2013: A Year in Review

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.

Books Read in 2012: 96 (117 in 2012). I was a little busier this year than last year, and I watched a little more TV.

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)

Audiobooks: None.

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.

Looking Forward

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.

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30 Responses to 2013: A Year in Review

  1. Samantha says:

    You read some wonderful books this year, and thank you for sharing the recommendations with us! I’m particularly excited to read Tooth and Claw and Kiku’s Prayer (though I suspect I’ll have the same reservations as you, I find his work so thought-provoking that I intend to read everything that’s been translated into English).

    Also, perhaps it’s just me, but is Japan not colored in on your map?

    • Teresa says:

      Good catch on Japan! Just fixed it. Thanks!

      Endo is such a great author. I don’t if I’ll ever get around to all his translated works, but I’m going to continue plugging away. I have When I Whistle on my shelves and really want to read The Samurai.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m so impressed with your statistics! they make for a really cool-looking & impressive post. I have Octavia Butler’s two Parables on my TBR stacks (added after you & Anbolyn recommended them), and The Bones of Paris (though I keep thinking I should finish Touchstone first). And I’ve just squeezed in a library request for Intuitive Eating, before the TBR Dare starts in three hours. A very Happy New Year to you & Jenny!

    • Teresa says:

      I keep track on LibraryThing all year, so the post is pretty easy to compile. I like having the record.

      And I hope you enjoy all those books and have a great new year!

  3. A lovely summary post, Teresa, and I love the point that 2000 isn’t as new as it used to be!
    I never seem to spot the trends across the blogosphere, so I haven’t seen people saying they want to move away from the book blogger label – I am intrigued as to what that will do for the community, good and bad.

    My blogging highlight, of course, was seeing you and Thomas!

    • Teresa says:

      I saw several people talking about getting away from book blogging on their blogs and Twitter a few weeks ago. That sudden burst may have made it seem like a more widespread trend than it is, but it got me thinking about why I’ve never felt that urge.

      And yes, seeing you was a definite highlight of the year!

  4. gaskella says:

    A great summary as always. Like you, I’m always interested in my stats – but they don’t actually change as much as I think they do from year to year!

    Like you, I concentrate on book reviews, but like to write bookish, film or other posts when the whim takes me. I do hope you’ll continue your opinion posts occasionally when you have a topic that interests you – I always find these fascinating!

    Happy New Year to you and Jenny. :)

    • Teresa says:

      I’m not swearing off topical posts, but I’ll probably continue do to fewer of them than I had been. It seems like the same topics get hashed a rehashed, and I’ve gotten bored with it. But if a topic comes along that I’m not bored with, I’ll write about it!

  5. Yes how do those mainstream review pages end with up with such a gender bias? I feel as though I couldn’t read 85% male authors even if I wanted to. :-)

    Your list has reminded me how much I want to read Jo Walton and Diana Athill, and want to read more Dorothy Dunnett. Also of how excited I am about Marilynne Robinson’s new book. It seems as though 2014 is going to be a great year for new releases and I have a feeling my reading stats are going to be much more skewed to recent books than this year.

    • Teresa says:

      I’ve not kept up with what’s coming out, so I’m only aware of the new Robinson and Waters books, as well as the next Raven Cycle book from Maggie Stiefvater. Other than that, I’m entirely in the dark. That may be just as well, so I’m not tempted to look for review copies!

  6. heavenali says:

    So glad you enjoyed Excellent Women :)

  7. aartichapati says:

    I think I said this before, but I absolutely and whole-heartedly agree with your take on Excellent Women. That one had a big impact on me, too.

    • Teresa says:

      It’s so unusual to see a book that describes the single life in just the way I would, both good and bad. I was delighted to find that in Pym.

  8. Alex says:

    One of my reading-resolutions for 2014 is also to read more translations – I’ve read exactly zero in 2013 :( I also want to read more in the original – increase the books read in Portguese, Spanish and French.

