My 2021 Reading List

I started making my 2021 reading list sometime in the last quarter of 2020. I wrote down the names of books I’d read about or heard about (from friends and in the many book-focused podcasts I listen to). The list got longer and longer and continues to lengthen as I continue to add to it. It now comprises one-hundred-and-fourteen titles and I have started on some of them, and completed two (one audiobook at the end of last year, and one e-book this year). Oh, the list doesn’t include the eleven books that the book club I belong to has scheduled for this year, nor some of the book I am currently reading.

I don’t believe I will read all the books on my list, but it’s a useful list, obviously. My reading is guided by my moods and so, who knows what I will end up reading.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time since Malaysia’s first lockdown period began, in March 2020, cataloguing my book collection. Last week, I started on my South-east Asian (including Malaysian) books and have found myself thinking that I should spend a year reading only these books. I’ve also thought how lovely it’d be to devote a whole year doing nothing but re-reading. Maybe next year …

Little House in Segamat

I’ve been thinking of writing a personal memoir that has a house I lived in as a child as its centre. Although I lived in 281 Jalan Pawang for only eight years (from age three to eleven), this house had a huge impact on my life and my imagination, and it continues to be a source of inspiration in my writing.

This blog post describes the house in terms of it being haunted. It’s what comes up most frequently when my sisters and I reminisce about living there, but of course it was much more than that. Those years I lived at 281 were definitely the happiest of my childhood. My best friend lived across the street; we had a large beautiful garden filled with flowering shrubs and fruit trees; my mother’s siblings and their families, and my grandmother (before she died, when I was eight) and great-grand mother came to us for large, loud and merry reunions every Christmas and Chinese New Year; there was even one morning when I looked out the window and saw a pony in the garden.

I’m going to push myself to work on this. My tendency is to think about writing for a long time (years even) before even putting down a single word, but I don’t have time to wait. I would like this book to be written before I turn seventy. Is that too ambitious?

Witch Week

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-30 at 20.04.21
The haunted house at Tokyo Disneyland. (We were in the queue for more than an hour.)

Halloween isn’t one of my favourite ‘celebrations’. I grew up in small Malaysian towns in the 70s and 80s, and may have come across trick-or-treating and costume parties in American sitcoms, but these practices never appealed to me. Back then, I was still a practising Roman Catholic, and 31st October was just the day before All Saints’ Day, a day of obligation (mass was a must). The day after All Saints’ was All Souls’ Day, which was when we would visit my grandfather’s grave and pull up the weeds that had taken root since our last visit (probably in early April, which is when the Chinese community visit the graves of their ancestors).

These days, Halloween means my children donning fancy dress and watching horror films. This is still happening this year, but at home, thanks to lockdown.

I joined in once with one of those hairbands that make you look like you have a knife through your head, but have no costume planned this year. I will, however, be joining a Halloween book discussion — only because the book is Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones.

Witch Week, I’ve just discovered, is also an annual bookish event started by Lory of Emerald City Book Review  to celebrate fantasy books and authors. This year (its seventh), it’s co-hosted by Chris and Lizzie, mostly over at Lizzie’s blog.

The theme for 2020 is Gothick and and here’s the schedule:

Day 1: 31st October, Halloween
A tour of castles and towers featured in 200 years of gothic literature.

Day 2: 1st November, All Saints’ Day
Visiting Italy via Alessandro Manzoni’s 19th century gothic romance, The Betrothed.

Day 3: 2nd November, All Soul’s Day
An in-depth discussion of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Day 4: 3rd November
The collected stories of M. R. James.

Day 5: 4th November
Modern gothic YA fantasy that features creepy puppets: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.

Day 6: 5th November, Guy Fawkes’ Day (Bonfire Night)
A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s 2020 best-seller Mexican Gothic.

Day 7: 6th November
A wrap-up post and a reveal of the theme for Witch Week 2021.

Do check this post for more details. I’m looking forward to Witch Week. I guess, from now on, Halloween will be something to look forward to after all.

And I’m Back!

I didn’t miss being away while I was away — I needed the break — but I am now ready to blog again, and I am excited.

As before, I’ll be mostly writing about books and reading, but other things will creep in.

In November, I will be joining NaNoWriMo. I won’t be writing a novel though, just using it to motivate me to work on my next project and reach a decent wordcount. I did finish writing a novel in August, and writing it was necessary because it showed me how it shouldn’t be written. Truly, I would not have seen what doesn’t work otherwise. So, not an total waste. I will be returning to it, but from a different angle. Let’s see how it goes.

I struggled somewhat with reading last year. My depression had never affected my reading before, but I had a longer than usual depressive phase last year that stretched to early this year, and it was hard for me to stay focused, which is so important for reading. Thankfully, I’m reading and enjoying books once again.

A few days ago, I reached my 2020 reading goal of fifty books. It’s a good number considering how addicted I am to social media. I have started making a list for next year, but my real goal is to read more thoughtfully and attentively. I should also spend less time on my phone. But blogging is good. Blogging is writing, which I want to do more of.

We are two days from November and soon it will be 2021. Let’s hope for a better year next year.

Taking a Break

I’ve decided to stop writing this blog, for a bit, and maybe even for good. won’t be deleting it though, as I have a lot of stuff here that I wish to keep, and who knows, I may come back. One day.

If you’ve been following my posts, thank you for your interest.

I am on twitter (daphneleeml) and on Instagram (daphneleemeilin) if you’d like to continue keeping in touch.