the future of book to the future in seven questions

Book to the what?

The original concept behind Book to the Future was pretty simple: I’d read and review one book to represent every year of the twentieth century, in chronological order. So, my first stop was The Wizard of Oz, which was published in 1900, followed by Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career, published in 1901 – and so on.

I started this blog in 2010 with the intention of posting a new review every week.

My last real review for Book to the Future was published in 2012. I stalled at 1959, having made it just over halfway through the initial project I’d set out for myself.

What went wrong?

A few things. I started getting distracted and reviewing whatever I felt like, rather than sticking with the original plan. Also, a few people started reading my blog, which I wasn’t expecting. Cue extreme self doubt.

My biggest setback?  I found out that book reviews are really hard to write.

When I was writing a review every week, I had no idea what I was doing. Actually, I think I thought I was trying to be hip and witty. Ugh. I was neither. My reviews were written in a slapdash, sarcastic tone that makes me cringe when I think about it now.

When I started to take what I was doing seriously and not treat every review as a Goodreads-style snarkfest…that’s when things became difficult.

However, despite all the things that went wrong, there’s one thing that went right: I realised how much I enjoy writing about books. I’d always secretly intended Book to the Future as a side project to help me build a platform (criiiinge) and become a better fiction writer. Somewhere along the way, I came to the conclusion that I’d rather write about books than write my own books.

(As a sidenote: it’s totally normal to want everything you wrote more than a year or two ago to spontaneously combust, isn’t it?)

What’s the plan then?

Unfinished things bug me. This blog has been sitting here on the internet, getting on my nerves for way too long.

One option I considered was to just delete everything, which would solve the problem of all those awful old reviews hanging around. But the thought of giving up on Book to the Future made me feel sad. And guilty.

Starting in September, I’m going to pick this project up where I left off. I’ll begin by reviewing a book originally published in 1960, then post a new review every two weeks until I reach the year 2000.

How long is all this going to take?

I have 40 reviews remaining to complete the project. At a rate of one review every two weeks, I should be finished around…early 2020?

That’s a really long time. Are you really sure you want to continue?

Yes! I still have things I want to say. I still have books to read. And I’m still finding my voice as a critic. What better place to do that than here, in my own space?

Also, I still think book blogging is important and worthwhile (whether this particular book blog is either of those things remains to be seen). That’s probably a post for another day, though.

Don’t you have anything better to do?

I work full time, so there’s that. Plus, there are other things I’d like to write, like reviews of modern books, essays and other fun non-fiction stuff. However, finishing what I started is important to me, so  I’m putting everything else on the back-burner for a bit and getting back to the business of completing this blog.

Hopefully with the minimum amount of soul-crushing self-doubt as possible this time around. That’d be nice.

What if things don’t go to plan again?

Look, I know I’m the least reliable blogger ever. I promised I’d be relaunching this blog towards the end of 2017. I’ve had a genuinely rubbish year so far, which has made me realise how important it is that I do what makes me happy. And it turns out that’s writing about books.  Weird.

all good things, april to july ’18

Hi. It’s been way too long.

I wrote a few words about what the hell I’ve been doing for the past six (and a bit) months, but deleted it all, because it sounded an awful lot like waaa waaaaa waaaa, and that’s not what I want to say at all.

Here’s the really short version, sans waaa: I have a great new copywriting job where I get to pat a lot of dogs. We had to move because our house was sold, but I’ve just got all my books back on the shelves in the new place, and I really like it here. And in the few weeks where I was flat broke while looking for work and moving, my local library saved my sanity. I visit pretty much every weekend now.

Also, in the middle of all that, I turned forty. I don’t know how this happened either.

My All Good Things posts are an opportunity for me to look back on all the good stuff that’s kept me going over the past month (or so). Because it’s been a while between posts, I’ve got quite a lot to ramble about, so I’d better get started…


How to Solve Our Human Problems
Belle and Sebastian

I haven’t been particularly adventurous with my music choices this year. I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve spent most of my time listening to podcasts or Spotify playlists. But there is one new album I’ve had on repeat lately…

Belle and Sebastian is one of my favourite bands, but for some reason, I put off listening to their latest release. When I did finally give How to Solve Our Human Problems a listen, I wondered what had taken me so long.

I managed to get my hands on some last-minute tickets to see B&S perform at the Palais Theatre back in May and had the most amazing night.


Our Tiny, Useless Hearts
Toni Jordan

Janice still loves her ex-husband, Alec. Her sister, Caroline is married to Henry, who’s just revealed that he’s having an affair with Martha, their children’s teacher. Janice is disgusted on her sister’s behalf – until she discovers that Caroline is herself having an affair with her neighbour, Craig. Alec catches Janice in bed with Craig – and Craig’s wife, Lesley wants everyone to know that she’s been having an affair with Alec.

