Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Bookish thoughts on 2011 and 2012

I think 2011 was an odd year for many people, in some cases downright unpleasant and I really hope that those folk will fare better in 2012. We had our ups and downs, mostly okay until it became apparent that our daughter was going to need spinal surgery and then it was just a waiting game through the autumn until it finally happened at the end of December. Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes while it was happening. It means so much to me and to *her* and she's asked me to say thank you on her behalf as well. She's doing really well now. The first week was a bit tricky as it always is after an operation but she turned a corner four or five days ago and is now well on the road to recovery. Funny... she's always liked reading but being a single, working parent, time was always an issue. Now it isn't, she's been devouring books like there's no tomorrow and it's no exaggeration to say that they're helped get her through this thoroughly unpleasant experience. She's been reading all sorts, from Jeffrey Eugenides' latest to the Twilight series and many things in between such as Kelly Armstrong, Laurie R. King and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (we're waiting for the library to be open tomorrow to pick up the sequel for her.) I've just sent her off with Grass by Sheri Tepper, probably my favourite sci-fi yarn, and will be interested to hear what she thinks.

Anyway, on to boks I read in 2011. They numbered 83 altogether. That's about as many as I've ever read in one year and as many as I *could* read I think. It would be pointless me going for 100 as I'm certain I wouldn't get there! I'm a bit of an eclectic reader so the 83 covers all kinds of books - much more crime than I ever used to read, some fantasy, sci-fi, horror, general fiction, classics, and all of 11 non-fiction which is exactly the same as last year and really not good enough in my opinion.

A favourite book? Well. I'm not sure I can choose a favourite exactly so I'll go for a top ten:

1. Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope
2. Track of the Cat - Nevada Bar
3. Body Double - Tess Gerritsen
4. The Wine of Angels - Phil Rickman
5. City of Pearl - Karen Traviss
6. Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
7. The House at Sea's End - Elly Griffiths
8. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
9. The Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
10. These is My Words - Nancy Turner

And if I really *really* had to choose a favourite? Nope... I can't... but the top three would be, These is My Words, Barchester Towers and Track of the Cat.

Favourite non-fictions:

1. I Can't Stay Long - Laurie Lee (Beautiful essays)
2. The Magic Apple Tree - Susan Hill (A year in an Oxford village)
3. Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl (Food critic experiences)

Last year I took part in and finished four separate challenges and also Carls' Sci-fi experience. Very pleased with my results on those. I discovered, or was introduced to (you culprits know who you are!), several new series including the Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr, the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman and the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley. I also managed to finish three series, or will when my first read of this year is complete.

So, it was quite a good reading year and yet... I don't feel all that thrilled by it. I feel like I concentrated too much on rushing from one book to another without stopping to consider and also... not really learning very much. So I plan to slow down a bit in 2012... savour what I read a bit more, read more classics (Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Trollope etc.) and especially try to read more non-fiction so that I learn something. Of course, reading around the USA will help with that and the last couple of months of 2011 when I started that personal challenge were actually pure joy. And so, if I find at the end of 2012 that, instead of reading 80+ books, I've read maybe 50 - 60 I will not be at all disappointed. I know that sounds a bit mad but reading is not a competition to see who can read the most books and I really need to absorb that fact and act on it. The other thing I *really* need to act on is to stop borrowing so much from the library and to read from my own tbr pile. I have a feeling that's going to be a bit more tricky.

Happy New Year to all and I hope everyone has the kind of reading year they wish to have. Can't wait to read all your thoughts and ramblings as I'm not sure I don't prefer those to proper reviews. LOL. Happy reading!


Anonymous said...

Cath, first of all, so happy to hear your daughter is doing well after her surgery. Also, that she has rediscovered her love for reading, always a good thing.

I totally understand your thoughts on rushing from one book to another in order to complete some arbitrary list in one's head. Me too! We'll console each other at the end of 2012 if we've "only" read 50 books or so. LOL

animewookie said...

I could only dream reading that many amaze me <3 I'm so glad your daughter is on the upward path. :) I can absolutely imagine that reading was a great help to her. I hope your New Year is a bright, happy and healthy one :D

GeraniumCat said...

