Monday, December 26, 2011

the year that went pear-shaped

Because I also went pear-shaped. And then rather suddenly stopped being pear-shaped, well before I'd intended to. But a year it has been, making this the third year I have been blogging. It really doesn't seem like that long, but it seems like I've had this blog forever.

This was a weird reading year. A weird pregnancy can do that to one. Probably a regular one, too, but I wouldn't know... At any rate, I spent a lot of energy just trying to make it through the days and did not so much reading for significant periods of time from March - May. In June I got my second wind, but one book ate all of July, and then suddenly fishy and I were three.

Interestingly, being three has meant I do a fair bit more reading. Since at first we were spending a lot of time in the hospital just sitting, that makes sense. Now that smallfry is home, I certainly do spend less time reading, but not as much less as I'd expected at first. The big kicker is lack of energy, which is as bad now as it was in the first months of pregnancy, and my brain feels smooshier than I'd like to admit. But reading keeps me somewhat sane and in touch with things other than diapers and weight gains. Reviewing even more so. A lovely development these past few months sees fishy blogging his reading too, which has encouraged me to be a better blogger; there's a nice synergy happening.

(Incidentally, I am also really pleased to report that smallfry doesn't seem to be suffering much from her early entrance. She's growing normally, has no serious complications, and though she's about the size and developmental age of a two-month-old instead of a four-month-old, that kind of difference tends to be less and less noticeable as she gets older.)

So! Let's look at the numbers. Unsurprisingly, I haven't matched even last year's somewhat diminished output (input?) but what I've read I've generally enjoyed.

Books read in the past year: 47
Fiction read: 35
Nonfiction read: 12
Adult books read: 35
Young adult books read: 4
Middle-grade books read: 8
Canadian books read: 6
Graphic novels read: 3
Audiobooks listened to: 3
Series started: 9
Series completed: 1

And, because I've got Jean-Luc PiKobo now:
Ebooks read: 8

And, as I said I would last year, I did keep track of the nationality of the authors of the books I read, aside from the Canadian ones:
American books read: 27
British books read: 13
Japanese books read: 1

Next year I'd like to keep track of the decade the book was originally written in. Because I like numbers, you know, and it's interesting to keep track of this stuff. I used to say that I don't really read new releases, but it looks (from the brief overview I've done) that I read more newer books than I think I do. Keeping track of the nationality of the authors I read was interesting, too, because I didn't realize I was quite that American-heavy. Not that I plan to change my reading habits; life is too short for me to worry about that sort of thing, to be honest. But it's interesting to know what the shape of my reading is like, so that I'm aware of my biases when I'm helping other people find things to read.

As with last year, some of my favourite reads of the year, in the order that I read them:

  • Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson - Hands down my favourite book club read of the year (for my parent-child book club) and possibly one of the best books I've ever read. Sweet, gentle, quiet and slow and introspective without being boring. Read this touching little book even if you have no children to read it with.
  • Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson - I wouldn't recommend this for everyone because it's a bit dry and the topic is a little obscure, but I quite liked it. It was a very cool survey of collections of the written word in the precursors to Western culture from Ashurbanipal to the beginning of the Middle Ages. Not a long book, but great to read about the very beginnings of my chosen field.
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - I've been meaning to read this for a while, and finally did. And am I ever glad I did! Despite the fact that Collins was a contemporary of Dickens, I found Collins much easier to swallow, and reading what is often considered to be the original detective novel was both instructive and a lot of fun.
  • The City and the City by China MiĆ©ville - As my first experience with MiĆ©ville, this couldn't have gone better. Combining my love of mystery and fantasy so elegantly, this book still worms its way into my head every once in a while so long after reading it.
  • Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf - A book that I read partially for work and partially for interest that I absolutely wish everyone could read; alas, I don't think it will happen. It's not an easy read, though inspiring in its challenges. Wonderfully written book about the way reading changes the brain and the way it changes our culture.
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - Yet another book that I think may be a favourite read of all time (I've done really well this year!) It was a remarkable, smart book, with an interesting plot and really wonderful characters. Also very funny. A great case of the right book at the right time.
  • The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker - A completely understated yet wonderful book written for the middle-grade reader. I'll be using this one with my parent-child book club if I can get funding to purchase enough copies. It's sweet, fascinating and a great adventure story, perfect for kids of all ages with good imaginations.
  • Witches Abroad by Sir Terry Pratchett (review pending) - Of course there has to be a Discworld book on this list! This book pulled me out of my latest slump in grand style. I love Granny Weatherwax, and this book is pretty well focused on her relationships with her fellow witches. Funny, clever, and meatier than appears at first glance. Had some excellent laugh-out-loud moments.

