What I’ve Learned About my Reading Habits by Using The StoryGraph

And setting reading goals for the new year.


Well into 2021, I decided to switch to The StoryGraph to keep track of my reading. Although Goodreads has served me well over the many years I’ve been using it, for me, it’s become a bit clunky and outdated. But above all, it’s owned by Amazon, whom I despise (only naturally, as a bookseller.)

The StoryGraph is one of the top alternatives to Goodreads, and for a good reason. One of the selling points is that it gives you in-depth stats on your reading — something Goodreads doesn’t offer. I’m still yet to build up a community there, but I’m in love with the features it has.

I was hesitant to make the switch because of the catalogue of books I’ve built up over the years on Goodreads, but one of the best things about The Storgraph is that you can easily convert all your data over. So alas, I haven’t lost any of my reading history.

As 2021 draws to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on my reading habits over the years and set some goals. Of course, we all love resolutions around this time of the year, right?

Let’s get stuck into it.


My year in reading for 2021

As life has been on the way to returning to normality, naturally, I’ve had less time to read. I returned to work in May and have noticeably been shorter on time and motivation to read.

Despite working in a bookshop and being surrounded by inspiration to read constantly, I’m nearly always exhausted. So when I get home late in the evenings, sometimes all I want to do is stick something on to watch.

This year I’ve gotten comfortable with reading less. As a result, I failed the challenge I set myself in 2020 to read 50 books as I read 35. But that doesn’t mean I’m coming away feeling disappointed — in fact — quite the opposite. On the contrary, I feel thoroughly content with what I’ve read this year.

But what have I been reading?

Moods and genres

Thanks to The Storygraph, I know exactly what kind of books I’ve been reading. My top moods are as follows:

  • Emotional
  • Reflective
  • Dark

I have to say, it doesn’t paint me in the best light, but then again, I do like an emotionally challenging and thought-provoking book. This year I inhaled A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, We are Not Like them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, another emotionally difficult book and Misery by Stephen King, which is incredibly dark.

It’s not surprising then that those are my top moods. In terms of genre, they are almost all fiction (85%) instead of non-fiction, making up just 15% of the books I read in 2021. And within fiction my top genres are:

  • Contemporary (9 books)
  • Literary (8 books)
  • Fantasy (7 books)
  • Young adult (6 books)
  • Historical (5 books)

I could have told you the top two without using The Storygraph, but the others are a surprise. Nonetheless, I spent the early part of 2021 re-reading Harry Potter and sampled some teenage ‘indie’ fiction, which explains why they have appeared in my top genres.

Pace and length

Being a literary fiction lover, I appreciate a novel that is a slow burner. I love unnecessary detail, discovering the depth of a character and when a writer can gradually peel back the layers. I prefer character-driven stories over plot, but I love when both appear hand in hand (hence why The Goldfinch remains one of my all-time favourite books.)

As a result, I tend to pick up chunkier books, which, unsurprisingly, is reflected in my reading stats.

Only 9% of the books I read this year were considered fast-paced, as opposed to 32% that were slow-paced.

Interestingly, this is reflected with the page number I tend to gravitate to. Over half the books I read were between 300–499 pages and 18% were a whopping 500+ pages (A Little LifeTo Paradise and The Mirror and the Light can be blamed for that…)

Many readers prefer shorter, faced paced books, but I prefer to form long term attachments to characters and worlds. I like to lose myself in them for longer, which is why I inevitably favour slower, bigger books. I would like to read shorter books next year, though, to try and appreciate the various forms a good book can have.

The totals

Many of the books I read this year had a profound impact on me. I know many of them I will go back to and continue to remember, which is why I’m not bothered with the smaller number I got through, as opposed to previous years.

Nonetheless, here are my totals for 2021.

  • 35 books read
  • 11,950 pages turned
  • Average rating of 3.83 stars

It is fascinating to look at these stats, and they do make you pause and think. Next year, I want to read more genres and get out of (what appears to be my literary/contemporary fiction comfort zone.)

On that note, I have some goals in mind for the new year.


My reading goals for 2022

I stopped making generic New Years resolutions years ago. Like most people, I’d stick to them for a few weeks and then forget about them. But there’s nothing wrong with goal setting. It’s more flexible, realistic and achievable.

