Sunday Salon: 2012 in Review

sundaysalonI’m a little reluctant to post this today because there are still two more days left in the year, and I plan to spend most of today and tomorrow reading, so whatever I say today is subject to change. Last year, the very last book I read snuck onto my year-end list. And of course, whatever stats I share today will be different by the end of the day tomorrow. But one of the many beauties of the Internet is that we can edit after posting, so I reserve the right to add updates to this post as needed.

2012 was a pretty good reading year for me. My plan was to read what I wanted and when I wanted, to cut back on review copies, and to give up on books more easily. I think I did that. Although not every book I read this year was prefect, I liked just about all of them. Only a few seemed like a waste of my time. Yet every book that I read was a book I read instead of something else, and I can’t help but regret the great stuff I missed.

As usual instead of providing a Top 10-ish list, I’m offering a list of books that have stuck with me, books that I’ve continued to think about. These aren’t necessarily the best books I read this year, or even the ones I enjoyed the most. They’re just the ones that made a big impression.

Favorite Book:The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. I just loved this book. I gave me so much to think about and sparked some great conversation in my book group.

Favorite Medieval Mystery:The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. By far, my favorite of the three Eco novels I’ve read.

Favorite Medieval Time Travel Story: The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. This was far from a perfect book, but it tugged at my heart so hard, that I can’t help but love it.

Favorite Unreliable Narrator:Tony in The Sense of an EndingThe thing that I loved about this book is that even after it’s over, it’s impossible to know precisely how unreliable Tony is, because he himself doesn’t know.

Favorite Plot Twist:A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin. I’ll say no more, other than to remind you not to read anything more about the book (or film) until you read the book.

Book I Most Wanted to Hand Out on Street Corners:Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata. An important alternate narrative to all the stories about the obesity crisis.

Favorite Aubrey/Maturin Novel:Impossible to choose between HMS Surprise and Desolation Island. Edited to add: Or, as it turns out, The Fortune of War, which I finished on New Year’s Eve.

Favorite Stephen King Novel: As delighted as I was to visit Mid-World again in The Wind Through the Keyhole, I thought 11/22/63 was really King at his best.

Most Romantic:Well, the most obviously romantic moment was the ending of Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (which took me, but apparently no one else by surprise), but I have to give the edge to the many swoon-worthy moments in Garment of Shadows by Laurie King. 

Favorite Short Story Collection: From reading his novels, I suspected Jon McGregor would be an excellent short story writer, and This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You confirmed it.

Favorite Essay Collection: When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinsonisn’t an easy read, but her thinking is so rich and refreshing that it’s worth the effort.

Favorite Reread:I only reread a couple of books this year, but even if I’d read a dozen, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell would probably top the list.

Most Alienating Moment: The comments about marriage at the end of Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson. The book itself is charming, but the idea expressed toward the end that marriage and sex make you a grown-up was a problem for me.

Most Conflicted Opinion:I somehow managed to read How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran without having been exposed to much publicity about the book (just a couple of positive but measured reviews) or much of the controversy about Moran herself. As a comic memoir about one woman’s experiences with the patriarchy, which is how I read it, I thought the book was a success. The sometimes sloppy and idiosyncratic thinking was, to me, part and parcel of its being a personal memoir. But as a foundational text on feminism, which is apparently how it was presented in some venues, it has serious problems.

And Now for Some Stats

Let me start with my usual caveat. These stats are not related to any particular set goal, other than a vague desire to keep a gender balance, read more authors of color, and works in translation, and so on. My primary goal in reading is to follow my mood and read what feels right at the moment, not to meet some arbitrary target or achieve goals that others have decided are important but that don’t meet my particular needs at the moment.

Also, these numbers are based on my LibraryThing cataloguing and tagging that I do throughout the year and are subject to minor errors that I might have made. Some numbers don’t add up because books might fall into multiple categories (as when a book has multiple authors of different sexes or nationalities). I plan to update these on January 1 to account for the one or two additional books I expect to have read by then.

Books Read in 2012: 117 (138 in 2011). The reduction is largely because I started listening to music and podcasts during my commute instead of audiobooks.

