Friday, December 27, 2013

the year that flew by

I cannot believe I am already writing this post. Maybe it's just the time of day, and the time of year, and maybe it's the half-gallon of fondue I consumed this evening, but there is a lot I can't remember about the past year: it's just a blur. I spend my days running from one thing to another, but not in a stressed, bad way. It's just there's so much to pack in, now. Music classes and swimming lessons, messy art, working at the library, cleaning (all right, not that much cleaning), reading, gardening, watching my very energetic child make up stories about a dragon that likes to eat chestnuts and a stuffed toy rat called The Woolly Man. These things consume a day, and day by day they consume months, and then a year has gone by and the blog is five and I am still doing that thing where I read something and then write stuff about it.

I have felt that in some ways this has been a much better reading year for me. I've read some great stuff this year. Now if only I could remember any of it...

Books read in the past year: 42
Fiction: 31
Nonfiction: 11
Adult books: 27
Young adult books: 6
Middle-grade books: 9
Graphic novels: 1 (yikes)
Audiobooks: 9
eBooks: 10
Series started: 11 (this number is not getting any better)
Series finished: 0 (neither is this one)

Author's nationality:
Canadian: 5
American: 22
British: 10
Thai: 2
French: 1
Italian: 1
Kiwi: 1

Decade of first publication: 
2010: 9
2000: 18
1990: 5
1980: 3
1970: 1
1960: 1
1950: 1
1940: 1
1910: 1
1810: 2

The numbers don't bear much resemblance to last year, and once again I'm under 50 books read for the year. In fact, this year looks surprisingly like 2011, right down to the approximate ratios of fiction:nonfiction and adult:young adult:middle-grade. Though the publication date spread is significantly more impressive this year, too.

Last year over 30 of the books I read were graphic novels, manga, which I read extremely quickly (one can plow through 5 or 6 tankubon in a day, or more) so considering the length and difficulty of my reading this year I am not displeased with 42 books. That said, I miss manga, so expect a little more of that again in the coming year. Once I find my misplaced Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus 3.

And luckily I have my blog to remember things for me. So here are some of my reading highlights from 2013:

  • The Dr. Siri Paiboon mysteries, starting with The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill - Oh, I love this series so far. I love the writing, I love the setting, I adore Dr. Siri, and as my first book of the year this one really got me started on the right foot. Funny, dark, thoughtful, incredibly creative. Very much looking forward to continuing with this series.
  • Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead - The best sort of nonfiction for me: popular science about birds, well-written and totally fascinating. I learned a lot reading this book, and I loved that the whole book was an exercise in showing how scientific knowledge isn't static.
  • Bellwether by Connie Willis - I have bought something like four copies of this book at this point, just because it's so easy to give away to anyone and everyone. It's not very long, but it's beautifully written, plus it's a book about scientists that's also kind of like Office Hours. Funny funny but sometimes a little too close to the bone.
  • Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino - Finally introduced myself to Calvino; I've been meaning to read something by him for years. A wonderful little book that is difficult to pigeonhole, but worked for me on many levels. Felt like reading a highly structured piece of music. 
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - Such a wonderful piece of high fantasy, original but comfortable, and with characters that stand out as being some of the most vivid I have encountered lately.
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - A middle-grade classic that I missed out on as a kid, but encountered as a really terrific audiobook as an adult. Highly entertaining, clever, creative, and punny, it isn't perfect but its status as a  modern classic is absolutely earned.
  • Heriot by Margaret Mahy - Another high fantasy work of art. Mahy's writing is always a little unsettling; she had a turn of phrase that was always just a little bit slant. Characters were not her strong suit, but the writing is poetic and startlingly lovely.
  • The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis - I suppose there is a chance I am just including this because it happened to be one of the last books I've read this year so it's fresh in my mind, but I liked it so much I gave it to my Dad for Christmas, so... I love a good mystery, and I love a good set of characters, and this brought an extremely remote historical time to life for me in a way that I love. Looking forward to continuing this series as well.

So once again, the ratio of really excellent reads is quite high this year. October was a bit of a banner month for me; in addition to both Seraphina and The Phantom Tollbooth I finally read Old Man's War by John Scalzi, and The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by Eva Ibbotson, which don't make the list only because I'm trying to keep things manageable. Though October also contained two of my bigger reading disappointments of the year, too. Not sure how I found that much time to read that month, really.

Once again I'll include a list of things I'd like to read in the upcoming year, but my track record here is generally terrible. Though from last year's list I did manage to get three of the seven actually read, and at least two of the others I'm sure to attempt soon. And two of those left were DNF, so actually - way to go, me. Some of the following are book club books, too, which I have started to at least try to finish in time for the book club meetings. I don't always get it done, but I'm trying a lot harder than I ever have. Mostly because never finishing the books I assign starts to get a bit embarrassing.

  • The Inconvenient Indian by Tom King 
  • Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
  • Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus 3 and 4 by CLAMP
  • The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach
  • Small Gods by Sir Terry Pratchett (yes, this is a repeat from last year's list)
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Shadows by Robin McKinley
  • Binny for Short by Hilary McKay
  • The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
  • The Common Reader Volume 1 by Virginia Woolf

An eclectic mix! Just the way I like it. The length of that list should take me until probably June, the way I've been reading, but let's not think about that...

Thanks again to all of you who read this blog, and all of you who stop by to say hello every once in a while. It's wonderful to be a part of such a special community of book lovers, people who love to read and love to think about what they read, and love reading so much they want to share what they're reading and what they've thought about it. I learn something every time I visit a book blog; thanks for taking the time to read mine this year!

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