Overall, this was a pretty good year, I have to say. I've tried to trim the above list and there are still eight books on there. So, though my numbers were down, more of what I read was quality, I think.

Just for fun, let's have a look at the TBR to see what I have pending immediately. Of the nine books I reported being on tap last year, I actually managed to read five of them, and one I started but it turned out to be a DNF; this is pretty good, considering that I'll often have plans to read a book next and then find myself glaring at it for sitting there and mocking me for not being in the mood to read it when its turn is up. This year's list for what is coming up soon (followed by their TBR list number):

  • Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn (938)
  • Wimbledon Green by Seth (not on list)
  • A Room With a View by E. M. Forster (767)
  • The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters (918)
  • At Large and at Small by Anne Fadiman (not on list)
  • The ABCs of Literacy by Cynthia Dollins (662)
  • The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (959)
  • Reaper Man by Sir Terry Pratchett (891)

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. I enjoy posting, and it helps me to keep reading and keep writing, which I think especially right now helps to keep my brain a little sharper than it would be otherwise. The fact that I have readers is a nice bonus, and those of you who comment are such lovely people! (I'm sure the rest of you are nice, too. You don't need to comment, but I'm glad you read. I'm a champion blog lurker myself.)

I hope you're all enjoying your holidays if you have them, and looking ahead to a fantastic new year filled with good books.


Melwyk said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly on Proust & The Squid. Wasn't it illuminating? I really, really liked it. And To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my all-time favourites -- so funny and so spot on. Have you read Three Men in a Boat as well?

Unknown said...

When I think about books I've read that I keep coming back to, to either think about or discuss an idea found in the book, I think Proust and the Squid tops the list. I bought myself a copy and I think I'll probably read it again soon.

I did read Three Men in a Boat first, actually, though quite a while ago. I quite enjoyed it, once I relaxed into it. I'm glad I read it before To Say Nothing of the Dog though! Some of the jokes were funnier. The swan, for example.

Ana S. said...

Very happy to see some favourites of mine on your list! Witches Abroad is probably in my top five Discworld novels, which is not at all easy to narrow down. Also, Proust and the Squid does sound absolutely fascinating. To the wishlist it does.

I'm also very glad to hear smallfry is doing well. I can't pretend to even begin to understand how much having a child would change one's life, but I'm glad you're still reading and still here with us. Best wishes for the new year!

PS: I realised today that for some bizarre reason your blog had stopped updating in my reader. I've deleted it and subscribed again, which will hopefully solve the problem, but now I have lots of catching up to do. So if you get any comments on old posts from me that would be why :P

Unknown said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Nymeth! I am sure you will find Proust and the Squid really interesting. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it when you get around to it.

I've noticed that sometimes blogger blogs stop updating in my reader too, and often I'll miss it unless I have a specific reason to go to that person's blog. It often happens when they have an updating hiatus, which is a pretty likely bet for mine, too. Hope this blog keeps showing up in your reader now!

Jeanne said...

As a mother, I admire your ability to keep blogging during your child's first year of life! Don't know if I could have done that.

A Room With a View is a wonderful book, and a pretty good movie. It has the satiric touch I love.

Unknown said...

Jeanne, it really helps that both my husband and I have had the opportunity to be home from work these first few months, thanks to good planning and good laws. Not to mention the fact that because of her lungs and immune system we're not really allowed out of the house with her; I've got some time on my (tired) hands!

I'm really looking forward to A Room With a View, and even more so now!

Jill said...

I like your thought about knowing your biases when you recommend books to people! Definitely something to keep in mind. Connie Willis is great, isn't she? I hope to read more of her books this year. I enjoyed your wrap-up post - you did great, especially considering all the upheaval in your life. And I'm so glad that smallfry is doing well! :-)

Unknown said...

Darla, I am almost scared to read other Connie Willis because I have such high, high expectations now!

Thanks for the kind words. Looking forward to seeing what you have to read and say in the new year... you're SO bad for my TBR!