even genre. I’m excited to explore more.

– Readathons will really get you there.

– You have very patient people in your life who love you and respect your hairbrained schemes. (Looking at you Danny, you the realest.)

– Damn, there is a lot of incredible books out there. And you have just a tiny sliver of them.

– Reckless determination can really take you places.

– Reading in the garden is really lovely. Reading in bed when you’re tired will not end well.

– You’ll watch way less Netflix/Youtube, but in a good way.

– There’s some pretty fun people on bookstagram and taking pictures of books is surprisingly addictive.

– You find links between books everywhere. I think it’s because you’re still living in a book world but catapulting yourself into another before your brain can adjust.

Would I do it again? Absofuckinglutely not.

I honestly had a really fun year and I’m glad I did the challenge and I’m still gobsmacked that I actually completed it. But one of my main motivations for doing the challenge to begin with was so that I could have a more chill reading experience moving forward. I had just accumulated a lot of books, from like ten years of buying more than I was reading. Whenever I looked at my shelf I felt excited but overwhelmed and when I purchased a new book I felt guilty and would put it aside to pick up an older one. Dumb, I know.

Goals and intentions going forward:

– Keep my physically owned tbr to under twenty books.

– Join some online book clubs and seek out new, fun readathons.

– Read diversely. Prioritse BIPOC and queer stories and authors.

– Take more time reviewing each book.

– Do buddy reads with my friends.

– Read more new authors. I used to read mainly backlist but I’m really excited by new authors recently.

– Read every memoir in existence. Or, you know, as close as you can get.

– Read every day in some capacity. Cos you love it.

I reckon that’s enough to be getting on with for now! I set my reading goal as one book this year and I’ve completed that. Feels really freeing to just see where the year goes now!

What are your reading goals for the year? Did having to stay home during the past year mean you read more than usual? Did you find any new favourites? Do you want to make reading a bigger priority for yourself this year? I hope so, cos reading is boss!

Happy reading!

Chinese Satellite – Phoebe Bridgers

End of the Year Book Tag

Can you believe we’re already well into September? The concept of time creeps me out. How can minutes and whole months tick away almost without notice? Spooky. Anyway, September is where we are so it’s time to see where I’m up to with my reading and reassess my reading goals for the end of the year. This book tag was created a couple of years ago on Youtube by Ariel Bissett. I thought I’d translate it to my blog cos like fuck I’m making a video.

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

YES. About a hundred. I’m a famous ‘pick a book up, read two chapters, LOVE IT, then completely ignore it for the rest of my life’ type of reader. But to pinpoint a couple? The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin is one I purchased a couple of months ago and have heard nothing but good things about. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far and think it’ll be a great wintery read. Pride by Tim Tate is one I’ve started last week (but famously already put down). I adore the movie Pride and think everyone should watch it. It restores your faith in humanity, recharges your activism and makes you bubble with solidarity. This book is sure to give the exact same feelings. It is set up as a book-long interview with many of the real people from the movie’s story. Lastly, Milkman by Anna Burns. Wow, has this book been hanging over me. I just haven’t been able to get into the reading style yet. But I can’t imagine it won tons of awards for no reason. So I just need to try again.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

What else could be said for this question other than Harry Potter? I mean, come on. But in all seriousness, I am wanting to get to Chamber of Secrets this month since reading Philosopher’s Stone in July. I’m working my way through the beautiful illustrated editions in preparation for the fourth book getting released next month!

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

I’m actually not usually one for new releases. As in, I don’t really research new books for the sole reason that I despise hardbacks. So I find it pointless getting hyped for a book that I’m not gonna be able to buy for eight months or so. I find books on the grapevine just as they’re coming out in paperback! That being said, the series I’m listening to on Audible right now (Keeper of the Lost Cities) is bringing out its eighth book this year! That’s Legacy by Shannon Messenger. I’ve been listening to one a month so will get to that one right on time. Another book I’m excited for is The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, which is actually out today! I never dreamed this book would have a sequel so I’m pumped for that (in eight months).

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, because I’m insane but have just been staring at this book on my unread shelf for years now. A book shouldn’t intimidate you. Right? More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin because, although these books remind a lot of summer, I just cannot wait any longer to see what happens with all these characters! Just Kids by Patti Smith has been sat half-read on my shelf for too long now. Also, there’s just something about New York in the autumn.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

I waited for this book alllllll year (see my earlier comment about hardbacks). All I’ve heard is amazing things about this novel so I just had to read it. Now I finally have it I’m almost too scared to read it because I’ve built it up so much in my head. I’m really excited to read it though! The book is Motherhood by Sheila Heti.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?