There’s a lot that I want to do with my reading next year. Above all, I want to continue prioritising quality over quantity and not getting bogged down in the number of books I get through, but instead, the genuine impact they leave on me. Books can inspire us, but they can also change us. I want to read books that make me think.

That starts with making some minor changes.

Remember more

It’s easy to flip from one book to the next without stopping to think and reflect on what we’ve just read. Although it’s exciting to pick up a new book and try something new, it’s essential to try and remember what you thought of a book and how it made you feel.

After buying myself a reading journal, in the new year, I’m going to try to fill in a page for every book I read. It doesn’t take much time (maybe five minutes) and will help me, in the long run, to look back on the books I’ve read and what I liked and disliked.

Although using apps like Goodreads and The Storygraph are handy for documenting what we have read, journals help us to remember how we thought and felt about a book.

Diversify my genres

In all fairness, I did a bit of this in 2021 but mostly stuck to literary and contemporary fiction (my ride or die genres.) Next year, I want to branch out and try new things, even if it means I end up not liking a book.

Here are the genres I want to get stuck into:

  • Horror (more Stephen King, please give me your recommendations if you have any. I recently read Misery and enjoyed it a lot!)
  • History
  • Poetry (I haven’t read anything new for a long time)
  • Politics
  • Short stories

Although it’s important to read what we love and enjoy, there’s no harm in wanting to stretch and challenge ourselves when reading.

We might even be surprised by what we find! If you have any recommendations for books in these genres, please drop them in a comment below!

Think critically

As a writer, part of the reason I read is to study the craft. I want to know what makes a good book, and part of this is reflecting on the reading experience and the techniques used.

In my new reading journal, there’s a section for jotting down thoughts on your favourite parts and reflections. Here, I’m going to try and document specific features a writer uses that I like. Hopefully, this will then help me with my own writing. The only real way to get better at writing is to read the work of others.


It has been a good reading year for me. I discovered some new authors I love and returned to some I had forgotten about. But most importantly, my mindset has changed to mirror something more positive. I’m now less concerned with the number of books I get through but pausing to reflect on the ones I have spared my time with.

After all, we only get a limited amount of time to read, and we should all be spending it wisely.

If you would like to follow me on The Storygraph, you can do so by using this link.


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Please note, this was originally published on A Thousand lives.

I Went Back to Work for the First Time in 14 months

Observations and thoughts from this momentous day and returning to normality


The sun was already shining into the room before it hit 6 o’clock this morning. I knew as I had been awake before my alarm. The night before, I panicked that I would sleep through because I am not used to being awake at that early hour.

My body was high on the excitement and nerves of returning to work for the first time since March 2020. I briefly did a stint at another store in the three weeks before Christmas, but this was going to be something else. I had to brave public transport, the commute and a whole set of people I haven’t seen for fourteen months.

Despite the lack of sleep and being awake at 6:30 am on a Monday in May, it made me think about how much the world had changed since the last time I took that journey. And most importantly, how much I had, too.


The town I work in somehow looks emptier but packed full of life

As I wandered down all too familiar streets as the morning sun hit the shiny windows, I was struck by how many places were boarded up and empty. Many livelihoods and local businesses had obviously not made it out to the other side of the pandemic. Those people would never be able to make a return journey to a place they knew and worked in before. It was all gone.


But as I walked, I noticed that there were new leases of life everywhere. Another set of people were willing to take a shot at owning a bar, pub, shop or restaurant when a lot of the street had given up hope, thanks to the pandemic. As I went about my day and eased myself back into work, I found myself taking frequent glances out of the window. I was shocked to see streams of people — having been on my own for most of the year.


People were sitting outside in the sun, walking dogs, carrying children and living life for all of us to see. Because for months before this, it has largely been behind closed doors, and our streets have been stagnant.


Life was bursting out of the seams when I looked out of that window, but yet there was so much that had grown lethargic, even motionless.


There’s something entirely comforting about being surrounded by books and like-minded people


I’ve been curled up in my flat for the best part of the year. In the darkest months of the pandemic, I would go for weeks without seeing another person (aside from my partner.) Today felt better. Being surrounded by books in my flat felt like being in a room full of lots of people and stories, because in essence, that’s exactly what they are, aside from physical objects.