Review Copies: 35 (30%), 24 of which were e-galleys. This was down a bit from last year, and it will probably continue to go down. E-galleys are the big temptation, but  these days, I’m mostly only accepting review copies or requesting e-galley from authors I’m already familiar with.

TBR Books from before Jan 1, 2012: 32 (Not as many as last year, when I read 45. No big surprise, as I’ve been using the library more.)

Books Acquired in 2011: 73 (Fewer than last year, when I acquired 88. I read 18 of these, leaving 55 for the TBR pile. Last year, I did better at reading the books I acquired, probably because they were hard-copy books for review.)

Library Books Read: 35 (30%)

Fiction vs. Nonfiction: 89 fiction, 29 nonfiction (76% fiction, compared to 81% last year)

Audiobooks: 5 (4%, compared to 12% in 2011)

New to Me Authors: 55 (47%, compared to 49% in 2011)

Male vs. Female: 59 female, 59 male (54% female in 2011).

Pre 1900 Books: 6, or 5% (compared to 4% in 2011). I keep surprising myself with how few pre-1900 books I actually read, given how much I love Victorian literature.

20th Century Books: 58/50% (compared to 31% in 2011). Eleven of these were from the 1930s. I’m not sure why that is.

21st Century Books: 52 (44%), with 22 (19%) coming from 2012 (compared to 65% from the 21st century in 2011). To keep myself from being distracted by the shiny new books, I told myself last year that I only wanted to read 24 books released in 2012 this year, and I did it!

Translations: 17/15% (compared to 9% in 2011)

Books by Authors of Color: 13/11% (compared to 14% in 2010)

US vs. UK Authors:  46 US/48 UK (compared to 62 US/50 UK in 2011.)

Non-US/UK Authors:  25 books/21% (compared to 22% in 2011).

Author Nationality Map:

I read books by authors from 18 nations, compared to 21 nations in 2011. After the US and UK, Argentina and Denmark got the most “visits” with 3 each. I’d like to see more spots filled below the equator next year, but we’ll see how it goes. As much as I enjoy reading internationally, sometimes I really need an English village or the American prairie.

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37 Responses to Sunday Salon: 2012 in Review

  1. CJ says:

    I love the detailed stats! I’m drafting my “Year in Books,” and I might need to add some detail to my stats, especially the male/female.

  2. Chris says:

    Teresa, what a great year of reading you had! I should sit down and look at my stats associated with all of the books I read this year, I think it’d be interesting. Best wishes to you and Jenny as you carry forth in 2013! You both are doing such a wonderful job with this blog! Cheers! Chris

  3. I’ve been wanting to read Mariana since you reviewed it, and managed to score an ebook copy yesterday for $.99! I’ll be posting my list of books read this year on Jan 1, but I have such a hard time picking favorites. It seems like almost everything I read this year was fantastic. I like how you broke down your favorites! I’ve been trying to read a bit more serendipitously myself, and I rarely request review copies, but meanwhile my “to read” shelf on Goodreads is growing by leaps and bounds. I may need to do something about that in 2013.

    • Teresa says:

      I saw there was a Kearsely e-book sale yesterday and thought about grabbing another myself! I hope you enjoy it.

      I have a terrible time choosing favorites too, which is why I make up categories to fit what I want to mention–and even then I realize later than I left something out. For instance, how could I forget If on a winter’s night…?

  4. vanbraman says:

    You are making me think of what I have read this past year. Several of my books from this year have come from this blog, and several that are on my to read list have moved up because of it.

  5. cbjamess says:

    I really should make better use of Library Thing. I could probably do real statistics next year instead of fake ones. I’m impressed with 115 books. Does Library Thing count up the pages read?

    • Teresa says:

      I just tag books as I enter it, so it’s pretty easy, but I’d hate to see you fake stats go away! I love those!

      I don’t think LT counts up pages read, unless those stats are hidden somewhere that I haven’t come across them.

  6. Lisa says:

    I really like your categories of books that stuck with you – that got me thinking of books I’d read that fit them. I did a little better on reading non-US/UK authors, but nowhere near as well as I’d meant to. Thanks to you & Jenny for another year of challenging & inspiring reviews.