I have. Have you met me? I’m an obsessive planner. My project is called Sarah to Zero. That’s all you’re getting for now. I’ll give you more details in January!

Called Out In The Dark (Reworked) – Snow Patrol

August/NEWTs Readathon Wrap Up

Guys, I did it! I read my nine books for the NEWTs readathon! I’m now a qualified Curse Breaker if someone wants to hire me! Haha, in all seriousness though, I surprised myself there. I can be quite the procrastinator and nineteen days into the month I had only read one book. But I think I’m just so stubborn when it comes to finishing a book challenge (and I really can’t do anything in life without an imminent deadline that I’ll almost certainly miss) that with ten days left of the readathon I just read like hell and did it! And some great books I read too:

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali – Sabina Khan

A YA contemporary that I couldn’t stop reading. On my latest trip to Gay’s the Word in London, I saw this book in three separate sections of the shop! How could I say no? My interest was fully piqued. Moved into action by the deaths of numerous openly gay people in Bangladesh, Khan has fictionalised an American Bangladeshi coming out story. It’s heartbreaking and well as heartwarming. Learning about cultures different from your own is always fascinating and I loved how the simple parts of a culture were also present: food and clothes etc. Whilst I thought the end was a breakneck change from the start, I still enjoyed the journey.

The Easter Rising: A Guide To Dublin In 1916 – Conor Kostick, Lorcan Collins

A book that I stole from my dad and has been on my shelf for years! It’s no secret that I love Ireland. If you didn’t know that about me then, hi my name’s Sarah and I most definitely prefer my Irish heritage to my British. I traveled to Dublin in 2016 on one of our many trips to the capital city. This one was pretty special though. We went at Easter, an April that marked 100 years since the Easter Rising. The rebel’s goal? To demand an Irish Republic separate from the British, in simple terms: freedom. This book takes you on a tour of Dublin through all the significant buildings and landmarks of the Rising. It also introduces you to all the keep players. Very informative and has lovely little human anecdotes to compliment the facts. Also, the writers curate an actual walking tour in Dublin if you’re ever there!

The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One – Amanda Lovelace

The last book in this poetry series and I’m honestly gutted. These collections have been amazing and are books I’ll keep coming to again and again. They are not for the faint-hearted. But if you want to get uncomfortable and become a better ally or friend or if you want to work through your own demons then read this. It’s quite honestly perfect. Poems will leave you hollow inside whilst others will steal a smile from your lips. To do both in consecutive pages is a real talent.

The Testament of Mary – Colm Tóibín

I love a good recommendation from a friend. Occasionally they can come with a lot of pressure because what if you don’t like it? Is the friendship over? Fortunately, I won’t find out today as I loved this book. It takes a look at Mary’s life after the crucifixion of Jesus. And damn, this Mary is cool, why does nobody talk about her? She’s strong willed but quietly so. She’s empty after the loss of her family. However she doesn’t believe her son did these miraculous things so she’s finding it very hard to consider him the messiah. Mad right? Just read it.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

I was supposed to read this book in uni. I wish I had. A lot of the books I chose to read this month had heavy themes of religion. Which is odd as I am an atheist. However, each is uniquely critical of certain aspects of religion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually anti-religion. If it works for you that’s cool. But what these books I’ve read show is how people twist the definition of god with power. They’re not a synonym; at least they shouldn’t be. People abuse the bible and what they think is a good way to live simply so they can have power. In this particular book we’re focusing a lot on homosexuality. Knowing it’s a semi-autobiographical text wounded me a little. I’ll simply never be able to understand why people must try to oppress other people’s right to be authentically themselves.

Women Talking – Miriam Toews

For two years in a Mennonite colony, hundreds of women were drugged and attacked in the night. They were told they were being violated by demons who had come to punish them for their sins. In actual fact they were being raped by a group of men from the colony. This is a real thing that happened. This book is a fictionalised tale of the women’s response and how they fought for their freedom back. It was narrated really interestingly through the minutes of a meeting of eight women from two families. Their friendships and rivalries will restore your faith in the human spirit.

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

I loved this book. I’m not sure it’s going to be for everyone. If you love heavily plotted books with explicit, explained endings then don’t read this. If you like something just a bit bizarre but fascinating then read it. Set in a Japanese city, it explores what happens on the streets when the last train ends and before the first one begins. I think I just really felt affinity with the night people because I’ve always been a night person. I can pin point the moment when I was fourteen and messaging a boy I liked on msn; since then I’ve been staying up past four am. The night is quiet and full of magic. I don’t know, I just liked it.