And I was getting hints of that familiar feeling by being back at work. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I work in a bookshop. A wonderful bookshop in a busy high street, staffed by some of the nicest, most welcoming and friendly people I have ever met. As I walked through the door, I was hit by that familiar book smell and the comfort that being surrounded by shelves full to the brim with books often brings.


It takes a particular type of person to walk (and browse in) a bookshop. But we are usually all pretty similar. Being back there today made me realise just how comforting it is and how much it was missed during the empty months that have just been.


Getting up before the rest of the world is tough but endlessly rewarding

Okay, 6:30 isn’t that early. I am exaggerating a bit. However, a lot of people aren’t up at that time. I was dreading it the night before, as I always get this feeling of nervous anticipation before starting something new. I wasn’t worried about going back or anything like that; I just had butterflies in my belly and found it hard to settle (and sleep.)

The thought of getting up at 6:30 when I’ve been treated to a year of getting up on my own terms and having lazy mornings was tough. But when it came round to it, I was raring to go, even waking up half an hour before my alarm.

As I sit here and write this, fourteen hours later, my eyes are weary, and I can feel an enormous weight of tiredness washing over me. My feet ache, and my brain is tired from the constant socialisation. But was it worth it? Yes, always, for the accomplishment it brings. I know my day has been spent well, and I have made another step back to normality.


I wanted to write today, but I didn’t quite know what I would feel up to because of the long day I’ve had. I’m not sure if this adds any value for anyone else, but that’s okay. Writing doesn’t always have to. It’s a means of expression at its finest, and sometimes, it’s okay to be selfish and only mean something to the person writing it.

At its core, this is a snapshot of my day, but maybe it will be enjoyable to read for others. I’m going to try and push through and continue to write whilst I’m at work, even if I’m tired because I love it. Writing to me is one of the only things that make sense in this world, so I have to do it.

I hope you have all had a good start to your week. What are you up to? Let me know if you like 😊

Further reading:

I Was One of the Top 1000 Medium Writers In April

3 History Books That Will Change the Way You See the World


Please note, this was originally published on Medium.com

Training to Be a Journalist from Home — over One Month In

Has media law killed me yet?

It’s been over a month since I started my NCTJ, and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. There are days when I love what I’m learning about and days where it all seems to feel a bit much. But I guess it’s all part of the journey. Ahead of my first exam (in just under two weeks), I thought I would write another update and let you know how I’m getting on.

I don’t know if these posts are useful or not — but they may be nice for me to look back on in the years to come when I am hopefully — a qualified journalist.

I did make another weekly vlog in March, but it’s taken me so long to edit and get up. I don’t know if the filming thing is really for me. Doing it over the course of a week is quite draining (time and energy-wise), so if I do make any more videos, I think I’ll probably do more day style or sit down videos. But if you would like to watch, I’ll put my second vlog here.

So, how have I found it, over one month on?


Exam nerves are creeping in

It’s been two whole years since I last sat an exam whilst I was at university, so it feels strange to be returning to the repetitiveness of a revision cycle. I have my newspaper and magazine test, which is part of the ethics and regulation module, on 26th April, and of course, it’s online.

I am feeling worried about the exam because I have never taken one online, and there are all sorts of protocols in place that I’m not used to. I’m probably more worried about the technical side of it all rather than doing the exam. But I’m hoping it will become more understandable as I do it. You have to be invigilated by online software because no exams are being taken in person at the moment.

The exam itself is multiple choice — which has its positives and benefits. I feel like answering the questions is a bit binary, and you don’t get to explain yourself. But on the other hand, you don’t have to remember as much stuff. The revision has been okay, apart from the lack of resources.

As a distance learner, you get far fewer practice papers and revision material

In total, we are provided with one practice exam we can sit using the software we will be using on the day, but that’s not really enough to get used to the exam style. In the past, when I’ve been revising, doing past papers has been essential for me, so I’ve found revising for this quite difficult.

I sent an email out to two NCTJ tutors asking if it was possible to be sent some extra past papers, but one reiterated how we had access to the one practice exam, and the other said they would look into it never got back to me. It’s a bit frustrating when you think distance learners get the same qualification as anyone else taking it at a centre, but yet we have access to far fewer resources.

