A very merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years to all of you! Like Teresa, I wanted to do a little musing about my reading over the past year, and think about directions I might take in the year to come.
This last year, I did less reading than I’ve done in any recent year I can remember. I only read 75 books, and in many past years I’ve read almost double that number. This means that in 2016, I’d simply like to read more: stop turning to television or other distractions (unless it’s good times with good friends) and turn in with my endless stack of wonderful novels instead. I’d also like to be part of the bookish conversation more. Unlike Teresa, I doubt that will mean reading more newly-published books; for me, that will just mean reading other blogs, and commenting on them. I’ve been scrambling to keep up, and it’s time to get back into the habit, especially with my most-beloved blogs.
I like to read roughly one pre-1900 book, one book by an author of color, and one nonfiction book per month, in addition to my other reading. I only made one of those goals, with 13 nonfiction books, 10 books by authors of color, and 9 pre-1900 books. Try, try again; these are goals I really enjoy and ones that shouldn’t be hard to reach.
And yes, I read fewer books than I usually do, but what I read was certainly worthwhile:
Best Short Stories That Will Knock You For a Loop: In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders. These stories are strange, funny, heartbreaking, eerie, satirical, compassionate — exactly what I want stories to be.
Most Convincing Re-Read: I read Emma years ago and didn’t like it. Then I read it again and decided that Jane Austen might have known what she was doing, dang it.
Best Book Containing Norse Dirty Jokes: The Sagas of Icelanders. You want shockingly modern prose, complex characters, day-to-day life, the stories of marriages? Sure, there’s Middlemarch. But centuries earlier, there was this. And there’s also the dirty jokes!
Best Essays on Random Topics That Make You Rethink the Human Condition: Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace. I wasn’t sure I’d like this book, and it absolutely knocked my socks off. Foster Wallace can take any tiny piece of human weirdness and turn it into his particular thoughtful magic.
Best Matched Pair: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid, and The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, by Monique Roffey. These books showed two very different perspectives on Caribbean colonialism. Both were angry, loving, impatient, and wise.
Best Book: Hands down, it was Lila, by Marilynne Robinson. Here, Robinson speaks from the heart of someone who has been mostly abused and abandoned, and the language and structure of the book reflect that. The slow, meditative exploration of what it might mean for someone with those experiences to find love again is, in my view, a masterpiece.
Looking back over the year, it makes me excited for 2016. I want all these kinds of experiences, and more. In the new year, I wish you health, happiness, and the space and time for wonderful reading! I look forward to sharing it with you all!