I wasn’t going to do a year in review post this year because a few weeks ago it looked too much like work to me, and I’ve become allergic to anything that makes blogging seem like work. But I do like to have an overview to consult later and to remind myself of what has stood out to me over the year. But for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to forgo my usual categories and just list some of the books from throughout the year that have stood out to me and share a few comments on why. These are not necessarily the best, or even my favorite, books of the year. They’re just the ones that have stuck in my mind as particularly worth my time.
Kiku’s Prayer by Shusaku Endo. Although I have some serious reservations about the main character’s fate and how it’s used to the advantage of the male characters, I’ve continued to be haunted by some of the images and events in this book.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.This anti-diet book completely changed the way I think about food. The kind of eating the authors recommend is not always easy, but it seems like the healthiest choice for me, mentally and physically.
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. It’s Kate Atkinson. Need I say more?
Stet by Diana Athill. This editor’s memoir offered a lot of stories that this editor could relate to.
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. One of the most plausible, but ultimately hopeful, dystopian novels I’ve read.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A war story that is both specific and universal.
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. Jane Austen with dragons. That’s enough for me.
It by Stephen King. Not quite the scariest King novel I’ve read (that’s Misery), but pretty close—and a stellar example of King’s ability to create wonderful characters.
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. One of the best depictions I’ve ever encountered of the ambivalence I generally feel about being a single woman of a certain age.
Song of the Dodo by David Quammen. A fascinating exploration of what evolution and extinction patterns of the past can teach us about extinctions to come.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. This was a reread, but it’s as good as ever. I can’t wait until her new book comes out in 2014.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. This would probably not have made my list at all had a book group discussion not revealed how rich it is. Plus, I can’t stop thinking about that dog.
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King. A dark and disturbing mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett. “Come my love, say good night to the dark.” *Sob* Another reread.
Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe. This just about convinced me that I need to attend a JASNA conference.
And Some Stats
Here, I want to echo Ana’s caveat that these are mostly just a simple way to look at trends in my reading, not a way to boast or to beat myself—or anyone else—up for what I am and am not reading. My reading wants and needs at any given time are my own, and they vary from year to year and day to day. And so, I suspect, do yours.
Also, if you try to tally all these numbers up, you’ll find the totals aren’t perfect. I’m relying on my own tagging in LibraryThing throughout the year, and I sometimes miss a tag. Plus, some anthologies don’t neatly fit the categories I track.
Review Copies: 13 (13%), 6 of which were e-galleys. This is down a lot from last year’s 35, and I’m happy about that. I haven’t officially stopped accepting review copies, but I mostly never do, even if a book sounds appealing. Case in point: I got pitched Among the Janeites and decided to wait until some reviews came in and then see about getting it at the library. I don’t browse Netgalley anymore. I may continue to enter the LibraryThing giveaways because that’s fun, but that will continue to be about it. It’s kind of nice to read more like “regular” non-blogging readers do.
TBR Books from before Jan 1, 2013: 34. Slightly more than last year, when I read 32. No big surprise, as I’ve been using the library more.
Books Acquired in 2013: 83. Fewer than last year, when I acquired 73. I read 11 of these, leaving 72 for the TBR pile. Yikes! I blame the used book-shopping trips with Thomas, Frances, and Simon. But right now, my unread books are just barely overflowing my TBR bookcase, and the TBR Triple Dog Dare should fix that situation right up.
Library Books Read: 38 (40%). Up from 30% percent last year. I got a lot of new releases and much-talked-about books from the library.
Fiction vs. Nonfiction: 77 fiction, 19 nonfiction (80% fiction, compared to 76% last year)
New to Me Authors: 43 (45%, compared to 47% in 2012)
Male vs. Female: 52 female, 36 male (50% female in 2012). This happened entirely naturally, which really makes me wonder how all those review pages manage to tip so far toward reviewing mostly men.
Pre 1900 Books: 5, or 5% (compared to 5% in 2012). Once again, I surprise myself with how few pre-1900 books I read. Need to remember all those great classics stored on my e-reader.
20th Century Books: 40 (42%, compared to 50% in 2012). Guess my reading really tipped toward the new this year, but 2000 is less new than it used to be.
21st Century Books: 51 (53%), with 18 (19%) coming from 2013 (compared to 44% from the 21st century in 2012). Continuing the trend of being surprised.
Translations: 6/6% (compared to 15% in 2012). I attribute this in part to my focusing on reading books that have been on my TBR pile for a while, and most of those were from before I got interested in reading translated works.
Books by Authors of Color: 11/11% (compared to 11% in 2012)
US vs. UK Authors: 45 US/38 UK (compared to 46 US/48 UK in 2012.)
Non-US/UK Authors: 14 books/15% (compared to 21% in 2012).
Author Nationality Map:
I read books by authors from 18 nations, compared to 18 nations in 2012. After the US and UK, Canada, France, and Japan got the most “visits” with 2 each. Technically, more countries in Africa and South America could be colored in because I read an anthology of stories by African authors and started by abandoned after five or six stories an anthology by Latin American authors. But tracking that feels like work, so I’m not doing it.
As for next year, I anticipate more of the same. I do hope to read more international authors, and I think that’ll happen because I’ve reached the point in my TBR pile where I have more translations and books by African and Asian authors. I’m going to continue trying to read the books that have been on my TBR pile the longest, with a goal of reading (or attempting) all the books I acquired in 2010 by the end of the year. As with most reading goals, I won’t hold myself to that if circumstances (i.e., my mood) dictate something different. This year, I didn’t read all the Margery Allingham books I acquired in 2009 because it was too much Allingham. My main goal is to read what I feel like reading when I feel like reading it, with an eye to increasing author diversity and perhaps digging more into older books. In other words, my goal is not to focus on goals.
When it comes to blogging, I expect I’ll continue focusing on writing reviews about the books I read. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of (former) book bloggers saying that they want to abandon the book blogger label and write about other things or to get away from posting reviews while continuing to post about books. That’s great, but for me, writing about what I’m reading it where it’s at. It’s what I like to do. Reviews are still fun for me, mostly because I don’t try to fit my reviews to a particular definition. If I want to be personal, I will. If I want to be analytical, I will. And right now, writing about every book I finish (and some that I don’t) works. If anything, in the past year, I’ve doubled down on review writing by writing fewer topical posts, list posts, book photo posts, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with those kinds of posts, and I often enjoy them on other blogs, but for me, this blog is a reading journal at heart. No doubt I’d enjoy writing about other things, but I like to have a limit—I could easily write about everything and I think that would lead me to burn out.
So that’s where I am. A pretty decent year—nothing amazing, but plenty to be happy about and plenty more to look forward to.