So, of course, I took to Twitter. And luckily, I had a kind follower email me some resources, which have been a godsend. But it shouldn’t have to happen. Just because we aren’t at a centre doesn’t mean we shouldn’t access the same resources. I wouldn’t even mind paying for them — but we aren’t even given an option.


Media law is as difficult as ever

I am about two-thirds of the way through media law, and although it’s becoming a bit more digestible, there is still so much content, and it’s hard to know how much of it we will be expected to learn and be tested on. In the beginning, I was making notes on my laptop, but I switched to taking notes by hand because I realised I was typing out word for word of the textbook, which wasn’t helpful.

This was an essential switch because I now think about what I’m reading, what’s important and then re-write it in my own words. It probably sounds basic, but I’ve been out of practice for such a long time. Also, I figured it was better to get some handwritten practice in preparation for shorthand (which I think I’ve decided I will take after some deliberation.)

I’m pretty much certain I will opt to take the exam in July, but I have no idea whether I’ll pass the first time. It would be nice to get a hefty module under my belt to focus more on the e-portfolio and start to choose my other modules.

Some parts of media law have been enjoyable

It hasn’t all been bad. Some topics are dense and complicated, but others have been interesting and enlightening. I can see why it’s all useful to know as a journalist, but there is just so much of it. I’m sure journalists in their day to day lives can’t recite the entire McNae’s textbook off by heart, but maybe they can…

A lot of it is common sense, and I’m sure it will become second nature as I learn it. But it’s definitely hard to sink your teeth into at first.


Group support is essential

The wonders of the internet mean that you can still feel supported by your peers as a distance learner. Being part of a group chat of people doing the same course and taking the same exams has been essential. You need to learn a lot on your own, and the course can be hard to figure out at first.

It has been so useful to share my worries and questions with others, as it would be hard to get the answers myself. Many of the group chat students have also done the exam I have in April, so it’s been so useful to learn about their experience and any tips they have.

In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure being part of a group chat would help me that much as I’ve always been a solid, independent learner. But when you have minimal tuition and have to do everything on your own, it really is an essential support network.

All in all, there’s been inevitable ups and downs. I’ve found that it has sucked away at my time, but that was always bound to happen. The course will probably take me more than a year to complete as there are so many components, but that’s okay because you can take up to two years in total.

Of course, I’m yet to go back to work, so it might be an entirely different story in May when I have to balance this with my day job. Until then, I’m going to try and make the most of the time I do have.

Please note, this was initially published on Medium.com (April 15, 2021)


Read more about my journalism journey

What Studying to be Journalist from Home is Really Like

I’m Having Doubts About Going into Journalism, Writers Blokke, Medium

How I Was Able to Benefit from Self-Doubt, The Ascent, Medium

What Studying to be Journalist from Home is *Really* Like

The highs and lows of my first week studying the NCTJ via distance learning.

I had been thinking about doing an NCTJ Diploma (National Council for the Training of Journalists) for a long time, but I think the experience of lockdown 3 finally pushed me over the edge to take the plunge and start.

Training to be a journalist is no easy feat and undertaking this whilst we’re still in a pandemic is even more problematic. But I figured doing this would definitely be a story to tell.

Like any natural journalist, I’ve decided to document the process and this stage in my life. Hopefully, it will be useful for people considering taking the first steps into the industry or considering a career change. It will also be a nice documentation for me to look back on in the future when I’ve hopefully ‘made’ it.

After ordering my materials and enrolling a few weeks ago, I thought I’d take some time to pause and reflect on my experience so far. In this post, I’ll be discussing why I opted to go down this route, what I’m currently studying and how I’ve found the process so far.

If you would prefer to watch or listen to me talk about this, I did make a video documenting my first week. But a quick disclaimer — I have no desire to be a broadcast journalist or go down the TV route — writing is very much my medium of choice. Still, I’m enjoying the process of trying something new and experimenting with editing.


What Is an Nctj and Why Did I Decide to Do it?

First of all, the NCTJ Level 5 Diploma is pretty much an industry standard, you don’t need it to become a journalist, but it’s beneficial if you’re starting from scratch like me.

