top of page
  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

A Year in Books: Reading for Pure Pleasure

One of my new year’s resolutions was to read more books for pure pleasure. My world is richer and I am happier if I’ve always got a wonderful and absorbing book on the go.  The less I read just for fun, the less happy I become.  Last year, I didn’t prioritise reading for pleasure, and I felt my life was less colourful as a result.

This year, I set myself a challenge - to read loads and loads of novels for pure, unadulterated pleasure.  Of course, I knew I would have to read non-fiction for work projects and improving books for personal development – but those books wouldn’t count for this challenge. I just wanted to read for the sheer, indulgent fun. 

It’s mid-December now and so far, I’ve read over 70 novels. Considering that I’ve primarily read my books in bed, just before I go to sleep – this seems like quite a lot.  I’ve always been quite a fast reader – but I’ve found that reading all my books on the kindle and increasing the font size has made me even faster – a huge font size means that the words practically read themselves.

Reading so much has had some rather wonderful and surprising effects. For me, the very best thing about reading so much for fun has been to give me the skills and understanding to finally finish writing my own novel – The Anonymous Client – which is being read by a literary agent right now (obviously, I’ve already mentally cast all the main characters for the Netflix adaptation). 

During this year, reading novels back to back, I suddenly started seeing the underlying structure of the stories I was reading – and I felt much less intimidated about finishing my own. I suspect that academics in the field of literature have a very sophisticated version of this skill all the time, but for me, it is new and has been fun to develop.

Image by David Lezcanco

The second thing that I’ve realised is that reading for pure pleasure is a deep act of self-care – that we should all do more often.  Reading, especially for adults, has become about self-improvement, productivity, longevity, or entrepreneurship – not for the sheer excitement of immersing oneself in a great story. But it should be.  How can we be creative and innovative if we’re constantly pressuring ourselves to be better?  During my own reading challenge, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone (as you will see from what I read), or improve myself – I just wanted to have fun.  This pressure free approach to reading is quite liberating and that feeling of freedom carried into other areas of my life.

If you are planning on setting yourself intentions for the new year, then I can highly recommend the reading for pure pleasure challenge as something positive and fun, which may have unexpected positive consequences in your life. 

Image by Sincerely Media

There’s no obligation to read 70 books, or even 7 books.  You just have to pick a book that looks exciting and fun to you, and read it.  That’s it! Here are the categories of books that primarily made up my list of fun books this year.

Spy Thrillers

I always love a good spy thriller.  I’ve written before about my love of spy novels.  This year, I’ve read loads of the Gabriel Allon spy series by Daniel Silva. This series follows Israeli intelligence operative and gifted art restorer, Gabriel Allon on his mission to thwart terrorism, unravel political conspiracies, and protect global security.  The meticulous research carried out by Silva saves this series from being just another James Bond wannabe and makes it more sophisticated and a lot scarier than James Bond.  There are around 21 novels in this series, and this year, I read 5 of them. I enjoyed every second! 

Another spy novel I read this year was former Director General of MI5, Stella Rimington’s latest novel Devil’s Bargain.  I’ve read all of Rimington’s novels, and they’re always entertaining.

The final set of spy novels I read this year was all 8 novels that make up Mick Herron’s Slough House series, which has been brilliantly adapted into a TV series by Apple. The first six of these were a reread, and the last two, I read for the first time. The Slough House series tells the story of a group of MI5 agents who are assigned to Slough House, a department for disgraced agents who, for various political reasons, can’t be fired.

Headed by agent Jackson Lamb, the team, often referred to as the "Slow Horses," carries out only the most mundane tasks. Somehow, though, despite their ineptitude, the Slow Horses seem to end up playing an important role in protecting the nation’s security.  This series is great fun, though if you read them all in a row, the formulaic nature of the books becomes apparent and some of the characters start to seem like caricatures. That’s fine though, I still enjoyed them and the Apple series is utterly brilliant!

Macho Fun

There is a very specific type of novel that fulfils this genre for me – this year the author that sums up macho fun is Stephen Leather, specifically his Spider Shepherd series. There are 21 books in this series and I read about 7 of them this year.  Set in the UK, the series follows

Former SAS trooper turned undercover operative Dan “Spider” Shepherd.  In each book Shepherd navigates the dangerous and shadowy world of covert operations, espionage, and crime. Set against the backdrop of contemporary London, reading each book feels like watching a blockbuster movie – but with enough substance to hold your interest.  Leather’s plotting feels authentic – drawn from his own experiences as a crime and security journalist.

Dark Academia

The Dark Academia genre has been my wheelhouse this year. Dark Academia is an aesthetic movement that takes its cues from a romanticised idea of academic life.  Dark Academia literature often feature plots that explore themes of morality, the exploitation of the young by the old, and the corruption of the elite, particularly the academic elite. 

I took this photo of Christ Church College a few years ago.

Usually set in venerable institutions devoted to learning, characters will often study for long periods of time, usually at night, sometimes by candle light, and typically in beautiful libraries.

One of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Oxford's Radcliffe Camera. Photo by Ben Seymour.

This year, my favourite authors in the Dark Academia genre are R.F Kuang and Leigh Bardugo.  I became so obsessed with Dark Academia literature this year, that I wrote an entire blog post on it.  If you’re interested in Dark Academia recommendations, you can read my post here.

Sci Fi and Fantasy

As a nerd, I will always enjoy reading sci fi and fantasy books.  I’ve read all sorts this year, including the V.E. Schwab’s Villain duology - a kind of twisted super hero thriller, which was great fun to read.  I also read Robin Hobb’s high fantasy series, The Farseer Trilogy, about a royal assassin, who isn’t that good at being an assassin.  I enjoyed the world building, but by the end of the third book, I wasn’t planning on reading anymore of the books set in that world.

Probably my favourite fantasy author, who also falls into the Dark Academia genre, is Leigh Bardugo.  Yale educated Bardugo is the creator of the Grishaverse and her famous Shadow and Bone series has been adapted into a fabulous and immersive Netflix series.  I’ve read almost everything that Bardugo has written – I even tried reading the Wonder Woman book she wrote under contract for the DC Universe - that was a DNF for me.  If you love books that immerse you in a detailed and colourful world, then I can thoroughly recommend pretty much anything that Bardugo has written.


I hope at least something here has inspired you but if not, you might find something fun in one of my other book reviews, which you can find here


Feature image by Tabitha Turner.


Square Stage
bottom of page