I’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 Ending. The 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.
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.