Got all that? Good. Now – take all these characters, confine them to a suburban McMansion, add a generous helping of awkwardness, then stand back and watch the mayhem unfold. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is a rare thing: the kind of book that will make you laugh and cry, then laugh all over again. It’s chaotic, touching and very, very clever.

I’m really looking forward to reading more Toni Jordan. Her next novel, The Fragments, is a “literary mystery” that’s due out later this year. Yes please!

The Hot Guy
Mel Campbell and Anthony Morris

Adam is hot. Like really, really hot. He doesn’t even know he’s hot. He has no idea, for instance, that there’s an entire Facebook group dedicated to sleeping with him.

When recently dumped Cate is set up with Adam by her boss, Cate isn’t aware that a night with the Hot Guy has a set of rules. The morning after, rather than making a hasty retreat, she decides to stick around.

The Hot Guy is oodles of fun. Not to mention screamingly funny. I particularly enjoyed the authors’ comments on online movie reviewing culture. And there’s a scene in Adam’s hometown, which has a statue that looks a lot like him….anyway, I don’t want to spoil all the jokes (and there are quite a lot of them) so you’ll just have to trust me on this one – if you’re feeling a little drab, read The Hot Guy.

The Fortress
S A Jones

After he’s implicated in a violent incident at his workplace, executive Jonathon Bridge voluntarily enters the Fortress. It’s an extreme step. His confinement will last a year, and his wife, Adalia, is due to give birth to their first child in a few months. If Jonathon’s to save what’s left of his marriage, The Fortress is his only option.

When I added The Fortress to Goodreads, I noticed how many people tagged it as “dystopian”. Jones’ world in The Fortress is only slightly removed from our own – it has PlayStations and football and the internet. But there’s also the Fortress, a mysterious compound ruled by a matriarchal society; a place where men go to seek redemption.

I read The Fortress a few weeks ago and it seems to have set up camp in my head. There’s something about this novel that doesn’t sit quite right with me, and I’m still turning it over and over in my thoughts. Still, I think it’s better to read a novel that makes you think – even if you disagree with it – than something you forget instantly.


Hannah Gadsby

While on the subject of things I can’t get out of my head: Nanette. It’s on Netflix. You’ve probably already seen it – I feel like I’m definitely the last person in the world to do so.

There are so many smart articles floating around Twitter that perfectly express what’s so special about Nanette (like this one in the New Yorker, for instance). All I can say is that you really need to watch it. Then tell someone else.


Michael Ian Black

The very first episode of Obscure opens with the words “I’m telling you right now at the outset: this is probably not a good idea”.

Obscure is a pretty simple concept. It’s a comedy podcast in which Michael Ian Black reads Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure out loud, commenting as he goes. Yeah – that’s Jude the Obscure – without a doubt the most hilarious of Thomas Hardy’s novels.

It’s a bonkers idea for a podcast. But a bad idea? I’m not so sure. The second I heard the premise, I subscribed and I’ve been listening from the first episode.

At its best, Obscure is funny and fascinating. It’s more than just a reading of Jude the Obscure – it’s also a meditation on dreams and fame and what it means to be obscure. Black (who claims to have not read the book, though he clearly has) peppers each episode with interviews and observations taken from his own comedy career.

At its worst, Obscure is uneven and awkward. Some of the earlier episodes in particular have extended rants that stray a little too far away from the book, or interviews with people who have nothing to add. There are also moments when Black’s interruptions simply restate what’s already been said, like the Lyrics Genius version of Jude.

A few of the early episodes are rough, but I think Obscure is just starting to find its groove. I’m really interested to see how this podcast evolves and I look forward to every new episode.

Other Stuff

Mi Goals Planner

I have one more recommendation this month, and it’s for the Mi Goals Planner that’s pictured in the header image for this post. Just say you’re someone who is really, notoriously bad at planning things (like relaunching their blog, for instance). This journal encourages you to get your plans written down on paper and work through each step, one by one.

It seems stupid and basic, but it’s working for me, because apparently I really need stupid and basic to get me back on track. And it’s not too full of the kind of idiotic inspirational quotes (You are enough! Live, laugh, love!) that fill me with rage.

I got mine from Milligram and I’m finding it really useful so far (and no, this isn’t sponsored. I’m just really disorganised and love this journal).

Coming up next…

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve kind of become a library addict. Where else can I experiment so wildly with what I read?

I’ve got a pile of books on my bedside table waiting to be read and I’m sure some of them will make appearances in next month’s All Good Things post. But before that, there’s a review I need to write. I’m also trying out a few bookish podcasts and working on a post about what I’m planning to do with this blog. More on that soon…

2018 – little gods – jenny ackland

Have you ever wanted to adopt a character from a book? The thought never occurred to me until I read Jenny Ackland’s latest novel, Little Gods. Once you’ve met twelve-year-old Olive Lovelock, the novel’s narrator, you might just feel the same way.

But too bad. She’s all mine.