Neverseen – Shannon Messenger

I’m really getting into this series and I love seeing the characters grow as the books go on. The blossoming moments of friendship are some of my favourite parts of the novel. I don’t read many series so it’s hard to tell you anything about this that isn’t a spoiler (this is the fourth book to the Keeper of the Lost Cities series). However, I enjoyed the change of location for this book as well as the new characters. And that’s all I’ll say..

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – Hector Garcia Puigcerver, Francesc Miralles

A solid 3.5 book for me I think. I found it very slow to get into, often getting overwhelmed with references to other works instead of making its own point. I enjoyed the parts about finding your ikigai or your passion/reason for existing/etc., and it was quite inspiring and renewed my own goals for my own life. But ultimately the endless focus on being 100 years old put me off. Getting to that age is amazing but it’s not what makes a happy life and I don’t think ‘being old’ is what we should be aiming for. Life is fleeting and we don’t know when it’s gonna end so I’d say don’t even plan for your golden years, just live the ones you have right now.

And that’s it! I’m moving into September with five books left on my yearly Goodreads challenge! Let’s go 📚

Under A Dome – Of Monsters And Men

Just Saying Hi

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Even longer since I’ve written a post that wasn’t a book wrap up! Radio silence all summer. But you’ve got to assume I’ve been doing something, right? We all know how bad I am for staring at walls and letting life pass me by! However, I think I’ve done quite a bit this summer! But I’ve missed writing posts so want to ease myself back in. Today, I thought I’d give you a quick overview of what I’ve been getting up to recently in everyone’s favourite form: a list!

I completed a week-long readathon, reading seven books in total.

Did a run in the rain. (Thanks, British Summer)

Met my friend and did tequilas at 5pm on a Monday.

Watched hours of a Devil May Cry Let’s Play on YouTube with Danny. (Mainly assume Danny’s with me for most of the list so I don’t have to keep typing his name!)

Tried to eat at two pubs on a random Wednesday and was told there was no seats so settled for a chippy instead with my nan.

Finally completed a 750 Harry Potter jigsaw after a long ten-week slog (we thought it would be a piece if cake, how wrong we were). Thanks Dad, Claire, Neil, Jules, Keith and anyone else for your help!

Opened an ISA to buy a house cos I’m an adult.

Sat up chatting all evening with my sister. Mainly about her upcoming wedding!

Went to The National Gallery in London and realised, damn, art is stunning.

Did a morning run in Hyde Park.

Went to so many London book shops including one on a boat!

Met a couple of friends for a drink in Camden and then went to an arcade.

Played board games for hours at Draughts.

Went for a fancy tea and drinks with my family and listened to live jazz with espresso martinis.

Celebrated my mum’s birthday by baking loads of cakes.

Rearranged my bookshelves!

Played mini-golf with Danny’s mates then drank too many beers.

Saw Feeder play four songs.

Got insanely drunk with Danny and my brother and did karaoke.

Went to Frost Burgers (a vegan junk food place) in Liverpool and wanted to cry about how good the food was.

Drank more beers with Danny’s friends and played board games.

Watched Love, Simon then Rambo: First Blood immediately after, you know, for variety.

Walked around Ogwen Lake in the Wales with Danny and my dad. Then we visited every takeaway in Bethesda to create the ultimate combination feast.

After camping overnight we went to Penrhyn Castle and Gardens and it was amazing, go.

Did a run after a two-week break, we almost passed out.

Had a big nap.

Read loads as I was doing a month-long readathon and after 19 days of August had read 1 of my 9 books!

Went for a walk on Crosby beach with the Iron Men.

Danny made me a Katsu Curry from scratch.

Went to Birmingham with my sisters for lots of wedmin (Wedding Admin).

Made a set of cupboards for my dad that had the absolute worst instructions I’ve ever seen in a flat pack. Got treated to a Pizza Express for our efforts!

Made another cupboard and wanted to jump off a cliff. (Still one to go!)

Won my first ever game of Blob (it’s a card game.)

Went back to Frost Burgers.

Saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Downloaded an app called Libby that let’s you rent all the e/audiobooks your local library has to offer!

Drank more beers and played more board games with the Wirral Boys.

Finished my ninth book of August on the last day of the readathon.

And there’s my summer! I hope you enjoyed the endless scroll there.