It covers important topics like media law, public affairs, shorthand (optional) and the essential skills you need to become a journalist. My degree is in History, and whilst this is useful to some extent — the only experience I have in journalism is in student media. To apply to journalism jobs and enter the industry, I felt that this could potentially hold me back without having some formal qualification in the field.

Why distance learning

You can do an NCTJ qualification as part of some integrated masters or with an organisation like News Associates or the Press Association. A few years ago, after attending a talk from PA at university, I applied for one of their courses, went for interviews, got a place and was going to take it up. However, affordability was an issue for me and having to commute to London five times a week.

Essentially, doing the NCTJ via distance learning was the only financially viable option for me, as you pay per module and don’t have to pay a lump fee to secure your place. Additionally, I won’t be having to pay for the commuting into London. Also, with everything still happening with the pandemic, even if I had opted to study the NCTJ at a centre, most of my learning would be remote anyway.

It may be a slower pace than the traditional route, as it is meant to be studied alongside full or part-time work, but personally, I would rather take my time and complete it within 1 year than pack it all into a few months.

To wrap up, affordability, convenience, and practicality were reasons I decided to do the NCTJ via distance learning.


What I’m Studying — including Modules & Assessment

Image provided by the NCTJ

The NCTJ program via distance learning is compiled of mandatory skills modules which include: essential journalism, ethics and regulation, media law and the e-portfolio. When you enrol, you have the option to purchase these all in a bundle at a lower cost than paying for them individually, so that’s what I decided to start with.

As well as completing the mandatory ones, you also get to choose between a range of more specialist modules, including court reporting, data journalism and public affairs. But I haven’t got that far yet; I aim to get the core modules under my belt first.

Ethics & regulation

This module essentially consists of some of the ethical issues that arise from reporting, attaining evidence and gaining interviews and is heavily influenced by the Levenson inquiry and phone hacking scandal.

As part of the module and assessment, you have to learn the IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) Editor’s Code of Practice, which basically sets out what a journalist can publish and how to attain that information. It’s a set of editorial standards that publications in the UK (if they chose to be part of IPSO) have to adhere to. It takes a bit of getting your head around at first, but I found most of the module’s content to be pretty straightforward.

I’ve already booked my IPSO Editor’s code exam for April, as it’s multiple choice and only takes half an hour. I’m looking forward to getting that under my belt to focus on more of the hefty modules. I managed to get through most of the content for this in a week, as it’s a relatively small module (only worth 3 credits out of 82 for the entire course) — but it is assessed throughout the other mandatory modules too.

Overall, I enjoyed studying this module as I learned about the theory, issues, and problems that can arise from reporting and put that into practice with case study examples and some more present-day ones.

Media law

I can already feel this module becoming my nemesis. It is a hefty one, which makes up 10 credits as opposed to 3. I only started it this week, so I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I can totally see how important it is for journalists to know about the law — as they could easily be sued for defamation or libel.

As someone coming from a non-law background with minimal knowledge about how the court systems work, it is a lot to take in at first. I feel the 2 and a half hour exam will be tough, but it’s made me realise how important it is to know about this stuff as journalists with platforms and responsibilities.


An Overview of What the First Few Weeks Were like

Before I actually opened the textbook and started studying, I did feel overwhelmed. Unlike traditional face to face (or virtual teaching), doing the course via distance learning means you don’t have anyone to structure your learning for you.

I had to spend quite a lot of time figuring out the modules, how the course worked and what to start with. I’m also lucky enough to be part of a distance learning group chat, so I turned to them for advice. But it was hard to have no guidance on this — especially when it’s something you are so used to having in formal education. However, after a bit of work, the course did start to make sense, and I don’t feel confused anymore — which was good.

I’m very glad I started with ethics and regulation as that eased me in, it’s not an overly complicated module, and the assessment is pretty lenient too, so I would suggest (if you are looking to do this course and are feeling lost) to start with that. Media law is another topic altogether, and I will have more thoughts on it as the weeks progress.

In terms of support — we get one hour of tutor time for every module, but they are incredibly responsive to emails and have been super helpful. I had some problems with the links in my documents and got a rapid response after contacting someone about it. Although obviously, it’s hard not to have that constant support, tutors are always there when you need them — and so is the group chat!