    It will probably be the year where I finally finish the Niccolo series and the only King Hereafter will be left of Dunnett’s historical fiction to read for the first time. I guess the re-reads will start ij 2015 :)

  9. Yes, Excellent Women was one of my favourite reads this year — totally resonated with me. Have a wonderful year of reading in 2014, Teresa.

  10. Rebecca H. says:

    It sounds like a good year! Earlier in 2013, I was into getting review copies from Netgalleys and Edelweiss, but I’m completely over that now, and am glad that almost all of my books for review are read so I can focus on reading from my TBR pile more in 2014. I’m not joining the TBR challenge officially, but doing an informal version of it on my own, at least for a little while. Right now reading from my shelves sounds most appealing. I may make some exceptions when the Tournament of Books shortlist comes up, though. Happy New year!

    • Teresa says:

      The e-galley services are really great, and I see why people and publishers like them, but I got to the point where I felt like by being part of them I was contributing too much to the noise around new releases, when there are so many older books I’ve wanted to get to for years. So yeah, I’m over it, maybe not permanently, but for now.

  11. litlove says:

    Happy happy new year, dear Teresa! I do love looking at bloggers’ stand-out books and yours are no exception. I hope I’ll get to read the Kate Atkinson this year and I confess Among the Janeites sounds appealling! May 2014 be full of loads of wonderful reading for you!

  12. My reading tips heavily female too! It happens year after year, and I don’t do it intentionally. I’m not planning to do anything to correct it. I’m happy reading lots of women.

    • Teresa says:

      Most years it’s 50/50–or close to it. I was surprised at how many more women than men I read this year. It doesn’t bother me. I’d probably only be bothered if I were neglecting one sex almost entirely, which is unlikely to ever happen.

  13. Stefanie says:

    Jane Austen with dragons? I am totally going to have to read tooth and claw!

  14. Eva says:

    Hmmmmm: I didn’t care for the Pym I read this year (Some Tame Gazelle), but maybe I should try Excellent Women as my second go with her. Especially as I’ve read & loved so many other books on your list!

    I had issues with Pawn in Frankincense (omg the Orientalism slayed me), but the 5th & 6th books I LOVED. Thank God they were all ebooks from the library, because when I finished the 5th if the 6th hadn’t been available right away I would have climbed the walls. I ended up having a crazy Dunnett marathon and read the last two in maybe 48 hours. lol Definitely a Dunnett fan now!

    Oh and how did I miss a new Laurie King novel?! Fab round up Teresa. :D I can’t run stats this year because I stopped listing my books in June. Whoops! lol

    • Teresa says:

      Excellent Women is the only Pym I’ve read, but I could relate to so much about it that I couldn’t help but love it.

      PinF is I think my favorite Lymond book, mostly because the chess scene absolutely kills me. I’m looking forward to rereading the last two, to see how well they compare on rereading. I’m so glad you’ve become a fan! I liked the Niccolo books even better, and King Hereafter is my favorite of all.

      The new LRK was a follow-up to Touchstone, and it was superb. Very dark and creepy, and so satisfying. I believe there’s a new Russell coming in 2015 and set in Japan.

      • Eva says:

        The chess scene is definitely intense. (*spoiler alert*) It killed me too, but I also utterly resented Dunnett for making one of the toddlers sexually abused. :/ It’s not as if she’s not gone to other very dark places in the series, but somehow I felt like she crossed a line there. I know she did it for Lymond reasons, but that was a lot of pages for me to meditate on sexually abusing an infant. Which is why it will never be my favourite. I think the last is my favourite, because I didn’t expect the ending, although I hoped terribly for it, and it made me hold my breath and wail and laugh and cry a ton. And is that the one with the roof running scene between Lymond and Phillipa?! Gah, that was fabulous.

        Clearly I’m a fangirl, despite my issues w PiF. ;)

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