I was lucky enough to review Little Gods over at Newtown Review of Books last month. Here’s a little of what I had to say:

Jenny Ackland’s first novel, The Secret Son, was a tale of men and war and Australia that sprawled across generations and continents. In contrast, Little Gods takes place on a smaller scale. But don’t let this quiet novel catch you unprepared: Little Gods might just crush your heart.

…Don’t say I didn’t warn you, okay? Click here to take a look at the rest of my review.

As always, my thanks to Jean and Linda for publishing my thoughts and generally putting up with me.

all good things, march ’18

What? Where did March go? All of a sudden, it’s the day after Easter and I’m winding back my watch again.

As I mentioned in my first All Good Things post, 2018 is shaping up to be A Year…and March has been no different. On one hand, I’ve settled into a new job and its rhythms – waking up with the birds, watching through the train window as hot air balloons hover over the inner north. I’m loving it. Even the commute. Even the early starts.

On the other hand, the house I’m renting is being sold in April, so I’ve had to adjust to randomly scheduled open-for-inspections, mopping floors at weird hours…and, of course, worrying about whether or not I’ll have to move. Fingers crossed whoever buys this place wants to keep me riiiight where I am. I’m not too keen on the prospect of having to pack all my books into boxes.

So anyway, March has been almost comically all over the place, which seems to be the norm for this year. Looks like I’d better get used to it…

For anyone new here, All Good Things is a monthly post where I have a bit of a chat about some of the things I’ve enjoyed during the past month. It’s a chance for me to write a little about some of the books I’ve been reading that I haven’t had time to review in full, as well as movies I’ve enjoyed, what I’m watching on the small screen, games I’ve been playing – anything goes. It’s mainly about the things I’ve loved. Good things. Hence the name.


An Uncertain Grace

I’ve been meaning to read one of Krissy Kneen’s novels for the longest time – but last week, I picked up her sixth novel, An Uncertain Grace knowing next to nothing about it – and I’m wondering what’s taken me so long.

An Uncertain Grace is told in five parts, tied together by the presence of Liv, who uses technology to tell stories. In the background of each narrative, we glimpse a world turning to water as the ocean rises, claiming front lawns and apartment blocks as its own. Nearly all sea life has died out, leaving only a particularly hardy species of jellyfish. Meanwhile, on land, some things haven’t changed.

Everything is shifting, boundaries are moving, and through it all, there’s Liv, growing slowly older. An Uncertain Grace is a dark and elegiac look at a future world – it’s strange and compelling and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t look away.

The Sparsholt Affair

Strictly speaking, All Good Things is meant to be about the things I’ve really enjoyed. But while I wasn’t entirely convinced by Alan Hollinghurst’s latest, The Sparsholt Affair, there’s still something about this novel I can’t shake.

It’s a series of episodes in the lives of two men – in the first part of the novel, we meet David Sparsholt, while the remainder of the novel centres on his son, Johnny, who bears the weight of his father’s very public disgrace on his shoulders.

The novel’s first part, set in Oxford in the 1940s is simply enchanting. But it sets a tone and an atmosphere that the rest of the novel simply can’t live up to. Sure, Hollinghurst’s writing is typically elegant, but I found the novel’s second half tough going. If only the whole novel had been set in that glorious first section…

The Lucky Galah

Finally, I know it was the subject of my most recent post, but I can’t stop squawking about Tracy Sorensen’s The Lucky Galah, which I reviewed for Newtown Review of Books towards the start of the month.

The thing is, there’s so much I couldn’t find space in my review to discuss – I wanted to write a lot more about the novel’s humour in particular. Plus, there’s a certain political figure in the novel who readers might find rather familiar. Anyway – no spoilers from me. Read the book – I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Other obsessions…

I always feel a little worried when one of my favourite novels is adapted for the screen. However, trepidation aside, I couldn’t resist watching the new four-part BBC adaptation of Howards End, which aired on the ABC recently.

I was pleasantly surprised. Much of the dialogue was taken directly from Forster’s novel. Margaret and Helen Schlegel’s costumes were just stunning (that red beret! The incredible coat with all the buttons! The scarves!). But more than that, this adaptation attempts to restore a little dignity to Leonard and Jacky Bast, as well as to the working classes, who are more visible in this adaptation than they are in the novel. While the novel begins with a letter, here we see the postman who delivers it.

I enjoyed the miniseries version of Howards End, but with that in mind, I have to confess, I’ve never actually seen the 1992 Merchant Ivory version. I’ll have to try and rectify this very soon.

What’s next?

Right now, I’m in the middle of Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13, and can’t wait to get back to it! I have The Reservoir Tapes ready to go as soon as I’ve finished.

Also, now I have a longer commute, I’m determined to try out a few literary podcasts. I’m also on the lookout for new music to enjoy, because I’m tired of listening to the same few songs

I’ll let you know what I’ve found in next month’s edition of All Good Things. More soon!