Last week wasn’t a great week to be a trainee journalist

But it isn’t all blue skies. I started my course amidst Piers Morgan’s coverage of the interview between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (which was diabolical). Seeing certain people online agree with the broadcaster was infuriating. It corresponded with the very week I was studying the ethics of journalism, and it angered me that so many people couldn’t see how his dismissal of Meghan’s suicidal feelings wasn’t damaging and sets a dangerous precedent for how we think about mental health.

And that week also corresponded with Sarah Everard’s kidnapping from London and the outpouring of women’s experience of sexual assault, rape, and mistreatment all over social media. It was a heavy news week and being inclined to read the news and engage with it as I am, I spent so much time on Twitter and felt compelled to keep up.

It made me question whether I could cope with the news cycle’s heaviness and the constant pressures to stay online and up to date. But then I realised that all journalists are human and take time off (without feeling guilty) all the time.


All in all, I’ve had a very positive experience of my first few weeks studying the NCTJ from home. It is far harder than opting to study it at a centre, as there’s no constant guidance to get you started — but once you’ve taken time to get to grips with the course, it’s fine.

I plan to get as many of the theory modules under my belt as possible, so I can then focus on doing the e-portfolio and getting placements — which will be the most difficult part, considering we’re still in a pandemic. But I’m hoping as the months go on that restrictions will ease and things will get easier to organise.

Next week might be a slightly different story as I progress with media law and the complexity and heaviness that it brings, but I’ll make sure to keep it real and keep you up to date with my progress.


This was originally published on March 18, 2021 at Medium.com

On the Simplicity of Just Being

As an overthinker, it can be easy to get distracted from the present moment. Too often I find myself paralysed with fear about the next few years, or even weeks, which detracts me from just being. It’s hard to overcome, but of late I’ve been more successful.

Tuning in with myself every morning by writing a few pages in my journal has allowed the worries I may feel to slip to one side. It doesn’t cure them, nor eradicate them, but it means that I can have a day where all my energy isn’t solely dissipated on that.

But it is in these very moments of stillness – that have become even more abundant in the second lockdown we are now living through – that I have experienced joy, a sense of peace and calamity. I’ve never been one for mass excitement, big gatherings or celebrations, as I’d much rather be with just a few people or even curled up by myself with a good book. However, during this pandemic, I have gained so much from just being.

Whether that be sitting still and listening to the sounds around me – the cry of the birds, the hum of gentle traffic – or slowly making my way through a book at my own pace. Or even, sitting in silence in the same room as my partner as we both do our own thing. Just being in the moment, recognising it and making peace with it without worrying about the future, has been, and continues to be, a great comfort for me.

Maybe I sound like an old lady way beyond my time. But maybe I don’t. During an age of mass excess, at least, the pandemic appears to have made our lives simpler. The allocation of more time spent at home has allowed some of us to spend more time with ourselves, figure out what we love and strip things back down to the basics. And isn’t this what life is really about? If we don’t know what the simple things we love in life are, then what are we striving for? In the same vein – overcomplication can often lead to apprehension and depreciation.

Taking time to be at peace and appreciate the moment instead of worrying about the future, is something I’ve learnt to recognise and started to practice this year. It’s helped me to become more present, mindful and at peace with myself.

I’m still not sure what my future holds, or where I’ll end up, but for once, I’m okay with that. I’m not having sleepless nights panicking about what kind of grand career I haven’t planned out for myself, but am, for now, content with the beauty of being. And just surviving in this thing called life. This doesn’t mean I’ve stagnated – in fact, I have a myriad of ideas. Ideas I would never have dreamed up if it wasn’t for lockdown.

I’m not sure what this post was meant to be, or quite where I was going with it. I just came on here to say hello and that I’m still here on this blog, from time to time. But I knew that I wanted to write about what I felt in this moment – which was a deep sense of inner peace, from just being.

If you’re reading this, I hope you take a moment to just be. Soak it all in, and try not to worry about tomorrow or the next day. As now is all we have.

Sending love and best wishes to everyone.

Check out my latest posts on Medium here.


“Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today. I’ll always remember it.”

Emma Morley, One Day (David Nicholls)