Really glad to hear your daughter is doing well and enjoying her reading time! I think I like rambling posts, too - a mix of books and personal is nicest. Your comments on 2011's reading made me smile - you're right that it doesn't matter how many you read, it's the pleasure and information you get from them that matters, and if that means reading less, whyever not? And I've certianly got to approve of your choices for favourites, because I love Griffiths, Bradley and Rickman myself (Trollope, too). I think I might have read the Susan Hill years ago, but I'd like to read it again.

Happy reading in 2012!

Kailana said...

I am glad your daughter is on the road to recovery and is getting some reading done in the meantime. :) I really need to read something by Tepper...

I enjoyed reading your post. Happy reading in 2012!

DesLily said...

I have heard many horror stories of back surgery and so I was quite scared for your daughters surgery... you will never know how happy I am that things are going so well for her!!!!

hey, you beat the heck out of me for number of books! I only read 58!! and I don't plan on speeding up so I am sure it will be in the 50's this year too!.

well now.. I need to know just why Barchester Towers was so good?!I have the book among my tbr mountain and need to know why I should push it to the top it only one book? he has so many out they confuse me because I see where some are in succession of others... so let me know.. or skype me and tell me! :o)

Jo said...

I agree reading should never be a chore. At the moment a
L it seems to be is a pleasure no matter how many books you read.

Best wishes for 2012 and I hope your daughters redo dry is swift and she does not lose the reading bout.

Cathy said...

I always love looking at people's reading lists, and I was thrilled to see how much you enjoyed These Is My Words and Track of the Cat. These Is My Words has a permanent place on my Recommendation List!

fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

I am so pleased that everything continues to go well with your daughter's recovery and that she has rediscovered her obvious love of reading. Let's just hope that she manages to keep it up to some degree, once the hustle and bustle of everyday life kicks back in again!

I am definitely with you, when you comment about rushing from one book to another. I feel so guilty when I see just how many books that others are reading and how often they are posting, however there is no way on earth that I could ever hope to keep up with them.

I can usually only manage a few minutes a day quality reading time and I do like to read every word on a page and digest the message that the book has to offer.

If I was proof reading or reviewing as a job, then that would be a different matter, but as reading is purely something that I do for my own enjoyment, with author reviews obviously being given priority as and when they come along, then I am afraid that I shall never be anywhere up there in a total number of books read competition.

I love to read the quality posts that you offer, whenever you feel like writing them, so keep up the good work and most important of all 'Happy Reading'.


Chris said...

So glad to hear your daughter is doing well Cath and that she's getting some time to read :) All fantastic news!

2011 was a bit of an odd year, huh? I'm hoping that 2012 will be MUCH better!! I'm optimistic :)

I'd love to read 100 books in a year, but I know that's not very feasible for me either :p We can dream though, right?

Anonymous said...

So relieved to hear of your daughter's continued improvement, Cath. Out of all crisis comes opportunity, or something like that from Confucius. I'm glad there were so many books for your daughter to read while recovering.

Sometimes, we need to savor our books more, chew on them a bit, settle down. I didn't read as much this year, either, but, I mostly enjoyed those I read so very much. The only one I just didn't take to was what everyone else is raving about; The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. Oh well.

Cath said...

Kay: It's a big relief. Thank you for your kind thoughts. It's lovely to see her devouring books!

LOL. Okay... it will be so interesting to see.

Kelly: Well, you have a busy life with your family. Back when my kids were teens I had little time to read too.

Thank you, I wish the same for you too. :-)

GeraniumCat: I think you're right, the mix of books and personal is the nicest.

Reading various blogs, it seems a few people have decided to try for more meaningful books this coming year. Interesting.

Yes, I realised last year that several people have very similar tastes to me and you're one of them. The Susan Hill (The Magic Apple Tree) was a reread for me. I thought it was magical and wondered if I would feel the same after a reread. If anything, I liked it *more*. So peaceful and countryside-ish. Loved it. The wood-cut illos are so beautiful too.

Kelly: Thank you.

My daughter finished 'Grass' and I'm pleased to say she thought it as brilliant as I did. I want to reread it this year. Yes, you do need to read Tepper! Recs from me would be Grass, Gate to Women's Country, Family Tree... all terrific reads.

Pat: Yeah, the back surgery horror-stories do not make for pleasant reading, so I tried to stay away from them and just keep positive. And so far she's doing really well - hoping to go back home over the weekend, with plenty of support from us of course.