How was your summer? I’d love to hear the most bizarre thing you did. If you’re sad that summer is over, just remember it’s autumn now and that’s even better!

Soothsayer – Of Monsters and Men

2019 Reading Goals

We’re headed in to our fourth month of the year so I thought it was about time I tell you my reading goals for the year. We were stuck in a Wrap Up cycle there for a while but now we’re up-to-date they should just be monthly moving forward! I love talking about books almost as much as I like reading books or buying books or rearranging books on a bookshelf. Books just make the world go round, right? Since finishing uni, I’ve been making it a bigger priority in my life to read good, important, brave, inclusive, informative, diverse, funny, honest, blunt books. Each year I’ve done a little better. Last year I managed to complete my challenge of reading 50 books. This was a HUGE deal for me. Going back a couple of years i was reading maybe 14 a year. Which is still a big number and the right amount for some people. But I knew I wanted to inhale more words. I wanted to expose my brain to more ideas. So I needed to read more books. Between January and June last year I read 26 books. Literally crushed it. Then between July and November I read 7 books. Leaving 17 to be read in December. Reflecting on this information, I decided to keep my Goodreads Reading Challenge at 50 for 2019. I think this is sensible, right? It’s a goal I hit but not without a heck of a lot of scrambling towards the end. So now we have the number but what are the other goals?

1. I want to read every day.

2. I want to aim for one book a week. Sometimes I’ll be busier than others and a week may go by with finishing a book. My intention, though, is to not have seven consecutive weeks pass without finishing a book.

3. Stick to my book buying system (find here: https://sarahwilliamsandco.com/2019/02/11/the-book-buying-ban-pt-2-conclusion/) I’m doing really good at this so far!

4. By 2020 own more read than unread books.

5. Buddy-read lots with my boyfriend. (We’re reading the Mistborn trilogy right now!)

6. Read all the memoirs in the world.

7. Choose reading over Netflix 90% of the time. I.e. STOP BEING LAZY.

8. Read more women than men. (Something I seem to be naturally doing after my year of reading women in 2017!)

9. Read experiences that are not my own.

10. Have fun with it. Yeah, I’m setting these goals but I don’t want it to be a chore or it will inevitably end in failure.

Happy reading, kids!

Ticket To Ride – The Beatles

want to read more?

I presume you’ve clicked on this post because you want to read more. So let’s not dilly-dally.

1. Let’s start simple. Take a book with you everywhere. And I mean everywhere. In the past I’ve turned into Rory Gilmore and had several books in my bag depending on mood. But this can get heavy pretty quickly so let’s stick with one book for now. Don’t have a bag? Do you know a lot of books fit in your back jeans pocket? Not your aesthetic? Okay, you have a phone, right? Always be reading a book on your kindle app for instances when you find yourself with no other reading material.

2. Replace social media scrolling with book time. Whenever you find yourself in the inevitable cycle of refreshing the same stale feed, put your phone down and pick up your book instead. Waiting for a bus? Waiting for your frozen pizza to cook? Get rid of the phone and read a chapter instead. Take a book to the toilet. No, that’s not weird. We both know you already take your phone there so why not be somewhat productive instead?

3. If you commute by public transport then this is the excellent time to get a few pages in. You’re gonna need to blast your Spotify to drown out the other distracting passengers but it’s not impossible to concentrate. If you drive to work, sorry, you’re screwed. Just kidding, you could try an audio book. I don’t use them particularly cos I find them to be super expensive. However, if anyone knows where to find some cheap ones then lemme know!

4. Speaking of audio books, they’re also a great way to get into reading if you haven’t physically read a book for a while. Pop one on whilst you drive or cook tea. There is a few free books that you can find on Spotify and some people find an Audible subscription to be good value so there is options out there. The people who say audio books aren’t reading? Ignore these people, they’re stupid and always need to prove they’re the ‘best reader in the world’. Whatever that is.

5. Actually schedule time into your day to read. Like put it on your calendar with your other meetings and events. Be serious if you want to read more and not just talk about it. Some people might get up thirty minutes earlier to fit in a chapter or two. Maybe you have time in between classes, or on your lunch break at work. Or maybe it’s only right before bed that you get your first chance of the day. That’s okay. Even if it’s only ten minutes. Be consistent and give yourself the time.

