arthur c clarkeAny graph of my reading habits over the past 10 years would reveal vertiginous spikes in April and May. These are the months of my self-imposed, manic preparations for Hay Festival. This 10-day literature event (23 May to 2 June) is a high point in my calendar despite the obligation to camp on a sloping, often soggy, field in the Welsh Borders.

Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist Imminent

But April will be a doubly challenging month for me because the Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist will be announced on 4 April. This year I aim to read all books on the shortlist before the prize is announced on 1 May at The Royal Society.

Not only that… I’d love to read the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which will be announced on 16 April at London Bookfair. I’m pretty poor when it comes to anticipating shortlists so I may find I haven’t read any of them this year. (Award ceremony of 5 June).

So, I’ve decided to share Anne’s April Reading Challenge by posting a review on this blog as I finish the last sentence of each book. It could be a messy mix of subject matter but that’s part of the fun.

This year’s Hay Festival programme will be released soon and I’ve already nabbed earlybird tickets for John le Carré (a double-length event), Elif Shafak’s 2013 Raymond Williams Lecture (Honour, Black Milk) Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Antifragile, The Black Swan) and Carl Bernstein (All the President’s Men).

The only reason I stand any chance of meeting my reading challenge (considering I’m a slow reader) is that I’m travelling in my campervan during April. So I’m hoping to spend endless hours lazing in coffee shops and bars, always with a book and kindle at hand.

Elif Shafak or Kate Atkinson?

What to read first? It’s a toss up between Elif Shafak’s Honour and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, both long-listed for the Women’s Fiction Prize. (Given my track record, the fact that I’m reading these novels before the shortlist is announced could be the kiss of death for both contenders).

If you have a hunch for either of the two prizes – Arthur C Clarke Award or Women’s Prize for Fiction – let me know and I’ll push your recommended book higher up my reading list.