2013 is over and 2014 is here! I have been absent from the blog for a couple of weeks- with the holidays and parties and family dinners and whatnot, blogging has taken a back seat to all the seasonal festivities. But here’s the thing: I don’t feel guilty about somewhat abandoning this blog for the last month or so; it was nice to take a mini-break. I still read books, of course, and am now behind a bit in reviews but that’s all right! I’m back now and re-energized for the year ahead!
Instead of doing a monthly review of December I’m just going to include those stats in my review of my reading in 2013. Here’s what 2013 looked like for me:
Books read: 49
I’ll be honest; I’m not happy with this number. I was hoping to at least make it to an even 50. I actually made a good effort on New Years Eve; I was about 20 pages from finishing a book when I stopped to go the movies, which is a tradition that we do in our family on the last day of the year. We saw a late night view of the new Hobbit movie (which I very much enjoyed!) and when we left the theater it was already early morning on the first day of the new year so 49 books it is!
Although I am very glad that I actually started using this blog on a more regular basis this past year, this did not translate into my reading more. I actually read less this past year then the year before! Part of this was due to moving across the country, starting a new job, and spending one month in the summer being quite ill and severely depleted of energy. But another aspect was just me choosing to spend time on the internet marathoning TV shows and watching movies on Netflix rather than reading. There’s nothing bad with those activities per se but I would like to try to reduce my time doing them this coming year.
Pages read: 16, 459
This translates into only 45 pages a day! Again, very much below my ideal.
Nonfiction books read: 29
Fiction books read: 19
This is a great improvement from the year before where I read 45 nonfiction books and only 9 fiction! I also started to make a conscious decision to read more classics this year: I joined the Classics Club and crossed off nine books from my list. In total this year I read 13 classics which is a great improvement. In addition to wanting to continue to improve my nonfiction to fiction ratio this year I want to keep reading classics and increase my reading of other fiction genres.
Books I did not finish: 2
The first was Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner; I read to page 353 and then stopped because I just didn’t care anymore. The second book I started but put down very quickly was Unmentionables by Laurie Lowenstein; I only made it to page 64 here before running for the hills. I kind of feel bad about this one as this books isn’t even published yet; it’s coming out a few days for now and so needs all the positive publicity it can get but I just could not go on with it without putting my sanity at great risk.
Books read in a language other than English: 2
I want to thanks Ekaterina over at In My Book because without her Summer Freak Language Challenge I would never had gotten off my butt and started reading in Spanish! I minored in Spanish in college but since I’ve graduated I haven’t had much (actually any) practice and I was worried about losing the language. For the past year or so I had the idea that I should read the Harry Potter series in Spanish because I was such a fan when I was younger and knew the series so well but I was too intimidated to try for fear that it would be too difficult. But when I heard about Ekaterina’s challenge I mustered up the courage and took the plunge. I am happy to say that after reading Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal for the challenge I kept going and finished Harry Potter y la cámara secreta this year as well! I’m currently two chapters into Harry Potter y el prisionero de azkaban and I’ve devised a system that works for me in reading enough that I can finish the books in a timely manner (although of course I read mush slower in Spanish then I do in English) but not so much at one time that my brain becomes overwhelmed. After this third book the books become much longer and I will have to think of a new strategy, I think, for completing them, but I am very proud of myself with taking this step. I am toying with the idea of reading other, original works in Spanish but I am not sure where to start or what would be appropriate given my skill level. Maybe another children’s series? I’m not sure. Anyway, thanks again Ekaterina for forcing me to be proactive and actually do something- its been so rewarding!
Longest book read this year: Anna Karenina at 1,090 pages.
This book was my nemesis this year- it took me the 12 whole months to slog through it and to be honest I can’t say that I enjoyed most it. But I did it and am proud that I gave finally read it. I read a couple of other long books this year, most notably Bleak House by Charles Dickens at 995 pages, which I was very much surprised by and LOVED. The third longest book I read this year was The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox at 703 pages. This book started out strong and had an interesting premise but I was ultimately disappointed by its wasted potential.
Shortest book read this year: Flight by Sherman Alexie at 181 pages.
This was the first (sort of) time I read Alexie and I was impressed and look forward to reading more of his work. In a close second was Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson at 196 pages. This was short, nice introduction to Shakespeare’s life and his works which I am glad to have read as I am thinking of making Shakespeare a focal point for 2014.
Oldest book read this year: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, published in 1811
I made myself a personal challenge this past year to read the first three of Austen’s novels and I am so glad that I did. I had read Pride and Prejudice before nothing else of her’s. I plan on continuing the challenge and reading her last three novels this year and perhaps her unfinished works and her juvenilia the year after.
The second and third oldest books I read where also by Austen– Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, and Mansfield Park, published in 1814. A fair number of my fiction selections this year were older so I am pleased with that.
Books read from my shelves: 16
An ok number, but obviously I would like to do better; after all, there’s no point in my buying books if I’m not going to read them!
I could go on with stats but I want to talk about the books that I loved this year so… here they are in no particular order!
