What Books Have Taught Me So Far This Year

A little while ago I told the hubby (quite proudly) that I had read 100 books this year. His response: yeah okay, but what have you learned? My first reaction was one of indignation: why should I have learned anything?! I only read fiction and I read because it’s fun, or I get to go places I’ve never been, or revisit places I’ve been and feel nostalgic about, or as an escape when I’m not feeling all that great. But the question got me thinking: I must have learned something! Even reading fiction, I must have picked up at least a few facts and titbits. So I decided to take a look at the books I’ve read so far this year, and what they might have taught me.

First of all, and not unimportant to a non-native speaker: vocabulary! Each and every book I read teaches me a new word, or reminds me of a certain spelling, or tells me how to pronounce a certain words (in the case of audiobooks obviously). For example: Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight taught me the word “maw”. I’d never heard of it, and while admittedly it’s not a word I’m bound to use on a daily basis, it is new vocabulary, so yay! Recently I also learned the expression “to give up the ghost” which exists in Dutch and seems a much too literal translation, but it was in a book (can’t remember which), so now I know, and it must be the translator in me but I think that’s way cool ?

But looking back at what I’ve read, I’ve learned or realised a bunch of other things too:

  • 1 in 100 people is the dangerous kind: a potentially dangerous person, someone likely to commit a violent crime (The Dangerous Kind, Deborah O’Connor)
  • Memories are a large part of the person you are today, lose your memories and you might lose yourself (Past Life, Dominic Nolan)
  • Kids are slippery little buggers (Now You See Her, Heidi Perks)
  • Every single body part (not just organs) and every drop of blood is worth a lot of money on the black market (Chop Shop, Andrew Post)
  • One should really tape off all webcams (Viral, Mike Jeavons)
  • The blue whale in the NYC American Museum of Natural History (allegedly?) has a trap door (The Third Wheel, Michael J. Ritchie)
  • Queen Victoria was fascinated by dwarves and she herself was rather tiny too (Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets)
  • Washing machines have a belt that can break if you shove in too much laundry too roughly – I think about that every time I load the machine, no kidding (A Modern Family, Helga Flatland)
  • There is an actual ghost town in Hecla, Wyoming, USA (Ghost Mine, Hunter Shea)
  • I will never ever get into a self-drive car, least of all if I can’t manually override the system a.k.a. cars that are essentially driving computers could be hacked (The Passengers, John Marrs)
  • I miss Buffy (Slayer, Kiersten White)
  • I miss Agatha Christie (A Testament to Murder, Vivian Conroy & Murder on the Rocks, J.S. Strange)
  • I am such a geek (A Mint-Condition Corpse, Ducan MacMaster)
  • I don’t believe in ghosts (The Grey Ones: Book 1 of the Path of the Maiden Series, Yvonne J. Smit)
  • I wouldn’t want to forget my painful memories, because I’ve learned from them and they make me who I am (The Binding, Bridget Collins)
  • In Finland, everyone’s annual income is published annually, so every Fin knows what their family, friends and frenemies earn (The Escape Room, Megan Goldin)
  • There’s a direct correlation between acorns and Lyme’s disease: the more acorns, the more animals and people get infected (Wanderers, Chuck Wendig)

And I’ve learned about:

  • The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the art of taxidermy (The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal)
  • Psychology and theories of Jung (The Devil Aspect, Craig Russell)
  • The British prison system (The Evidence Against You, Gillian McAllister)
  • The job of probation officer and that probation is not quite the same as parole (Worst Case Scenario, Helen Fitzgerald & Dead Inside, Noelle Holten) 
  • World War II up north (The Courier, Kjell Ola Dahl)
  • What life is like for pregnant prison inmates and how few are allowed to stay with their babies (On My Life, Angela Clarke)
  • Life in Lagos, Nigeria (My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite & The Beautiful Side of the Moon, Leye Adenle)
  • The flood in Hull in 2007 (Maria in the Moon, Louise Beech)
  • Body integrity dysphoria (Ersatz World, Richard Godwin)
  • Bollywood, life in India, that the dowry system still exists (Bollywood Wives, Alex Khan)
  • The Victorian era (Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets)
  • The job of bounty hunter (Lori Anderson series, Steph Broadribb)
  • The Mandela Effect: how loads of people have loads of false memories about an event or fact – if you don’t know it, Google it, it’s baffling (Recursion, Blake Crouch)
  • Charles Bonnet Syndrome, or how you can be in perfect mental health and still have hallucinations (The Secrets You Hide, Kate Helm)
  • China, Chinese practices and legal system (The Willow Woman, Laurence Westwood)
  • The dangers of social media (The Closer I Get, Paul Burston)
  • Block 46, the Buchenwald concentration camp, WWII (Block 46, Johana Gustawsson)
  • Courtroom proceedings in Britain (Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Gary Bell & Degrees of Guilt, HS Chandler & The Secrets You Hide, Kate Helm)

Well! That’s not too shabby, is it?! I’m really quite astonished at everything I’ve picked up so far, and without any kind of effort to boot! Before you tell me that I mustn’t believe everything I read, I often find myself Googling extra info about the titbits I’ve read, because I want to know more. I’m not 100% convinced my tired old brain will be able to retain everything I’ve learned for all eternity, but hey, at least I knew something at some point ? Do you feel you learn from the books you read? And if you do, do you consider it a nice little extra, or is it an prerequisite, do you read to learn?

Whatever your reasons for reading, I hope you have fun doing it, happy reading!

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