Bookswise, I'm speeding *down* this year. lol. I think 58 is a very nice number... seeing as I *am* 58 too. ;-) We got the 2nd Patrick Rothfuss book for Jenny from the library yesterday. Her eyes nearly popped out of head when she saw how big it is. Peter had to carry it! LOL.

We'll Skype next week and discuss Barchester Towers. It's actually book 2 in the series but you can skip book 1 without too much of a problem as book 2 explains a lot as it goes along.

Cath said...

Jo: I don't think any kind of reading could be a chore to me but it was time for a reassessment. I do that every 5 years or so. LOL.

Thank you. I somehow don't think she'll lose her reading enthusiasm now. She's discovered too much good stuff!

Cathy: I absolutely adored those two books. Track of the Cat is one of the most tense, exciting crime thrillers I've read in a long time. And the setting was wonderful. I shall be reccing These is My Words as much as I can too. Sarah reminded me of the heroine in another of my favourite books, Mattie in A Gathering Light by Jenifer Donnelly (called Northern Lights in the US I think). If you haven't read it I highly recommend it.

Yvonne: Yes, real life does tend to get in the way of reading good books somewhat. Hopefully she'll be able to find a little time to keep it up, but it's not easy.

Like you I'm the kind of reader who has to read every word (the rest of my family are natural speed-readers). I like it that way to be honest... but couldn't help but feel that last year I was going too quickly myself. Will see what happens this year, it'll be very interesting to see. I have some big thick books I want to read so there is bound to be a big slowing up in numbers.

I will try my hardest to keep posting, I'm especially looking forward to sharing my American explorations. :-)

Chris: Thank you, we're all very relieved.

Yeah, I'm hoping for a better year this year. Just a really nice quiet reading and gardening year would be just fine. LOL.

I think in order to read 100 books in a year I would have to not do anything else at all. Which would not be good for my eyes *or* my waistline! And I like my homegrown fruit and veggies far too much to keep out of the garden like that. :-)

lifeonthecutoff: You're so right, and it's been nice that she's found something to take her mind off her troubles so well. It's also been nice to have have some lovely bookish talk with her about what she's reading.

That's a nice way to express what I wanted to say about books... 'chew on them a bit, settle down'. You understand exactly.

I'm probably not going to read the Dragon Tattoo books. My husband quite liked them but several people whose tastes mirror mine have hated them or not been able to finish due to the gory nature of some of the story. They really don't sound like my kind of thing so I'll give them a miss. It's not like I don't have anything else to read. LOL.

Susan said...

Cath: I am so delighted, oh thrilled, to see Phil Rickman on your top 10 list! I could dance with joy! yaaay! I just read his latest - a treat in hard cover for me - and it's so very good.

I have to read Trollope this year!!! And Dickens. you, I want to read more classics. I really like your thoughts on slowing down to enjoy what you are reading, and also that you want to read more non-fiction. I do find that there are so many interesting books out there, that I don't want to read only one thing (as much as I admire people who can do that). When I was approaching my 100 books, I wondered if I could read 6 books in a week, and finally I said to myself, I want to enjoy what I'm reading. So if I fall three or 4 short, I don't care. I had a great time reading this year. I want to remember what I read, too. So your thoughts are similar to what I have been thinking lately too. Especially if we tackle those classics this year, I won't be near 90 books again!

I am a bit late here, but let me say once again how very glad I am that your daughter did so well coming through her surgery. I'm happy for all of you. The best present of all, isn't it? Happy new year to all of you!

Cath said...

Susan: I plan to read plenty more of Phil Rickman's Merrily books this year. Book three is in our library waiting for me to be ready to grab it. I might do that today in fact.

What you say about admiring people who only read one thing... I assume you mean 'one genre'... ie. just crime books? I have to say I often think my life would be easier if I was like that too. The problem is my curiosity and nosiness I think... so I have to read in all kinds of genres and love to read non-fiction as well. There's not much I won't try and it makes for a complicated life where book buying is concerned. Take me to a bookshop and I'm literally running all over the shop like a headless chicken... (and I'm not small so picturing me running should raise a smile or two... ;-))

Oh yes... if we do attempt a few classics I'm thinking that'll slow us down. As will the over 700 page books for the Tea and Books challenge!

Thanks... yes, having our daughter come through her surgery so well and to have it behind us now is very much the best present of all.

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