6. If you’re not enjoying a book, you’re allowed to stop reading it. We have some weird notion that that if a book is started it must be finished. I don’t know where this comes from cos have you seen every episode of every show you’ve ever watched? I definitely haven’t! So why do we suffer when reading? Why do we try and drag ourselves through books we hate? If a book isn’t serving you, release it from your life. Some people go by a 100 page rule, after that if they really don’t like it then they stop. I’m even more brutal, I have no limit. If I know after twenty three pages that the book is not for me then I’ll stop reading it. I might try it again in the future, don’t get me wrong, but for right now it’s shelved and I move on to find another book that I cannot put down.

7. Keep yourself accountable. Whether that’s using a tracker in you bullet journal; updating your progress on Goodreads; making videos or blog posts about your reading or even starting a book club with a few friends. Find a book you’re all excited about. You’ll get through it quicker because you’ll know you can drink wine and talk about it with your friends once you’ve finished!

Why is there seven tips? Not like five or ten or something? Cos I only have seven tips and we all need to calm down about odd numbers that aren’t multiples of five being creepy.

Happy reading!

Love Me – The 1975

my year of reading women: the conclusion

At the end of 2016 I was at an impasse with my reading. I’d spent a life juggling assigned reading for school and books I could scramble from the library for fun. But during uni I’d let reading for pleasure fall by the wayside. If we’re being honest, I’d let reading for uni fall by the wayside too. But what English Literature student can’t relate? The sheer quantity is a joke. But if I did pick up a book I was usually doing it out of guilt for an essay due. Not to feed my soul.

So fast forward to graduation and it had been years since I had properly read a book, guilt free, that I had chosen for myself. I was so excited to read every book in the world. So what did I do? I read almost none. Partly I was too overwhelmed with where to start and partly I was just being lazy as always. So going into 2017 I knew something needed to change. Books are my favourite thing in the world so not reading them was a big disservice to my authenticity. I decided to take drastic action and vowed to read only women authors for a whole year. It was kind of a fuck you to all the dead white men I’d read at uni.

And thus began my year of reading women.

And you know what I found? It wasn’t even hard. Because there are so many epic women writers in this world, some who get the recognition they deserve and others who sit quietly on the shelf behind the new James Paterson monstrosity. So by reading only women you’re not cutting our thousands of authors you’re actually opening your mind to millions more. On my shelf alone there was hundreds of women I was excited to read but just hadn’t got to. Never mind the gigantic pool the rest of the world also had to offer.

And it was refreshing. What a year to be reading only women when we were out there fighting for our rights and demanding change in a heavily patriarchal world. It was liberating and made me feel so connected to so many badass women. I wasn’t tempted to read a man the whole year because even when I had a hankering for Orwell or Vonnegut or Baldwin I knew I had so much time to read them in the future. Right now they were irrelevant. This was the year of women.

On analysing my bookshelf in January 2017 I noted I had a shocking ratio of men to women. I had about two thirds men. How I’d got to that point I couldn’t tell you. Having about fifteen Shakespeare plays probably didn’t help my case though. So I made a concerted effort to only buy women when I inevitably found myself in a bookstore. The affect of that is I now have more women on my shelf than men. I know. I buy a lot of books. But it satisfies me to look at the shelf now and know it’s properly represented. At least it’s one small slice of diversity out of the giant library of the world.

For 2018 I’ve decided my reading goal will be to now try and read all the unread books on my shelf. I’m postponing buying more new books until my tbr is down quite a bit. Now at my current rate reading my whole shelf could take years but I’m willing to put in the work. Though when January hit I couldn’t quite stop reading women. Part of me wanted to go for round two but I knew I wanted to really get reading everything on my shelf that intrigues me. Man, woman, black, white, Asian, Native American, straight, gay, bi, transgender, cis gender, gender queer, memoir, play, poem, novel, essay. I want to read all the words.

That’s my real goal.

So eventually in March this year I broke my fourteen months of reading women. If you’re gonna do it it’s gotta be with someone boss so I chose Albert Camus. And I don’t regret it but part of me still longs for the glorious days of celebrating women authors.

I learnt a lot from reading women. I learnt that we have some incredibly talented and strong voices. We have important stories to tell. We’re funny as hell. We are deeply troubled by the world we see yet consumed by it’s beauty. We are wise yet we’re never done learning. We want to help people and show them they’re not alone. We want to tell other women to live their truth too. We are badass. And damn, can we write well. Simply, we are storytellers. And I’m so excited to explore thousands more stories and experiences from epic women. So I see many years of reading only women in my future. As well as I’m sure several other reading challenges.

I wholeheartedly recommend a similar year to everyone.

Cos women are boss, duh.

Peace.

Bitch – Meredith Brooks