This was the first book I read this year and it was wonderful! So bittersweet, so heartfelt, so… gah! Just great, really great. There a few things I didn’t like- I thought it kind of lost itself in one part and I admit that it was so sentimental and nostalgic to be cheesy at places but I was very much touched by Harold and his story. This was Joyce’s first book and I believe that she has another book coming out soon if it hasn’t already which I will defiantly keep an eye out for! Thank God I own this book so I don’t have to add it to my already too long list of books that I want to buy!
I was so so surprised by this book! Before Bleak House, the only other Dickens book I had read was Great Expectations when I forced to read it for freshman English in high school, which I wasn’t impressed by. I only decided to read this one because it was for a challenge I was participating in (which I ended up failing at- oops!) and only had a month to read all 995 pages. I was very intimidated about it and unenthusiastic. Imagine my surprise when I opened this book up and immediately fell in love! I loved loved loved this book! Very pleased I forced myself to read the first page all those months ago! I also read Oliver Twist towards the end of the year which I thought was just ok but that has not dampened my enthusiasm to read more of Dickens’ work! Definitely plan on buying this book sometime and will be rereading it, although I don’t know when.
I. Loved. This. Book. This was one of the highlights of my reading year, I think, and I read it all the way back in February! This is a biography of Jane Austen told through the ‘small things’- her writing case, her notebook, the plays she saw and enjoyed, etc. It was such an interesting and illuminating way to tell Austen’s story. Of course, the writing is superb and to die for. I’m not usually the sentimental type when I’m reading but at the end, when Byrne describes Austen in the portrait her sister Cassandra drew of her from behind on a hot summer’s day well, I admit that my eyes got a little wet, something that almost never happens when I’m reading and certainly never with a nonfiction book! This is one that I am defiantly buying and rereading! So, so good. I haven’t read any other biographies of Austen yet but I mean to, although right now I find it hard to believe that any other can even come close! Highly recommend!
I had never heard of this book til I read 500 Great Books by Women in March of this year (be warned, this list will add tons of books by awesome, diverse, and insanely talented women writers to your TBR!) but when I found it at the library I snatched it up and O MY GOSH. The Road Through Miyama tells of the two years in the early 80s when Philips traveled to a small village in Japan to be an apprentice to a traditional pottery master. You guys, I know nothing about pottery and I am not particularly interested in it but THE WRITING, the writing in this book is so incredible. So peaceful, soothing, intuitive, and just plain beautiful. You know that feeling when the sun begins to dip just below the sky and rays of golden and orange light begin to warm and enfold the trees and the landscape? That’s what this book felt like, like the beginning of sunset on wonderfully quiet and beautiful day. After I read this I looked up Leslie Philips and was disappointed to see that she has written only one other book. I loved this book so much I was hoping she would have a huge backlog and that I would the be forced to READ ALL THE BOOKS ever written by her. I haven’t read her other one yet (I will) but knowing there’s only one more that she’s written out there makes me appreciate this one all the more, in some strange way Again, The Road Through Miyama one that I need to buy so that I can pull it out whenever I feel like it- hopefully sooner rather than later!
Guys, why do I always wait to read books that have and have been wanting to read for forever? Why do I do this to myself? The Joy Luck Club has been on my radar for years and I’ve had this book since I was in college and I only got around to reading it this year! I knew that this book was about mothers and daughters going in to it, but somehow I had gotten it into my mind that this was a book aimed at younger audiences and was… ‘traditionally written,’ I guess you could say. I was so not expecting the vignette, short story aspect of it at all or the switching POVs and it was a totally pleasant and awesome surprise. The writing here is top-notch, so skilled and so atmospheric. I can not believe that this was Amy Tan’s debut novel- there is so much skill here, so much emotion, and thought. This book was incredibly moving. Tan has written 5 other novels and 2 children’s books, along with some nonficiton. Whenever I go to charity shops or second-hand bookstores now I always look for any of her works; I grabbed Saving Fish From Drowning be her earlier this year this way and the premise seems really promising.
This book was so much fun! Robinson tells the story of growing up with a father obsessed with gerbils. After retiring from the Navy, he moves his family to a remote, tumbledown farmhouse where they proceed to breed and sell thousands upon thousands of gerbils, mostly to scientific labs. Robinson is an engaging writer and the story of her quirky childhood is fun, fast paced, and just what I needed at the time. A truly unique book and childhood. I will be remembering this on for years!
There are many other books that I read and enjoyed this year, notably: Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Coast by Mike Tidwell (very illuminating and depressing at the same time), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (so good!), Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (absolutely horrifying), Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (my favorite Austen so far!), A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (my first Woolf which I thoroughly enjoyed), and The Last of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport, among others. Although I didn’t read as much as I hoped this year I was actually extremely lucky in my choices- I liked most of them, I thought only a few were just ok, there was only a small handful that I was lest then impressed with, and there were only two where I had to stop reading before finishing because I couldn’t bring myself to read another page. Hopefully I am as lucky in 2014!
I had originally also planed on writing what I hope to accomplish in 2014 in this post but as I was writing this up I decided to put those thoughts down in another posting as I have not quite finished thinking through what I want this next year to be like. So, expect that soon. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year and holiday season and I look forward to seeing what you all do in the New Year!