    • Teresa says:

      I cheat on my categories by starting with the books and crafting categories to fit, but there were some straightforward ones (short stories, essay collection) this year, which was nice.

  7. Priscilla says:

    I’m happy to see 11/23/62 made your list, because I have that on my nightstand for my February book club. It was one of those wishlist books I purchased! I really do hope to read When I Was a Child in 2013 as well. And finally…I have got to read Connie Willis. That popped into my head the other day, and her appearance on your list here cements it for me. Happy reading in 2013!

    • Teresa says:

      I love Stephen King in general, but 11/22/63 is among his best, I think. A bit overlong, but very good. For Willis, I actually started with To Say Nothing of the Dog last year, and it was a riot. Doomsday Book is entirely different, but just about as good.

  8. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    Somehow I missed your review of Mariana and now I really want to read it!!
    And yay for The End of the Affair, it’s such a keeper book, like one that really stays with you over time. And everytime The Sparrow gets mentioned I just feel my heart well up, I love that book so much.

    • Teresa says:

      Mariana doesn’t seem to be many people’s favorite Kearsley, but I was charmed by it and like it better than The Rose Garden, which I also read this year.

  9. I always enjoy looking at other reader’s stats and I love your book categories. Were there a lot of competitors for Favorite Medieval Time Travel Story? ;) With your mention of Garment of Shadows you’ve reminded me of one of my plans for 2013: to catch up with King’s Mary Russell series, which I’ve fallen woefully behind on.

    • Teresa says:

      Well, you’ll note that I had to make two Medieval categories to account for the fact that I needed to mention Name of the Rose as well. I did better than last year, though, when I needed three sea-faring categories!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Your stats are so interesting, and I love your reading goals! How wonderful to have a year in which you liked almost every book you read.

    • Teresa says:

      Abandoning unsatisfactory books quickly was the key. I gave up on several that I normally would have powered through with because I knew they were “good books,” even if they weren’t working for me.

  11. Vasilly says:

    I’m going to check out Rethinking Thin. Maybe I’ll add the Robinson book too. Great list. You’re such a bookish inspiration. :-) Happy New Year.

  12. Danielle says:

    I love reading other people’s stats and am glad I am not the only person who does that (for me it’s a curiosity thing and not related to goals either–though I always start out with lots of plans that I usually abandon soon after….). I’m intrigued by the Levin book and want to read the Greene book now. Lots of people read Connie Willis this year and I had planned to as well, but it didn’t quite work out. Looks like you had a really great reading year!

  13. Stefanie says:

    A good year! I read the Robinson book of essays this year because of your review and I liked it very much so I owe you a huge thanks! Happy New Year!

  14. Sly Wit says:

    A great list. The End of the Affair was the first Greene I ever read, back in college for a Theology and Lit course. It started a lifelong affair of my own with Greene. You’ve reminded me that I’ve been meaning to revisit it.

  15. Jenny says:

    Way to go with all the translations! That is my favorite statistic. I will never have anything like that because I’m too nervy with translations. :/

    • Teresa says:

      I feel like I didn’t read very many translations, at least not compared to a lot of people really into international lit. I’m finding that the reading experience is not that different that for books written in English–some are good, some are bad in about equal proportions to English-language books.

  16. Rebecca H. says:

    It sounds like a great reading year! I’ve given in lately to the shiny new books, and I’m okay with that for now, but I do admire your method of limiting them and focusing more on earlier books. I hope you have a great reading year in 2013, and I look forward to reading all about it!

    • Teresa says:

      I do like the shiny new books, and sometimes it’s easier to get conversation going around them, because so many people are reading them at the same time. But I was starting to let them take over my reading! The 24-book limit was actually really easy for me to stick to; mostly it just made me think twice about every new book, especially when it comes to review copies, rather than grabbing whatever looks interesting.

      • Rebecca H. says:

        I just checked how many books I read from 2012, as opposed to 2010-2012, which is how I categorize books on LibraryThing, and it turned out to be 18, or 22%, and that’s not too bad. I read a bunch of books from 2010 and 2011, but they aren’t quite as shiny and new as the 2012 ones.

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