Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Stats and 2013 Favorites

I can't say I'm sorry to see the end of 2013. There were lots of health issues affecting various members in both our families this year and it was near impossible to keep the stress created by all this at bay. I'm hoping for a calmer, healthier 2014 for all of us.

I didn't make it through as many books as I'd hoped to, particularly not as many classics, I didn't use 2013 as a catch-up reading year as I'd planned, I basically became a little sheep and read the same new books everyone else was reading instead of charting my own path, but that's okay. I enjoyed what I read. The older books are still there. Last night I finished Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits--Wendy gave it to me probably a decade back and I couldn't be bothered to read it before now, but it didn't become any less wonderful in the interim.

My reading stats for the last nine years (this year's in bold):

Books Total 74 / 100 / 82 / 101 / 101 / 78 / 81 / 74 / 77
Nonfiction 13 / 5 / 12 / 16 / 15 / 13 / 8 / 14 / 13
Novels 57 / 80 / 66 / 78 / 79 / 62 / 62 / 50 / 47
Short Story Collections 3 / 4 / 2 / 7 / 7 / 3 / 4 / 1 / 8
Library Books 36 / 29 / 39 /26 / 48 / 27 / 14 / 31
Newly Acquired/Read 14 / 21 / 12 / 23 / 32 / 32 / 31 / 24
Newly Acquired/Stockpiled 58 / 78 / 120+ / 113 / 140 / 88 / 141+ / 75+
E-texts Read 12 / 20 / 12 / 17 / 10 / 12
Free E-texts Read 4 / 10 / 6 / 9 / 5 / 7
Just-published books 35 / 30 / 21 / 36 / 55 / 41 / 34 / 33
Classics 7 / 22 / 23 / 21 / 10 / 8 / 23 / 12
Pre-20th Century 1 / 8 / 10 / 9 / 7 / 4 / 12 / 11
Written by women 49 / 38 / 46 / 55 / 42 / 33 / 28

6 authors with multiple books read: Margaret Atwood (3); E.L. Doctorow (2); Jennifer Egan (2); Karen Joy Fowler (2); Doris Lessing (2); Iris Murdoch (2)

8 rereads (in order read): Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut); The Judge (Rebecca West); Ragtime (E.L. Doctorow); The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes); Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood); In the Woods (Tana French); Life After Life (Kate Atkinson); We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler).

My favorites for the year, which you might can guess, since I've already reread them, are:

Life After Life. Kate Atkinson
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Karen Joy Fowler.

Other books I'm very happy I read, in no particular order:
The Pure Gold Baby. Margaret Drabble (just a matter of time before I read it again)
A Suitable Boy. Vikram Seth. (at 1474 pages, this is the longest book I've ever read. While I cannot image reading it again from cover to cover, I am most anxious to read the sequel.)
The Interestings. Meg Wolitzer
The Woman Upstairs. Claire Messud
The Diaries of Jane Somers. Doris Lessing
Tumbledown. Robert Boswell.
The House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende
May We Be Forgiven. A.M. Homes.
The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout
& Sons. David Gilbert

Monday, December 30, 2013

Read Scotland 2014 Challenge

Visiting Scotland in May was one of the highlights of 2013, so I was delighted to learn of the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge.  Peggy has also set up a Read Scotland discussion board for the challenge at Goodreads.

I'm hoping to reach at least the Highlander level (five to eight books) reading primarily from the following pool:

Letters from Skye. Jessica Brockmole
The January Flower. Orla Broderick
Mobius Dick. Andrew Crumey
The Secret Knowledge. Andrew Crumey
Lanark. Alasdair Gray
The Lewis Man. Peter May
The Heart Broke In. James Meek
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. James Meek
Night Waking. Sarah Moss
Skye. Norman Newton
The Doctor's Family. Mrs.Oliphant
The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow. Mrs.Oliphant
And the Land Lay Still. James Robertson
Girl Meets Boy. Ali Smith
The First Person. Ali Smith
The Whole Story and other stories. Ali Smith
Robinson. Muriel Spark
The Horses. Elaine Walker

Monday, December 16, 2013

I still bear the scars of Middlemarch

'Do you believe in the virtue of compression?' asked a determined academic lady.

'Well, yes,' said Amit warily. The lady was rather fat.

'Why, then, is it rumoured that your forthcoming novel - to be set, I understand, in Bengal is to be so long? More than a thousand pages!' she exclaimed reproachfully, as if he were personally responsible for the nervous exhaustion of some future dissertationist.

'Oh, I don't know how it grew to be so long,' said Amit. 'I'm very undisciplined. But I too hate long books: the better, the worse. If they're bad, they merely make me pant with the effort of holding them up for a few minutes. But if they're good, I turn into a social moron for days, refusing to go out of my room, scowling and growling at interruptions, ignoring weddings and funerals, and making enemies out of friends. I still bear the scars of Middlemarch."

'How about Proust?" asked a distracted-looking lady, who had begun knitting the moment the poems stopped.

Amit was surprised that anyone read Proust in Brahmpur. He had begun to feel rather happy, as if he had breathed in too much oxygen.

'I'm sure I'd love Proust,' he replied, 'if my mind was more like the Sundarbans: meandering, all-absorptive, endlessly, er, sub-reticulated. But as it is, Proust makes me weep, weep, weep with boredom. Weep,' he added. He paused and sighed. 'Weep, weep, weep,' he continued emphatically. 'I weep when I read Proust, and I read very little of him."

There was a shocked silence: why should anyone feel so strongly about anything? It was broken by Professor Mishra.

'Needless to say, many of the most lasting monuments of literature are rather, well, bulky.' He smiled at Amit. 'Shakespeare is not merely great but grand, as it were.'

'But only as it were,' said Amit. 'He only looks big in bulk. And I have my own way of reducing that bulk,' he confided. "you may have noticed that in a typical Collected Shakespeare all the plays start on the right-hand side. Sometimes, the editors bung a picture in on the left to force them to do so. Well, what I do is to take my pen-knife and slit the whole book up into forty or so fascicles. That way I can roll up Hamlet or Timon - and slip them into my pocket. And when I'm wandering around - in a cemetery, say - I can take them out and read them. It's easy on the mind and on the wrists. I recommend it to everyone. I read Cymbeline in just that way on the train here; and I never would have otherwise.'

Kabir smiled, Lata burst out laughing, Pran was appalled, Mr Makhijani gaped and Mr Nowrojee looked as if he were about to faint dead away.

--Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...