Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? In 2023, one of mine was ‘to read more’, partly because I’d started an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University and our Tutor was fiercely passionate about reading as widely and deeply as possible. It would make us better writers, she said.

Then, a week into the year, I saw this tweet:

Daniel Williamson is one of the few authors who has been included twice in my Reading the Game series of football book reviews. If he could challenge himself in this way, why couldn’t I? Like Daniel, I had already read one book in 2023, so why not try to try to finish one a week? Here’s how I did:

Red CardKen BensingerBusiness of Football
A Room of One's Own / Collection of Short StoriesVirginia WoolfFeminism and Writing / Fiction
On WritingStephen KingMemoir / Writing Techniques
What I Want to Talk AboutPete WharmbyMemoir / Autustic Special Interests
How to be a Football ManagerIan HollowayMemoir / Football Management
The DefiantChris LeeFootball History / Social History (fascism)
Ten Steps to NanetteHannah GadsbyMemoir (Autistic Comedian)
British Rail A New HistoryChristian WolmarTransport History
The Incredible Adventures of the Unstoppable KeeperLutz PfannenstielMemoir (Professional Footballer)
Football in the Land of the SovietsCarles VinasFootball History / Social History (Russia / USSR)
SparePrince Harry, The Duke of SussexMemoir
Strong Female CharacterFern BradyMemoir (Autistic Comedian)
Forgotten Football ClubsPhillip O'RourkeFootball History
ResistanceTori AmosMemoir / Songwriting / Personal Essays
The Rise and Fall of Western RoadGary DrewFootball History (non-League)
Electric Railways of Liverpool and ManchesterGraeme GleavesTransport History
Untypical: How the world isn’t built for autistic people and what we should all do about it Pete WharmbyAutism / Social Commentary / Accessibility
The Docker's Umbrella: A History of Liverpool Overhead RailwayPaul BolgerTransport History
Train LordOliver MolMemoir / Personal Essays
WinteringKatherine MayMemoir / Wellbeing
Portrait of the Liverpool Overhead RailwayAdrian JarvisTransport History
The Loneliest Man in the WorldEugene K BirdBiography / Modern History
Game On: The Unstoppable Rise of Women's SportSue AnstissWomen's Sport (History / Development of)
Eibar the BraveEuan McTearEuropean Football (specific club)
I'm Not as Well as I Thought I WasRuby WaxMemoir / Wellbeing
SovietistanErika FatlandTravel Writing (former Soviet States)
The Road to Wigan PierGeorge OrwellTravelogue / Personal Essay / Autobiography
Six Added MinutesJohnnie LoweryFootball History / Memoir (coming of age)
The HomecomingJane PurdonEuro 2022 / Personal Essay / Memoir
Under Ground: Subways & Metros of the WorldCatherine ZerdounTransport History
Write It All Down: How to Put Your Life on the PageCathy RentzenbrinkWriting Techniques
How To Lose Games and Irritate People: The Memoirs of an Amateur Football Team Player-ManagerPaul Hames Memoir / Football Management (amateur level)
In a League of their own!Gail J. NewshamWomen's Football (Dick, Kerr Ladies FC)
Good Pop, Bad PopJarvis CockerMemoir / Creative Process
Merseyside's Old Firm?David KennedyFootball History / Social History
Scheise! We're Going Up!Kit HoldenEuropean Football (specific club)
Drama QueenSara GibbsMemoir (Autistic Comedy Writer)
How (Not) To Be SrongAlex ScottMemoir (footballer)
The Forgotten CupJo ArafEuropean Football (tournament history)
SubwayJohn E MorrisTransport History
YellowfaceRebecca F KaungFiction
How to be AutisticCharlotte Amelia PoeMemoir (Autistic Artist)
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think DifferentlySteve Silberman Autism / Neurology
Lost Railways of MiddlesexMike HallTransport History
Your Child is Not BrokenHeidi MavirMemoir / Autism / Parenting
The Pie at NightStuart MaconieTravel Writing (northern England)
Illuminated: Autism and all the Things I've Left UnsaidMelanie SykesMemoir (Autistic TV Presenter)
Football and How to Survive ItPat NevinMemoir (footballer)
PriestdaddyPatricia LockwoodMemoir (poet / writer who goes home)
Red BalloonsLiam WalshMemoir (bereavement / football fandom)
Seventeen Stations to DingleJohn W GahanTransport History
Unfit and Improper PersonsKevin Day, Kieran Maguire & Guy KiltyFootball Finance / Governance
Journey to CrossrailStephen HallidayTransport History
Underground OvergroundAndi ThomasFootball History / Anthropology
The Football ManArthur HopcraftFootball History / Culture / Biography

You probably noticed that I said ‘finish’ there, not ‘read’. That’s because nine of the books were listened to, rather than read with the eyes. If you’re thinking ‘that’s cheating!’ my response is simple: don’t be so ableist. Conceived for the visually impaired, audiobooks are books you can enjoy while doing the washing up, or on a long drive / bus journey and can be used as an alternative to the printed word by dyslexic people. I’d also probably have never even started Spare, never mind finished it, if I’d had to haul the hardback about. It’s absolutely massive!

I also want to point out that 20% of the books listed above were the Kindle editions, rather than hard copies. I was given a Kindle by my wife for our anniversary and while reading on it isn’t as satisfying as physically holding a book in my hand, having access to e-books has been a massive boost to my reading. For example, when we took a family holiday in North Wales, I didn’t have to carry three or four books around. I simply slipped the Kindle into the back pocket of my jeans, giving myself a choice of reading material while saving space for other stuff that needed packing. I can read on the Kindle while waiting for our son to settle at bedtime, or after my beloved has gone to sleep, without disturbing either of them. In 2024, I’ll definitely be reading in multiple formats.

If you look at what I’ve been reading, you’ll notice that in the main, it falls within four broad categories; football, transport history, the autistic condition and memoir. Three of these are my Special Interests, or SpIns and memoir is related to my studies. I make no apologies for, even here, mining my SpIns. For instance, Football and How to Survive It by Pat Nevin is a thrilling memoir by a former footballer whose punditry I greatly admire. The memoirs of autistic people in the public eye also feature heavily in the list above because I am interested in how other members of our tribe experience the condition. How different (or not) their challenges are to mine. Some of the best AutiMemoirs I read this year were Illuminated by Melanie Sykes, Drama Queen by Sara Gibbs and Strong Female Character by Fern Brady. I also enjoyed both Pete Wharmby’s books.

I’ve learned a huge amount, some of which I wish I hadn’t (Spare was far too long and went into more detail than I was comfortable with and re-reading The Loneliest Man in the World was a pretty bleak endeavour). I’ve got a lot of joy from all this reading too; it’s definitely a better use of my time than doom-scrolling on Twitter.

Am I a better writer than I was a year ago? I’d like to think so! At least some of the improvement is down to the course I’m doing, the feedback from other students and our tutors but some of it is definitely driven by reading voraciously. The more I read, the more I learn about each author’s voice, which helps me find my own. I’ve also got much better at self-editing and avoiding certain words and phrases.

I’ve no idea how much reading I’ll do in 2024 – I have five assignmentss and a 15,000 word dissertation to write between now and October – but I know that every minute I spent reading (and listening) in 2023 was time well spent.